Hon Udo Ekpenyong as Akwa Ibom PDP chairman

Will he walk his talk ?


In view of Udo Ekpenyong’s political profile and trajectory, evidences abound to validate and sway a number of persons to the presumption of many that the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), now under the watch of the renowned grassroots politician, has been further positioned to maintain its stronghold in dominating the political activities of the petrol-dollar-rich state.

In what was more of ratification, if not coronation, 39 new party officers to run the affairs of the PDP in the state from 2020 to 2024 were elected on July 30 and sworn into office four days after.

The election, which had 3,845 delegates, also saw the emergence of Harrison Ekpo as secretary and Akpadiaha Ebitu as Legal Adviser, among others. With only one candidate aspiring for each office, the 39 new party officers were all elected unopposed.

Expectedly, Ekpenyong is the centre-piece of almost everybody that has interest in PDP in Akwa Ibom. It is not only on the strength of being the party chairman but largely on account of series of events that preceded his emergence. He was first elected into political office as chairman of Ukanafun local government council under the zero-party arrangement midwifed by Sanni Abacha military government in mid 1990s.

Though, as a student in the 1980s at the University of Benin, he had identified with political activities of the Second Republic and had also actively pitched his tent with the National Republican Convention (NRC), between 1989 and 1993, Ekpenyong’s political career experienced steady and rising resume upon the return to democracy in 1999.

As one of the foot-soldiers at the rural level relied upon by the party leadership during the formative stage of PDP in 1998, he could boast of growing his political career along with the party. It implies that, apart from his name being chronicled in the party from its genesis, he has been under the umbrella-symbol party when it rains and shines.

Fortunately for him, unlike a number of others, whether commensurably or incommensurably, his effort has been rewarded since 1999. He was a Political Adviser to former Governor Victor Attah. He had also been an ex officio in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. On December 1, 2016 he was appointed Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel.

Through the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ekpenyong is believed to have oiled traditional political institutions and grassroots politics to the advantage of the party and the Emmanuel-led administration. He resigned his commissionership post few days before he was elected the PDP chairman.

By relinquishing the post of the Commissioner, which many considered as one of the juicy political offices in the state, it speaks volume of powers wield by the office of the chairman of the ruling party in the state. In the other way round, it is also viewed that the office of the PDP chairman demands a person of wider political network connection. The latter school of thought holds vehemence in that the immediate past chairman of the party, Paul Ekpo, had also served in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs under former Governor Godswill Akpabio before becoming the party’s chairman in 2012.

Even with the assumed impressive political trip, the tipping point of Ekpenyong’s political journey, so far, remains an event on January 5, 2018. On that Friday, Ekpenyong’s loyalty to either Akpabio, who was then Minority Leader in the Nigerian Senate, or Emmanuel, who was barely three years in office, was either consciously or unconsciously put to test at a stakeholders’ meeting attended by the governor but curiously usurped by the former governor to direct its proceedings. Ekpenyong’s loyalty was definitely not aloof.

Akpabio, in a manner reminiscent of what is obtained at kindergarten, had goaded Ekpenyong, among others, to stand up with a ‘Yes-Sir’ response to which the former Commissioner refused to comply like others. At a time Akpabio was reckoned with estimation of an ancient emperor that one could only dare to his peril, Ekpenyong’s glaring refusal to do that act of obeisance to the then godfather was to the chagrin of so many, including the governor.

Ekpenyong’s action against Akpabio stemmed from an alleged friction between Emmanuel and Akpabio. Few days to that January 5 encounter, the former senator had accused his successor of neglecting his senatorial district (Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District), since he took over on May 29, 2015. That remark was said to have unsettled Emmanuel and few of his loyalists because of the assumed implications it had for the governor’s aspiration to seek re-election in 2019.




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