Sunday, April 22, 2018

2019 Governorship Race and Nsima Ekere’s Dilemma

The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere has had everything working for him almost throughout his entire life. He was the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State and has served on the board of blue chip companies in Akwa Ibom and outside the state.

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He was deputy governor when Godswill Akpabio, now senate minority leader, was governor. Though his tenure ended abruptly when he threw in the towel citing personal reasons, he has since moved on with his life, defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC) when he could not secure the nomination of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general election.

Luckily for him, he got rewarded by the Federal Government as he was appointed the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Some people assume that by that position he is the ‘governor of nine states’ that make up the Niger Delta catchment area and sitting on an annual budget of over N400 billion.

Ekere, who was recently conferred with an honorary doctorate degree by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), is known to be nursing a governorship ambition in 2019 and his close admirers say that this appears to be the golden moment he has been waiting for, but he faces a huge dilemma.

According to them, he has the war chest and the support from the centre, which could mean that he might be enjoying the protection of the federal might.

The fear being nursed by many of his supporters is that in the event he loses his bid, even though he is yet to make a formal declaration, the possibility of going back to his post at the NDDC.

Some analysts believe that the opportunity to develop the entire region far outweighs that of being a governor of one state of the region. But his supporters think otherwise.

The odds are against him

Ekere is from Akwa Ibom South senatorial district where Governor Udom Emmanuel comes from. He is from Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State which is not far from Onna Local Government where Udom hails from.

According to the political arrangement entered into by the key stakeholders in the state, each senatorial district of the state has to take a shot at the governorship position for two-terms. They argue that if Ekere were to contest and wins, his victory would distort the arrangement, thus denying Akwa Ibom north east the opportunity to take over the governorship of the state in 2023 when the two term tenure of Udom would have expired. Protagonists of this argument say that since former Governor Akpabio who hails from Akwa Ibom north west senatorial district had completed his two terms, it should be fair and justified for Udom who is from Akwa Ibom south senatorial district to also complete his second term, adding that bringing another candidate would deny Akwa Ibom north east the opportunity to produce the next governor having not held such a post for more than 16 years.

Based on this argument, Ekere’s political base is restricted to a few groups in some local government areas of the state. For the people of Akwa Ibom North West, should Ekere win, it might throw the political arrangement into the dustbin of history thus denying them the opportunity to ever produce the governor of the state in future.

This may have been the import of the recent defection of a high profile APC chieftain, Sunny Udom to the PDP. Udom was the director-general of the governorship campaign organisation of Umanah Okon Umanah, the APC governorship candidate in the 2015 election, and his defection to the PDP is seen as a blow to the APC in that senatorial district.

Sunny Udom hails from Akwa Ibom north east and it is the thinking of many in that senatorial districts that it would be proper to return Governor Udom for a second term by giving him a block vote in 2019.

When the Senate minority leader raised issues about his senatorial district not being fairly treated by the present administration and the contentious issues were later resolved, they promised that the entire vote of the district would be for Governor Udom Emmanuel. If Akwa Ibom north east and Akwa Ibom north west senatorial districts have pledged to support the incumbent governor for a second term, and the governor comes from Akwa Ibom south senatorial district, the question then is “where would Ekere garner his votes to win the governorship election in 2019?”

This is second dilemma. If he decides to contest next year, that would have been the third time he is eyeing the Hilltop Mansion, the official residence of the governor of Akwa Ibom Sate.

To the credit of Governor Udom Emmanuel, he is widely perceived to have brought wide experience in the private sector to the management of the resources available in Akwa Ibom State. This is seen in the prompt payment of salary to workers and the settlement of pensions to retirees. The governor has also been able to attract many industries to the state including the Syringe Factory and Metering Solution Company which were inaugurated by vice president last year.

Besides, much attention is paid to road infrastructure across the three senatorial districts as well as many internal roads within Uyo metropolis. With all the major stakeholders endorsing the governor including religious leaders, Ekere might be facing an uphill task in his gubernatorial ambition.

Born in 1965, he attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, from where he graduated with a B.Sc. Honours Degree in Estate Management in 1986 after his secondary education at Regina Coeli College, Essene, Ikot Abasi, and completing same at Mary Knoll College Ogoja, Cross River State. He had a brief stint at The Polytechnic, Calabar, between 1981 and 1982.

He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (FNIVS); Registered Member, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria, ESVRBN; Senior Certified Valuer, International Real Estate Institute, IREI, Minnesota,

His political career began in December 1997 when he contested and won election into the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly during the Abacha Transition on the platform of the Grassroots’ Democratic Movement (GDM). But he could not be inaugurated before Abacha died in June 1998 and that transition was aborted.

At the start of the Abubakar transition, he joined the PDP and played a part in the politics of the state till he emerged as the deputy governor on May 29, 2011. He resigned on personal grounds on October 31, 2012.

Prior to joining the public sector, Ekere was the Principal Partner of Ekere and Associates, a firm of estate valuers and real estate development consultants with offices in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Uyo, which he started in 1993.

In 1989, he set up Gassons Nigeria Limited, an indigenous anti-corrosion, environmental, fabrication/maintenance engineering company.

In March 2008, Ekere joined the public service for the first time when he was appointed Executive Chairman of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, the investments and industrial promotions’ arm of the Akwa Ibom State Government.

He also served simultaneously as Chairman of Ibom Power Company, the independent power generating company owned by Akwa Ibom State.

Before his emergence as deputy governor, Ekere represented government’s interest on the board of many companies, including Universal Energy Resources Limited, Anchor Insurance and was also on the board of the Voice of Nigeria (VON).




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