There is palpable tension in Akwa Ibom State over what would be the outcome of the March 18 governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has been the party in power ever since the inception of democratic government in 1999 and had produced all the lawmakers, members of parliaments and Senators back to back.
However, it needs extra efforts and grace to maintain the status quo in the 2023 elections.
Though PDP swept the polls at the February 25, 2023, presidential and National Assembly elections in the State, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, recorded some upsets as a serving member of the House of Assembly (under PDP) and former commissioner for Information and strategy, Aniekan Umanah was defeated and the former governor, Godswill Akpabio picked the Akwa Ibom Northwest senatorial seat on the platform of the APC.
If the results of the presidential election in the state where PDP won in 22 out of 31 local government areas are something to go by, one could assume that PDP would also carry the day at the end of Saturday’s polls.
But, from every indication, the gubernatorial election in the state will not be a tea party as none of the camps is leaving any stone unturned in its attempts to garner and secure popular votes.
Akwa Ibom is sitting on a tripod, that is Ikot Ekpene, Eket and Uyo Senatorial districts. It is assumed that APC has a stronghold in Ikot Ekpene district due to the influence of Senator Godswill Akpabio, PDP has a strong grip at Eket due to Gov Udom Emmanuel’s influence having come from the area, while Uyo Senatorial district is majorly for the YPP due to the influence of its gubernatorial candidate, Senator Bassey Albert.
Out of the 15 political parties that signed a peace accord organised by the state police command, the PDP and the YPP can be seen as the frontline parties in a horse race while the APC and the Labour Party take the rear.
PDP, the ruling party in Akwa Ibom is working hard to retain its position after the polls. It should be noted that the governorship candidate, Pst Umo Eno had weathered a lot of storms and attacks, ranging from allegation on certificate forgery, age falsification to not being the authentic flagbearer of the party as peddled by one of the aspirants, Mike Enyong. Despite all these, Eno had intensified campaigns with a clear manifesto to ensure that opposition parties would not wrestle power out of the party’s hands. Already, the grassroots, especially the aged ones are in tune with the “Umbrella” and would ordinarily thumbprint on the logo because that was what they have been doing over the years.
The Young Progressives Party, YPP, whose governorship candidate is Senator Bassey Akpan could be described as the party giving the ruling PDP a sleepless night due to the massive support it gets from the public, especially the youths. Senator Akpan who is facing a legal battle for accepting exotic cars while as a Commissioner had won the sympathy of the masses, first when he was incarcerated and secondly when he was able to deliver his local government, Ibiono, to the Labour Party during the presidential election. His public declaration for Peter Obi got him support from a large percentage of Obidient groups in the state which has boosted his support base and his chances of winning the polls.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, was the main opposition in the State until the entrance of YPP. The candidacy of its flagbearer, Mr Akanimo Udofia was a subject of a legal challenge up to the Supreme Court based on the process of his nomination. It was rumoured that YPP and APC wanted to collapse their structure to form a strong alliance that can challenge the ruling PDP on March 18.
Udofia would have received a big boost to his ambition if the YPP governorship candidate had agreed on the alliance which would have seen members of the YPP vote for him in the governorship polls. But with the non fruition of the alliance, Udofia’s chances of winning the coming election had further depleted, though there are diehard supporters of the APC.
The Labour Party, after the presidential election had enjoyed a lot of support from the public, particularly the Obidients who are not card carrying members of any political party (as some card carrying members who just joined the group to support Peter Obi have since gone back to their party) in the state. Its governorship candidate, Mr Peter Uduak Udoh who has a clean bill is also working hard to woo Akwa Ibomites to his side ahead of the polls.
Whatever the case, unlike previous election years, it may not be a 100% prediction of the winner of the 2023 guber polls in Akwa Ibom as each party is bent on canvassing and protecting its votes during elections.