The crowd of supporteNewrs that welcomed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to Akwa Ibom State to solicit for votes last week didn’t tell the whole story of how intense the tussle between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is. CHIBUZO UKAIBE and BERNARD TOLANI DADA write.
In the South-south, Akwa Ibom State appears to be the state where the contest between the two leading parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be toughest.
The defection of the immediate past governor and former minority leader in the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, from PDP to APC heightened the battle for the state.
As it stands, of the six states in the oil rich region of the South-south, only Edo is under the governorship of the APC. The ensuing tussle for the state had resulted in security concerns bothering on a drama in state’s House of Assembly as well as change of state’s Police commissioner.
While the defection of Akpabio triggered concern within the state, the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to flag off his second term campaign in Akwa Ibom was quite instructive. Analysts opined that the crowd that graced the event at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, was indicative of the move to win over the state for the APC.
The PDP however needed to respond in kind as they did last week when the campaign train of its presidential candidate, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, landed in Uyo, to solicit support and votes from electorates in the state.
Atiku, while addressing the crowd at the 30,000-capacity stadium promised that the federal government under his presidency would set up an oil refinery in the state if he is voted into power.
He said his government will assemble the best brains the country has ever produced in all sectors of the economy to rapidly grow the economy that will get Nigeria working again.
Dressed in colorful attires and flanked by Peter Obi his running mate, Uche Secondus PDP National Chairman and Governor Udom Emmanuel, Atiku took to the dance floor with different dancing steps to the admiration of the tumultuous crowd that thronged the nest of champion Godswill Apabio International Stadium.
Atiku said he is committed to restructuring Nigeria in order to liberate the country from the clutches of economic backwardness.
Atiku described Governor Udom Emmanuel as one of the best Governors in the country, adding that he would partner with him to attract investments to the state to create jobs and stimulate growth in the economy.
The Waziri Adamawa lamented that the APC has crippled almost all democratic institutions and mortgaged the economy thereby making Nigeria to become the poverty capital of the world with many people losing their sources of livelihood.
He decried the decay in the educational sector, rise in insecurity as well as the abuse on the fundamental rights of the citizens, maintaining that these anomalies should compel every patriotic Nigerian to support the emergence of the PDP led government to restore the lost glory of the country and get Nigeria working again for youths and women to have a source of livelihood and not depend on handouts.
Earlier, in his address the governor called on Nigerians to study the Economic blueprint of those who want to lead Nigeria and not be overwhelmed by partisanship and intimidation while the country cruises to precipice.
He said it is the development plan that attracts supporters not sentiments and painful record of abuse of democracy as perpetrated by the current APC led government.
The governor noted Atiku understands the economy and investment and if elected, the country’s Gross Domestic Product would improve and Foreign Direct Investment would increase to boost job creation, enterprise and sustainable future for Nigerians.
He also said Atiku is ready to build a future for human capacity development and guarantee the Rule of Law and not totalitarianism and nepotism as is presently witnessed in the country.
Earlier on arrival to Uyo the state capital, Atiku who was honored with the royal title of Obong Emem (King of Peace) of Akwa Ibom from the state council of chiefs, said his relationship with Akwa Ibom dates back to his friendship with Obong Victor Attah in 1998, maintaining that Akwa Ibom remains his second home.
The Paramount ruler of Ini Local Government Area and Chairman, State Council of Chiefs, HRM Ntong Effiong Udoakpa, while honouring Atiku with the title on behalf of the Council of Chiefs said Atiku has shown respect for Akwa Ibom monarchy.
He said Atiku has shown deep respect for Akwa Ibom traditional stool by paying a courtesy visit to the state Traditional Rulers Council on arrival to the state for his presidential rally.
The Battle Still…
Nevertheless, the APC in the state is not relenting in its quest to take the state. Akpabio, who has since become the face of the APC in the state, boasts that the forthoming election is already won and lost in favour of his party.
