-Successor of Governor Udom Emmanuel
This piece was first published in another platform 366 day ago, yet the issues and personalities it isolated are still generating controversies and reactions. So one year after, we throw it into public domain again though with slight adjustment and update. The new inclusion is even more controversial?
In July 2019, members of a group known as Progressive in Academics, Pro-ACAD, visited President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja and asked him to start grooming a youth who will replace him at the expiration of his tenure in 2023.But in a swift reaction, Buhari dismissed the call, explaining that naming his preferred successor now would create problems for him and those making such calls.
“Succession? To me, this is very funny. If I find anybody, I will create more problems for him or her. Let those who want to be president try as much as I did,” the President had said.
Governor Udom Emmanuel appears to be facing similar scenario. He might not have been approached by the PRO-ACAD but could be under pressure to groom a candidate ahead of the 2023 governorship election. In other words, the governor has been accused of grooming a surrogate as a successor.
Although the governor is undoubtedly a product of imposition, he has made it clear that he doesn’t have any plan to impose any candidate on Akwa Ibom people, stakeholders or the party. Interacting with members of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, a foremost socio-cultural organisation of Ibibio youths, shortly after his victory at the Governorship Petitions Tribunal, Governor Emmanuel posited that he has not anointed anyone to take over from him
“I usually hear people say he has anointed someone who will take over from him so that he can be able to manipulate the person to do his bidding after leaving office, I want to assure you that it is not true. As I speak, it is only God who knows who my successor will be. When He presents him, we will support him to also succeed,” the governor declared.
But does this mean that Governor Emmanuel is aloof to the succession plan? Far from this. Speaking at a media chat with journalists in the state on Tuesday, 24th September, 2019, the governor clarified that his decision not to impose a successor on Akwa Ibom people doesn’t mean that he is not interested in who succeeds him in 2023.
Anyone who expects the governor to distant himself from the race to the Hilltop Mansion, the State Government House, fails to realise that this is as dangerous as imposition of candidate. This is because that could open a loophole for other forces and interests in the state to impose their candidates on the people. The circumstances surrounding the emergence of the present Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is a pointer.
From inception, the governor was said to have been opposed to interfering in the process of electing the Speaker of the 7th Assembly. He reportedly favoured allowing members to elect their leader. To him, he was ready to work with any lawmaker who emerges Speaker among those favoured by zoning. However, intelligent report had it that some interest groups had plotted to hijack the process.
The report said the present Speaker of the Assembly was in their black book for refusing to play their bidding. Aniekan Bassey was among the favourites to clinch the number three position before these groups approached him with a proposal to influence his clear emergence only if he can give them his word under oath to support their principal to emerge governor in 2023.
But Bassey reportedly rejected the proposal on the ground that the scheme is capable of jeopardising the electioneering process. It took the intervention of ‘Only God’ and ‘the power that be’ to scuttle the plot.
The point? The political consciousness in Akwa Ibom today shows that the state has grown above imposition of candidates. The governor can attest to this. It nearly caused him his second term bid, but for the intervention of the “Only God”. However, handling off the succession plan is equally dangerous.
It could give some desperate stakeholders ample opportunity to hijack the process and install a governor that may not be supportive to the governor`s industrialisation agenda. That’s the last thing any governor would contemplate. No governor wants to be quoted in the Rochas Okorocha’s case.
The 2023 general elections may be a little over two years farther and despite the governor’s appeal for calm, the intrigues that usually characterise such endeavour have long begun. The calculation as to who succeeds Governor Udom Emmanuel has gathered momentum.
Based on the current zoning arrangements of the ruling party in the State, the PDP, power returns to Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District in 2023. The District has three federal constituencies: Uyo, Ibesikpo Asutan, Nsit Atai, Uruan (henceforth referred to as Uyo) Federal Constituency; Etinan, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Ibom (or Etinan) Federal Constituency and Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency.
Of all these three, it is only Itu/Ibiono Ibom that has never tasted the exalted seat. The first civilian governor of the state, Obong Akpan Isemin, was from Etinan, while Uyo Federal Constituency had its turn during the 8-year tenure of Arc Victor Attah, who hails from Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area.
Undeniably, Etinan Federal Constituency has a genuine case. Isemin`s tenure was truncated by the military junta when General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew President Shagari in a military coup on 31 December 1983. They are lobbying stakeholders to be allowed to complete that `tenure` before Itu/Ibiono Ibom takes a shot at the Hilltop Mansion. But Itu/ Ibiono Ibom, as a people, wouldn’t let go the plump job without a “fight”.
