As Obong Nsima Ekere (ONE) flags off his campaign today as the APC flagbearer for the 2019 election with a solemn assembly, he is increasingly making history as the first gubernatorial contender with the largest support base ever in Akwa Ibom State
By Inemesit Ina
Day after day, the Gubernatorial Candidate of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Obong Nsima Ekere (ONE) confounds all. His support base keeps swelling. From Ini to Mbo, from Ibeno to Ika, from Uruan to Ikot Abasi, from Oruk Anam to Itu and from Obot Akara to Okobo, Akwa Ibom people are boarding the ONE train in droves. The song on everyone’s lips is Nsima kedio (Nsima is coming).
Instructively, it is a classless thing – the high and the low. On board the ONE train are political generals and foot-soldiers, public figures, activists, academics, students, monarchs, farmers, artisans, entertainers, organized labour and more. One can go on and on.
As ONE and his running mate, Dr. Amadu Attai, flag off their campaign today, December 2, 2018, the outcome of the March 2, 2019 gubernatorial election looks all too predictable.
Starting with God
ONE, a devout Christian and Knight of John Wesley in the Methodist Church Nigeria, has never hidden his faith in God and the place of God in his life including his governorship ambition.
Little wonder he is starting his campaign with God by holding a solemn assembly at his campaign grounds along Edet Akpan Avenue.
Long before now, ONE has always acknowledged the supremacy of God at every opportunity. His position has always been that power belongs to God and that He gives it to whoever He chooses. His prayer has been that he should be the chosen one.
It seems his prayer is being answered. A fiery female cleric in Uyo, Bishop Josephine Eggah, did not mince words while pointedly addressing ONE on Sunday, September 23, 2018, at her church, New Birth Bible Church, in Uyo: “On May 29, 2019, you will be sworn in as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. It shall surely come to pass. God says your case is like David in the Bible. I decree by the voice of the Lord that God has ordained you. Whoever says you cannot be has failed. God says you are the choice. From today, you are hard as a rock and humble as a dove.”
The Granite Coalition
Never in the history of politics in Akwa Ibom State has one governorship contender been able to attract the kind of support ONE is enjoying. It is one of the most remarkable wonders of Akwa Ibom politics as it is akin to the Buhari-type mass movement. In ONE, even hitherto sworn political enemies have found peace and common interest – the development of the state. ONE is serving as the bridge to all.
With practically every politician of note on board, ONE’s train is all-encompassing. It is simply an unassailable array of forces coalesced into a Granite Coalition (apologies to President Muhammadu Buhari). Clearly, it is rock solid.
Driving the train is the APC State Chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido, himself a veteran politician. Assisting him are members of the State Executive Committee of the party including political greats such as Dr. Ita Udosen, Dr. Inyang Dan-Abia, Sir Cosmas Ibanga, Mr. Augustine Ekanem, Mr. Uduyok Aboh, Chief Sunny Ibanga, Mr. Nkereuwem Enyongekere, Otuekong Gabriel Ekong and High Chief Ubong Etiebet.
Well positioned in the train are members of the APC Campaign Organization chaired by the highly-respected Buharist and APC Board of Trustees Member, Group Captain Ewang Sam Ewang (retd.), who served as the Military Administrator of Ogun and later Rivers States during the military era. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Senator Ita Enang, is the Director-General of the campaign organization with a former Member of the House of Representatives, Abom Tony Esu, as his deputy.
Also on board the train are political titans, elder statesmen (some non-partisan) and top government (Federal and State) functionaries such as Obong Victor Attah, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Lady Valerie Ebe, Atuekong Don Etiebet, Mr. Umana Umana, Senator Nelson Efiong (Tabasco), Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Senator John Udoedehe, Sir Bassey Dan-Abia, Dr. Edet Efretuei, Senator Aloysius Etok, Obongunwana Emmanuel Ukoete, Mr. Emmanuel Ekon, Elder Emmanuel Akpan, Sir Nse Ntuen, Prince Idongesit Ituen, Mr. Victor Udofia, Elder Gabriel Toby, Engr. Otobong Ndem, Elder Samuel Frank, Engr. Ben Ukpong, Mr. Simon Etim and Mr. Chrysanctus Udoh.
