…The concluding part of an analysis of 15 (now 16 with the inclusion of ONNA) of the 26 state constituencies where zoning is settled in the run-up to the May 7, 2022 House of Assembly primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
By Inemesit Ina
In the first part of this feature a few days ago, it was shown that zoning was settled in nine state constituencies of the state where the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will conduct primary to nominate House of Assembly candidates on May 7, 2022. The constituencies were Uyo, Ibesikpo Asutan, Uruan, Etinan, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Ibom, Ibiono Ibom, Eket and Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo.
The following six constituencies were to be analysed in this second part as promoted in the first part – Urue Offong/Oruko, Okobo, Etim Ekpo/Ika, Oruk Anam, Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akaraand Ini. Now ONNA has been added following the resolution of her zoning controversy. With this, the number of state constituencies where zoning is settled has risen to 16. There is still contention in 10 others.
The name, Onna, is an acronym for the original three clans, namely Oniong, Nung Ndem and Awa, as at the time of the LGA’s creation in 1989. Six years ago, Awa was split into two clans – Awa Afaha and Asuna Nung Oku. Governor Udom Emmanuel is from Awa Afaha. The people of the two Awa clans belong to the same Iman sub-ethnic group of the Ibibio as the whole of Etinan LGA.
Previously, zoning was done on the basis of four zones – Awa (four wards), Oniong East (three wards), Oniong West (three wards) and Nung Ndem (two wards). But for the Assembly contest this time, five zones are used with the two Awa clans, which have two wards each, treated as separate zones.
The incumbent member, Otuekong Nse Essien (Indomitable), who is the deputy chief whip of the Assembly, is standing down in 2023 after two terms. He is from Asuna Nung Oku. Until a few days ago, the battle for his succession was between Nung Ndem and Awa Afaha. Three aspirants emerged from Nung Ndem to compete with more from Awa Afaha. The Nung Ndemaspirants probably still saw Awa Afaha and Asuna Nung Oku as one Awa zone. Now, with the governor’s reported intervention, the zoning issue has been resolved in favour of Awa Afahawhich is the only zone yet to produce a member of the State House of Assembly since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
Past Assembly members for the constituency were Ini Ikottfrom Nung Ndem (1999-2003), Prince Akpabio Akpabio Ukpafrom Oniong West (2003-2007), Mr. Bassey Akpan Willie from Oniong East (2007-2011) and Mr. Godwin Oton Charlie from Oniong East (2011-2015). Ukpa was the only one among them who served twice in the Assembly. He returned 10 years after his first term was truncated by the military in 1993. Ini Ikott and Bassey Willie sought and failed to get second terms.
The LG headquarters is Abat which is in Oniong East.
Urue Offong/Oruko LGA/State Constituency, as its name depicts, comprises two halves – Urue Offong and Oruko with five wards each. The number of villages, nonetheless, vary. Oruko boasts of 19 while Urue Offong has 14.0
The LG Headquarters is Urue Offong village.
Zoning is done on the basis of the two halves and not on clans since location of the clans is lopsided. Five of the six clans are concentrated in Urue Offong, namely Ibighi, Okpo, Ukwong, Okiuso and Ebughu. Oruko is more homogeneous, what with all villages, except one, belonging to Ubodung Clan. The odd one out is an Ukwong village.
The incumbent member, Mr. Asuquo Archibong (Poison), is vacating the Assembly seat next year after two terms. He hails from Oruko and the seat is rotating to Urue Offong.
Before Poison, there was no second term in UrueOffong/Oruko. All his predecessors served one term. They were late Chief Ulo-Ante Uwe Ante from Oruko (1999-2003), Chief Okon Bassey (WiLoad) from Urue Offong (2003-2007), Chief Uno Etim Uno from Oruko (2007-2011) and Bassey Etienamfrom Urue Offong (2011-2015). Only Uno sought a consecutive second term. WiLoad tried to return to the Assembly in the 2010 PDP primary, three years after his exit. He is trying again in the forthcoming primary.
The second term tradition established by Poison has extended to the LG chairmanship seat. Urue Offong has occupied the seat successively for two terms in the last four years though with different persons.
Okobo is the largest in terms of size and population, of the five LGAs of Oro nation, Akwa Ibom’s third biggest ethnic group. And Okobo is the most ethnically distinct of the five.
Oron, Udung Uko and Urue Offong/Oruko LGAs are ethnically “core” Oro, speaking Central Oro dialect. Mbo LGA has four component Oro sub-ethnic groups, with only one speaking Central Oro but they all insist they are Oro.