So, Uyo may not have a chance to display their usual “Bribri”, yet, they could still remain a deciding factor. Chances are that they are going to bargain for the senatorial seat for any bloc to earn their support.
Although, for obvious reasons, no one in those areas we have mapped out, has forthrightly declared intention in the race, observers have been tracking potential candidates for the top job using their body languages and `facial expressions`. So far, six major contenders have been tracked: two from Nsit Ubium, and one each from Nsit Ibom, Etinan, Ibiono Ibom and Itu Local Government Areas. For sure, they all have the potentials to become successor of Governor Udom Emmanuel should they decide to throw their hats (or be dragged) into the ring.
We begin with the retired Vice-Chairman of the Boards of ExxonMobil affiliates in Nigeria, Udom Inoyo. What a coincidence of name with that of the present governor, Udom Emmanuel. However, the Udom of the Inoyo is a surname. His real name is Uko Inoyo Udom. So he won’t have a problem to be addressed officially as Udom should he eventually becomes a governor by 2023, unlike Governor Udom Emmanuel who may pick offence for being called Udom instead of Emmanuel on official matters.
A careful look at his profile indicates that Udom Inoyo possesses two things desirable, in fact, envied by many: wealth and power.
Born in 1958 in Ikot Okoro Ubium, Udom Inoyo hails from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science (1981) and LL.B in Law (1987), from the University of Calabar, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1988. He is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School and Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona. Udom is the immediate past President and Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) and currently, Vice-Chairman of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (EEPNL).
Inoyo had served as Executive Director and In-Country Human Resources Manager for MPN and EEPNL. Udom joined the MPN in 1989 and after several Human Resources roles in Nigeria, USA and Belgium, was appointed Manager, HR Policies & Programmes in 2001. He became the General Manager, External Affairs between 2002 and 2006, and, thereafter, the In-country HR Manager. He was elected to the Board of MPN as Executive Director in 2004.
His wealth of experience as an administrator and legal practitioner in a multinational corporation such as ExxonMobil has given him enormous power and put him in good stead to manage the affairs of the state excellently. Those who think he is a newcomer in politics might have forgotten the ‘board room politics’ in Mobil. His promoters strongly believe he has the financial prowess to prosecute the 2023 governorship electioneering with or without assistance.
In 2007, Barr Udom Inoyo established Inoyo Toro Foundation, a platform to advance the recognition of public secondary school teachers and students mentorship in the state. Because of his zeal for education, he opened a library in his village, Ikot Okoro Ubium in 2004 to provide learning aids and create access to research and development of reading and writing skills in public secondary school students. In 2015, he facilitated the start-up of the International Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability Research in University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. This points to where his administration would focus should he becomes governor in 2023.
Another strong contender from Nsit Ubium is the current member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. (Barr) Onofiok Akpan Luke. He was born on March 16, 1978, to Barr and Mrs. Akpan Luke of Ikot Etebo. He might be young but his potentials, pedigree, prowess, leadership and political experience are intimidating. He falls within the category of ‘not too young to run’.
Luke attended St. Theresa’s Catholic Primary School, Use Abat, Ibiono Ibom LGA and later, Lutheran High School, Obot Idim, Ibesikpo/Asutan LGA where he obtained a Senior Secondary School Certificate in 1996. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the University of Uyo in 2015, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2010 upon graduation from the Nigerian Law School same year. He completed the mandatory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, assignment in 2009 in which he served the country in Ebonyi State. He proceeded later to the University of Calabar where he obtained a Master’s Degree in Law with specialisation in Telecommunications Law. He has also variously undertaken capacity development programmes at prestigious academic institutions within and outside the country, including the Harvard Business School, Yale University, Alliance Manchester Business School, among others.
His leadership exploits date back to his days as President of the Students Union Government of the University of Uyo where he spoke up for, and took daring decisions to protect the interest of thousands of disadvantaged students. In 2008, Barr Onofiok Luke was nominated to the Nigeria Youth Parliament, where he was elected to serve for two years as the pioneer Speaker of the 109-member youth parliament. The youth parliament under his leadership effectively spearheaded the agitation for the full implementation of various youth friendly policies of the federal government, prominent among which was the National Youth Employment Progamme (NAYEAP). He led the parliament in the forefront of the clamour for Amnesty in the Niger Delta Region.
