A’ Ibom PDP in search of peace over 2023 guber ticket

By Isaac Job

AKwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) is embroiled in various intricacies arising from the gubernatorial ticket given to Governor Udom Emmanuel’s preferred candidate, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno, for 2023 general election .

Consequently, peace needed to drive the to victory in the state is an illusion as stakeholders , aggrieved aspirants and party faithfuls have decided means to stay afloat in the political system against the party interest

In the past weeks , chieftains of the party have defected in droves to protest the choice of pastor Umo Eno as governor Emmanuel’s preferred successor. The wind of defection is very unprecedented in the history of the state since 1999. The roll call include ward chairman at the grassroot, chapter officers in local government areas and some governoship aspirants who are lukewarm in party affairs .

Last week , the Peace and Reconciliation Committe headed by senator Effiong Bob invited some aggrieved party chieftains especially aspirants who were angry with the manner the party gubernatorial primary which brought pastor Umo Eno was conducted .

Though details of the parley was not made public , but sources disclosed that the meeting ended in fiasco as those who attended returned home with straight faces .

The party ticket given to pastor Umo Eno has generated dust in the state resulting in court action over credentials particularly the West African School Certificate of pastor Umo Eno now pending before the federal High Court in Uyo as well as Permanent Voters Card and Age declaration which his accusers believed were forged .

Our Correspondent gathered that trouble in AKwa Ibom PDP started when the leader of the party and state governor Udom Emmanuel began the search for his successor. First , Umo Eno was appointed Board Chairman of the state investment company and later became Commissioner for Lands before the lot fell on him to be the party candidate for next year’s election.

This never augur well with party chieftains who had stake their necks against all odds to sustain PDP in the state.

Our investigation reveal that one of the party bigwigs who had vowed never to see Umo Eno become the governor of the state is senator Bassey Albert Akpan representing AKwa Ibom North East senatorial district. When the chips were down and it was dawn on him that governor Udom Emmanuel was determined to make Umo Eno his successor against the ambition of the Senator Albert, he dumped the party and settled for Young Progressive Party (YPP) where he had picked ticket to contest for governoship in 2023.

Addressing supporters during the reception ceremony organized by YPP party to receive senator Albert, he described himself as loyal and faithful party man whom colleagues nicknamed him as the last man standing for AKwa Ibom in the senate . Of course , they were right as it was only Senator Bassey Albert alone for PDP in the red Chambers after Senator Nelson Effiong and Senator Godswill Akpabio have defected to the APC on the floor of the National Assembly.

Albert said such steadfastness was supposed to be compensated and accused PDP of lacking reward system and back stabbing her supporters promising to throw out the party in the state through the ballot box come 2023.

However, the last straw that breaks the camel’s back for the PDP is the party gubernatorial primary that almost throw it off balance . The primary conducted at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium turn out to be another albatross for the party .

Notable aspirants with the goodwill of the people who were in the race include Senator Bassey Albert , Hon Onofiok Luke and Mr James Iniama
Others were pastor Umo Eno, Mr Akan Okon, Akanimo Udofia, Ide Owodiong Idemeko, Idorenyin Umoh and Ini Okpon .

In the present circumstance, what has the Reconciliation Committe done to bring lasting peace in the party ahead of 2023 general election? How the candidate conducted themselves during and after the party primary will help to facilitate in the peace process.

Be that as it may, it is pertinent to examine actions and inactions of the aspirants to guide the peace committee in bringing them back.

Beginning with the winner of the governoship ticket in the state – Umo Bassey Eno now enmeshed in a very embarrassing certificate forgery that drags integrity and status of PDP into the mud . Observers are saying that considering the avalanche of evidence now before the court , what happened to PDP governoship candidate in Delta state who was recently disqualified for certificate forgery may be replicated in AKwa Ibom .

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Therefore, to save the party from the shame of not having candidate in the forth coming election , concerned members have suggested substitution of Umo Eno with another candidate who participated in the primary of 25th May , 2023

Speaking in the same vein, the former chapter chairman of PDP in OrukAnam local government area Mr Sabbath Eda explained that the best option for the party is substitution to meet up with INEC deadline before commencement of campaign nationwide.

His words” We don’t know how the case of forgery involving our governoship candidate will end in court. The best thing to do now is to plan for his replacement . Our party can not be shut out from the ballot because of interest of one man ” he said

Meanwhile, if the idea of substitution of candidate to the Electoral Umpire scales through, who among the aspirants would be favoured to fly the party’s flag in 2023.? Some residents in the state have said that the candidate should be selected from Umo Eno’s local government area or the PDP should use the opportunity to address agitation from Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency who were clamouring for governoship slot within Uyo senatorial district.

