The squabble over campaign billboards in Akwa Ibom state is getting messier by the day, as the two main political parties in the state – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – engage each other in a battle of wits ahead of the 2019 general elections.
After the reported police’s arrest two days ago of theCommissioner for Environment in the state, Iniobong Essien, for allegedly preventing President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign billboard to be hoisted at a location within the state capital, Governor Udom Emmanuel came out on Thursday refuting report that he was summoned to Abuja by Mr Buhari.
Mr Emmanuel met with Mr Buhari at the presidential villa on Thursday.
The rebuttal was in response to an attempt by the APC to link the meeting to a recent fight in Uyo between the APC supporters and some state officials and supporters of the PDP over the right to put up a billboard at a popular market in the city.
The APC, through its state chairman, Ini Okopido, said they had paid for and gotten approval for the spot where a billboard for President Buhari was to be hoisted, only for the PDP-controlled state government to prevent them, and then wanted to hastily erect a billboard for their party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on the exact spot.
“The approved location of the billboard was several meters away from the main thoroughfare of the market. Instead of restricting themselves to the point approved for them, they erected the billboard at a place most unfit for such and in flagrant contravention of environmental regulations,” the PDP spokesperson in the state, Ini Ememobong, had said of the controversy.
Governor Emmanuel, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ekerete Udoh, said the report that he was summoned by the president was “very petty and pedestrian”.
“In fact that the news is peddled by members of the APC shows their disrespect for the office of the President and its occupant.
“The presidency of any country is the nation’s top job, with an attendant very busy schedule. It is therefore very infantile to allege that the President of a country like Nigeria will summon a Governor, for the purpose of discussing billboard locations in a state,” the statement said.
Continuing, the statement said, “The fact of the matter, is that His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Governor, Akwa Ibom State had requested an audience with the President to discuss important issues of the State, and the President had graciously granted the request. The purpose of the visit was strictly based on the above predicate, and had nothing to do with billboards or other such claptraps.
“It’s our earnest advice that members of the opposition party in Akwa Ibom should try to separate politics from governance and not bring the exalted office of the President of the Republic into disrepute by pushing ludicrous and vile propaganda.”
The Nation newspaper on Friday quoted Governor Emmanuel as telling reporters after his meeting with the president that he would not allow the opposition in the state to distract him from his work.
“At times, some of these things are to distract you but we refuse to be distracted. We play politics of development and our people are seeing that. So, whatever would have tried in anyway to distract us we don’t want to be distracted. So, don’t be bothered about that. It is only God who determines what happens the next minute, not man. And no man is God,” the governor is quoted as saying.