Obong Paul Ekpo, the incumbent State Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Akwa Ibom State Chapter will continue to lead the party in the state for the next three months, but on caretaker capacity.
This new development is occasioned by the inability of the party to conduct a state congress due to setback by the rampaging coronavirus.
In a public notice issued on Thursday by the State Chairman of the party, Paul Ekpo, the party announced that her National Working Committee has directed the incumbent exco to continue for the next three months until a congress is conducted to usher in a new legitimate exco.
“Take notice that the tenure of office of the State Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Akwa Ibom state will terminate on the 10th day of May, 2020 and due to the inability of the party to conduct her state Congress occasioned by the Covid 19 lockdown, the National Working Committee, acting on behalf of the National Executive Committee of our great party, has constituted a caretaker committee for the state chapter.
“By an official communication signed by the National Organising Secretary, for NWC, the incumbent State Executive Committee Will now from the 10th of May, 2020 serve as the caretaker committee of the Party at the state level, for a period of three months.
“Take further notice that the ward and chapter Executive Committees having been earlier inaugurated, have since commenced their functions.
“The State Executive Committee appreciates all our members for the huge support they have given voluntarily in the years past and expect same cooperation in the days to come.
“We specially commend the leader of the party in our state, HE, Mr Udom Emmanuel for his untiring efforts at freeing our state from the grip of the dreaded Covid 19. We are confident that with God on his side, this anomalous situation will soon pass and normalcy will return”, the public notice signed by Paul Ekpo reads.
TheMail Newspaper had on Tuesday reported that the party in the state was faced with a dilemma as the tenure of the present exco is billed to elapse on Sunday and there were no possibilities of a state congress being conducted soon to usher in new exco due to ban on mass gatherings as a result of covid-19.
TheMail had also exclusively reported that the party in the state was awaiting a decision by the NWC which the paper said would be communicated to the state party within the week.
One of the options before the NWC was the announcement of caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party till congress is conducted. The scenario was a unique one, hence, constitution of the party was silent on it. But very party sources in the state and national told TheMail that the NWC was to also consider invoking the doctrine of necessity to get a new exco into office.
Meanwhile, the party had already published list of aspirants who bought forms and were successfully screened and confirmed to stand election at the congress. Each position had only aspirant screened and confirmed to stand election at the congress. 33 candidates in addition to 6 ex-officios (39 candidates in total) were billed to be ratified at the suspended state congress.
The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Udo Ekpenyong was cleared as the only candidate for the state chairmanship position. In 2016, Udo Ekpenyong was rumoured to be the favourite to replace Obong Paul Ekpo. After much water passed under the bridge, he was ultimately appointed head of the 7-man Local Organizing Committee for the state congress while Obong Paul Ekpo was given the nod to continue as State Chairman for a second term.
Foreseeing that the global health crisis could affect the state congress, the party in the state had swiftly brought forward the state congress.
According to a press release issued on 23rd March by the State Publicity Secretary of the Party, Comrade Ini Ememobong, the state congress was billed to hold the following day, 24th March, 2020. The congress was earlier billed to hold on April 4, 2020.
But on 24th March, the covid-19 pandemic got more serious and INEC had to shut its offices and go on a forced break. INEC is constitutionally mandated to observe congresses held by political parties in the country. The nationwide break by INEC however forced the state PDP to cancel its scheduled congress indefinitely.
Delegates numbering over 1,000 from different local government areas are supposed to file out and cast their ballots for the shortlisted candidates in the different positions. But Covid-19 has hit the party with a serious setback as mass gatherings in the state and other parts of the country are hugely prohibited to avert a spread of the virus.