UNRAVELLING SOME TISSUES OF LIES (2): WHY ORO LOST THE 2015 AKS GOVERNORSHIP
By Professor Okon Eminue
Before examining why Oro Governorship 2015 failed, I consider it pertinent, by way of an introduction, to very briefly itemize the various efforts we made to ensure the Success of the Project. When we commenced the struggle for Oro Governorship 2015, we identified three stages or phases of the Struggle the Phases of Consultation, Consolidation and Confirmation.
During the Consultation phase, every segment of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and the Diaspora was made to be aware and understand Oro’s Case. Effective 3rd May 2013 Oro Think Tank initiated Consultation with the major ethnic groups in the State had commenced in earnest:
• Annang, as represented by Itai Afe Annang-in-Council; • Ekid people as represented by Ekid Peoples Union• Our Obolo kindred of Ibeno and Eastern Obolo;• The Ibibio through the Ntison Ibibio-in-Council;• Public Presentation of WHY ORO.• Official Presentation of the publications to Governor Godswill Akpabio• A Myriad of Official Discussions with Governor Akpabio (26 Times)• Consultation with Power Centres Nation-wide;• Private presentations to Critical PDP Stakeholders;• Presentations to Foreign Embassies• Briefing of Oron Union Members in Diaspora.
So much intellectual inputs went into our preparation for Oro 2015 Governorsahip that after our public presentation of AKWA IBOM GOVERNORSHIP 2015: WHY ORO, not only did Governor Godswill Akpabio assert that it must have taken Oro Think Tank at least 3 years to put the publication which he considered a compendium together. Altogether three publications were produced by Oro Think Tank (OTT) in furtherance of Oro 2015 Governorship Project:
1. GOVERNANCE IN AKWA IBOM STATE, 2007 – 2011: THE ORO EXPERIENCE.
2. AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNORSHIP 2015: WHY ORO?
3. 20 REASONS FOR AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNOR OF ORO EXTRACTION IN 2015.
These were in addition to several press conferences in Uyo, Lagos and Abuja as well as media interviews and commissioned feature publications in newspapers aimed at drumming support for Oro’s Governorship bid in 2015.
After the presentation of the same document before the Ntisong-in-Council, the Ntisong Ibibio 111, HRH Obong Ekidem, commented that “if the issues of governance of Akwa Ibom State that formed the subject matter of Oro presentation were given as an examination, many would not have scored a pass mark.” Oro Think Tank had consulted comprehensively in the State, in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. It must be stated unequivocally that whoever those who had occupied Governorship position in Akwa Ibom State had consulted which amounted to a boon and a success to their endeavor, we have equally consulted with all such dignitaries, institutions and centres, keenly aware of the fact that, ultimately, their inputs will count in the final reckoning.On 26 occasions, we met with Governor Godswill Akpabio and in four specific occasions, he gave us his word which we thought we could take to the Bank. There was no time he stopped pledging to hand over to an Oro indigene, until the very last moment.
The composition of each delegation comprised Members of COTR, Oron Union, OTT, Youths (Essu Nlap Oro); and Women
In the Second Phase: Consolidation – featured identification of prominent individuals in the groups already consulted.
During the Phase of Confirmation, the 2015 Oro Governorship Steering Committee acknowledging that 57 Aspirants had emerged in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District during the 2006 Governorship Election, considered that 8 aspirants from Oro Nation were not too many and that “the more the number of Aspirants, the merrier”: The 8 Aspirants were Barr. Asukwo A Okpo; Barr Ekpenyong Ntekim; Barr Effiong Abia, Larry Esin, Mr Effiong Usin, Professor Peter Esuh, Rt. Hon. Jerome Isangedighi, and Crown-Prince Chris Abasi Eyo.
1. LACK OF CONSULTATION & ABSENCE OF AGREEMENT As State Chairman of the PDP, Arc. Otu Ita Toyo had a Kitchen Cabinet/Advisory Council, an ad hoc arrangement that usually identified teething Oro problems, discussed issues and threw up suggestions and policy recommendations for actions. This ad hoc Advisory Council comprised Ikpoto Okon Osung, Professor Okon Eminue, Dr Efiong Edunam and Asuquo Uwe Oboho. It is noteworthy to recall that a Memo drafted for presentation by Total Chair at the first National Executive Committee Meeting of the PDP on How to reform the PDP for greater effectiveness and acceptability had reportedly received a standing ovation.