Others are Obong Rita Akpan, DIG Udom Ekpoudom (retd.), Obong Otu Robert Akpan, Otuekong Sunny Jackson Udoh, Dr. Maurice Ebong (Powercom), Senator Eme Ekaette, Archbishop Samuel Akpan, Arc. Otu Ita-Toyo, Chief Okon Osung, Chief Edet Mkpubre, Dr. Esio Oquong Udoh, Elder Bassey Etim (Bafil), Mr. Victor Antai, Obong Dan Akpan, Otuekong Ekerete Ekpenyong, Barr. Edet Ikotidem, Otuekong Bernard Udoh, Barr. Edidiong Idiong, Mr. Kufre Akpabio, Barr. Chris Okorie, Chief Effiong Johnson, Engr. Kpakhabia Efretuei, Obong Kufreabasi Etuk and Princess Blessing Osom,
Equally prominent on the train are Justice Andrew Okon (retd.), Obong Sunny Elijah Akpan, Barr. Emah Bassey, Elder Aniefiok Thompson (Winmos), Dr. Friday Etuk (Assur), Elder Emmanuel Udo (Mandu), Dr. Effiong Etok (Charles Taylor), Engr. Ignatius Edet (Alawo), Mr. Michael Etim (MacJoe), Ntufam Akan Okon, Prof. Etok Ekanem, Engr. Bassey Ekanem (Basse Engineering), Chief Godwin Udoedehe, Obong Pius Wilson, Engr. Uduak Okpo, Mrs. Rachel Akpabio, Sir Etekamba Umoren, Barr. Ibanga Akpabio, Arc. Ubokutom Nyah, Chief Godwin Afangideh, Dr. Etido Ibekwe, Mr. Ndifreke Idung, Mr. Don Etim, Engr. Essien Ibok, Prof. Chris Ekong, Mr. Martyns Udoinyang, Mr. Sunny Anyang, Barr. Bassey Dan-Abia Jr, Barr. Bassey Essien, Dr. Emem Wills, Chief Aniekan Akpan, Barr. Rex Ulaeto, Mr. Robinson Uwak, Mr. Chrysanctus Etteh, Chief Efefiong Antigha, Mr. Hogan Bassey, Dr. Robinson Edumoh, Dr. Umo Ekanem, Obonganwan Nkoyo Essien (Nossien), Dr. Emmanuel Effiong, Chief Inibehe Okori, Engr. Akanimo Edet, Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo, Dr. Francis Udoikpong, Group Captain Ediomi UdoAkpan (retd.), Barr. Saviour Udoh, Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong, Barr. Iquo Inyang, Barr. Joe Ukpong, Barr. Imoh Imoh, Mr. Uwem Udoma, Mr. Inibehe Otoho, Chief Edet Isong (Windy), Dr. Nduehe Esitikott, Dr. Akpan Micah Umoh, Pastor Udo Isaiah, Dr. Gibson Okworo and more.
The list is endless.
The youths are the foot-soldiers taking the ONE message everywhere. Leading them are tested youth leaders such as the APC State Youth Leader, Mr. Stephen Ntukekpo, Otuekong Uyo Nathaniel, Mr. Anthony Umoh (Baba Otu), Obong Iniobong John (Ini Emu), Mr. Anthony Bassey (Tony Renaissance) and Mr. Stephen Akpan.
The womenfolk are not left out. There are very many women groups mobilizing for ONE to be Governor. The women are coordinated by ONE’s wife, Mrs. Ese Ekere, who has distinguished herself as a great mobilizer in recent times. Also on board the train are prominent women leaders as Obonganwan Dora Ebong (Topcare), Obonganwan Geraldine Ita Etuk, Obonganwan Mabel Udongwo, Princess Victoria Mel-Udoh, Obonganwan Mmenyene George Nkwo and Obonganwan Obonodo Ini Uko.
Akwa Ibom students, from various institutions of higher learning, under the aegis of the National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students (NAAKISS), in their thousands recently endorsed ONE and pledged to mobilize for his election.
Indeed, it is a mass movement. As Umana put it in an interview on Comfort FM Radio Station, Uyo, on Saturday, December 1, 2018, ONE “will win because of the mass support of the people of Akwa Ibom State.”
Words on Marble
Many of the heavyweights backing ONE obviously consider ONE’s election a foregone conclusion. Their words:
“Akwa Ibom people say Nsima Ekere has brought a lot of joy and hope to the people”
– Former Governor Victor Attah.
“No matter what Saul did, it did not stop David from becoming king. No machinations, no lies, no incantations of the devil will stop you (Ekere) from becoming the Governor. The fire of God will bring you victory in 2019”
– Former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
“We need Obong Nsima Ekere to rescue Akwa Ibom from the present maladministration”
– Atuekong Don Etiebet
“We have a good hand that will make our party proud as the Governor …We are one big united family ready to go.”
– Mr. Umana Umana
“I have given direction in the open. Don’t sit on the fence. If you do it, you are not my person. This is the Governor (Ekere). We have all agreed that we will support our party’s candidates. Let me tell you, APC is determined to take Akwa Ibom …We have made this man (Ekere) Governor”
– Senator John Udoedehe
“I had a meeting with my campaign organization and we resolved to collapse our structure and work for the emergence of Obong Nsima Ekere. Your Excellency, it is my honour and privilege to work with you. Congratulations as you move to Hilltop Mansion”
– Sir Bassey Dan-Abia
“Obong Nsima Ekere is the product that I am now selling. I am the marketer. He is the product. He is the product of Akwa Ibom State and he will not disappoint anybody. I will now move to the streets to start the marketing”
– Archbishop Samuel Akpan
ONE’s Track Record at NDDC
What appears to be endearing ONE to all and sundry is the outstanding performance he has put up in the last two years as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), particularly in Akwa Ibom State.
The state has had its fair share of NDDC infrastructural revolution under ONE’s watch. The impact has been felt most by the people in terms of road construction and intervention in primary and secondary school classroom renovation, provision of educational materials, street lighting, agricultural development and more.
ONE does not hide his preference for Akwa Ibom: “At my current position as Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Akwa Ibom has remained uppermost in my heart even as I serve the region of nine states.”
The ONE Vision
Having largely accomplished the 4Rs ( restructure the balance sheet, reform the governance protocols, restore NDDC’s core mandate and reaffirm the commission’s collective commitment to do what is right) at NDDC, ONE is coming to transform Akwa Ibom State with a five-point agenda.
The agenda centres on five thematic areas – Economic Prosperity, Infrastructure and Rural Development, Education, Health and Social Protection, Security, and Governance and Institutional Reforms.
According to ONE, his vision “is to transform Akwa Ibom State into a leading destination for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), a haven for local and International Investors, a self-sufficient economy, where professionalism, hospitality and our people first slogan will be the hallmark of our State.”
He has a four-year plan to pull this through: “The thematic areas are segmented into short and medium term (four years) plan. The short-term plan consists of a series of quick action initiatives that are intended to bring immediate succour to our people. These will be put into action within the first 100 days of my assumption into office. The medium-term plans will strengthen institutions for a sustainable growth.”
And ONE makes this pledge: “When I am elected Governor, I will give my whole-hearted devotion to the call and responsibilities of office everyday of the four years that your mandate and the tenure allow. My administration will be fully dedicated to the welfare of our people, and will be accountable to only God and the good people of Akwa Ibom State. I will operate an interactive and all-inclusive administration. As your Governor, I will be your voice and your eyes. I will work and fight for you. I will defend your best interest. I promise to make a positive difference in the lives of our people and with your support I will not fail.”
Partnership with the Academia
During his visit to the University of Uyo Senior Staff Club at the university’s Town Campus on Sunday, November 25, 2018, ONE offered to partner the university community when he becomes Governor, reminiscent of the Attah era when academics from the university dominated his cabinet.
The offer was enthusiastically accepted by members of the club, mainly academics, led by the President, Prof. Ini Jona. Other speakers, Prof. Chris Ekong, Dr. Gibson Okworo, Dr. Aniekan Brown, Dr. Nkereuwem Edemekong, Dr. Usen Ikpe and Lt. Col. Nkanga Effik (retd.), in their separate remarks, hailed Ekere’s performance at NDDC and pledged the support of members of the club to his ambition.
Shouts of All For ONE and ONE For All rent the air that night as the eggheads interacted with ONE on his vision for the state. They were clearly impressed.
What now remains is for the historians, political scientists, sociologists and philosophers among them to research on the ONE Wonder for the benefit of serving and would-be political office-holders and even generations yet unborn. Indeed,it is a phenomenon that Akwa Ibom people and other Nigerians should learn from.