The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has suspended one of its chapter chairmen in Akwa Ibom for receiving a gubernatorial candidate opposed by the state governor, Godswill Akpabio.
Helen Essuene, a former first lady of the South Eastern State and serving senator, had gone to Essien Udim Local Government Area to consult with local party leaders over her gubernatorial ambition on October 15.
Essien Udim is Mr. Akpabio’s local government area and a no-go area for political aspirants who do not have the governor’s blessing.
Witnesses said not long after Ms. Essuene started addressing party faithful in the local government’s headquarters, Ikot Ebak, suspected thugs numbering over 50 invaded the venue of the meeting and started shooting sporadically and brandishing dangerous weapons.
Some of the thugs upturned tables and chairs, while others descended on the former first lady and dispossessed her of her handbags and mobile telephone sets.
Members of her campaign train who dared to defend the female lawmaker were equally manhandled and chased away from the venue of the meeting.
The local government chapter chairman of the party, Friday Udoh, was said to have received the worst beating for daring to receive the visiting aspirants and her team against the orders of Mr. Akpabio.
Another witness said there is a standing order that any political aspirant, who does not have the support of the governor, should not be received in the area.
Reacting to the incident, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Aniekan Umanah, said Mr. Akpabio, instructed him to condemn it in strong terms.
Mr. Umana said, “The governor has condemned the attack on Sen. Helen Esuene, in its entirety. The action of the irate youth on the distinguish senator is condemnable.
“The governor is not happy over the incident. The local government was not against any aspirant from coming to the area for consultation or campaign.”
The commissioner claimed the attack was not targeted at Ms. Esuene, rather, he said the youth were angry with party’s chapter chairman in the area.
He said the crisis erupted because Mr. Udoh instructed the senator to pay the consultation fee of N1million into his account instead of bringing the funds to be shared to all concerned.
Following public outcry over the ugly incident, the state chapter of the PDP slammed a suspension on the Essien Udim chapter chairman.
But during the inauguration of the Abuja chapter of her campaign organisation, the Ibom Consolidation Assembly, Ms. Esuene criticized the decision of the party to suspend Mr. Udoh.
She insisted that the local government chapter chairman did nothing to warrant his suspension by the state’s leadership of the PDP.
“I am talking about the suspension of the PDP chapter chairman in Essien Udim who received me last week,” Ms. Esuene said.
“He did nothing wrong except that he received me in his local government and that is what every party official is expected to do. They are expected to open their doors to all aspirants.
“Receiving an aspirant doesn’t mean they are supporting the aspirant. It provides an aspirant the opportunity to market himself or herself to the people. That’s all and it is what the PDP stands for and it is what the party encourages,” she said.
The lawmaker used the occasion to appeal to the national leadership of the PDP to look into the suspension of Mr. Udoh and ensure that justice is done.
“I know they will look into it and make sure that justice prevails. We live in a time when the rule of law is upheld. And I know that whatever injustice done now will be rectified,” she said.
Speaking about her gubernatorial ambition, Ms. Esuene said governance is a serious issue that should be left for people who have been tested and proven.
She said she decided to vie for the top job in the state after serious consideration and consultation with stakeholders within and outside the state.
Among the 26 aspirants gunning for Mr. Akpabio’s job, Ms. Essuene said she is the only female candidate and called on the men in the state to support her.
The lawmaker said she has what it takes to govern the state, adding that she is experienced, hardworking and detribalized.
Ms. Esuene continued, “I have integrity, I am outspoken, hardworking, and detribalized and the evidences are there for people to see in the companies I run. I am not just talking because I want to impress you. The evidences are there for all to see.
“Akwa Ibom is blessed with human resources; it is blessed with lots of natural resources. The present administration under our digital governor, Mr. Akpabio has done a lot in the area of infrastructural development.
“The journey has not ended because in our local adage, we say, ‘Mkpo ke osuho,’ meaning ‘there are issues to still to be handled.’
“Akwa Ibom State has come a long way and for now, it needs that feminine touch. It needs the touch of a woman to create a sense of unity that is borne out of justice and equity
“I intend to fine-tune our education and health systems. Akwa Ibom needs a feminine touch that would make sure that every worker gets his or her due as at when due.”
“I am talking about things like pipe borne water. I am talking about rural roads. I am talking about rural electrification. I am talking about a functional primary healthcare system. These are the little things that a woman may see and which many a man would not see because, when you have it right at the primary healthcare system, the secondary and the tertiary will be easy to manage.
“This is my desire for the people of Akwa Ibom State and I know with the people behind me, these will be accomplished. I intend to run an open and transparent administration based on true democracy.”