Emmanuel Nicholas

I have severally resisted the urge of wasting precious time on this subject since I first heard from the camp of the erstwhile NDDC Managing Director and failed APC standard bearer, Nsima Ekere, claiming that he won the March 29 Governorship elections in 26 of the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State and that he would be heading for the court to reclaim his ‘lost’ mandate. I may not be against the APC candidate going to court but genuine concern is if it is worth the while.

Recently we were doing a post mortem on the March 29 elections , and someone jokingly chirped; “I heard Nsima said that he won the election in 26 local government areas, I hope Ikot Abasi is not included?” To which everyone present laughed.

If it were meant to be a joke, indeed, it was a serious joke. After all, do they not say that ‘Charity begins at home.

Now let’s go back to the proverbial ‘Charity’. Ekere comes from Edemaya, one of the four clans that make up the entity called Ikot Abasi. Did the APC candidate win in his hometown? Again, the answer is NO.

A revisit of the people’s voting pattern during the February 23 Presidential/Parliamentary elections shows that the PDP won clean in what should have otherwise been Ekere’s stronghold; right there at his birth place despite all the intimidation and harassment orchestrated by the APC candidate on the voters in his community.

A summary of what transpired in Edemaya shows that out of a total of 19 units, voting was disrupted in five, leaving 14 units with conclusive elections from which the PDP won seven while the APC managed to take six; with one unit without a clear winner.

Perhaps, a detailed look at what transpired that Saturday (February 23) in Edemaya will give a clearer picture of Ekere’s vulnerability even in his hometown.

Edemaya, about the largest clan in Ikot Abasi Local Government has three wards comprising 19 units. In Ward One, Ekere’s own ward, made up of six units, election was disrupted in four owing to violence orchestrated by sponsored thugs. This paved the way for Ekere’s APC to clear the only two units that managed to hold the election.

In Ward two made of six units as well, again, violence disrupted the election in one of the units (Ikot Ubo), leaving five units from which PDP won two and the APC two as well. In the remaining unit (Ikot Eyen Imoh), the PDP won the Presidential election while the APC took the Senate and the House of Representatives slots.

Then in Ward 3, comprising seven units, the PDP again, swooped five (Ikot Obioekpe, Ikot Obioakpan, Ikot Ekara, Ikot Efre and Iboro/Ikot Ufot); leaving only two for the APC. In one of the two won by the APC, the unit had been under grave intimidation, resulting in the abduction and attempted assassination of its key PDP strongman popularly known as ‘Young King’ few weeks to the elections.

And if anyone should bother to ask, why were the elections in Edemaya were characterised by violence that led to disruption of voting in some of the units when same elections were conducted peacefully in other parts of the state? The situation in Edemaya was even in spite of the truckloads of dare-devil, soldiers armed to the teeth, and paraded by Ekere in Hilux vehicles clearly marked ‘The Presidency’ all over the community on the election day?

Ask those who know and they will tell you that the thugs were simply engaged to save Ekere from humiliating defeat right in his doorstep. And the army, perhaps, to instil fear on all those ‘who valued their lives’ to vote Ekere. Meaning, in essence, that Ekere anticipated the defeat at this birth place.

The defeat of Ekere in his immediate home community therefore, set the pace for what happened at the larger Ikot Abasi Local Government where the final outcome of the elections showed a clear dominance by the PDP.

In the Presidential polls, PDP scored 8353 as against APC’s 571; the Senatorial elections followed suit with PDP polling 8552 against APC’s 6066 while the House of Representatives elections saw the PDP with 8539 leaving the APC trailing with 6119.

Now, fast-forward to the March 9 Governorship election which the PDP led by the incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel won in 30 of the 31 local government areas of the state and which Ekere would be challenging in court.

But back to the basics! Haunted by the woeful loss of the APC in Edemaya during the Presidential/Parliamentary polls, Ekere had started a serious campaign in his community, preparatory to the Governorship. First, he had sent his wife, Ese, to go around the 23 villages that make up Edemaya to share money.

The dutiful wife obeyed; touring the community to share between N2,000 to N3,000 to every soul: young or old male or female. But rather than appease the people, the gesture backfired. For one, the people reasoned, how come that Ese who had been married into the community for over two decades and had never set her feet on the soil of most of the villages would suddenly ‘love’ them enough to come sharing money. But worse, they reasoned, would they sell their conscience for a paltry N2,000 or N3,000?

Yet on another instance, Ekere’s elder sister, Uduak, was sent around the community to share things (not money this time) to the people, but the wise woman found that an opportunity to play smart on the people and she was stoned, in anger, by the villagers with sachet water for her attitude which they considered demeaning.

Already packaged items that were meant for one person were repackaged to go for five or more persons and as such she was chased away, resulting in the breakdown of the brother’s fence-mending mission.

Therefore, threatened by the fear of a more woeful outing in the governorship, Ekere had resorted to a more devilish option: import more truckloads of soldiers to his community ostensibly to coerce the people to vote for him.

The election consequently turned out a nightmare in the community as the people who refused to be subdued and obviously preferring to stand with the incumbent Governor, Udom Emmanuel, received the worst humiliation and torture of their lives.

