… I’ll defeat Akpabio again’ – Sen. Chris Ekpenyong
The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has to decide whether to resign his recent appointment and pursue his ambition to return to the senate or to remain as a minister.
His dilemma follows the ruling of Appeal Court ordering a rerun of the national assembly election in Essien Udim local government area.
The Appeal Court sitting in Calabar, ruled that a fresh election be conducted within 90 days in Essien Udim local government, as a result of irregularities which both petitione and respondent parties admitted in their separate addresses.
Although the ruling was clearly in favour of the minister, his supporters found it hard to celebrate because the odds are stacked against their principal.
Going into the rerun, Akpabio is expected to register a minimum lead of 38,056 margin to upturn the election of Senator Chris Ekpenyong.
Furthermore, the minister is expected to resign his appointment under the law to be eligible to contest election. This is clearly not what the former governor wants.
A university lecturer and political analyst, Dr. Chris Inyang, believes Akpabio will rather ignore the ruling than take a chance with an election he is clearly losing.
“Akpabio should not make the same mistake the former managing director of NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, made. It is obvious that the present assignment Akpabio is handling presents him with great latitude to expand his influence in the Niger Delta region. Going back to the senate will be an anticlimax and then Akwa Ibom state would have lost out of NDDC twice”, he said.
He further pointed out that Nsima left NDDC in spite of an extension of his board’s tenure from a few months to six years and failed in his ambition to become governor. This time, Akpabio may resign to face a definite loss notwithstanding the outcome of the rerun in Essien Udim.
Meanwhile, the incumbent, Senator Chris Ekpenyong maintains that he is not perturbed by the ruling and assured his supporters to remain calm while a date for the election is fixed.
“I am very prepared to defeat him again in Essien Udim, let’s go to the field, he has to resign first as a minister in line with the provisions of the constitution,” he declared.
“God gave me victory to salvage my people from deceit and poor leadership, and nothing has spoilt that victory,” Sen. Ekpenyong restated.
He said with election in one local government area only, all focus and attention would be given to the election and there would be no room for manipulation and rigging, as was noted in the area based on reports of observers and the electoral umpire.
“He brought war and federal might, but the people’s might and God’s mighty hand gave me victory. This is another opportunity for the gap of that victory to be expanded,” Senator Ekpenyong added.
It was gathered that results obtained from the other nine local government areas show that Senator Chris Ekpenyong leads with 114, 973 votes while Akpabio has 76,917.
Akpabio who lost the election to Chris Ekpenyong by 83 ,158 votes to 118 ,215, had approached the Appeal Court to seek the order of the court for the illegal figures he allocated to himself, after losing to Chris Ekpenyong in 8 of the 10 local government areas of the district.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had confirmed that only 19,455 voters were accredited in Essien Udim local government area during the election and had rejected the illegally manufactured scores that Akpabio appropriated for himself.
This INEC decision was upheld by the National Assembly Elections Petitions tribunal in Uyo, which decided that the 61,329 votes claimed by Akpabio were inconsistent with the number of accredited voters during the February 23 elections.
In a related development, the Appeal Court has also ordered that a fresh election be conducted in Essien Udim local government area for the House of Representatives Seat between the incumbent Nsikak Ekong of the PDP and Emmanuel Akpan of the APC.
Ekong will also go into the election with the lead garnered from his victory in the other two local government areas of the federal constituency, Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara.