Six of the 11 councillors in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The six are Messrs Uduakobong Udoutin, the Leader of the Essien Udim Legislative Council, Ekerete Akpakpan, his deputy, Okokon Uwak, the House Leader, Uduak Afangideh, the Deputy House Leader, Edemeka Udoekpe and Eseme Akpan.
They dumped the PDP during the APC campaign rally in Essien Udim on Saturday.
Their defection came barely a month after the entire PDP local government chapter and ward structures led by Mr Ntiedo Usoro, the Essien Udim Chapter Chairman of the party, joined the APC in Essien Udim, the home local government area of Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former Governor of the state.
Speaking on behalf of the defectors, Mr Udoutin said they had been itching to join the APC but had been restrained by Senator Akpabio until they could not hold back any more.
He hinted that the remaining five councillors would soon join them in APC and advised the Local Government Chairman, Mr Raphael Isobara, to follow suit.
Mr Ini Okopido, the APC State Chairman, who received the defectors, lauded the councillors for their sense of loyalty to Senator Akpabio who, he said, deserved respect in the state.
“From what I am seeing today in Essien Udim and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Godswill Akpabio is the leader. The man, Godswill Akpabio, is being respected in Nigeria. All of us have no choice but to respect him. And we expect any sensible person in Akwa Ibom to honour him,” he said.
The APC boss used the opportunity to also receive into the party fold some members of the PDP Chapter and Ward Executive Committees from neighbouring Ika Local Government Area.
In his speech, Senator Akpabio expressed gratitude to the councillors for their respect for him, assuring them that they had nothing to fear.
“Nobody can touch you. If they try, Holy Ghost fire! The councillors were elected by the Essien Udim people. You have decided to follow your leader and there is nothing anybody can do about it. This local government area is hundred per cent APC. I am humbled by the love and respect showed by my people. God will protect you. What is (the remaining) three months?” he said.
Senator Akpabio accused the government of Governor Udom Emmanuel of spending government funds to buy votes.
“I brought a government that pretended that there is no money. Now that government is spending money all over the state to buy votes. Can that money save them?” he said.
Senator Akpabio predicted what he called “political diarrhoea” for PDP State Government officials when election results start coming out after the February 16, 2019 elections.
Obong Nsima Ekere, the APC Governorship Candidate who drove the mammoth crowd ecstatic by riding in a horse-driven chariot into the campaign venue at Afaha Ikot Ebak, the Essien Udim Local Government Headquarters, said he came to celebrate and not to campaign in Essien Udim which he described as a special local government area.
He expressed the belief that the people of Essien Udim who gave him the highest votes in the state during the APC governorship primary on September 30, 2018 would repeat the feat in the March 2, 2019 governorship election with their over 100,000 votes.
Obong Ekere promised to take Akwa Ibom State to the next level from May 29, 2019 from the present level of toothpick and pencil industries which Akwa Ibom State had long passed.
He commended Senator Akpabio for the uncommon transformation of the state during his tenure as Governor and decried the degeneration of governance in the state under the present government.
Group Captain Sam Ewang (retd), the Chairman of the APC Campaign Council, said it was clear that Essien Udim people loved Senator Akpabio and urged them to translate the love into votes for the APC.
He assured Senator Akpabio that he would not regret supporting Obong Ekere like he is regretting his instrumental role in the emergence of Governor Emmanuel because Obong Ekere has been trusted and tested.
Mr Umana Umana, who was the APC Governorship Candidate in the 2015 election, expressed happiness that Obong Ekere, a member of the Akpabio-led Uncommon Transformation team that massively developed the state, of which he was the Secretary to the State Government, was going to re-enact the feats of that era.
Mr Umana lamented that the state has witnessed what he called “uncommon failure” since 2015, stressing that Obong Ekere was on a mission to rescue the state from the failed administration of Governor Emmanuel that has been rejected by different segments of Akwa Ibom State including civil servants, pensioners, students and contractors.
“Those wasted four years we will recover when Obong Nsima Ekere comes in as Governor. Obong Nsima Ekere will work with President Buhari and Senator Akpabio to develop the state. We have already started the celebration of victory. Let the celebration continue,” he said.
Elder Emmanuel Akpan, the Member of the House of Representatives for Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara/ Essien Udim Federal Constituency, and his House of Assembly counterpart for Essien Udim State Constituency, Mr Nse Ntuen, in their separate speeches, said there was no need for APC to campaign in Essien Udim because the people of the area were already following the direction of their leader, Senator Akpabio.
The APC campaign team had earlier paid homage to the Paramount Ruler of Essien Udim, Obong Cosmas Okon Akpan, who led his Clan and Village Heads to pray for the realization of Obong Ekere’s ambition.
Addressing the monarchs, Obong Ekere reiterated his promise to give financial autonomy to local governments to ensure rapid development of the grassroots and to restore the dignity of the traditional institution in the state.