Barr Onofiok Luke’s political career is gradual. In 2007, he was appointed Personal Assistant on Protocol Matters to the then Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio. He had earlier served as legislative aide to the late Ernest Enobong Ukochio, who represented Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in 2003.
That he won the 2011 House of Assembly election by a landslide to represent the people of Nsit Ubium State Constituency in the State House of Assembly is an indication of his early popularity. Following his reelection in 2015, Onofiok was appointed the House’ Chairman, Ad hoc Committee on the Appraisal of Local Government, and later, Chairman House Committee on Education and in December 2015, members of the 6th Assembly unanimously elected him the 11th Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. He was elected in April 2019 to the Nigeria National Assembly to represent Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency where he got appointed for now into the House’ Ad Hoc Committee on Information.
But there is a silent game-changer in the offing in Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency- the immediate past State Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Obong Paul Asuquo Ekpo. Born November 18th, 1969, Ekpo hails from Etinan Local Government Area. He holds a B. Sc in Political Science and Public Administration, from University of Uyo.
Obong Ekpo served as a commissioner in the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council from 2007 to 2012 when he resigned to be elected State Chairman of the party, a position he holds for two terms, the first to have done so in the state. The fact that he has been rumoured to be interested in the race is an indication that he has what it takes to manage the affairs of the state. He is recognised as the Progenitor of the cliché “Party is Supreme”, a pointer to the fact that he could give other candidates a run for their money for the party ticket should he is dragged into the race. He appears to be the only candidate who said he has no interest in the race.
The rising profile of the current Commissioner of Information and Strategy in Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Ini Ememobong Essien, has earned him nomination of the possible successor of Governor Udom Emmanuel. To some, the future is here. Ini Ememobong hails from Use Ndon in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area.
Until his appointment as commissioner into Akwa Ibom State Executive Council, Comrade Essien was the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Akwa Ibom State Chapter, a position he held since May 2016.
Barrister Essien holds double Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Uyo, (Linguistics, 2005) and (Law LL.B, 2013). He also holds a Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies from the same university (2019). The Comrade Commissioner, who has his Doctorate Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies in view from the University of Uyo, finished from the Nigerian Law School as a Barrister of Law in 2014.
Before his assignment as Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Comrade Essien had served as a Special Assistant to the Governor on Political Matters, Akwa Ibom State (June 2015 – May 2016); Special Assistant to the Governor on Students’ Matters, Akwa Ibom State (July 2013 – May 2015); Managing Partner, Justice Chambers, Uyo (from 2014); Technical Assistant on Millennium Development Goals, The Presidency, Abuja (Nov. 2012 – Dec. 2013).
The Commissioner is a Fellow, Institute of Chartered Media and Arbitrators; Fellow, Institute of Public Diplomacy Management; Member, Nigerian Bar Association; Member, Association of Professional Protocol Practitioner in Nigeria; and Associate, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
Comrade Essien, a gentleman, linguist, lawyer, public relations expert, peace advocate, conflict analyst, community development enthusiast and political strategist, is happily married and the union is blessed with children.
Many believed Ini Ememobong is being groomed not only to checkmate the influence Obong Bassey Albert but also to challenge him in the race to the Hilltop Mansion. The circumstances surrounding the nomination local government chairmanship candidate for Ibiono Ibom tends to give credence to the speculation.
Also from Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency is a bulldozer, the current Senator for Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District, Obong Bassey Albert Akpan, nicknamed OBA. Born on October 28, 1972 to the family of Chief Albert Robert Akpan, OBA is a successful businessman, prominent politician and philanthropist. He attended St Patrick’s College, Calabar, from where he then proceeded to the University of Uyo where he obtained BSc in Economics (Second Class Upper Division). In further pursuit of academic excellence, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He started his professional career in 1997, when he joined the International Operations and Consumer Banking/Retail Banking Unit of the United Bank for Africa (UBA). In 1999, he moved on to become Manager, Corporate Banking group at the Continental Trust Bank at the bank’s Victoria Island, Lagos, Office. He later joined First Inland Bank Plc in 2003 as the Uyo Branch Manager, where he won the bank’s best performing branch manager award in the South-South region. He also won the award of the best performing branch manager nationwide in the bank’s midyear review of the 2004 financial year.
