It was the first public gathering and appearance of the APC leaders in Akwa Ibom State since the Appeal Court judgment of last December nullifying the election of the PDP governor of the state, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
By Chioma Onuegbu
Though it was couched as a Solemn Assembly to praise The Almighty for the Appeal Court judgment that nullified the governorship election, however, politicking was everywhere at the prayer venue. Indeed, the hallmark of the prayer summit and thanksgiving service held at the Nsima Ekere Campaign ground Edet Akpan Avenue Uyo was the defection of several stalwarts of the PDP to the APC. Whether they prayed before defecting was, however, not an issue.
Prominent among the defectors were former spokesman of the House of Representatives Eseme Eyibo, one time PDP state chairman Otu Ita Toyo a.k.a ‘Total Chair’, immediate past local government chairman of Uyo Local Government Area, Ekerete Ekpenyong, immediate past Senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Senator Aloysius Etok among many others.
They were formally received into the APC by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who was represented by the National Vice Chairman South- South Hilliard Eta.
Remarkably, 18 of the 22 aspirants that sought the PDP governorship ticket in 2015 styled as the G-22 have now left the PDP for the APC.
Many of them have buried their political aspirations under that of Umana Umana, the candidate of the APC in the last governorship election. Senator Etok who represented Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the immediate past Senate described Umana as the ‘Symbol of our liberation’
However addressing the party supporters immediately after receiving the new members into the APC fold, Odigie-Oyegun who spoke through the APC South-South National Vice Chairman, Eta assured them that it will no longer be business as usual now with the APC as the ruling party.
Odigie-Oyegun who was optimistic that the APC will win at both the Supreme Court and rerun further assured that the national leadership of the party will ensure that all votes cast are defended stressing that the days are over when the Police, Army and the DSS are used to intimidate and harass opponents or subvert the electoral process.
His words, “Never again will they use Nigerian police against you, never again will they use the Army, DSS against you. The National leadership of our party is aware of your effort and the national Chairman has asked me to tell you not to be afraid, don’t be intimidated. The days of using state apparatus against political opponent is over. I want you to go home and know that you belong to the ruling party now.
Party stakeholders including Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, Toyo, Eyibo took turns to assure their commitment to the party.
Toyo, who was state Chairman of the PDP during the administration of Obong Victor Attah said that APC would soon become the party to reckon with in Akwa Ibom..
In his brief remarks, Eyibo said, “Akwa Ibom people will regain the state and never again shall we yield to the rampaging economic buccaneers and political dealers; never again shall we have free education in Akwa Ibom state that is not qualitative”
The APC governorship candidate Mr. Umana used the opportunity to convince the people that the APC would give the state the responsible and accountable leadership they have been craving for over the years.
“As you can see with the event of today most of Akwa Ibom people have chosen to walk away from slavery and I thank you for insisting on the freedom to decide who your governor is. The true meaning of the judgements at both the Tribunal and Court of Appeal is that the ongoing battle for Akwa Ibom state is not about individuals. The battle is between freedom and slavery.”
“APC represents that quest for freedom, inclusion, and openness. The historic task of successful resistance to impunity and arbitrary use of our state resources cannot be complete until you have installed an APC government in the state. This therefore means that though we have scored important victories along the way the war is not yet won. There is a lot of work ahead of us”
Continuing, Umana specially thanked the National leadership of the APC led by President Muhammadu Buhari for stabilizing the polity and the Judiciary for upholding the truth that elections did not hold in the state.
“I equally salute the courage of our numerous members who have braved all the odds and faced the bullets because they prefer freedom to slavery. I am grateful to all my supporters across the political divides. Your supports have given true meaning to our victory”, Umana added.