The election to determine who would succeed Chief Godswill Akpabio as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State may be two years away but it has generated considerable interest among Akwa Ibom people at home and in the Diaspora. The concern of people, even non-Akwa Ibomites on who will succeed Governor Akpabio is not misplaced.
Since Chief Akpabio became the governor in 2007, he has raised the profile of the state through unprecedented performance. Indeed, the tenure of his administration has witnessed a renaissance of sort in infrastructural development. The traffic of people and organisations who visit the state for seminars, retreats, conferences and private holidays attest to the state of infrastructure in the state. Placing the state on such a high pedestal also means that the stakes are high and naturally the position would attract a lot of interest.
One of the key actors in the administration of Chief Akpabio whose name has consistently featured as aspiring to lead the state in 2015 is the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Umana Okon Umana, who is often referred to as the “Engine Room” of the administration. A product of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and London Business School, Mr Umana who also has a degree in Economics and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, parades intimidating credentials that have set him apart as a leader who can make a difference in governance.
But it is not only in academic that he has distinguished himself. A former Director of Budget in the state, who also served as the Commissioner of Finance in the previous administration, Umana’s knowledge of the state and issues of development through past and current engagement has been described as ‘amazing’. The technocrat, who has been a recurrent decimal and a constant fixture of power equation in the state, combines an astounding intellectual capacity with practical experience in governance.
It needs be stated that Mr Umana has not yet thrown his hat into the ring. In some interviews that the media have tried to get his word if he would run for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in 2015, the man had maintained that the present administration which he is a part should not be distracted with issues of the 2015 gubernatorial election which is two years away but often adds that it would not be out of place for him to consider taking a shot at the governorship of the state, since he has met the constitutional requirement, and that at the appropriate time he would make his decision known.
Be this as it may, Mr Umana’s perceived ambition has featured prominently in political discourses in the state. Internet bloggers in yahoo mail groups and the social media who are fanatically promoting his vision have met those who are also zealously opposed to his ambition. As a fact, those against his aspiration have gone some steps further to create emergency internet websites whose objective seems to be nothing else except to stop Mr Umana by every means possible, especially foul.
The modus operandi of the “Stop-Umanaat- all-cost” campaigners is simple: using the unconventional media, through propaganda, lies and outright fabrications, splash as much mud as possible on the Secretary to the State Government and impugn on his integrity, thereby turning him into hated figure.
They churn out salacious stories that would make WikiLeaks, the international online watchdog which publishes stories about government malfeasances, turn green with envy. Interestingly, the more the cockand- bull stories and hate commentaries are churned out in the internet, the more groups at home are falling over themselves to identify with the UOU 2015 password, as they have coined it. In all these, the SSG has maintained stoic silence as if he is saying, “I will not be distracted by name-calling and blackmail”.
By now, Mr Umana may have learnt the bitter lesson that in Nigerian politics, falsehood and blackmail are potent weapons of the opponents and they have put them to good use in Akwa Ibom politics. It is expected that in months to come the attack on the SSG to shoot down his aspiration will increase in intensity as the sponsors of this blackmail, knowing that they have failed to achieve their intention, would become more desperate.
The reasons for the Umana hate campaign are as diverse as there are political interests in the state. While some claim that he has been around for too long and in the process become too powerful and therefore should give way to other people, others assert that their hatred for him is because he has been too supportive and too loyal to Akpabio.
But there is a general consensus among them that the SSG is highly efficient and result- oriented. They mull in their closets that if there is someone who could be trusted to continue with the same pace of development as had been witnessed in the state in the last six years or even surpass it, Umana towers above all, but still maintain that his aspiration must be shot down through their internet hate campaign.
Little surprise that since Umana has refused to be bogged down by the malicious campaign of hate waged against him on the internet, his opponents have taken refuge in “zoning” and “power shift”. In a move which smacks of political mischief, advocates of zoning have insisted on the unconstitutional barring of qualified aspirants from senatorial districts other than their own from contesting the governorship in 2015. They have expended so much energy on zoning in a manner that suggests that aspirants from the zone are incapable of competing in a free and fair contest.
But the tradition in Akwa Ibom State has been the opening of the political space for the best man or woman to emerge. Since the creation of the state in 1987, the contest for governorship in has always been opened to all aspirants from the three senatorial districts.
•Mboho, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes in from Uyo, Akwa Ibom Stat