The Advisory Council, having demonstrated its utility and relevance, one would have expected once Arc. Otu Ita Toyo, as State PDP Chairman, decided that Godswill Akpabio was his choice Candidate for the Governorship of Akwa Ibom State, he should discuss the matter with the OTT and the Advisory Council that had, at least once, proved its relevance. That, he never did.
As State PDP Chairman, Total Chair handled the emergence of Godswill Akpabio as PDP Governorship Candidate all alone, for whatever reason. He went on his own frolic and fraternized with and allowed Godswill to emerge without any advisory input or any Agreement (Community Agreement) – the type other politicians strike as a platform for galvanizing, mobilizing and harnessing political support for their chosen political objectives or Candidature. Such Agreements usually feature negotiated terms and conditions, duties, obligations and responsibilities as well as privileges, concessions and horse-trading by the parties.
The point being made here is that Oro Nation, the proverbial third leg of the Tripod in Akwa Ibom State, started failing as a people (as ekwe) the moment Otu went on his own frolic, all alone, like a pelican in the desert, to foist and deliver Godswill Akpabio, roughshod and against even the wishes of his State Party EXCO. Such a person who had utilitarian advisory structures manned by ideas men in place but decided to operate unilaterally must have had some personal agenda. That was why he did not want to carry Resource Persons along with him, lest such Resource Persons, even in advisory capacity come to know about his personal agenda and the extent to which it conflicted with or contradicted societal goals and imperatives.
LACK OF AGREEMENT
It must be noted that lack of Agreement in 2006 was the bane of Oro in the 2015 Governorship struggle. It is also common knowledge that Political Agreements are very powerful instruments for eliciting commitments and galvanizing support for political action. It may seem trite, but it is important to emphasize that Governor Godswill Akpabio, who prides himself as a Promise-Keeper, is known to have honoured the terms of all the agreements, written and unwritten, that he entered into with communities and groups in the State. That was good luck for communities who entered into such Agreement. The question Oron Nation is asking today is: Where is the Agreement our entered into when he single-handedly gave the PDP Governorship Ticket to Chief Godswill Akpabio in 2006?
For instance, an Agreement could have a Clause which states that if Oro Nation could electorally support a Governorship Candidate from outside Oro Nation, by “ensuring that majority of the lawful votes in the Governorship election from Oro Nation is cast for such a Governorship Candidate/his Party, the benefits Oro Nation would derive include the following: “ …mobilizing for the implementation of zoning/rotation/power shift as it pertains to the Governorship slot in Akwa Ibom State, not on the basis of Senatorial District but on the basis of dividing the State into two Groups comprising the major ethnic Group on the one hand, and minority ethnic nationalities on the other, and rotating or alternating power (or Governorship seat) between the two Groups after every eight (8) years …”; righting of any injustice suffered by the Community in the past.
2. GOVERNOR’S CAUCUS One of the reasons Oro did not attain its rightful place in the scheme of things was absence of Governor’s Caucus comprising critical Stakeholders that brought the Government to power. For instance, under Governor (Obong) Victor Attah, the Governor’s Caucus comprised the key politicians who brought the Government to power, namely:
General Edet Akpan (rtd) (Caucus Chairman); Dr Efiong Edunam…………………….Member Obonganwan Rita Akpan…………….Member Chief F.E.J Etim……………………….Member Obong Otu Roberts………………. Member Ikpoto Okon Osung……………………Secretary
Every important issue was discussed and a decision taken by the Caucus. However, under Governor Godswill Akpabio, Arc Otu Ita Toyo neglected or failed to put in place the Governor’s Caucus which he was eminently qualified to create, not so much as the State’s Party Chairman but as one who single-handedly gave the Governorship ticket to and therefore installed the Governor in office, so to say. It was Total Chair that created the void that eventually disadvantaged Oro Nation by not utilizing his vantage position to put the Governor’s Caucus in place. In the absence of a Governor’s Caucus, put in place by critical Stakeholders who brought the Government into being, the field was left bare for Governor Akpabio’s brothers – Sir Emem, Barr. Ibanga, Prince and Nsentip Akpabio, etc – to take over both as Advisers and Inner Caucus Members to the Governor, since nature abhors or does not tolerate any vacuum.