Speaking recently, the former governor said his party had taken over Akwa Ibom even before he joined them.
He said “By the time I decided that I was going to APC and I landed at the airport, the whole airport was APC. The whole of the airport to the town was APC. The whole of the Plaza in Uyo was APC, the jubilation was too much. Women and men were bringing their brooms from under their bed, which means they had been hiding them because of me.
“They were sweeping the roads. A distance of 20 minutes took us over two hours to cover because of the jubilation of Akwa Ibom people that. I was saying, ‘so all these people belong to APC?’ When I asked them they said, ‘Sir, after you left office, it wasn’t the same again. We have moved to APC.’ I asked them when, and they said since 2015. Normally, every family has a civil servant.
“In Akwa Ibom, the head of the civil service commands a 64,000 workforce not to talk about the local government service in the 31 local government areas of the state. In some local government, we have up to 600 or 700 staff, so you should be looking at 24,000 people in the local government workforce.
“When you add that to the state civil service workforce, you will be looking at close to 100,000 people. Because you will also add the state assembly staff, the NUT etc. Those people too have adult children who live on them. What really plays a major role in Akwa Ibom is that when the civil servants are happy, it reflects in their homes, in the churches,” he said.
But supporters of the PDP think otherwise. They believe that the development milestones of the governor between 2015 to 2019 will speak for him.
They argue that Udom has within a short stint in office initiated and completed scores of projects almost too numerous to mention.
The largest Syringe Manufacturing Factory in Africa, Pencil Production Factory, Fertilizer Blending Factory, Palm Kernel Crushing Plant, Toothpick Production Factory, Electric Digital Metering Solutions Manufacturing Company, Flour Mill Factory, Rice Mills and Plastic Manufacturing Factory are some of the many interventions of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led administration in Akwa Ibom state aimed at providing job opportunities for the people.
“At various locations in the state are ongoing infrastructural projects aimed at complementing existing ones currently operating optimally.
“The Coconut Plantation and Refinery, Oron International Market, Ibom Airlines, Plywood Manufacturing Factory, Ibom Deep Sea Port and Waste to Wealth Factory belong to this category.
A firm believer in the power of agriculture to tackle the scourge of unemployment, the governor constructed vegetable green houses and cassava micro-processing mills across the state as well as a massive cultivation of 2,100 hectares of cassava plantation in 15 Local Government Councils.
He procured a whopping 600,000 bags of fertilizers for distribution to farmers which contributed in no small measure to crop yield, thus boosting food availability and disposable income for farmers.
On the sphere of infrastructural consolidation and expansion, he constructed the 2nd Airport Runway, upgraded the Airport Main Runway to Category 2 and initiated and completed 15 major roads while 43 others are at various stages of completion.
To curb the menace of rural-urban migration, the Governor Udom administration completed electrification projects in Ikot Obio, Iwere, Itak Eyolor, Ikot Ekang, Ibiang Ikpe to mention but a few.
Healthcare delivery got a major boost following the collaboration of the state government with the Federal Ministry of Health in the implementation of programmes on maternal new-born and children with focus on malaria, nutrition, immunization, HIV/AIDS, essential drugs and logistic management.
Education is free and compulsory at the basic level in all public schools even as the statement took over 17 community secondary schools for proper funding and administration.
In pursuant of his poverty alleviation programme, Governor Udom trained thousands of youths via the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) while over 200 youths picked randomly across the state were trained on solar power installation and maintenance. This is further complemented with frequent organization of enterpreneurship workshops.
However as for what 2019 holds, the governor said “the next four years consolidate in the achievements recorded in his first tenure.”
According to him, “Our commitment to industrialization is irrevocable…through industrialization, we shall rewrite the Akwa Ibom economic history.”
In what he termed the “Completion Agenda,” the next four years will be dedicated to quality service delivery in the spheres of industrialization, agriculture, rural and riverine area development, human capacity development, small and medium scale enterprises and security.”