The phrase "Akwa Ibom is PDP, PDP is Akwa Ibom" had previously been freely used by Governor Udom Emmanuel and other PDP supporters in the state.
Since the beginning of democratic rule in 1999, PDP has not only maintained successive control of Akwa Ibom State, but has also been successful in electing presidential candidates there in the elections of 2015, 2019, and 2023—even though its candidates were unsuccessful at the national level in each of those years.
On the other hand, despite being the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress, or APC, was unable to put up a strong fight against the PDP because there have been instances where even its governorship candidates have lost elections in their wards.
Nevertheless, the emergence of a third force, the Young Progressives Party (YPP), has altered the status quo in the Akwa Ibom political arena as the gubernatorial candidate, Senator Bassey Akpan, who was a prominent PDP figure until his defection, has attracted a sizable following, particularly among the state's youth.
The rumored merger of the APC governorship campaign structure with that of the YPP to form a formidable force that would give Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s PDP a bleeding nose at the March 11 elections has become of so much concern to the PDP.
Recall that before the PDP primary, both the governorship candidates of YPP, Bassey Albert, and that of APC, Obong Akanimo Udofia, were strong members of the PDP, but sensing the impossibility of getting the party’s ticket, they ran to different political parties, where they clinched the various tickets.
The duo, in different ways, had stumbled on a lot of studs on the road to the polls. First was Senator Akpan, who was committed to prison for receiving exotic car gifts from a contractor, Jide Omokore, while he was a Commissioner about nine years ago, a case that is still pending at the Appeal Court.
Akanimo Udofia on his own was dragged to court by one of the aspirants in the party, Senator Ita Enang, who claimed that Udofia, while a member of the PDP, contested in the APC and urged the court to nullify the election; the case is at the Supreme Court.
It was gathered that Senator Godswill Akpabio, who has long ago fallen out with his godson, Gov. Udom Emmanuel, is allegedly orchestrating the merger so that Senator Akpan, who was his then Commissioner, would emerge victorious at the March 11 polls against PDP’s Pastor Umo Eno.
But Senator Ita Enang, in a statement entitled “Beware of imposters using a non-existing Akwa Ibom APC governorship ticket for negotiation,” chided the whole arrangement, saying that APC does not have a governor candidate in the first place.
The statement, which was signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Uduak Ikpat, read thus: “It has been brought to the attention of Senator Ita Enang's Governorship Campaign Organization that individuals purporting to represent the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State are negotiating to surrender their ambition and campaign structure to another opposition party in the state.
“They have promised to surrender the non-existing ticket, collapse their structure, and mobilize support and votes for the other political party ahead of the March 11, 2023, governorship election.
“We are not against anyone negotiating for personal interest, but we have to remind the public that as of today, March 4, 2023, the APC in Akwa Ibom State is yet to have a governorship candidate. This can be verified on the INEC website.
“Anyone planning to merge his campaign organization with another does so as a person and not as a governorship candidate, since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to fill in a governorship candidate for APC in Akwa Ibom State.
“The fraudulently conducted APC governorship primaries birthed a legal tussle that is still subject to litigation in a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the PDP in the state, Mr. Borono Bassey, in an interview, described such a coalition as a mere conspiracy that would not stop the PDP’s candidate from winning the governorship seat on Saturday.
He stressed that the PDP is not threatened by such an alliance as it remains a party to beat in Akwa Ibom State.
But, even if the merger never came to fruition at the end of the day, last Saturday’s event at the "OBA event center," where the “Obidients” formally declared their support for the YPP governorship candidate, should put PDP on its toes to re-strategize on how to win more votes from the Akwa Ibom people.
The Obidients’ support was a big boost for the YPP, as it emboldened the party to fight the PDP headlong in the next five days.
The Obi/Datti Movement is a coalition of over 100 support groups across the 4,354 polling units in Akwa Ibom State.
Though the groups, in a statement signed by their leaders, Otoabasi Asuquo and Engr. Otoabasi Ntiah, claimed their decision to support the YPP’s governor candidate was based on his competence, character, compassion, and capacity, it is obvious that they were doing it out of vendetta against the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the leader of the PDP in the state, who has been accused of denying Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, his victory at the February 25 presidential election.
The movement also claimed that since Senator Akpan of YPP supported their principal, Mr. Obi, during the presidential election and delivered his local government for Obi, they would reciprocate his kind gesture by mobilizing Obi/Datti structures in all the polling units for him.
“YPP deserves all the support from the Obidient movement in Akwa Ibom state because they showed us so much love by standing with the Obidient Mobilizers to deliver our principal, Mr. Peter Obi, in the 4,354 polling units in Akwa Ibom state. In life, one good turn deserves another! "Even when our people voted for Peter Obi, the PDP manipulated the results to ensure that Obi, our own in-law, lost in Akwa Ibom,” the statement issued by the Obidients read in parts.
However, Reverend Richard Peters, the Special Adviser to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Media and a diehard defender of the PDP governorship candidate, Pastor Umo Eno, in an interview, said the YPP’s governorship candidate was “just looking for survival. He wants to come under the umbrella of Obidian to bury his dubious character”.
He said the Obidients, known to be defenders of uprightness and honesty, would not desecrate their ideology by rallying around a man who, according to him, has been convicted of a crime by a court of competent jurisdiction.
According to him, “the ideology behind the Obi/Datti movement was borne out of passion to lead, so if the Obidients are aligning with a criminal, that means the aim of the movement has been defeated.
“It is very unfortunate that one man who has shown a high level of dishonesty in public office would be endorsed by groups who were seen as impeccable; it is sad and disastrous.”
He said that the PDP was not threatened by the endorsement, adding: “We are gathering support, and I’m confident that the PDP will win by a landslide. Every political party has its own way of campaigning; the PDP is going back to the grassroots.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Harry Udoh, said the Obidients have the right to support whoever they want in the March 11 elections.
He said the Obidients and other people in the state can vent their anger over the outcome of the presidential election in the state by using their thumbs against anyone or any party that stole their mandate.
“A lot of the results we have seen from Akwa Ibom State showed that HE Peter Obi won overwhelmingly in the state. We saw videos showing how the ruling party changed the results. Some of us had the opportunity to discuss with some of the ad hoc staff, and they attested to the fact that the ruling party upturned the result. So for me, it’s ok for the Obidients’ to take their supporters wherever they want; you cannot steal people's votes and come and do anything of benefit to them.
“The voters have the power, and the power is in their thumbs, and they have the right to put it wherever they want, and that is why I’m calling on the INEC to ensure that there will not be a repeat of February 25. "People will show their anger with their thumbs on March 11,” he said.