3. TOTAL CHAIR’S REJECTION OF OFFICE OF SSG
Regardless of the number, weight and variety of excuses and notwithstanding his grandstanding on the matter, Total Chair’s greatest and most devastating blow to Oro Governorship 2015 Project was his ill-advised rejection of the position of Secretary to the State Government (SSG) that Governor Godswill Akpabio offered him on a platter. It was the greatest undoing for Oro and “the unkindest cut of all” which defies all logic, semantics and rationalization. Every argument he advances as justification for that odious act against his Fatherland sounds like circumlocution.
In one of the 26 meetings we had with him, where we presented to him one of the publications in the build-up to Oro Governorship 2015 titled “GOVERNANCE IN AKWA IBOM STATE, 2007-2011: THE ORO EXPERIENCE (2), which we used to buttress our interaction with him on Oro’s case of Marginalization, Governor Akpabio exonerated himself from blame, heaping the blame on Arc. Otu Ita: His words: “Don’t blame me, blame Otu Ita Toyo …”
The Governor informed us that he had offered Otu Ita Toyo SSG but that he turned it down. Governor Akpabio told us that all proposals for appointments emanate from the Office of the SSG and that he merely ratifies proposals presented to him. If Total Chair had accepted the post of SSG, he is the one who would have made such proposals, and omission of Oro names would have been difficult, if not impossible.
However, before he was elected Governor, Godswill Akpabio had variously promised Oro Nation the post of SSG in his Government to wit:
• When Akpabio met OTT under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Uye;• At the Palace of Edidem Inyang Effiong Nyong (Ahta Oro) and• When he addressed the Political Class in Ikpoto Okon Osung’s Uyo residence. Governor Akpabio told us when he assured Total Chair that Permanent Secretary Governor’s Office would soon sign his appointment letter as SSG, he was “in a rude shock” when Otu Ita Toyo turned down the offer, explaining that his wife says he should not take the post and that he won’t be able to function or perform in that capacity. SO, IT WAS THE WIFE WHO DISSUADED OTU ITA TOYO FROM ACCEPTING BEING THE SSG.
That is what Governor Akpabio usually means when he says that Otu Ita Toyo rejected SSG position “for personal reason”. The Governor told us that he pleaded with Otu to accept SSG appointment because he wanted a balanced Government and that Otu did not mention any Oro man who could occupy that office but said: ”Give it to Umana Okon Umana sitting here.”
Present in that epoch-making meeting of “Trench-Warriors” who were enacting “dress rehearsal” of celebrating victory in producing the Governor were 4 distinguished personalities (Akpabio, Umana, Udoedeghe and Otu). Akpan James Udoedeghe was the Director-General of Akpabio’s Campaign;Obong Umana Okon Umana was one of the key Financiers of the Campaign;Obong Godswill Akpabio was the Governorship Candidate, then Governor-Elect; Arc Otu Ita Toyo was State Chairman of the PDP.
Observe that the Quintessential Tripod was reflected in that Victory Parade. Udoedeghe and Umana (Ibibio); Akpabio (Annang); and Otu Toyo (Oro). But what real, tangible victories did the quartet go home with?Udoedeghe opted for Minister and his request was granted by the Governor-Elect.Otu Ita Toyo relinquished SSG offered him and dashed it to Umana. So, in the final telling, Ibibio took Minister and SSG;Annang took Governor (I mean, “Executive Governor”) ,While Oro took nothing.
We should ask Otu what Oro came home with from that Victory Parade.Otu rejected being SSG and didn’t reflect the post to any other competent Oro son or daughter. He ignored all the promises Akpabio made during the electioneering campaign to appoint an indigene of Oro SSG.
Perhaps, more important within the context of Oro Governorship 2015 is the reality that it was SSG’s Office which Umana Okon Umana occupied that made Umana Umana’s Governorship aspiration to come to limelight. It was also Otu’s fatal mistake in rejecting, and therefore squandering a veritable platform for launching out politically that emboldened Umana to enter the race, and which culminated in the emergence of Udom Emmanuel.
