The confusion over who is the authentic Senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom North West has died down with the release of candidates’ list by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Commission, in compliance with a court order, listed Senator Godswil Akpabio as the APC candidate.
former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Udom Ekpoudom, until the immediate past minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio came into the picture.
The retired DIG had in a primary election held on May 22, clinched the Senatorial District ticket of the APC. The exercise was conducted across the 108 wards in the 10 Local Government Areas of the State.
The exercise was monitored by the electoral umpire, INEC and was conducted by a factional chairman, Augustine Ekanem whom the Appeal Court later removed as the party chairman and made Stephen Ntukepo, the substantive chairman of the party.
Also, Stephen Ntukepo’s faction in its nomination, had Engr Ekperikpe Ekpo as the Senatorial flagbearer, even as Senator Akpabio was busy with his presidential aspiration at the national level, which he later relinquished to Bola Tinubu, the party’s presidential candidate, and ran back to his State (Akwa Ibom) to struggle for a Senatorial ticket.
The primary was cancelled after all, and a rerun conducted at the Skill Acquisition Centre, Ikot Ekpene, where Akpabio polled 478 votes to defeat other contestants who were absent in the exercise, except Ekperikpo Ekpo, who had earlier announced his wish to surrender his ticket to Akpabio whom he described as his ‘father.’
The party Chairman, Mr Ntukepo, who earlier explained that the National Working Committee of the party ordered a rerun due to infractions in the May 28 exercise, introduced Sir Sylvester Okonkwo as Chairman of the Committee for the Senatorial primaries, Mrs Bunmi Moleye as returning Officer and Chief Sunday Ewoleye – Chairman, APC Primaries Appeal Committee.
However, that was when Ex-DIG Ekpoudom’s nightmare began as the party submitted Akpabio’s name to INEC as the Senatorial candidate of Akwa Ibom North West.
The then INEC chairman, Mike Igini did not recognize the election that saw the candidacy of Akpabio, rather the one monitored by INEC officials and the police at Sheer Grace, where Ekpoudom emerged.
Igini queried the validity of the rerun as the first primary witnessed by INEC officials did not record any form of infractions, saying any primary not monitored by the INEC was invalid.
Similar to Igini’s submission was that of the former Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Ita Enang who suffered the same fate.
Enang was one of the gubernatorial aspirants but lost out in the midnight elections conducted at the party’s secretariat.
In a petition to the national leadership of the party to annul the primaries conducted by Ntukepo-led administration, Enang, citing section 84(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 as amended, said that nomination congresses must be monitored by the INEC.
He insisted that the INEC did not monitor the congresses that produced the candidates in Ntukepo-led executive, adding that in accordance with sections 84 (5)(c) of the Electoral Act as amended, the aspirant who emerged from the INEC monitored primaries shall be the candidate of the party.
However, Ntukepo’s exco in the State stood its ground and fielding the names of its candidates to the INEC. In the midst of the whole drama, Ekpoudom dragged Akpabio to court challenging his declaration.
However, the Federal High Court presided by Justice Emeka Nwite, in Abuja, on September 15, 2022, dismissed the lawsuit against the INEC and the APC for lacking in merit. This was followed by a similar one delivered by Justice Donatus Okorowo on September 23, 2022.
The courts held that the primaries, which produced Ekpoudom and on which he relied on to actualize his ambition, was not a valid primary of the APC, that is to say that Akpabio remains the candidate of the party.
Consequently, the INEC, in a list published on September 20, enlisted Akpabio as the Senatorial candidate of the party in Akwa Ibom North West.
Meanwhile, Ekpoudom, not satisfied with the unfolding events, vowed to appeal the judgement.
In a statement by the Director-General of Ekpoudom campaign organization, Hon Uwem Udoma entitled “Judgement on Akwa Ibom North West APC Senatorial ticket: Our Position” issued to journalists in Uyo, the ex-DIG said he would use all constitutional means to retrieve the mandate which “was earlier given to him by his people during the primary.”
He said, “In accordance with the law, we have instructed our legal team to promptly appeal both Justice Emeka Nwite’s judgement (FHC/ABJ/CS/1011/2022) of September 15, 2022, and Justice Donatus Okorowo’s judgement (FHC/ABJ/CS/1000/2022) of September 23, 2022.”
But the Chief Press Secretary to Senator Akpabio, Jackson Udom had advised the ex-DIG to rest, describing his attempt as an effort in futility.
Whatever the case, whoever stands as the APC candidate for the election will be facing a serious challenger in the person of Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, the Senatorial candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who is reported to be a strong force in the district.