In 2005, he joined First City Monument Bank as Assistant Vice President, where he was the General Manager in charge of Akwa Ibom and Cross river States. He was responsible for directing and overseeing the day-to-day running of over 15 branches spread across the zone and as the Zonal Head, he articulated and developed key market penetration strategies for the bank, for sustainable market share and growth.
In 2007, when the call to public service came through his nomination as a commissioner into the Executive Council of the Akwa Ibom State Government came OBA accepted and was given the finance ministry portfolio to manage. He was also the Chairman of the Inter-ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee whose job was to ensure that government projects were completed using direct labour to save some money for the state. In April 2009, Bassey Albert chaired the first ever Akwa Ibom State Revenue Summit.
In 2014, Bassey Albert declared his intention to contest for the Governorship seat of Akwa Ibom State, but after the primary, he lost out to the incumbent Mr Udom Emmanuel. Bassey Albert was sworn in as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on 9 June, 2015.
His ability to withstand storms throughout his stay in the Senate attests to resilience and spirit to wade through the muddy water of electioneering. He was disqualified from the Senate on the 27th of February 2017 by the High Court of Nigeria who nullified his election to the Senate. On November 30, 2017 after several investigations and court hearings, the Court of Appeal in Calabar overturned the ruling by the Federal High Court in Uyo, declaring Bassey Albert the winner of the primary election that was conducted in December 2014. On February 25, 2019 he was re-elected as Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.
But in far away Nsit Ibom, OBA has a friend who could turn rival; Akanimo Udofia, a Canada-based billionaire popularly known as ‘AK47’. Although the private jet owner was seen in 11th February, 2018 chilling with OBA in his luxury private jet, Akanimo Udofia is said to be nurturing interest in the race.
The billionaire, who owns Desicon Group, one of the major servicers of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, was born on 18th June, 1969. The business magnate and philanthropist is based in Toronto, Canada. His chain of businesses spans various sectors of Nigerian economy, with interests in engineering, construction, oil and gas, and maritime.
Akanimo Udofia is currently the Group Managing Director of Desicon Group, “which provides detailed engineering design and installation services for leading organisations in the Nigerian Oil & Gas Sector. Akanimo Udofia is responsible for overseeing the continued growth of the company.
A graduate of Harvard Business School’s Senior Executive Programme, Akanimo Udofia maintains membership with the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA).
Bringing over 30 years of experience with his role as the managing director and CEO of Desicon Engineering into politics could be intimidating.
Not to be dismissed in the race to the Hilltop Mansion is the Itu-born strategist and silent achiever, Mr. Akan Okon. Born on October 1, 1965, Akan Okon is a politician and financial expert with experience in the banking sector spanning more than two decades.
He studied in the University of Lagos, Lagos State, for his first degree in Business Administration in 1987 and University of Calabar, Cross River State for a Master’s Degree in Banking and Finance. Okon has also attended several courses in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries in the course of working career.
Mr. Okon, started off after his national service year, by joining the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where he held several positions in the bank. He worked at various times as the assistant manager, International Remittance Office (IRO), senior supervisor, Investment Office (Foreign Operations Dept) and senior supervisor, Banking Office.
He was at the First Inland Bank Plc, where he served as Head Investment Banking, area executive, South South. His job responsibility here was to supervise all the branches of the bank in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Delta States.
Some of the banks Okon left a stunning imprint include; FinBank and Standard Trust Bank Limited now United Bank for Africa (UBA). Okon is a member of many professional bodies, some of which include; Fellow, Institute of Sales Management; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Leadership of Nigeria (CILN); member, Institute of Direct Marketing and member, Chattered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN).
A Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants and recipient of many awards, Mr Okon was the Managing Director of Fantixis Investments Limited, a financial advisory firm prior to his appointment as the Commissioner for Economic Development. He had been the Commissioner for Finance, Housing and Special Duties Commissioner in the state. He is the current Commissioner of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport and immediate past Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, the ministry that oversaw the berth of Ibom Air.
He is considered as one of the best brains and key actors in Governor Udom Emmanuel’s cabinet. Akan Okon is the only contender in the State Executive Council. Observers were of the opinion that if the governor were to groom a candidate for the 2023 governorship election, it would have been Akan Okon. The fact that he keeps revolving around juicy ministries tends the lend credence to such argument.
Going by the caliber of people believed to be nurturing interests and the subsequent “crazy” depth of quality the race might witness, the competition to the Hilltop Mansion will be interesting. To be on the safe side, don’t put your life saving anywhere yet. The pendulum keeps swinging.