But can you imagine the two positions that caught Total Chair’s fancy? Let’s briefly examine the two. One was the post of PDP Vice-Chairman (South-South) – the post occupied, with fatality, by people like Dikibo and Harry Marshal. The other is Chairmanship of Local Government Service Commission (LGSC):
It is laughable that an intelligent and rational person should shun reality and go instead for unreality or phantom. I know for a fact that by May 2007, nobody knew that the position of National Vice-Chairman (South-South) of the PDP which Arc. Otu Ita Toyo now uses to rationalize his rejection of the plum job of SSG would be zoned to Akwa Ibom State. The first time he publicly gave this excuse was in 2017 in Oro Civic Centre at a parley organized by Oro Nation Leadership and Business Round-Table. He was roundly condemned by his first cousin, Hon Orman Esin, never to say that in public again. He went further to admonish Ita Toyo that “a bird at hand is worth million in the bush.”
It should be noted that on two occasions, when Arc. Otu was recommended for Ministerial appointment by Oro Think Tank (OTT), his recommendation failed to receive the blessing of His Excellency Governor Godswill Akpabio. Eventually, the position of PDP National Vice-Chairman (South-South) became available and Governor Godswill Akpabio supported Ikpoto Edet Nkpubre for the position over him as his preferred Candidate. Moreover it is of parenthetical interest that Governor Akpabio did not support Ikpoto Edet Nkpubre for the position of National Chairman. He instead supported Uche Secondus, the present PDP National Chairman for the position. What then makes Total Chair believe, as far back as in 2007 when it was not even dimly apparent that the position of PDP Vice-Chairman (South-South) would ever be allotted to Akwa Ibom State that Governor Akpabio would recommend him for it.
The illogicality of preferring the post of Chairman, Local Government Service Commission to that of SSG and the argument for rejecting office of SSG played out recently: In what turned out to be warped logic, Total Chair who rejected the post of SSG, reportedly arguing in part that Governor can sack SSG any time ‘condescended’ and preferred the post of Chairman, Local Government Service Commission – a position whose occupant reports to the SSG, who could sack him any time, and we have seen current or incumbent SSG signing the sack letter of the then Chairman of Local Government Service Commission (Sir Val Atta).
SQUANDERING OF OPPORTUNITIES, SQUANDERING OF HOPE
Arc. Ita Toyo’s penchant for squandering opportunities was not limited to his rejection of appointment as SSG. Ita Toyo failed abysmally to deploy his vast knowledge, connections and potentials generally with the movers and shakers and those who matter in Nigerian politics to the benefit of his Fatherland. A glaring example of opportunities squandered by Arc. Ita Toyo was his inability to convert to his advantage his having a Classmate in the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency, in the distinguished person of Vice-President Namadi Sambo, his Classmate at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Here is a Vice-President whom Arc Ita Toyo addresses by well-known, euphoric alias “ESCAPE”, but whose strategic location at the epi-centre of power in Nigeria (the Presidency) could not be utilized to impact Ekim, Udung Uko, Oro Nation or Akwa Ibom State !!! Occupying the position of a State Party Chairman, rather than facilitate the conversion of such classmate ties, became a rather fruitless nomenclature!!!
UNDERSTANDING AMONG 8 ORO GOVERNORSHIP ASPIRANTS
From a political standpoint, Oro is monolithic, crystallized in the battle cry: “Uje, Uje Bari, Afang Ki !”. It is very important to state that the commitment and patriotism of the Governorship Aspirants of Oro extraction and of Members of the Steering Committee of Oro 2015 Governorship Project were such that ANYONE OF THE 8 Oro Governorship Aspirants was acceptable to all of us. At a stage, the spearheads of the Struggle canvassed that Governor Godswill Akpabio should “anoint” or “endorse” ANY of the 8 Aspirants from Oro Nation.
Even if Governor Akpabio had rejected all the 8 Aspirants and found any other Oro Son or Daughter who had never declared the intention to contest as Governor in 2015, we would still have enthusiastically welcome such a move. All that the Steering Committee of Oro 2015 Governorship wanted was an Akwa Ibom State Governor of Oro extraction that would make Oro Nation empirically and meaningfully the Third leg of the Tripod, that is Akwa Ibom State, a tangible reality.
