JUST IN: Tension In Umo Eno’s Camp As Governor Udom Finally Set To Drop His Anointed Candidate
…Dr Essien, Onofiok favoured as possible replacement
It is no longer a story that Akwa Ibom state governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel may drop his anointed candidate, pastor Umo Bassey Eno.
According to reliable source who spoke with Ibom Focus on condition of anonymity said, people democratic party (PDP), Akwa Ibom state has finalized the plan to drop Umo Eno any moment from now.
The source said Intense pressure is mounting on Governor Udom Emmanuel to drop Pastor Eno as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State.
The pressure is coming as a result of uncertainty in the court case instituted by Mr. Akan Okon against Umo Eno following allegations of secondary school certificates and PVC forgery.
Sources said that highly placed party chieftains within and outside the state have told the Governor that the party cannot afford to take any chances by going ahead to field the former Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources.
Those behind the idea argued that having seen the damning evidences on ground, the case looks bad for the party and Umo Eno, hence the need for the governor to give a directive to his preferred candidate to voluntarily withdraw.
Government House sources told our reporter that those canvassing for Umo Eno to be dropped have told the governor that with the new electoral act, if Umo Eno is forced to voluntarily withdraw, the governor will now be at a vantage position to back another preferred candidate of his in a fresh primary to be conducted by INEC.
Ibom Focus learnt on good authority that the governor had initially given a thought to the idea of substituting Umo Eno, but was dissuaded from going ahead following superior line of argument by eggheads of the Maintain Peace Movement and Umo Eno campaign council that they are sure of victory at the court.
This paper understands that the national leadership of the party, alongside other well placed citizens of the country have asked the governor to replace Umo Eno.
Our sources at Government House, Uyo told this paper that some names have been suggested to the governor by those proposing an outright dropping of Umo Eno.
The names mentioned are Dr Iniobong Essien, former Commissioner for Environment, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, former Speaker of the state assembly, Mr. Gabriel Ukpeh, Chairman of the Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment, and Comrade Ini Ememobong, Commissioner for Information and Strategy.
Dr Iniobong Essien: According to our sources, he is the favourite to be considered in a situation where Umo Eno is dropped. Those in the know about the development say the governor feels comfortable with him because of his humble disposition and level headedness. One of our sources said having served in two Ministries between for five years before leaving exco in 2020, the governor knows him long enough in terms of character and capacity. Dr. Essien declared interest to vie for the PDP governorship ticket but had to drop out of the race after the governor made known his decision to pitch tent with Umo Eno on January 30.
“I can tell you for a fact that if the governor never gave the nod to Dr Essien to contest, he would never have declared to contest. I am saying this because I have confirmed it to be true. The mere fact that he quietly withdrew from the race in deference to his boss the governor after Umo Eno was presented on January 30 has made a lot of people in the system to make case for him in case of a potential withdrawal of Umo Eno”, a very senior government source told our reporter.
Our reporter learnt that those in the system took a liking to him when he, in the midst of the certificate forgery scandal of Umo Eno appeared in the old boys’ reunion of Victory High School, Ikeja.
According to government sources, Dr Essien who was 4 years Umo Eno’s senior (1977 set) showed up at the reunion dinner organized by the embattled candidate in order to help add credibility to his claims that he didn’t forge his certificates.
The system, according to our findings also feel at home with him, seeing him as the most mendable amongst the options available. They say Essien has the tendency of remaining loyal to Udom even when the governor is out of office.
Another factor which is said to be in favour of Dr Essien is his LG of origin. Our sources hinted that if Essien is picked, it will douse the agitation for Itu/Ibiono Ibom governorship and will help slash the votes of Senator Bassey Albert in the federal constituency at the general elections. Senator Albert last Friday resigned his membership of the PDP and is expected to contest the governorship election under the YPP.
Onofiok Luke: The former Speaker is equally tipped as a favourite to pick the ticket in case of any eventuality with Umo Eno’s candidacy. The system feels he is a “lesser evil” compared to Akan Okon. Hence, instead of allowing Akan Okon to pick the ticket through court, they feel it is safer to hand it over to Onofiok. Some politicians in government feel if Umo Eno is asked to withdraw and a fresh primary is conducted, Onofiok with the backing of the governor will easily emerge. They view that if Onofiok emerges, the candidacy will gain a huge acceptability of the masses. Proponents of the Onofiok Luke candidacy say if Umo Eno is asked to withdraw voluntarily, it will spell an end to the forgery case and dampen the chances of Akan Okon getting the ticket through the court.
“Onofiok is a smart young man. He understands politics well and has been very civil in the way he goes about his politicking. No doubt, he may be working behind the scene for the actualization of his ambition. He knows that politics is all about scheming and lobbying. It is not by insults. He didn’t openly protest against the conduct and outcome of the ward congress that produced the adhoc delegates. He hasn’t insulted the governor or the party. Very unlike him whom we know to be a very vivacious young man who would have been on the forefront of the fight against the system. We are impressed and if per chance anything changes concerning the candidacy of Umo Eno, he will certainly be amongst the top 3 to be considered”, said a top government source.
His local government of origin is said to also be an added advantage for him. If Umo Eno is withdrawn and replaced with Onofiok, government insiders say it will still be a win-win for Nsit Ubium.
