A former member of the House of Representatives, Ekperikpe Ekpo, has vowed to wrestle over the Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial District’s seat with the state Governor, Godswill Akpabio.
Mr. Akpabio had declared his intention to take over the state’s North-west senatorial district seat from the incumbent and estranged ally, Aloysius Etok.
The governor had made his intention known in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area, when youth of the area presented him with the nomination form for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primaries.
Mr. Akpabio came out to declare for the controversial senatorial seat after openly admitting to committing electoral fraud.
In a barefaced confession on March 24, the voluble governor had admitted on live television, to have personally replaced the winner of a senatorial election in the state with his preferred candidate.
Known for outlandish boasts, Mr. Akpabio opened the lid on his crime during the contentious Federal Government’s “Good Governance Tour” to Uyo, the state capital.
The Former Information Minister, Labaran Maku, had led several government officials and journalists on the tour, which many Nigerians dismissed as a jamboree.
While addressing the visiting delegation on his government’s achievements, Mr. Akpabio, who sought to impress his sense of evenhandedness on the audience, said he struck off the name of the winner of the Akwa Ibom northwest senatorial election in his party’s primaries, and replaced same with Mr. Etok.
“The people of Ikono and Ini (Local Government Areas) from 1960 have never produced a senator,” the governor said.
“I used my own hand to strike out the name of the person who has won before, and I said it is important for me to give that region a senator in 2007, and I produced Senator Aloysius Etok for you; that’s where he comes from.”
With that, he gestured to an embarrassed Mr. Etok, who attended the session alongside his colleague in the Senate, Mr. Ita Enang, to “take a bow.”
The disclosure jolted the audience and the governor’s associates who exchanged awkward glances.
But Mr. Ekpo told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that the zoning arrangement in the senatorial district favoured him against Mr. Akpabio.
The former Chairman of Ika Local Government Council also said he has consulted with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stakeholders in the state and obtained their blessing.
He noted that Akwa Ibom North-west has a long history of rotating its Senatorial seat, saying that the practice is partly responsible for the peaceful political atmosphere in the area.
Mr. Ekpo explained that former Abak and Ekpene divisions now have two Federal constituencies each, adding that the senatorial seat has been taken by three of the federal constituencies that make up the area.
“Out of the four federal constituencies in the area, three have taken their slots over time,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“Ikot Ekpene axis produced Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien from Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency in 1998, while Abak axis produced Senator Itak Ekarika from Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency in 2003.
“Surprisingly from 2007 till date, Ikot Ekpene axis has taken slot with Senator Aloysius Etok from Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency serving two terms.
“Now is the turn of Abak Axis with special reference to Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency to produce a senator and it is not negotiable.”
The former federal lawmaker faulted Mr. Akpabio’s decision to run for the seat, saying the action is against the existing zoning arrangement in Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial District.
Besides, he insisted that the governor comes from the same axis with Mr. Etok who currently occupies the position at the Senate.
He recalled how Mr. Akpabio had in 2007 and 2011 appealed to them to get a second term in the Senate, promising that Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency would take its turn come 2015.
However, Mr. Ekpo said he is not afraid to stand election against any aspirant, irrespective of position held, stressing that the God of justice, equity and fair play will be on his side.
Mr. Ekpo said, “The PDP stands for justice and equity. As a former member of the House of Representatives, I will be a ranking member in the Senate.
“I must equally remind you at this point that my respect for zoning was the reason I did not re-contest for the House of Representative in 2011. I had to leave because it was the turn of my brothers from Etim Ekpo Council Area to go to the House.”
He, however, vowed to make a difference if elected through free and fair primaries and general election, saying as a former council chairman and former member of the House of Representatives, he had enough experience to function well in the Senate.
“Our national chairman is a man of integrity. He has asked those willing to contest elections to go to their wards and work with the people and has equally assured us of free and fair primaries,” he said.
Mr. Ekpo, therefore, appealed to the other contestants from federal constituencies which had earlier produced senators for the senatorial district collapse their structures in the spirit of justice and equity.