What is more revealing is that, in 2015, ALL the 8 Governorship Aspirants of Oro extraction had irrevocably committed themselves to an Understanding that whoever among them would find favour in obtaining Governor Akpabio’s endorsement should take the automatic support and cooperation of the remaining Aspirants for granted. This commitment by Governorship Aspirants was extracted in my residence at the insistence of the Steering Committee under the able Chairmanship of His Excellency Ambassador (Engr) Etim U. Uye.
The move to get Governor Akpabio to endorse an Akwa Ibom Governor of Oro extraction was a progressive rather than a sudden occurrence.
The next phase which featured State-wide tour with the Governor sensitizing the views of Akwa Ibom people through Town Hall Meetings was to determine which of the Federal Constituencies in Eket Senatorial District should be the focus of attention. Recall that Governor Akpabio clearly underscored this sequence and notion when the Press, including especially the African Independent Television (AIT) interviewed him immediately after the Oro Town Hall Meeting on Monday, 31st March 2014.
Asked by AIT that the Oron Town Hall Meeting seemed to feature more on 2015 Governorship, Governor Godswill Akpabio had this to say: “Yes … well, that is what concerns the people. They also appreciate the projects we have done. But they were more interested in bringing out their opinion and their stand on 2015, and I was happy. First of all, there is no doubt that they support Eket Senatorial District producing the next Governor, but they were more interested in the Governorship coming to their Federal Constituency. And you cannot blame them because, the State is founded on a tripod. SO, THEY ARE ACTUALLY THE THIRD LARGEST GROUP IN THE STATE: YOU HAVE THE IBIBIOS, THEN YOU HAVE THE ANNANGS, AND THEN YOU HAVE THE ORONS. What it means is that the Ibibio people had their turn through Obong Victor Attah; the Annangs have their turn through my leadership; and the Oron people would like to have their turn in 2015.” (emphasis added).
DID ORO REJECT BARR EKPENYONG NTEKIM?
It is not true that His Excellency, Governor Godswill Akpabio ever proposed to Oro his preference of Barr. Ekpenyong Ntekim in any of our 26 meetings with him. If that had happened, Oro would have wholeheartedly jumped at such offer. The position of the Oro 2015 Governorship Steering Committee to Governor Godswill Akpabio was that any of the eight (8) Aspirants that was chosen by him would be fully supported by Oro. In fact, the desire of Oro people was that any of the 8 Aspirants endorsed by him would be acceptable and given maximum support.
For the avoidance of doubt, His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio NEVER, EVER proposed Barr. Ekpenyong Ntekim as his favoured Candidate for the 2015 Governorship contest.
It would be recalled that at our 25th Meeting, the Governor brought the strange proposal of Udom 4 years, Oro 4 years for the first time. Since that proposal was novel to Oro, we appealed to him to give us a few days to consult widely on the proposal. This he accepted. The Steering Committee thereafter consulted widely and Oro people were unanimous that Oro should take the first shot of the 4 years proposal. Oro Think Tank (OTT) was then mandated to reduce the Oro position to writing, giving cogent reasons why Oro should take the first shot. Accordingly, a letter was raised by Oro Think Tank signed by HRH Ovong E.O. Isemin, then Chairman, COTR; Chief Engr Asukwo Inuikim, the President-General, Oron Union; and Comrade Okon Osung, then Chairman, Oron Think Tank. The letter was submitted to the Governor at our last and final Meeting with him held at Governor’s Lodge. (Please see our Letter to Governor Akpabio dated 12 November 2014 captioned “AKWA IBOM STATE GOVERNORSHIP 2015: ORO’S RESPONSE TO YOUR EXCELLENCY’S PROPOSAL”).
That was how our numerous meetings (26 times) spanning 8 years ended. And Governor Akpabio went ahead to enthrone his preferred Candidate.
In conclusion, Oro’s failure in the 2015 Governorship could be attributed essentially to :
• Failure by Arc Otu Ita Toyo (who was strategically positioned) to involve Oro stakeholders to extract commitment from Akpabio before endorsing him as Governorship Candidate in 2006;
• Arc. Otu Ita Toyo’s ill-advised rejection of the office the SSG – a position which could have offered him and Oro indigenes a platform for political inclusion.
• Governor Godswill Akpabio never intended to hand over to an Oro indigene, hence his sudden and deliberate distortion of the hitherto Tripodal rotation of political offices based on ethnicity, replacing same with Senatorial arrangement.