As at the time of filing this report, the people were yet to recover from the horror that had engulfed their community during the Governorship/ House of Assembly elections, as a result of the activities of what has come to be known as ‘Ekere’s soldiers’.

For instance, elections were disrupted in most of the units with dire consequences as the soldiers, who were strategically positioned to be reached via a whisper, swooped on several units without any established incidence(s) of breaches of the electoral code, shooting sporadically into the air, disrupting the election as people scampered for safety.

In most of the units raided by the soldiers, the story was the same of torture, maiming and snatching of people’s phones, particularly those of the election officials for fear of being photographed or videoed.

In the end, apart from the glaring intimidation and violence that coloured the governorship election in the APC’s standard bearer’s community, eight of the 19 units in Edemaya had their results cancelled following mainly the activities – some would say the rascality – of the soldiers.

There were established cases of the soldiers harassing voters and electoral officials and carting away ballot boxes. At some of the units, the soldiers arrived towards the end of voting and scaring people away with random shooting, carted away ballot boxes and other election materials.

There were two of such units that when the soldiers arrived, someone in the gang, threw bundles of five hundred Naira notes in the air and as the people scrambled to catch some, the soldiers would then shoot their way through, disappearing with the ballot boxes in a mad frenzy.

All such results were promptly cancelled by INEC since the election officials on ground were having direct communication with the situation room. And, to worsen matters, even the result at Ekere’s own unit was eventually cancelled by INEC in Ikot Abasi when it was discovered that the votes cast far out-numbered the number of accredited voters as revealed by the Card Reader.

Expectedly, the APC candidate again, lost out when the final results of Ikot Abasi local government were released.
Ironically, until February 23 when the general elections were held, Ekere had boasted to everyone who cared to listen, that the outcome of the Governorship in the state was already known and that he (Ekere) was only waiting to be sworn in as the next governor.

However, when February 23 happened and the PDP won in almost all the local government areas with the former governor/former Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, losing re-election bid to return to the Senate, it then occurred to Ekere that whatever election that he was always referring to, only existed in the innermost recesses of his imagination.

Which explains why he then instructed his wife to commence a ‘belated’ campaign to woo voters in their immediate community.
But what accounted for the seemingly frosty relationship between the APC strong man (Ekere) and his home community? Some say he is elitist and cannot relate with the ordinary folks in the community.

Others denounce him for being aloof and uncaring; noting for instance that despite the opportunities he had had in the past; as AKIPOC Chairman, then Deputy Governor and finally as the Managing Director of NDDC, that he had been of little to no value to his community.

These would readily point to a little wooden bridge that was built in the early 1900 which forms a major access to Edemaya but which today, is still crying for attention. Besides, the major part of the community is without electricity, despite the fact that the entire community was connected to the national grid during the days of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida under his Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRI) programme.

Today, the wooden electricity poles are still seen all over the community with the lifeless cables still hanging as relics of that old past. In all, Edemaya in its rustic simplicity – or humility, if you like – is devoid of any trappings of modernity.

So, at it were, Ekere couldn’t have won in Edemaya or his local government. But more important, going by all these, with what mind-set was the APC Governorship candidate coming into the election?

Obviously, Ekere’s doom and that of his party stemmed from the fact that the much touted federal might failed – for whatever reason. The crises at the State House of Assembly that resulted in questionable changes of the Commissioner of Police in the state were simply failed experiment of how to deploy the federal might to the APC’s advantage.

But it would also appear that the APC was fielding the wrong candidate. Ekere, plainly speaking, doesn’t seem to command the charisma that could woo the hearts of Akwaibomites to cast their lots on him. If he could not ‘bulldoze’ his way through his immediate home community, what magic wand was in his possession to have helped him sail through the 31 local governments of the state?

For the realists in the state and beyond, the over-bloated ego of the former governor/ former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, whom everyone believed had Akwa Ibom engraved in the palm of his hands, was just another idle tale.
This was a man who had boasted to his new masters, that he would deliver, not only Akwa Ibom but also the entire states of the South-south to the APC; who at the end of the day, could not deliver himself. Yet, as it were, Ekere had cast all his eggs in his (Akpabio’s) porous basket. So, the unimaginable loss of his Senatorial bid worsened by his inability to ‘re-enact Warsaw’, should have told Ekere that the game was over.

What’s more! When people say that Akwa Ibom State is synonymous with the PDP or that in Akwa Ibom, PDP is a religion, it is simply stating the obvious. A simple check will reveal that since the advent of the fourth Republic in 1999, the state has had almost all its elective representations at both the federal and state legislatures coming from the PDP. A fact Ekere himself knows since he came from the same party.

That, at the end of this year’s elections, the state again, had all its elective offices swept by the PDP is simply keeping to an established pattern.

In essence therefore, though he will be exercising his legitimate legal rights but as things stand, any thought of challenging the March 9 Governorship outcome may simply amount to another political misadventure that could be likened to the G22 which incidentally was also championed and led by Ekere, himself. Going to court/tribunal might be evidence, Ekere is living in a deluded world.

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