The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, said he was hopeful his estranged benefactor and predecessor, Godswill Akpabio, would be defeated in the February 16 senatorial election.
Mr Emmanuel’s campaign trail was at Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara – two key local government areas in Akwa Ibom North-West District – on Saturday.
Mr Akpabio, a former governor of the state, is the senator representing the district.
He is seeking re-election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), after defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC in August last year.
His main challenger, Chris Ekpeyong, a shrewd businessman and a former deputy governor of the state, is from Obot Akara.
The senator’s defection, which has rattled PDP in the state till date, is considered a major threat to Mr Emmanuel’s re-election bid.
Although Mr Emmanuel did not mention Mr Akpabio by name while addressing the political rallies in the two areas, he repeatedly assured the crowd at the events that Mr Ekpenyong would make a better senator.
Governor Emmanuel spent much time talking about the local politics in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara.
“I can sign my signature on him, he will not betray you people, and he will not betray PDP,” Governor Emmanuel said of the PDP senatorial candidate. “Nobody loves Obot Akara and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District like Chris Ekpenyong.”
The governor urged the people of Obot Akara and Ikot Ekpene to give Mr Ekpenyong 100 per cent votes in the election.
He said it would make a perfect combination for Mr Ekpenyong to be at Abuja, while he, as governor, controls the state.
“I have checked records, this is the first time Obot Akara is going to produce a senator,” he added.
The governor, who said his administration has built roads and bridges in Obot Akara, promised to do more for the area if he is elected for a second term.
For Mr Emmanuel’s re-election bid, his campaign team is banking on activating the governor’s marital relationship to gain some votes in the district.
Governor Emmanuel’s wife, Martha, is from Oruk Anam, which is a local government area in the district.
“Ikot Ekpene, your daughter is the governor’s wife,” Idongesit Nkanga, a former governor of the state and the director general of Mr Emmanuel’s campaign team, said at the rally in Ikot Ekpene. “Will you go look for another governorship candidate to support?”
“Anybody can build roads, hospitals if he has money to pay contractors. But for the private sector to come and invest and give you 15 industries in three and a half years, it takes more than just money. If you don’t have source of energy, if you don’t have security, nobody will come and invest in your state.
“Udom Emmanuel is a man of peace. You cannot give what you don’t have. It is because of that peace that we have prosperity in Akwa Ibom state today,” Mr Nkanga said.
He added, “Nobody changes a winning team.”
Mr Akpabio, whose political influence cuts across the entire Akwa Ibom State, is considered the favourite in the Akwa Ibom North-West District election.