Last week, the media in the state was awash with a report of how chiefs in the six coastal communities went to the national assembly to protest against the clamour for a state by some indigenes of the state.
If not for the deep respect I have cultivated for our elders, brought about by the sound home values I have refused to do away with, I would have found stronger terms to describe my disgust at the charade and jamboree party to Abuja last week.
To say it in summary, the chiefs notably paramount rulers and their representatives from Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Nsit Ubium all went to the Senate Chambers to complain that they are against the creation of a new state that would pitch the Obolo people and the Ibeno people with the Ijaw people in River State to form the Oil Rivers State.
An unsuspecting mind would have thought that this was an innocent move by some community leaders to press home their demands. However a closer look will reveal that there is more to this protest march than meet the eye.
Akwa Ibom State, a homogenous community with diverse cultural interest and rich economic potentials has been the cynosure of all eyes in the last couple of years. The advent of the uncommon transformation era, brought about by the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio, has seen widely acclaimed monumental development fairly spread across the entire state.
The song on everyone’s lip since then has been that God should provide a successor who will sustain on the legacy set by the incumbent administrator. But this in itself does not preclude the fact that there was a subsisting zoning arrangement that made it imperative for Akwa Ibom South otherwise known as Eket Senatorial District to produce the next Governor for the State come 2015.
Of course, so far even though the Eket elders have repeatedly sounded notes of warning that they are still waiting for the right time before unleashing their best potentials for the governorship race, not a few people can be denied the obvious fact that the body languages of some notable sons of the area indicate that they are indeed available or should we say ready.
Such names include Obong Nsima Ekere, Rt. Hon Okpolupm Etteh, Bishop Sam Akpan, Chief Assam Assam, Barr Effiong Abia, and Senator Helen Esuene, Otu Ita Toyo,Chief Edet Nkpubre, Senator Udoma Udoma, Engr. Patrick Ekpotu among others.
With such an array of chieftains, it is therefore very difficult to imagine how those opposed to zoning would take delight in saying that Eket was lacking in credible aspirants and as such zoning should be jettisoned for credibility. (That is however a topic for another day) And so in the last couple of months, most of the persons listed above have been subjects of various degrees of sustained media attacks, purportedly originating from the stable of the highly placed government official who hails from Uyo senatorial district, and who has not hidden his intention to ‘deal decisively with opposition’ that may rise against him.
Back at the senate Chambers, the some powerful Chiefs from Eket senatorial district were received by the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu. But to the amazement of all concerned, the flamboyant trip was not to canvass support for their right in accordance with the PDP constitution which upholds zoning in all elective posts involving the party, but they went to allegedly reel a tape that tended to pitch the elders against their own people from the district.
According to the petition, the elders were reacting to an alleged agitation by some individuals for the creation of a state to be called Oil Rivers State with the inclusion of some parts of Eastern Obolo or Andoni in Akwa Ibom State with some Ijaw speaking local government areas in Rivers State.
Not only was the visit unnecessary, it was equally wasteful ad amounted to jumping the gun. For one, as the Deputy Senate President noted, no new state can be created without the consent of the component local government areas, and that a due process that also includes a referendum will be carried out. So with this in view, why did this visit come about?
In the procedure of state creation, the State house of Assembly is expected to agree to a 2/3 majority before the chain is complete. The question the elders should first answer is, how possible is it for the present house of assembly in Akwa Ibom to unanimously accede to the ceding of parts of the state to another state?
Looking at the content of their petition, it was sad to notice that a great seed of discord was brewing in the state. Such statement like accusing Ibeno or Eastern Obolo people as sojourners who should be chased away from their ancestral home, was rather a time bomb waiting to explode. It was a comment that had no place in the 21st century. It was even funny enough that the highest traditional stool in Nsit Ubium local government, which is not even in the affected senatorial district, also went along to sign the petition ostracizing their own brothers and sisters from Eastern Obolo and Ibeno, and declaring them persona non grata in their own state. So in other words, are they saying that people from Eastern Obolo or Ibeno are not eligible to contest election for the position of governor of Akwa Ibom because they are strangers in their fatherland, in the apparent face of zoning that favours their senatorial district to produce the governor in the next elections?
In the agitation for states creation, the people of Oro nation had equally clamoured for the creation of Mangrove state, that will merge them with some parts of Cross River State, so would that mean they have to also be chased out of the geographical territory of Akwa Ibom State? What about sections of Eket Senatorial District that was asking for the Atlantic State, will the rest of the State rise up in arms and pursue them out for that purpose?
Everyone knows that placing advertorials on the media is a very cost intensive venture, I t was absolutely unnecessary to use state funds for the publication of the resolution of these chiefs after they had presented same to the Senate Deputy President in the full glare of the national media.
The elders have been wrongly advised in this particular assignment. They have successfully allowed themselves to be confused and misled from the task of uniting to agitate for the shift of political leadership to Eket Senatorial district. Beyond that, should elders be the ones making seditious remarks and attempting to defuse a time bomb that may scatter the fabrics of unity in our state.
Luckily, the state governor Chief Godswill Akpabio, himself a product of zoning, had told the Akwa Esop Imaisong Ibibio, a foremost socio cultural group in the State that he was still in strong support of zoning in the state. Obong Akpabio however advised the group that he would only prefer zoning the 2015 Governorship ticket to Eket Senatorial District if the area brings out credible and experienced hands that have the potentials to sustain the development spree initiated by his administration.
With the 2015 governorship election still two years away, I believe that whosoever wants to throw his hat into the ring, has a right to do so, but politicians and moneybags should avoid using their positions and influence to generate chaos in the very state they aspire to govern.
- Emmanuel Edet writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State