•Leaders draft Ekere into guber race
The South-south Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Ntufam Hilliard Etta has said he has no disagreement with Senator Bassey Otu, stressing that the little problem they had was just some family issues, which has been resolved before now and urged politicians not to make “a mountain out of a molehill.”
This comes as Akwa Ibom APC leaders on Tuesday presented the party’s gubernatorial expression of interest and nomination forms, which they had bought, to the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere with a call on him to contest the 2019 election.
Mr. Ekere was presented with the forms at a rally by the people of Akwa Ibom (Eket) Senatorial District to honour him and endorse President Muhammadu Buhari held in Eket.
Led by the APC state caucus chairman and former Petroleum Resources Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet, party leaders who bought and presented the forms to Mr. Ekere included, Senator Godswill Akpabio, former Senate minority leader, Senator Nelson Efiong, representative of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Mr. Umana Umana, Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, and Engr Ben Ukpong, National Population Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State.
APC National Vice chairman (South-South Zone), Ettah, Mr Ini Okopido, the Akwa Ibom State APC Chairman, and Barr Bassey Dan-Abia, a governorship aspirant and former NDDC Managing Director, were among those who witnessed the presentation.
Atuekong Etiebet urged Mr. Ekere to accept the form, fill and return it before the deadline set by the party’s national headquarters, stressing that with all the major APC leaders in Akwa Ibom State supporting Mr Ekere, the party might choose its gubernatorial candidate by consensus.
Senator Akpabio, who drove the crowd ecstatic with solidarity songs for Mr Ekere, said the NDDC boss had already been endorsed by his Akwa Ibom Northwest (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District.
“We are yet to fully take a decision on whether it should be direct primaries or consensus, but I know in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district, Nsima Ekere has already been endorsed…APC is going to rule Akwa Ibom in 2019,” he said.
Though he urged the party not to preclude other aspirants from outside Akwa Ibom South Senatorial zonet from buying nomination forms, Senator Akpabio, however argued that they were contesting in vain as Mr. Ekere’s victory was certain.
Akpabio said: “I want to make one point very clear. When I was contesting in 2007, it was the turn of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
“But people from Eket and Uyo Senatorial Districts also bought forms. I want to plead with you to make sure that our party is richer. Even though Nsima Ekere is going to be the Governor, please go and buy form for governorship. You are not going to be stopped from contesting. This is democracy. What Akwa Ibom people are saying today is that Eket Senatorial District should have two tenures and it should end in 2023. Therefore, no matter where you come from, if you are not from Eket Senatorial District, you are contesting in vain. I think that is the message.”
In his remarks, Mr. Umana, who was the APC gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 election, described the reception for President Buhari and Mr. Ekere as well deserved, even as he urged the NDDC boss to heed the calls from all sections of the state including his Akwa Ibom North-East (Uyo) Senatorial District to contest the 2019 gubernatorial election.
He criticised the poor performance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led state government in the last three and a half years, adding that the PDP was on “life support and it is only a matter of time before they will give up.”
Responding, Mr. Ekere said he would only accept to contest on the condition of serving only one term to complete the two terms reserved for his Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District.
While pointing out that he was overwhelmed by the show of love by the people of the senatorial district and the state, Ekere said: “I was invited for a reception by Eket Senatorial District only for me to come here and be ambushed by all the elders, youths and women of Akwa Ibom State and they gave me these forms.
“What greater love can be more than this? I’m happy because I like to see signs. The other day when the other party had a rally to declare their intention to run, it was raining cats and dogs.
“It seems that even the heavens have rejected their bid. And then today we are here. We have a clement weather. To God be the glory. I want to thank all of you. You have shown love and you have shown that you appreciate hard work,” he said.
Mr. Ekere decried the poor record of the PDP state government in infrastructural development, pointing to the failure, after more than three years, to complete the renovation of Eket Township Stadium and to start the Eket International Market after groundbreaking.
He also condemned the abandoned construction of Oron Road, and other failed projects like the coconut plantation/ refinery in Mkpat Enin, the Mexican cow project in Uruan and the Greenhouse project at the airport.
“There is no road to pass in Eket except NDDC roads. You cannot find road to pass in Eket. All the roads in Eket have been destroyed. They say they want to construct roads in Eket. Now there is no road in Eket. Three and a half years, no road to pass in Eket. APC will complete the stadium and the roads in Eket,” he said.
President Buhari, who spoke through Senator Enang, commended Mr. Ekere and the NDDC management for the intervention in infrastructure, security, social welfare and other sectors in the state which had enabled federal presence to be felt in the state.
He thanked the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District for the endorsement and promised them more infrastructural development.
The chairman of the occasion, Senator Efiong, said the people of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District had chosen Ekere to rescue the state from the crossroad the PDP State Government had led the state to.
“We all agree that Akwa Ibom State is not working. I am pained and ashamed because I am the representative of this senatorial district,” he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Central Planning Committee for the event, Ukpong, condemned the refusal of the state government to key into Federal Government social investment programmes to the detriment of the people of the state.
He said the people of the senatorial district settled for Ekere as the next governor of the state because of his credibility, competence, capacity and trustworthiness.
The highlight of the event was the presentation of a symbolic bible by the people of the senatorial district through Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, a former House of Representatives Member for Eket Federal Constituency.
Meanwhile, the exodus from PDP in Akwa Ibom State continued on Tuesday with the defection of Lady Valerie Ebe, the immediate past deputy governor and Senator Eme Ekaette, former Senator representing Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, to the All Progressives Congress (APC) with their supporters.
Both women who made history as the first female Deputy Governor and first female Senator in the state in 2012 and 2007, respectively, defected during the Eket Senatorial District rally to endorse Buhari and honour Ekere in Eket. Lady Ebe, Senator Ekaette, Mr Ekere and Governor Udom Emmanuel all hail from Eket Senatorial District.
Mr. Enobong Umoetuk, a former Commissioner for Special Duties, from Onna, the same local government council with Senator Ekaette and Governor Emmanuel, was among the defectors.
Lady Ebe, formerly a staunch supporter of Governor Emmanuel, hinged her defection on the failure of the Governor to satisfy the yearnings of Akwa Ibom people.
“This government is not doing well. PDP can’t survive. I know that without joining APC I will be making a huge mistake. The crowd is fantastic. I see that people are very much willing and happy to be members of APC. We don’t want to lose, so we need to join the winning party,” she said. Senator Ekaette also criticised the non-performance of the PDP State Government, attributing it to bad leadership.
“For the past three years in this state, we have been struggling with underdevelopment and hunger all over the land. Women are crying, dead bodies all over the mortuary. All these things you can attribute to bad leadership,” she said.
Receiving the defectors, the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, represented by the national vice chairman, South-South Zone, Prince Hilliard Ettah, said he was elated with the growth of the party in the zone, noting that from one Senator in 2015, APC now has eight Senators in the zone. “The APC in this zone is the fastest growing in the country,” he said.
Etta, while clearing the air in Calabar during Senator Otu’s declaration to contest the Southern Senatorial District of Cross River State, said: “I have to be here personally so that everybody will know that I have reconciled with Prince Bassey Otu. I have heard so many things about our relationship but today I am here to tell you that even though we had some disagreements in the past, we have reconciled.”