Akwa Ibom APC Primary: Why Nsima Ekere Won
October 3, 2018
The pundits were dead right on the victory of the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, in the Akwa Ibom State governorship primary election conducted across the state on Sunday. What surprised watchers of the state politics would likely be the margin of Ekere’s victory. Many had expected that veteran gubernatorial aspirant, Senator Akpan Udoedeghe would give Ekere a run for his money. But the outcome was an anti-climax. Senator Udoedeghe appears to have lost virtually all his appeal among his supporters in the APC.
At a crowded news conference in the party secretariat in Uyo on Monday, chairman of the APC election committee for Akwa Ibom State, Barr. Yamah Momoh, announced that Ekere polled 160,458 votes to beat his nearest rival, Bassey Dan-Abia, former managing director of the NDDC, who got 4,189 votes. Senator John Akpan Udoedeghe, former junior minister of the Federal Capital Territory, came in embarrassing third with 2,015 votes, while little known debutant Dr Edet Efrretuei polled 1,234.
Obong Ekere was widely projected to win the four-cornered race. He was the most prepared of the four aspirants, having come a long way in the public service both at the state and federal levels. Ekere is the current managing director of the NDDC. Before he was called upon by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the NDDC, Ekere had served as deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State under Senator Godswill Akpabio. He had also worked as the chairman of the state’s investment agency, then known as AKIPOC, and equally chaired the board of Ibom Power Company Limited, the state electricity corporation. Ahead of his eventful career in the public service, Ekere worked his way to the top in the private sector as an estate surveyor and founder of a successful estate survey firm.
Ekere’s consummate skill at running a political campaign showed through brilliantly during the race. Of all the four campaigns in the primary race, his was the only well-oiled machine that ran like clockwork. His support drive was breathtaking and left no part of the state untouched. He rallied party elders, youths, and women behind his vision of a mass movement “primed to wrest power from the PDP.” The movement vision was very much in evidence at his rallies across the three senatorial districts in the state, where thousands of party faithful and Ekere’s supporters thronged his campaign events.
His leadership skill was never in doubt throughout the race. Even where a clash of interests within the party threatened cohesion and focus, Ekere, working with party elders, made the right concessions that turned out to stand the party in good stead by delivering up the goods.
His track record at the NDDC played a significant role in winning the trust of party members and leaders in the state. Ekere adroitly stepped in to meet the needs of many communities in infrastructure development where the state government failed to show interest. His performance in office at the NDDC has given hope to many across the state that he can offer a better alternative, hence across-the-board support that he received throughout the campaign in the primary race.
In his acceptance speech, Ekere offered the proverbial olive branch to his erstwhile rivals, saying, “The nomination process has brought no victor, no vanquished. I extend my hands of fellowship to all. We shall begin immediately to heal the wounds of the nomination process. I will ensure that all aspirants are carried along. We must work together. We must plan together to win the election.”
The APC State Caucus Chairman, Atuekong Don Etiebet, said “the primary election results were not unexpected, given the tremendous outpouring of support for Ekere during the various rallies by the party in recent times.”
The APC State Chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido, described the primary as “the freest, fairest and most transparent in the history of Akwa Ibom State,” stressing that original election result sheets were released alongside other ballot materials to the 329 wards of the state.
The party is united behind the results of the election. Reflecting party unity during and after the primary is the fact that present at the news conference where the results were announced were virtually all the APC chieftains in the state, including Senator Godswill Akpabio, former governor of the state; the Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Mr. Umana Okon Umana; Atuekong Don Etiebet, chairman of the state APC caucus; the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Senator Ita Enang; the NDDC Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Samuel Frank; the Chairman of Uyo Senatorial District Elders’ Forum, Otuekong Sunny Jackson Udoh; Senator Aloysius Etok and members of the APC State Executive Committee.