Things are not so smooth in Okobo LGA created from old Oron LGA in 1989. She is ethnically and politically divided into two blocs of fairly equal sizes. The two blocs, Okobo and Atak Oro, with five wards each, used to battle for political supremacy until zoning/rotation came into effect in 2002.
Atak Oro certainly is ethnically “core” Oro, speaking Central Oro. In Okobo bloc, where Okobo dialect is largely spoken, there is a sharp division on if they are Oro or not. Not a few identify with Oro but there are some separatists who insist that Okobo is a distinct ethnic group from Oro.
Okobo as a whole has seven clans and 66 villages. Atabong(five villages), Etta (17 villages) and Odu (12 villages) are the three clans in Okobo bloc while Atak Oro bloc has four clans, namely Ibighi (four villages), Ukwong (15 villages), Ebughu(five villages) and Okiuso (eight villages). All the clans in AtakOro equally exist in the other four LGAs of Oro Nation.
Within the two blocs are five sub-zones. Eweme (three wards) and Offi (two wards) are the two sub-zones in Atak Oro bloc. The sub-zones in Okobo bloc used to be Etta (three wards) and Odu/Atabong (two wards). But increasingly the three clans are now used as sub-zones in the bloc though Atabong, an Efik clan, constitutes less than half the population in a ward dominated by big villages of Odu Clan.
The LG Headquarters is Okopedi, a group of villages in Etta Clan of Okobo bloc.
The incumbent member, Princess Felicia Bassey, who is the deputy speaker of the Assembly, is standing down in 2023 after two terms. She is from Offi sub-zone in Atak Oro bloc and her successor is coming from Okobo bloc. Aspirants have emerged from all three clans of the bloc to compete.
Past members of the Assembly for the constituency were Chief Peter Linus Umoh from Etta Clan in Okobo bloc (1999-2003), Mr Chrysanctus Etteh from Etta Clan in Okobo bloc (2003-2007), Mr Asuquo Odiong from Offi sub-zone in Atak Oro bloc (2007-2011) and Chief Efefiong Antigha from Odu Clan in Okobo bloc (2011-2015).
This constituency is shared by Etim Ekpo and Ika LGAs.
There are five clans in Etim Ekpo – Utu, Obong, Uruk, Ikonoand Ikanannang. These clans are not contiguous. They are scattered in different wards. The LG Headquarters is Utu EtimEkpo in Utu Clan.
Ika has three clans – Achan (four wards), Ito (four wards) and Odoro (two wards). They are contiguous. The LG Headquarters is Urua Inyang in Achan Clan. Chairmanship seats in both LGAs are zoned on clan basis. For Etim Ekpo, this is amazing because of the detachment of her clans.
The Assembly seat rotates between the two LGAs. It is EtimEkpo’s turn again.
The incumbent member, Elder Mfon Idung, from Uruk Clan in Etim Ekpo LGA, wants a second term. His main challenger is Mr. Uduot Jack, a former LG chairman from Ikono Clan in the same Etim Ekpo. His argument is that his clan has never produced an Assembly member since the creation of Akwa Ibom State. The third aspirant, Dr. Alphonsus Ekanem, is from the same Uruk Clan as Mfon Idung.
Past Assembly members for the constituency were Sir Ernest Ukpong from Ito Clan in Ika (1999-2003), late ObongunwanaIniobong Ekanem from Utu Clan in Etim Ekpo (2003-2007), Engr. Akanimo Edet from Ikanannang Clan in Etim Ekpo (2007-2011) and Mr. Gabriel Toby from Achan Clan in Ika (2011-2019).
Only Toby sought and served two terms. He even defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to seek a third term in 2018 but failed to get nomination there. The former legislator returned to the PDP recently.
Oruk Anam is the largest LGA in Annangland (far larger than her mother LGA, Ukanafun) and the second largest in Akwa Ibom State (after Ibiono Ibom). She is divided into two blocs, nine clans and 13 wards.
Oruk bloc, the bigger of the two, has seven wards and seven clans. The clans with number of component villages are Ndot(30), Ibesit (26), Inen (19), Ekparakwa (13), Nung Ita (9), ObioAkpa (7) and Nung Ikot (5).
The LG Headquarters, Ikot Ibritam, is in Oruk bloc.
Anam bloc, which is about a third of Oruk bloc, has six wards and two clans. The Anam clans with number of component villages are Abak Midim (36) and Ibesit Nung Ikot (21).
