By Etebong Akpan
When the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state micro-zoned the Uyo Senatorial Seat to Uruan and Ibsikpo Asutan Local Government Areas in Uyo Federal Constituency, most members of the party had heaved a sigh of relief. The area has missed out twice in the representation arrangement in 2015 and 2019 due to last minute horse trading in the party that saw the areas’ then brightest chances slipped away at the last minute.
In 2015, Usenobong Akpabio from Uruan was in a pole position to be the sole candidate of the party before the general election but a last minute u-turn from Bassey Albert Akpan who until then was a guber aspirant, scuttled the near victory. Akpan who was never in the senatorial district race was gifted the ticket he never indicated interest for just to shove him off the guber platform. He gladly picked it up despite Akpabio being his closest ally in the PDP scheme of things.
In 2019, the same Bassey Albert Akpan became a beneficiary of the Uyo senatorial district ticket of the PDP at the instance of Usenobong and Uruan again. The party leadership at the state level decided to reward him with a return ticket for his alleged loyalty to the party when the other two senators from the state,Nelson Effiong and Goswill Akpabio, had defected to the rival All Progressive congress, (APC). The APC duo of Nelson and Godswill later went on to fail their re- election bids while Bassey Albert had a smooth sail on the PDP platform. Political pundits are of the opinion that he did not win because he was spectacular or added anything to the PDP team but that he won because of the formidable PDP structure and the electorate’sgeneral disdain for the APC.
Enter 2023, the PDP in its usual magnanimity of accommodating all shades of interest in its fold, decided to return the governorship to Uyo Senatorial District and the Senate seat in the zone to Uyo Federal Constituency. Everybody within and outside the party had thought that the seat was Usenobong Akpabio’s to take having missed out narrowly the previous two occasions of 205 and 2019. But since change is the constant element in life which is full of surprises, the AniekanBassey factor cropped in almost from nowhere. Bassey , the current speaker of the state House of Assembly, may be accused of playing the spoilers game in Usenobong’s long held ambition of a being a senator, but he is right on his own to aspire. And as unpredictable as fortune and politics are, both combined to rob Usenobong of the PDP senatorial for the third time through the statutory and adhoc delegates miscommunication that resulted in the status quo ante belum brouhaha.
There is a saying that once beaten, twice shy, but in this instance, Usenobong believes thrice beaten and scammed by his beloved PDP, he had no option but to look for a less hostile platform to actualise his long held senatorial ambition. In an interview with journalists in the state, the two term lawmaker openly lamented that he had no option than to leave the PDPafter the umbrella refused to shade him from the political weather. He dumped the party he joined since 1999 to join the Young Progressive Party, (YPP). His defection to YPP has exposed the political fault lines in Uruan Local Government Area, the feral constituency and the nine local government areas of the senatorial district. In Uruan, the traditional north-south political divide is coming into play in this election. Usenobongis from Northern Uruan which usually claimed a psychological political superiority over its southern brothers. He south, on the other hand, sees the opportunity offered by Aniekan’s sudden political rise as their only chance of maintaining political dominion over their northern brothers. However, only few southerners think along this line especially those who have no love lost relationship with the speaker. Incidentally, those who think along this line in the south are in the minority as their scores against the speaker is personal and not clannish.
However, elections will be held in nine local government areas simultaneously, meaning that clannish sentiment will not affect the outcome of the election in the other eight local government areas. Moreover, voting is not done on facial recognition but the logo of the party. Generally, electorate are obliged to vote for the party of their choice and the candidates of their choice. Most of the electorate are not politically educated hence loyalty to party supersedes individual preference.
Candidates aspiring for elective positions in Akwa Ibom State are banking on the Independent National Electoral Commission for a free and transparent elections, the onus is still on the voter to cast his vote. In this circumstance, the average voter votes on communal basis, hence the place of political leaders and other opinion leaders in the community. The role of political andcommunity leaders in a typical Nigerian election cannot be over emphasized .they speak and give direction on the behalf of the government, hence their ability to control their minds. The leaders of the PDP at the grassroots have since come to the realization that votes will count in the 2023 election, hence they have stepped down from their high horses to the level of the people who owns the vote. Apart from coming down, they also speak the ‘language’ spoken by the people.
It is not as if the two people are the only aspirants for the red chambers, a host of other political parties including the dismembered APC will be on the ballot next year. The race for the hot seat at the moment is a two horse race between Aniekan Bassey, the incumbent speaker and Usenobong Akpabio, a former two term house member. Usenobong is a lawyer and an advocate. Aniekan, on the other hand, is calm, introverted but one of the best team players around. He may not be able to speak truth to power the way the society wants it but he is a politician who gets things done without much noise. Hate or like him, he displays a reserved mien that attracts opponents to him unlike the infectious charisma of Usenobong that gets an insecure executive suspicious.
On a scale of nine, Aniekan may likely win in eight local government areas but Usen will apart from wining Uruan pull surprises in Ibiono Ibom, Itu, Uyo and Nsit Ibom that could rattle the PDP in the governorship election.
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