But those against their candidature argue that he cannot be trusted because he is too independent-minded and would most likely be uncontrollable. They argued that Onofiok had several behind the scene fall outs with the governor when he was Speaker. They also accused him of using his connections as Chairman House of Reps Committee on Judiciary to give tacit support to aggrieved guber aspirants dragging the party to court.
Ini Ememobong: He is also considered but many elders of the party are not in bed with the idea. Sources say the governor loves him a lot and at some point had him in mind as a possible successor. He is seen an intellectually mobile young man who has the leadership acumen many who are twice his age can only wish for.
“The governor obviously likes him. If not, some bosses would have sacked him for not showing commitment to the success of the preferred candidate. What counts in his favour is that he foresaw this OBA scenario and had taken steps to take some structures away from the senator in Ibiono Ibom. If he is brought in as candidate, he will assuage the demands of Ibiono Ibom people and appeal to the youth population of the state, but I don’t see that happening. Those against him are too much and these are some of the people the governor listens to in terms of political advice”, said our source.
Those against him recall that when he was Publicity Secretary, he was too influential and was the second most powerful person in the party after the then Chairman, Paul Ekpo, hence if he is given the guber ticket, he will wield too much power and build a new political structure that may render some of them irrelevant.
Our sources went on to say that most of the topshots in the system dread him rising to such political echelon.
“He is too young for such office. You want some of us elders to start bowing and calling our son’s mate Your Excellency? Do you think governorship is some sort of SUG”, said an elder of the party when asked on the possibility of having Ini Ememobong as guber candidate.
Coming to his defence, another source in the system say that age is not a hindrance to good leadership, stating that the likes of Orji Uzor Kalu and Donald Duke were in their late 30s just like Ini Ememobong when they emerged governors of Abia and Cross River.
Gabriel Ukpeh: This paper learnt that at the twilight of the governor’s first term, Ukpeh was considered as a very strong option for the governor. Ukpeh who is currently the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment worked with the governor at Zenith Bank where he was a Non-Executive Director. Ukpeh hails from Itu LGA and is also considered as an option if Umo Eno is dropped. An internationally acclaimed consultant in business strategy, Ukpeh meets the governor’s specification of “a successor with international e-mail” having worked at PriceWater House Coopers (PwC).
James iniama: This is another name that has been mentioned as possible replacement. James is said to be wooing Obong Victor Attah and some other senior stakeholders to consider him in case of replacement. In case of Umo Eno’s withdrawal, Iniama is also said to be rooting for the disqualification of Akan Okon from the fresh primary for dragging the party to court, thereby violating the oath he took as contained in the party’s nomination form PD0003/G.
The clause in the said form reads: “That I undertake to abide by the decision of the party as final and will not subject it to any litigation whatsoever adjudication by anybody including the court of law”.
According to our sources, Iniama wants only himself and the likes of Ide Owodiong and Idorenyin Umo who took part in the May 25 primary to be given right of first refusal in any possible fresh primary for not attempting to rock the boat after not being favoured in the said primary.
Akan Okon: The man behind the uncertainty of the Umo Eno candidacy. Okon instituted the forgery case against Eno in court on June 7 and he has gone for the jugular of his opponents. He wants the ticket for himself and nothing else will placate him other than the PDP governorship candidacy. Many in government say that for the governor who is his friend of 40 years to ignore him and pick Umo Eno, then there is more than meets the eye about him.
The governor and the system dread allowing him to pick the ticket, hence instead of allowing him emerge candidate through the courts, they would rather ask Umo Eno to withdraw in order to make the court case suffer a setback.
Sources told our reporter that Akan Okon played a crucial role in the Supreme Court judgment that confirmed Udom as governor in 2016. They dread that Okon has long legs that may give him victory in the courts.
A senior member of the MPM told our reporter on Monday that it would be suicidal for them and even the governor to allow Akan Okon to become the party’s candidate.
“He seems to have an axe to grind with a lot of us in the system, and if he gets it, he may be out on a vendetta and may retire most of us. It won’t happen. Instead, if he eventually gets it (which is not remotely possible), we will look for a mushroom party and fund for the general election”, said the MPM topshot.
Another source in government who spoke to us said a possibility of the governor settling for Akan is very slim but not totally ruled out.
“The devil you know is better the angel you don’t know. The governor knows Akan well. 4 decades of friendship doesn’t come cheap. They may have their misunderstandings but if Akan Okon emerges, it is easy for them to sort it out because longstanding mutual friends will always come to mediate”, the source said.
Sources in Akan Okon’s camp told our reporter that the banker-turned-politician will still proceed with the case even if the governor withdraws Umo Eno in order to frustrate him (Akan) from being announced as candidate by the court having finished second in the primary.
Udom Inoyo: A very odd pick but sources say the governor in his private moments have had subtle regrets about snubbing Udom Inoyo for Umo Eno. The governor, according to a well-placed source, feels that if he had settled for Inoyo, the embarrassing scenario of certificate forgery would never arise. The idea of bringing back Inoyo has also popped up amongst some key players in government but the likelihood of going back to him is slim.
“Inoyo feels totally humiliated by the governor. He feels the governor nudged him on for the guber ticket and then left him embarrassed by ditching him for Umo Eno. Inoyo feels the governor, despite their friendship didn’t have the courtesy and respect to even notify him first that he has changed mind on adopting him before going ahead to present Umo. At some point, after the governor presented Umo Eno, Inoyo shut him (the governor) out and ignored all his messages and calls”, said our source.