With the State Congress of APC in Akwa Ibom slated for October 2, the race for the Chairman of the Party has officially commenced. But there is a snag: the Party is yet to indicate which part of the state the position and other SWC positions are zoned to. Since the governorship slot is going to Uyo Senatorial District, it is natural that the two important party positions of Chairman and Secretary will go to Eket and Ikot Ekpene Districts. But the silence of the Party on the zoning arrangement less than two weeks to Congress has left many potential aspirants in a quandary. How do you buy a nomination form if you do not know where the position you’re interested in would be zoned to? In addition to zoning, other factors will influence the character and composition of the next SWC, chief among which is the Udoedeghe factor.
In a typical APC tradition, it is expected that the SWC members will emerge through a consensus determined by key leaders and stakeholders of the party. They include Atuekong Don Etiebet, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator John James Udoedehe, Senator Ita Enang, Mr Nsima Ekere, Mr Umana Umana, Group Captain Sam Enwang (rtd); Dr Amadu , just to mention a few. But it is also known that Senator Akpabio, Senator Enang, Group Captain Sam Enwang and many others have expressed their grievances against the manner previous congresses have been conducted. While Enang has openly complained about the fact that he’s been schemed out of the congresses, Akpabio has maintained a dignified silence on the conduct of the affairs of the party and has stayed aloof from the fray. But his political group, Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum, (ADF), has been up in arms with the party, fighting against its dominance by Senator Udoedeghe and his political associates and allies in Akwa Ibom APC Coalition, AAC. I understand that some ADF leaders and other key leaders of the party (who are not even ADF members) are meeting today in Abuja to take a decision on how they will participation in the Congress. They are Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo; Dr Emaeyak Ukpong; Senator Ita Enang; Hon Bassey Etim (BAFIL); Group Captain Sam Enwang; Arc Out Ita Toyo (Total Chair) and Atuekong Don Etiebet, among many others. ‘’Yes, we will participate in the State Congress, and I am already in Abuja for the meeting. We shall decide on zoning and other things’’, Dr Emaeyak Ukpong told me this morning.
But the State Party Chairman, Dr. Ita Udosen says the Party is still expecting the Guidelines on the Conduct of the State Congress from the National Secretariat. ‘’When we receive the Guidelines, we will further communicate the details of the Congress to our members’’, he said when I called him today, apparently referring to mode of the election and the zoning arrangement to be adopted. It is clear that the two contending forces in the party are at now at work to undo and outdo each other. The electoral fortunes of the party in 2023 would be greatly influenced by their activities now and in the next 15 months. So far, many party members, including those who are not aligned with any of the groups, have expressed anxiety over the lack of inclusiveness in the manner the last two congresses were conducted.
Many party members are rooting for the next Chairman to emerge from Oron Federal Constituency. ‘’Oron is the bastion of APC in the state; the chairmanship should go to them’’, says a party leader from Nsit Ibom LGA who does not want his name in print. Besides, there is an overwhelming sense within the party that Oron federal constituency deserves a better deal in the scheme of things in the party. Perhaps it is for this reason that a few party chieftains from there are being mentioned as possible contenders for the job. Prominent among them are Chief Victor Iyanam; Barr. Edet Eyo Bassey and Chief Efiong Abia. The three of them are lawyers. ‘’It would be a great honour if I am so honoured by our leaders and members. I will work with our leaders and build the party to a formidable platform if I am chosen’’, Chief Iyanam, a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state said. Edet Bassey, a former State Publicity of the party, I understand, is also interested in the job. He was equally effusive when I spoke to him. ‘’Well, as the State Publicity Secretary, I worked with Dr Amadu Atai, who was then the State Party Chairman. He mentored me and I learned a lot from him. It would be a great honour if the Party leaders consider me fit for the job. But I am convinced that I will do a great job for our party’’, he said. I could not reach Chief Abia for his comments.
Whoever emerges the next Chairman will have his job cut out for him. He will have to assuage huge grievances, bring everybody back under one roof and strengthen the party for 2023. The next Party Chairman will have to be an independent and neutral leader who would never be pocketed by anybody or group. My prognosis is that if AAC and its associated groups like Senator JJ Udoedeghe Support Group decide to sideline the other leaders and stakeholders and impose their own preferred candidates as the Chairman and SWC members, a major crisis will erupt and this will further weaken the party till we get to the 2023 elections. I recall that in the 2018 Congresses, the late Ini Okopido was picked as the Chairman, although he was not among the frontline candidates, because he was seen as a bridge builder. Okopido was widely accepted by all the leaders who sat in a conclave that night. It was also to the credit of Obong Nsima Ekere (ONE), who was then the putative governorship candidate, that the 2018 State congress was so peaceful and harmonious. ONE’s dictum was that since he was seeking the governorship ticket, it was more prudent and wise for him to be tolerant of the expectations of other leaders. ONE therefore went into that meeting seeking a consensus among the leaders, ready to compromise and shift grounds without preconceived views and predetermined preferences on who got what.
Senator Udoedeghe should approach Congress of October 2 with the same mindset. With some leaders seething and with many party members aggrieved, it is now up to him to understand the very essence of the 9th Law of Power as enunciated by the erudite Dr. Robert Greene: Win through your actions, never through argument. He elucidates: ‘’Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through augment is really a Pyrrhic victory: the resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate. Do not explicate’’. In other words, it would be more helpful if Senator Udoedeghe works with others and arrive at a broad-based consensus. But if he populates the SWC with only his choices to the utter exclusion of the other leaders, he will create so much resentment that would seep through the rank and file and lasts till the election. I do not know how this would help the party to confront an incumbent governor with a vast war chest.