FRANK ARCHIBONG AND DAVID LAWRENCE STOKING ELECTORAL VIOLENCE
Unless stakeholders rise to the occasion and ensure transparency, fairness and equity prevail in the incoming Councilorship nomination and election exercise in Eket Central Ward V, anarchy and violence may rock the peace of the entire Odio.
This is as a consequence of subterraneous moves by former Local Government Chairman, Hon. Frank Archibong and Akwa Ibom State House member, David Lawrence to impose a candidate, contrary to the zoning structure of the Ward on the people.
Already tempers have risen high as some members of the Ward were protesting this development, vowing to object the secret plot to impose one Smith Udo Johnny on the Ward, against the popular wish of the Ward for fair and transparent process through the extant structure which fields candidates on zonal arrangement.
Already, there seem to be smouldering fumes, poking for violence and chaos from a hitherto quiet and sleepy town, Odio in Ward V Central Eket. Odio can be said to be the most quiet place in Akwa Ibom State. Even though she is an oil-producing place in Eket, yet has suffered worst neglect in social infrastructure. There is no motorable road linking Odio and neighbouring towns. Yet the people have remained reticent and peaceful. Ward V Central has three units in Odio and one unit in Nditia village and had always returned the People Democratic Party (PDP), overwhelmingly in elections.
Odio has a long history of zoning arrangement for her five villages of Afaha Uqua, Ikot Afaha, Nnim Emi, Idung Otuwak and Ekiki. Each village alongside Nditia takes turn to produce a councillor on a consensus basis; based on the established zoning formula. It is on record that Odio has never experienced underhand dealings in the process of electing her representative, as all other four villages and Nditia have had their turn.
Now, the dice is cast on Idung Otuwak, one of the major five villages, to field a Councilorship candidate. Idung Otuwak has produced a consensus candidate in the person of Mr Itohowo Ebito, a graduate and a one time aspirant for Councilorship, and who has also worked so assiduously at previous elections to ensure the victory of PDP in the Ward. Ebito is a quiet and unassuming young man with vision to place Ward V Central in the global map through intelligent representation.
Buoyed by the popular support from the political leaders and leaders of thought in Ward V, Mr Itohowo Ebito has already secured a form to stand for nomination and eventual election as Councilor representing Ward V in Eket in the next local government administration.
He is the consensus candidate of Idung Otuwak – Odio, and has received supports from other four villages and Nditia for the election because of his credibility.
But there’s a red-herring, and the smell is traced to Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (AKHA) member representing Eket, Hon. David Lawrence and immediate past Chairman of Eket Local Government Area, Hon. Frank Archibong, now Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. The duo is alleged to be sponsoring a candidate outside the zoning structure of Odio – Mr Smith Udo Johnny, a former Ward Chairman. Mr Johnny, known as Smith, is said to have been pencilled down by Hon. Lawrence and Hon. Archibong as the councillor for Odio.
However, the zoning structure does not favour Smith Udo Johnny and Nsikan Nna Sunday as Nnim Emi where they both come from has produced two Councilors so far. And for equity, fairness and justice, the leaders of thought, insisting on the zoning structure, have accepted it was the turn of Idung Otuwak to field a candidate. Note that Idung Otuwak is the only village in Odio that is yet to produce a Councilor.
Knowing that Smith, who is unlettered, does not stand a chance of winning in an open and credible nomination and election, the duo of Archibong and Lawrence have decided to leverage their political weight to ‘write the name of Smith’ and file it as the Councilor – an illegality not known and accepted in the PDP family.
To pave way for their plot, they are alleged to plan to cause chaos during the nomination exercise of 19 August 2020, aimed at disrupting the nomination exercise and hijack the entire process to achieve their ill goal.
Meanwhile, the political leader of Ward V, Apostle Sunny Inyang Akpadiaha, has objected to this evil agenda. Akpadiaha, a source hinted, rejected any unhealthy development to field an unpopular candidate in order to avoid chaos. Other political leaders, privy to the plot by the duo of Hon. Lawrence and Hon. Archibong, have objected to their plans; calling on the leaders of the party to wade in and ensure that Ward V was not denied her right to elect a credible candidate of their choice.
Meanwhile, calls made to the duo have not been returned, as at the time of filing this article. But the Chapter Chairman of PDP – Eket, Obongiwaad Emmanuel Mbong, reacting to the development when contacted, vowed that all aspirants will be given equal opportunity. He insisted that all aspirants will meet in the field and that the party will not tolerate any attempt to cause chaos by hijacking the process.
The good people of Ward V, who are shocked by the development, have staged a protest and have called on the party leaders and the governor of the state, Mr Udom Emmanuel to prevail on Frank Archibong and David Lawrence to allow the people of Ward V choose their councillor through a peaceful, free and fair process. They have vehemently rejected any attempts to impose anyone on them.
And unless steps are taken to ensure transparency and fairness in the nomination of a candidate, the current restlessness might culminate into a serious crisis.
One would have expected that being the last tier of government and the closest to the people, especially the people in the hinterlands, the process will run quietly and peacefully. But nay, the reverse seems to be the case. It’s like the syndromes of the cacophony of voices, threats upon threats of violence, war and hellish destruction, witnessed at the last national and state elections are being replayed here in the grassroots.
Surprisingly, the politics of the grassroots has just assumed a dangerous dimension, with demonic oath-taking orgies. The truth is that, due to high cost of the election, most of the intending councillors will simply go cap in hand, yielding their necks to the heavy yokes that will be placed on them by political office holders who will force them in the oath-taking spree, just to buy forms for them. Then who says that godfatherism will not thrive in politics? Who says that demonic oath-taking will not happen in the process? Thank God for the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel, who has rebuked political gladiators against administering oaths to aspirants. Yet, his rebuke and aversion for oath-taking seem to fall on deaf ears.