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In Akwa Ibom, Raging Battle For Hilltop Mansion

Posted by By Okon Akpan on 2005/06/23 | Views: 312 |

In Akwa Ibom, Raging Battle For Hilltop Mansion

As the much-awaited elections year 2007 draws near, political office seekers across the country are priming their weapons for some anticipated electoral kill.

As the much-awaited elections year 2007 draws near, political office seekers across the country are priming their weapons for some anticipated electoral kill.

Whether it be presidential aspirants or their governorship counterparts, Senators to be or Representatives, among others, the electoral space is, indeed, already getting crowded, even as many more are yet to declare their interest in the various political offices on offer. Take Akwa Ibom State, for example. In this state they call The Land of Promise, the race is very much on. And with the deputy governor Obong Chris Ekpeyong facing an impeachment prodeeding by the House of Assembly, the state’s gubernatorial race appears largely open. But what seems certain is that while the National Political Reforms Conference in Abuja is still unable to agree on a rotation principle——whether rotation should be between North and South or among the six zones——Akwa Ibom may in principle have been sold on power shift from the Ibibio dominant ethnic group to any other in the state. That means that barring any unforeseen circumstances, an Annang, Eket or Oron will be crowned the next Governor of the state they call The Land of Promise, at the expiration of the tenure of Obong Victor Attah, an Ibibio, come 2007.

There is, for one, Ime Umanah, Attah’s opponent in the 2003 governorship election who is, however, of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP); he may still want to take another shot at the governorship. There is also Mr. Nya Etok, a dashing, youthful architect like Governor Attah and a born-again Christian, who is also a chieftain of the ruling PDP. But of recent, a new name has been mooted as the person with perhaps the brightest prospects of becoming governor among all the other aspirants. He is Senator Akaninyene Ukpanah (JP). Currently, Ukpanah is representing Akwa Ibom State at the National Political Reforms Conference sitting in Abuja as a delegate.

A Pharmacist by training, Ukpanah is rated as one of the most experienced politicians in Akwa Ibom State at the moment, having at various times been a councillor, a council chairman, twice elected Member of the House of Representatives and a Senator in the botched Third Republic. As he himself put it, "few politicians of my generation in Akwa Ibom State have continued to be so timelessly politically relevant."Educated in Nigeria and England, Ukpanah, in 1960, was awarded a Pfizer scholarship for a three-year industrial course overseas in pharmaceutical manufacturing and quality control laboratory techniques, in Sandwich, Kent, England. The programme of studies covered extensive industrial training courses in New Castle-upon Tyne in the UK, Barcelona in Spain and Southern Rhodesia in South Africa (as it then was). Upon return to Nigeria in 1962, Ukpanah, being so adequately equipped, was employed by Pfizer Limited as an industrial pharmacist in the multinational pharmaceutical manufacturing company.

Two years later, he moved to Sterling Products International Limited, another subsidiary of an American drug-manufacturing conglomerate, which was establishing a manufacturing plant in Apapa, Lagos. After a successful operation in Nigeria, he was posted out in 1968 on an international assignment to set up a manufacturing plant in Accra, Ghana and train Ghanaians. That assignment was accomplished in 1970. By then, the civil war had ended. In 1971, armed with industrial experience, Ukpanah commenced a small-scale liquid pharmaceutical production, which supplied liquid drugs to the governments of Cross-River and Rivers States. The excess of purified and distilled water, a bye-product of the venture, was bottled and marketed as purified solvent for use in car batteries and school laboratories. The SME was sighted in Ikot Ekpene Urban Town. When the Federal Military Government set out to implement the Dasuki Report on the reform of local council system in 1976, the exercise marked another turning point in Ukpanah’s career. In fact, that began his robust political career. For, in that year, a new council - the Ukanafun Local Council was created out of the former Abak Division in Cross River State and Ukpanah was elected councillor for his ward.

In 1977, he contested for the office of Chairman of the council and won and was to serve a three-year tenure. Twice, he was elected to the House of Representatives under the post military government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979 and 1983. While in the House, Ukpanah served as Chairman House Committee on Transport, was Secretary of Parliamentarians for World Order, an ad-hoc committee of the House, and leader of a delegation of that organization to the United Nations Committee on apartheid, New York, USA in 1983.

The mission: to urge the UN committee to persuade the apartheid government of South Africa not to executive the South African students sentenced to death by that government. In 1992, he again won election into the Senate of the Federal Republic, Nigeria’s Upper House, making it five "hotly contested elections in a political career", as he put it, all of which he won. A member of the venerable G-34 that fought the military government of Sanni Abacha, and which metamorphosed into the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Ukpanah is, needless to say, a leading member of the PDP and Akwa Ibom State Caucus member. A notable speaker, Ukpanah is seen by keen watchers of the politics of Akwa Ibom as the man with the right attitude for the job of governor of a state in need of unity of purpose among contending ethnic blocks. Once asked to comment on his political philosophy, Ukpanah said: "To me politics is both an art as it is a master science. There is a bond between me and the ordinary people. I believe in persistent devotion to service to society; the society that raised me up is at the centre of my personality. I advocate that wealth should be tapped from our God- given resources and used to provide the people with a standard of luxury due to them. So far, my egalitarian ideas have won for me the respect of the ordinary people and the political class alike." Just as well.

But speaking specifically on the politics of Akwa Ibom, the delegate to the National Political Reforms Confab said: "I believe in ethnic harmony among the ethnic groups in the state for the establishment of a robust political culture anchored on mutual respect, tolerance and accommodation.

There must be in addition, the right politics not only the right economics." Member, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and American Institution of Management, International Fellow Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of the United Kingdom and a Fellow Institute of Sales Management of Nigeria, Akaninyene Ukpanah may not exactly be the crown prince of Ibom politics, but he seems to enjoy a certain advantage over would-be opponents: he is an entrenched member of the Attah political structure that is in control of Akwa Ibom politics at the moment. Were Ukpanah to get the official endorsement of this group, he is as sure as the Number One Occupant of the Hilltop Mansion come 2007.

Asked to comment on his chances in the race to the Governor’’s Lodge, especially given his closeness to Obong Victor Attah, Ukpanah, a vocal, sharp witted Justice of Peace (JP) enthused: "Few politicians of my generation in Akwa Ibom State have continued to be so timelessly politically relevant. Analysts and commentators describe me as possessing an exemplary gift of oratory. Nowhere was this resourcefulness put to test than when I found myself as Chairman of Governor Victor Attah’s campaign for re-election in the year 2003."

*Akpan wrote from Uyo

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.