Sir: In Akwa Ibom politics, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe is a household name, widely regarded as a courageous leader, a bold politician and a grassroots mobiliser.
He is the governorship candidate on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Senator Akpanudoedehe believes that he will cause an upset in the 2023 elections by beating the other two main candidates, Mr. Umoh Enoh of PDP and Senator Bassey Albert of YPP. If that happens, it would be the first time the PDP would be dislodged from the Akwa Ibom Government House since 1999.
Until last March, Akpanudoedehe was the Secretary General of APC. He supported the party in the state generously and was on the way to becoming its governorship candidate until INEC said otherwise.
Since 2020, APC was riddled with a leadership crisis and split into two factions, one led by Akpanudoedehe and the other by former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio. Due to this problem, APC could not conduct a governorship primary. While Akpanudoedehe’s faction had the support of INEC, it did not have the backing of the national leadership.
On the other hand, while the national chairman supported Akpabio’s faction, it lacked the recognition of INEC.
The imbroglio led to a stalemate within the party, and to pursue his ambition, Senator Akpanudoedehe decamped with his supporters and all the ward executives of APC to NNPP. He was immediately nominated a governorship candidate of NNPP in a primary conducted in early June.
APC was therefore left without a governorship candidate because INEC refused to authenticate the midnight primary conducted by the Akpabio faction.
Etim Etim is a veteran journalist and political strategist.
How do these play out in the politics of 2023? Of the three main candidates, Akpanudoedehe (NNPP), Albert (YPP) and Enoh (PDP), it is only the NPP candidate that is actively engaging the people.
Akpanudoedehe has toured the state twice so far, delivering his “Rescue Mission’’ message to the people. Akpanudoedehe has published a well-articulated campaign Agenda, which essentially is a welfarist programme of action.
But the biggest fortune coming his way is the plan by some APC chieftains in the state to adopt him as their candidate since INEC has blocked the APC from fielding a candidate in the governorship election.
Chief Don Etiebet, an ACP chieftain and major backer of Akpanudoedehe, had a few weeks ago announced in an APC online forum that “immediately INEC closes the nomination processes and the campaigns begin (12th October for governorship), APC will hold a rally in Uyo to formally adopt Senator Akpanudoedehe as our candidate.’’
So, for Akwa Ibom, the dynamics for next year’s elections are quite unpredictable. Some pundits believe that an outright win is unlikely and the race may go into a runoff. Others, however, think otherwise.