By Sanctus Mbrideh
Nigeria’s long awaited 2015 general elections are here at last. Unlike in previous elections where Nigerians were made to chose between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a long list of less influential political parties, the 2015 election has narrowed down that choice to the dominant PDP and a formidable opposition, the All Progressive Congress (APC) which emerged from a marriage principally between the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive (CPC).
Naturally, much attention has been paid to the battle for presidency between the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, and the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. With the Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria, security and corruption are front and center at the presidential level. However, a week after the presidential elections, there will be elections in each of Nigeria’s 36 states. While the presidential elections are critically pivotal for Nigeria and Africa, the elections at the state level are not without relevance. A handful of Nigeria’s states are larger in some ways than many African countries. Lagos, for instance, with a population of close to 20 million, is the economic powerhouse of West Africa. On the other side of the pendulum are the oil producing states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa which individually receive revenue allocations bigger than the budgets of neighboring countries. It’s therefore important to take a critical look at the Govenorship races in these states.
The Governorship Race in Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom is one of Nigeria’s 36 states with a population of close to 4 million people (2006 figures). It is currently the highest oil and gas producing state in the country. The state’s capital is Uyo with over 500,000 inhabitants . The main spoken languages are Ibibio, Annang, Eket, Igbo and Oron languages.
The major governorship candidates are the ruling PDP’s Udom Emmanual, APC’s Umana Okon Umana and the Accord Party’s Bishop Samuel Akpan. The two opposition governorship hopefuls were until recently members of the ruling PDP and had at one time or the other served the present PDP government in the state. In fact, both the APC and the Accord party standard bearers bought the nomination forms to stand for election on the PDP platform before the bubble bust. While APC point man, Umana, quit the PDP because the party’s zoning arrangement scuttled his ambition to rule the state, the Accord Party candidate, Bishop Akpan, is yet to advance a convincing reason why he dumped the PDP for the little known Accord Party.
Umana Okon Umana
He is the APC governorship candidate in the state. He has had over 25 years experience in Public Finance and Management. During this period, he has being State Director of Budget, Permanent Secretary (Budget) and Honourable Commissioner for Finance. He was a former secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, a position he humbly served in since June 2007. His academic qualifications include a B.Sc. Economics (1980) and an MBA (Finance) 1987. He has attended specialized management courses which include among others, the Senior Executive Program (May 5-31, 2002) of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business as well as the Senior Executive Program (1-27 February 2009) of the London Business School. Umana’s running mate is Ben Ukpong from Oron LGA.
His Blueprint For The State
Known as the Akwa Ibom State Strategic Development Action Plan (AKSDAP), it is a comprehensive development package that includes everything needed to transform the state. A synopsis of the document shows that the main focus of an Umana Okon Umana administration would be the systematic development of a road network covering the 31 Local Government Authority (LGA) headquarters, building primary and secondary health care facilities in all LGAs with proper links to tertiary health institutions. Umana’s action plan also includes lofty proposals for water, power and housing infrastructure.
Bishop Samuel Akpan
The good bishop represents the Accord Party. Until a few weeks ago he was a member of the PDP, having served the party in various capacities as the special assistant to the state governor on political and legislative matters and later, as the deputy chairman of the party. Before then he was the linchpin of the group, AKPF, a group that helped foster the emergence of the present governor, Godswill Akpabio as the candidate of PDP in 2006.
The Accord Party candidate is from Ward III in Awa, Onna LGA of Eket Senatorial District. His running mate Sabbath Udom Ison is from Ukanafun LGA. Akpan’s blueprint has the standard themes of fostering industrialization, agriculture, rural development and youth empowerment.
He is the candidate of the ruling PDP. Emmanuel is an ex-banker who prior to joining politics and succeeding Umana Umana as secretary to the state government rose through the ranks of the corporate world. He has served as Audit Manager of Price Waterhouse Coopers and also served as Chief Financial Officer of Zenith Bank Plc and Executive Director. He joined Zenith in 1996 from Diamond Bank Limited and was the pioneer manager of its Lagos Central Branch.
Emmanuel holds a bachelors degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos in 1988, among other academic qualifications. Udom Emmanuel is from Awa Ward I of Onna LGA in Eket Senatorial District. His choice of running mate Moses Ekpo, from Abak LGA is surprising given the significant age gap between the two.
The focus of Emmanuel’s blueprint for Akwa Ibom development is the transformation the economy of Akwa Ibom State through industrialization by sustainable public/private sector initiatives. Udom has largely adapted Akpabio’s blueprint, which included the creation of industries in each of the 31 LGAs. Udom makes the credible claim that his experience in the business world will be an asset in attracting investors to Akwa Ibom.
Udom Emmanuel is the favored candidate since the government's political machinery and goodwill are at his disposal. Moreover, his experience and connections to the private sector are viewed as an asset that can deliver the goal of actualizing an industrial base. Additionally there is strong reason to believe that since he will not owe a potential victory to anyone other than incumbent Governor Godswill Akpabio, the days of frivolous spending by government will be over.
Of course his relationship with Akpabio is a double-edged sword. Will he have the gumption to stand up to his political master or will he be a stooge? Udom Emmanuel is also perceived as a front for powerful elements from the corporate world.
APC candidate Umana’s selection of a running mate from Oron is seen as a master stroke. Oron with 50 wards is the largest federal constituency in the state. The Oron people are at odds with the ruling party over its zoning arrangement.
One gripe against Umana is from civil servants, a sizable percentage of whom hold him in contempt for allegedly blocking some of their entitlements while in service including the 13th month salary.
While the Accord Party’s Bishop Akpan is the strongest campaigner, time is not in his favor to build awareness. There is also a feeling that he is in the race as a spoiler.
Prediction: Udom Emmanual wins. However, a potential victory by APC’s Buhari in the presidential elections two weeks earlier may tilt voters towards Umana Umana.
Cover Feature image: Umana Okon Umana, Udom Emmanuel, Bishop Samuel Akpan