Nov. 6 (PREMIUM TIMES) — The ousted deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Nsima Ekere, and his successor, Valerie Ebe have both made it into the history book of the 25-year old state. With only 17 months and two days in office, Mr. Ekere has had the shortest tenure as deputy governor in Akwa Ibom’s history while Ebe is the first female deputy governor in the state.
Mr. Ekere hurriedly resigned from office on Wednesday, October 31, to beat his planned impeachment by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
After the former deputy governor resigned, words like loyalty and obedience popped up in the air as citizens speculated on what really went wrong between him and his former boss, Governor Godswill Akpabio, and at what point their relationship go bad. But a segment of the people in Akwa Ibom, carried away by the emotions of 2015 politics saw it differently – that a powerful aspirant from the Eket Senatorial District had been ‘forced out of the race for 2015 governorship election’.
Former Senator Etang Umoyo, Chairman of the Eket Senatorial District Forum is reported to be among prominent politicians from the senatorial district who are blaming Mr Ekere’s resignation on political forces bent on stopping their district from producing a governor in 2015.
“No, no! It couldn’t have been his (Ekere) governorship ambition per se that made Governor Akpabio fell out with him. I am so sure that he (Ekere) may have put himself in the line of fire the way he went about pursuing his ambition,” Sylvanus Ukpong, the president of Akwa Ibom Interest Group told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
“How can we forget so soon the fact that in 2007 the same Governor Akpabio was very much aware of Nsima Ekere’s governorship ambition and still insisted on him as his running mate until (Victor) Attah’s factor threw up Patrick Ekpotu who eventually became the deputy governor in Akpabio’s first term?”
True, in 2007, Mr. Akpabio had compensated Nsima Ekere with the chairmanship position of the powerful and influential Akwa Ibom State Investment and Industrial Promotion Council (AKIIPOC), therefore making him a textbook case of a ‘deputy governor in-waiting’ during the first term of the administration.
As one political science lecturer at the University of Uyo pointed out to PREMIUM TIMES, the emergence of Mr. Ekere as Mr. Akpabio’s running mate in 2011 wasn’t as a result of any political power play since the former deputy governor wasn’t sponsored or promoted by any known political bloc; he was just an Akpabio’s favourite – a situation that was even fraught with political dangers for Mr. Ekere himself. Being Akpabio’s protégé, Mr. Ekere naturally wasn’t expected to carve for himself the image of an independent politician.
But he disregarded such expectation.
Mr. Ekere’s background as a successful and wealthy businessman in Abuja prior to his joining politics in Akwa Ibom, as some people reasoned, probably gave him confidence to chart a different political course for himself irrespective of the thinking and feelings of Mr. Akpabio. Mr. Akpabio’s statement is revealing in this regards when he was reported to have said that Mr. Nkere is quitting government to tend to his private business empire, during the swearing-in of Valerie Ebe as the new deputy governor.
The truth is that Messrs Akpabio and Ekere may have parted ways long before now, but how they both guarded the secret from being let out remains even more of a mystery than Mr. Ekere’s sudden resignation.
A source close to Mr. Ekere told PREMIUM TIMES in Uyo that one of the ‘grievous sins’ of the former deputy governor is that he surreptitiously traveled to Aso Rock, Abuja recently to welcome Nigeria’s first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan when the later came back from a long stay in Germany. Mr. Ekere, at the meeting, allegedly begged the first lady to adopt him as her ‘political son’ for the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State.
Mr. Ekere, the source also disclosed, was building a strong bond with a particular South-south governor whom he knew has a strained relationship with Governor Akpabio, and was drawing support from there to corner juicy contracts running into billions of naira from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
When some weeks ago, Mr. Akpabio got to know about how his then deputy allegedly told a handful of his strong supporters in a secret meeting, “I’ll contest the (2015) election as a sitting governor”, that became the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
The governor got to know of this comment, and he became suspicious that it was either his deputy was plotting to oust or kill him. Mr. Ekere was then regarded in Mr. Akpabio’s inner power circle as a traitor who was planning to move against the governor, one reason that prompted the Akpabio-Ekere battle to first play out intensely at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly over the attempt to impeach Speaker Samuel Ikon who is a strong political ally of Mr. Ekere.
Governor Akpabio, according to PREMIUM TIMES findings, quickly convened a brief but tensed meeting with Mr. Ekere on Tuesday, October 29 in Government House, Uyo, where he confronted his then deputy with several allegations of insubordination and betrayal, including his alleged ties with the said South-south governor. PREMIUM TIMES is however not certain about what Mr. Ekere’s response was in that meeting. But an official driver in the office of the then deputy governor confided in PREMIUM TIMES that in the evening of that Tuesday, a day before his resignation, Mr. Ekere had issued an unusual instruction that cars and his personal belongings be shifted from Government House to his private residence in Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo.
Mr. Darlington Udobong, the personal assistant to the then deputy governor’s chief press secretary, Inemesit Ina, like most of Mr. Ekere’s aides, is bitter with Mr. Akpabio over the sudden exit of their boss from government.
“A man of honour, Mr. Nsima Udo Ekere, is my man anytime, any day,” Mr. Udobong said in an update on his Facebook page. “An Iroko stands out in the middle of the forest. Ekere’s resignation has paralyzed Akpabio’s immature moves.”
Mr. Udobong’s friend, one Otobong Nsekpong aptly responded, also on facebook, to Mr. Udobong’s post with a one-liner, thus:
“He (Ekere) has the guts but he was alone!”
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