The long-awaited Local Government election in Akwa Ibom took place on Saturday, October 31, 2020, across the 31 sub-divisions of the state. As expected, the election was peaceful, orderly, devoid of rancour and chaos characterized by the multiparty system.
In Ukanafun Local Government Area, the election atmosphere was ecstatic with a handful of voters eager to exercise their civil rights. Excitement was most obvious amongst voters in Afaha Obo Ata Essien, home of the Ukanafun Chairman-elect, Godwin Inyieng and in Ikot Oku Usung, home of the PDP State Chairman, Obong Udo Ekpenyong. Some of the voters attributed the excitement seen to the presence of the State Party Chairman whom they described as a son of the soil and a friend of all.
Confirming this expression, a former Education Commissioner in the State and one-time House of Assembly Member, Rt Hon Aniekan Akpan, attributed the voters’ commitment to the active and selfless leadership of the Party’s State Chairman which he said included the empowerment of youths in the area with mini buses, enhancement of road construction to connect other nexuses of the area and other life-touching projects. He described the large turnout of voters as a true reflection of the support base of PDP in the community and the Local Government Area and thanked Governor Udom Emmanuel for being true to his promises of industrializing the State despite the prevailing economic condition of his tenure and for keeping the state going in the face of hard times.
A similar scene presented itself at Ika Local Government Area where the Chairman-elect, Malachy Malachy Ukpe led youths and women of his unit to the voting arena. Ukpe who lamented the seeming relegation of Ika to the background in terms of road infrastructure and security, vowed to attract same to the area for consequent development.
Also speaking, the first female Councilor and Transition Chairman in the Local Government, Hon. Inibehe Silas Etukudoh, scored the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) high in its operations in the area. She informed that materials for the election had arrived the area on the eve before and were distributed adequately to their various units before 9:00am, while the election officials were already on ground to attend to the voters. Describing the election as a walk-over, the Chairperson, Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Women Forum and only woman in the State Coordinating Committee of the LG elections in the State also commended Governor Emmanuel for ensuring maximum peace in the area while congratulating the electorates in advance on their victory.
Addressing members of the press, the Attorney General of the State, Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko commended the State Governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel for giving the people of Akwa Ibom democratic governance at the local government level as stipulated by the constitution of Nigeria through the sustenance of the Local Government election, against transition leadership as it were in the past. He expressed satisfaction at the peaceful conduct of youths in the area while the election lasted and lauded them for embracing peace and forming a bond of unity to defend their territory while the #EndSARS protest lasted in the State.
He however regretted the absence of competition in the election and noted that the exercise was short of the fun and anxiety of previous elections. “It is a pity. We were expecting our political colleagues from other Parties to participate to give it the normal verve of a democratic election. Unfortunately, they all fizzled out and refused to take the courage”, he said.
In Etim Ekpo Local Government, voter apathy was observed at several polling units. Less concern for the election was also noticed in some of the areas visited, by residents who were dutifully carrying out their chores. While some youths were seen playing football on fields, Village squares and polling units, others were occupied with sanitation exercises, farm work and their businesses. Relating this development to the absence of competing Parties in the election, Legal Adviser of the PDP, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem described the election as being confirmatory and short of democratic ideals.
“This is not an election. Election that you have to contest with yourself is not an election. Why would other parties shy away from an election that would take them closer to the people? They have only confirmed that PDP is a religion in Akwa Ibom State. This admits that they don’t exist in the State. Even if they were afraid of not winning the election, their people should be made to know that they exist. They have dampened the entire psyche of their followership by this. They have shown their followers that their party is not organized which is not good for democracy”, he submitted.
Enoidem who described the Local Government election as being very critical in the rung of elections, noted that it is the closest to the people at the grassroot. “People do not understand the importance of LG elections because we have a lot of failings in that tier of government. It has not been properly situated in the context of what it was created for”.
He made a case for the relocation of Local Government Chairpersons residence to their home communities, adding that this would make them more aware of the problems of their people.
“A local government Chairman is supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of the local government. Meaning he should be the first point of call. But a situation where Local Government Chairmen do not sleep in their villages for 10 days in a whole tenure, defeats the entire aim of the Local Government. We should come to a point where the LG Chairman is forced as a matter of law to reside in the LG. This will enhance accessibility to the people and enable sensitivity to the needs of the locals. Some local government secretariats have been taken over by overgrown grasses. There are no motorable, road no light. There’s no how these ills won’t be fixed if they’re forced or compelled to stay there, Enoidem stressed.
At Ikpe Atai Ward 6, unit of the former Chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area, Rt. Hon. Uduot Jack was most peaceful as the voters remained orderly while waiting for the ballot count. According to Rt. Hon. Jack, the unit is the home of the PDP in the Local Government, having a voter strength of 1,328, being the largest in Etim Ekpo.
He noted that the sustenance of the Local Government election would avail the incoming Chairpersons and Councilors the advantage of the SWOT analysis in identifying the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of their predecessor.
While appreciating the State Governor for the peace enabled in hitherto troubled regions of the area, Hon. Jack called for the siting of industries in Etim Ekpo, to help combat the issue of unemployment.
“Etim Ekpo has the finest class of sharp sand and gravel. If the Government can bring down an industry to explore this potential, a lot of our youths will be profitably engaged”, he suggested.
At Abak Local Government Area, voter apathy was again witnessed in some polling units while very few voters lingered around, waiting for the arrival of AKISIEC officials. At Atai Ediene, Unit 5, Unit of the Special Adviser to Governor Emmanuel on Cooperative and Rural Development, Mrs Ekemini Umoh; a peaceful protest ensued and was immediately quelled by the SA. In her address to the youths after casting her vote, Mrs Umoh advised that they shun violent acts and channel their grievances through proper communication.
She told newsmen that the youths were unimpressed that after they were mobilized to support the ambition of the outgoing Abak Chairman, Barr Imo Williams, no form of appreciation or empowerment had come their way afterwards from his end and so, they decided not to take part in the election. They were however pacified by the SA who assured that they would be carried along subsequently.
Asides the excitement amongst voters in most Units, the ambience was peaceful, relaxed and steady. Tension and intimidation were not observed, security was almost unnoticed and no casualty was recorded. The attitude of most onlookers towards the election venue was however indifferent, placid and devoid of warmth.