Again, the only aspirant from Umo Eno local government area who was supposed to be considered is the former speaker of the State House of Assembly and now member representing Etinan , Nsit Ubium and Nsit Ibom in the federal House of Representatives Hon Onofiok Luke .

Unfortunately, few days to 25th May , 2023 when the PDP governoship primary was conducted, Luke sent a letter of withdrawal from the race to the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) announcing his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race. The announcement was made at the venue of the primary before the media and party supporters.

But despite the withdrawal, Luke got two votes from a die hard delegates and was announced at the venue of the election.
No wonder , he is still supporting Umo Eno inspite of the bad forgery case before the court.

Recently , Luke claimed he stepped down for pastor Umo Eno in attempt to collapse support base the party candidate during peace meeting in the palace of Oku Ibom Ibibio and Paramount Ruler of Nsit Ibom local government Ntennyin Solomon Etuk where both Umo Eno and Luke hail from .

Speaking at the Palace of the Oku Ibom Ibibio and President General of the Akwa Ibom State Traditional Rulers Council, shortly after Barr Luke collapsed his campaign structure and support base to him, Pastor Eno promised to integrate all his supporters and work together with him in the overall interest of the state.

He said the reconciliation meeting was symbolic because it was instituted by his fathers and as a child from a humble home, he (Luke) couldn’t disobey the monarchs.

“It would have been very difficult for me to be convinced if this meeting had been at the instance of any other set of people.

“I never haboured any intention to betray my party PDP because everything I have achieved, has been made possible by the PDP,” Barr Luke stated.

The Monarch , who presided over the reconciliation parley in the presence of other paramount rulers said as a father he could not stay alive to watch his children stay at opposite directions.

He advised the winner of the PDP primaries, Pastor Umo Eno to carry his brother and others along, as more hands make the job a lot easier.

“It is like a farm, with more hands, the weeding is easier.”

Our Correspondent gathered that Pastor Umo Eno was accompanied to meeting by eminent personalities such as his running mate, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, Secretary of Maintain Peace Movement campaign team Prince Enobong Uwah, House of Assembly Member, Otobong Bob, former PDP Chairman and House of Representatives Candidate, Obong Paul Ekpo as well as Royal Fathers in the state among others .

Notwithstanding the peace process, clux of the matter is the legal atmosphere surrounding the PDP guberbatorial ticket in the state .

A legal luminary and Executive Director of Compart Foundation For Justice and Peace Building Saviour Akpan Esq confirmed the position of law on PDP guberbatorial debacle in the state .

His words: “Onofiok Akpan Luke, Aniekan Akan Etim, Sen. Bassey Albert Akpan [assuming he did not leave PDP] cannot benefit from any action/decision of PDP to substitute Umoh Eno.

“They had written to withdraw from the Gubernatorial primaries. They did not participate. They termed the primaries as illegal. Only Aspirants/persons who bought the nomination/expression of interest forms are qualified. No stranger- Udom Inoyo, Dr. Essien, etc can come close to the substitution option . That is the position of the law ” he stated

Many have suggested that the only aspirant that PDP can substitute is Mr James Iniama who had maintained a peaceful disposition and conducted himself well as a genuine party man throughout the primaries.

What is left for the PDP reconciliation Committe to do in the prevailing circumstance is to ask pastor Umo Eno to officially withdraw his ambition as he has found himself in a tight corner .

This action will be supported by the new Electoral Act which had stated the obvious in such situation.

Section 33 of the Electoral Act states :” A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted to under section 29 of this Act except in the case of death or withdrawal by candidate

“Provided that in the in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the of the occurrence of the event , hold a fresh primary primary election to produce and submit fresh candidate to the commission for the election.”

By this provision of the new Electoral Act, the PDP in AKwa Ibom can arrange a fresh primary within the time frame stipulated by law to produce another flagbearer for 2023 governorship election .

The reconciliation Committe must ensure that only those who bought the form and are still members of the party participate in the fresh primary election .

The legal expert listed aspirants qualified for the fresh contest which PDP must arranged within the stipulated time by the law .

He mentioned the aspirants as Ini Okpon , Ide Owodiong , Idorenyin Umoh and Hon James Iniama as the new brides to be adorned by the party for peace to return for 2023 general election in the state.

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