This bloc, in the main, used to be part of Opobo Division dominated by what is now Ikot Abasi LGA.
Zoning is done on the basis of the two blocs. But within both blocs are sub-blocs. The sub-blocs in Oruk are Ndot/Ikot Okoro(three wards), Ibesit/Ekparakwa (two wards) and Centre (two wards). Anam’s two clans serve as her sub-blocs. The incumbent Member, Sir Udo Kierian Akpan, who is the Leader of the House, is serving a record third term. He is from Abak MidimClan in Anam bloc. His successor in 2023 is coming from Orukbloc.
Udo’s predecessors since the return to democracy are Elder Sunday Okoko from Ndot/Ikot Okoro in Oruk bloc (1999-2003), Mrs. Mabel Udongwo from Ibesit Nung Ikot in Anam bloc (2003-2007) and Obong Iboro Udom from Ndot/Ikot Okoro in Oruk bloc 2007-2011).
The front runner in the race this time is Prince Sampson Idiong, the younger brother of the first lady of the state and, until recently the special assistant to the governor on Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Projects. He hails from Ndot/Ikot Okoro and faces two opponents from Ibesit/Ekparakwa and one from centre. Sampson’s opponents are agitating that the Assembly seat be ceded to their sub-blocs, which have not produced a state legislator since 1999, and not to Ndot/Ikot Okoro for the third time. But Sampson has consulted widely and worked so hard, despite his “anointed status,” that the agitation is fast becoming a non-issue.
Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara
Ikot Ekpene LGA (11 wards) and Obot Akara LGA (10 wards) share this constituency.
Ikot Ekpene LGA has two clans – Ikot Ekpene Urban and Amanyam. The bigger Ikot Ekpene Urban Clan has six wards while Amanyam Clan has four wards. Both clans, however, share one ward with three villages apiece. The LG Headquarters is Ikot Obong Edong in Ikot Ekpene Urban.
Obot Akara LGA has three clans – Nto Edino (four wards), Obot Akara (three wards) and Ikot Abia (three wards). The LG Headquarters is Nto Edino.
Zoning of the LG chairmanship seat in the two LGAs is done on the basis of clans.
The Assembly seat rotates between the two LGAs, on a two-term arrangement since 2011. It is rotating to Ikot Ekpene LGA, without any sub-zoning, in 2023.
The incumbent member, Prince Idongesit Ntekpere, from Ikot Abia Clan in Obot Akara LGA, is seeking elevation to the House of Representatives’ seat of Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara/Essien Udim Federal Constituency next year after two terms in the Assembly.
Past Assembly members for the constituency were ObongIsong Isang from Ikot Ekpene Urban Clan in Ikot Ekpene (1999-2003), late Obong Nkereuwem Udoh (Texas) from Ikot AbiaClan in Obot Akara LGA (2003-2007) and Otuekong NsikakEkong from Ikot Ekpene Urban Clan in Ikot Ekpene LGA (2007-2015). Nsikak Ekong started the second term tradition.
Ini has six clans/communities – Odoro Ikono (three wards), Ukwok (two wards), Ikpe (two wards), Itu Mbonuso (one ward), Nkari (one ward) and Iwerre (one ward).
The LG Headquarters is Odoro Ikpe in Ikpe Clan.
The five clans/communities are grouped into two blocs – Ini Proper (Ikpe, Itu Mbonuso, Nkari and Iwerre) and OdoroIkono/Ukwok.
Since 2003 a tradition has been established for the rotation of both the Assembly and LG chairmanship seats between the two blocs on a two-term basis.
The incumbent Member, Otuekong Emmanuel Ekpenyong (Iraq), who is the Chief Whip of the Assembly, wants promotion to the House of Representatives’ seat of Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency after two terms in the state legislature in 2023. He is from Iwerre in Ini Proper.
Iraq’s two predecessors in the Assembly served two terms. They were Chief Ukata Akpan from Itu Mbonuso in Ini Proper (1999-2007) and Obong Paul Owo from Ukwok in OdoroIkono/Ukwok. The Assembly seat is naturally rotating to the second bloc, specifically to Odoro Ikono.
A set With zoning settled in 16 state constituencies, the state leadership of PDP has its work cut out in the remaining 10 – Nsit Atai, Itu, Esit Eket/Ibeno, Mkpat Enin, Oron/Udung Uko, Mbo, Abak, Ukanafun, Essien Udim and Ikono.