I have always been interested in the politics of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria as well as international politics. In my university days, I was very much interested in the issues that affected the student population. As early as the second semester of my first year in the university, I began to participate in the affairs of my department (Dept. of Political Science, University of Uyo). It was no surprise that I was elected Secretary General of the National Association of Political Science Students (NAPSS) in the first semester of my second year in the university. In fact, I defeated a third year student for that position. And before the end of the second semester of my second year, I was elected into the Students’ Union Government (SUG) of the University of Uyo 1997/1998 session. And for obvious reasons, soon thereafter, I was nominated by the late Mfon Nicholas Udonkang (President of the SUG as he then was) as Clerk of the Students’ Union Parliament.
This appointment generated tension between the SUG and the university management to the point that the later refused to release funds for the SUG to implements its programmes. For the sake of the welfare of the students, I resigned my appointment as Clerk to the House, after conducting the election, as was required by the students constitution, for the three offices in parliament (Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Chief Whip), having made a conscious decision to remain in the executive rather than the parliament. About two months to the end of my tenure in the SUG, I resigned to contest for the office of President of the SUG in 1998/1999 academic session. Incidentally, at the time we were campaigning for elections into the SUG of the University of Uyo, civil rule was about to be restored after 16 years of uninterrupted military rule. I must mention at this juncture, for the benefit of the younger generation who may be reading this piece, that it was the same man who now wants to be the President of a democratic Nigeria that set in motion (1983 to 1985) the successive military dictatorships that was about to end in 1999. It was at this time that I was seeking the support of the student population for the office of SUG President that a classmate/friend (who was at the time a politician and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)) introduced me to Obong Victor Attah.
By this time, Obong Attah was a candidate for the office of the governor of Akwa Ibom state on the platform of the PDP. My first and only meeting with Obong Attah (which was at his Federal Housing Estate residence) indeed left a positive impression on me. This was a man with superb reasoning on issues and spoke intelligently as well. He was good at making others understand his view point in a very subtle and direct way. A few months after our meeting, Obong Attah was elected the second civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom state. My admiration for Governor Attah sky rocketed when he stood up for the right of Akwa Ibom state and confronted the Federal Government over its devious offshore/onshore policy. This singular act made most people to forgive Obong Attah of most of his ‘short comings’ during his time in office as governor.
It was Obong Attah who first muted the idea to rotate the governorship amongst the three Senatorial Districts in the state. He made up his mind on this and never looked back. One senior politician once told me that after former Governor Attah decided that the governorship, after his tenure, should go to Ikot Ekpene, he was not prepared to listen to any contrary opinion on the matter. His justification was that it was only fair and equitable to allow all parts of the state have a feel of the gubernatorial position. In his reasoning, it was a means to an end in that rotation or zoning would bring about even distribution of available resources and by extension development. According to the senior politician, at first, no body knew that the former governor already had someone in mind. And as it later turned out, this individual was Obong Attah’s son in-law (at the time the commissioner for works in his administration).
The fact that Obong Attah personally decided to zone the governorship to his son in-law irked many of the people around him to revolt and openly show their decent. The rest of what transpired afterwards is now history and I will not bother my readers with the details here. In my view, the events leading up to the emergence of Obong Attah’s successor in office is what has given the former governor a back row seat in in Akwa Ibom state since he left office on 29 May 2007. And I dare say, the very reason(s) why he has ‘lost his groove’ for excellent analysis of the issues at stake today, especially as they relate to two of the issues Obong Attah addressed on Saturday 21 March 2015 at an APC Rally in Uyo. Therefore, I shall try to respond to the first and last issues – zoning and who will be governor after 11 April 2015. I will not labour myself on the second issue which has to do with why Obong Attah was at the event. This is entirely a personally matter for which Obong Attah has the sole and ultimate discretion.
In his speech, Obong Attah acknowledge his role in the serial that began under his watch as governor. He admits his support for zoning by restating his earlier position on the subject. However, he submits that ‘zoning will certainly be a major consideration but at a time like this, certain other compelling determinants cannot be sacrificed on the alter of zoning alone’. He went on to note that Governor Akpabio who is currently championing zoning is himself jettisoning the idea of zoning in the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district. Therefore, he considers it ‘a perversion that is totally unacceptable’. For this reason, Obong Attah went on to urge people of the area to team up ‘and make certain that Inibehe Okorie from Abak is the next Senator from your district.’
However, in a sharp twist, he stated further: ‘today we support Obong Umana Okon Umana because of a number of those other compelling determinants critical among which were that we shall collectively make a succession plan and that the collective will shall prevail in this matter’. What Obong Attah is trying to do is to use different formulae for the same ‘mathematical’ problem to come up with the answer that he wants. This cannot be. If he wants to get the correct answers he must apply the same formula for the same problem. When he talks of collectively making a succession plan, why didn’t Obong Attah acknowledge this fact in 2007 when he championed his son in-law to become governor against the better judgment of political elders of the state? Besides, what is the basis for his choice of the word ‘collective’. To insinuate that the PDP candidate will not be collectively chosen is very arrogant and an insult on the Party which he boast to have been a founding member. In respect to making a ‘succession plan’, I wonder why Obong Attah believes that he can give what he does not have. In 2007 when he was governor, he failed or refused to make a succession plan as he openly acknowledged only recently at Asan Ibibio. And now, when he has not been in power for about eight years, he now wants to put in place a succession plan. This is a ludicrous idea for a person of his standing to contemplate and even voice out in public.
ON WHO WILL BE GOVERNOR AFTER THE APRIL POLLS
I do not need to say much on this matter. For all I know, Obong Attah is not God. And I am very happy he did not say so. But to make remarks which alludes that Umana Okon Umana will be governor after the April 11 elections, Obong Attah is simple assuming and pretending to be God. My consolation is that he did not know that his son in-law would not win the gubernatorial election in 2007 when he was in charge as governor and that Senator John Udoedeghe would not also win the 2011 election when he openly endorsed the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for governor. I believe this is more so the case today when he has no grip whatsoever on the politics of Akwa Ibom state.
Some people may wonder why this piece has a subtitle asking whether Obong Attah is a statesman. The question is imperative in the light of his recent actions. However, the answer to the question can be found in between the lines of this article. But for the avoidance of doubt, a statesman is that individual who was a politician at some point in his life but knows when to stop dabbling into issues as to which political party is right and which is wrong. The statesman only concerns himself with non partisan issues which are of significance to the society at large. In conclusion and to directly answer the question posed in the title of this article, Obong Attah has the potential to be a statesman as some of his actions in the past had set him up to becoming a one. But alas, he blew it! Now, with his recent utterances and actions, he has completely lost the slot. Not only has he lost his opportunity to be a statesman, he has also lost his ability to articulate his issues objectively. That is if he genuinely believes in his course of action. If and only if, Obong Attah had picked himself up and tried to correct his past mistakes, he would have very likely gone down in the history of Akwa Ibom state as a statesman. And I dare say, he would have been the first for that matter.
merely posted by the