Finally, it has been confirmed that a frontline governorship aspirant in the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Umana Okon Umana will defect from the party to the opposition All Progressives Congress on Thursday.
A secretary to one of the local government areas in the state who is very close to Umana confided in Propeller on Sunday that arrangements have been conluded for the Nsit Ubium-born politician to announce his defection to APC along with more than 10,000 members of the ruling party. An aspirant to the national assembly on the platform of the APC in the state also confirmed that at least 10 serving members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly are set to defect with Umana.
Expected to grace the occasion in Uyo where Umana will be announcing his defection are national leaders of the APC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd.), former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal. Others are Kano State governor Rabiu Kwakwanso, and national Chairman of the APC, John Oyegun.
Umana was humiliated out of the Governor Godswill Akpbio administration in July 2013 where he had served for six years as Secretary to the Akwa Ibom state government. Though out of office, Umana still wielded so much power which threatened Akpabio’s alleged plans to foist Udom Emmanuel on the state as next governor. Udom was Akpabio’s replacement for Umana.
Besides openly declaring support for Udom to succeed him, Akpabio also vowed to frustrate Umana’s effort to win the PDP governorship ticket.
Multiple sources say Akpabio it was who bribed members of the National Working Committee of the PDP to the tune of One Billion Naira to side the state executive of the party to zone 2015 governorship to Eket Senatorial district. By the party’s zoning stand, Umana who is from Uyo senatorial district was technically shown the door out of the race for governor as far as the PDP was concerned.
His defection to the APC is not a surprise to many who have heard it as a rumour in Akwa Ibom for two weeks now. There is however a pending court case which Umana instituted to force the PDP and its NWC to rescind on its decision tozone power exclusively to Eket in 2015.
Many believe, like many other such court cases, Umana may not find justice. Though the court had made an injunction stopping the PDP from recognising the outcome of a ward delegate congress/election because Umana had been stopped from participating in it, recent developments in the party show that Umana’s chances of winning the party’s governorship ticket had become bleak. The only option before him appears to have been defection to another party.
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the APC in Akwa Ibom state and a former governorship aspirant on the platform of the party, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe has vowed to sto Umana from hijacking the opposition party from him.
In 2010, Udoedeghe defected from the PDP to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which later merged with three other political parties to form the APC in 2013. He moved to the ACN when it had become clear that the PDP machinery in the state had been skewed by a second term-seeking Akpabio against his interest.
Udoedeghe was accused of unscrupulously hijacking the ACN from a weaker David Ekanem’s leadership with the support of Tinubu. Cries by Ekanem that Udoedeghe did not go through a democratic process to take over the ACN in the state fell on deaf ears. Th erstwhile Senator and federal minister under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has since become the face of APC in Akwa Ibom state.
Udoedeghe bought the APC governorship nomination form last month amidst fanfare to contest in the 2015 election.
Sources close to Udoedeghe say he has vowed not to surrender the APC platform to Umana whose intention is clearly to run for the state governorship on the APC ticket
“He (Udoedeghe) has complained of being side-lined by Umana and being underestimated. He said Umana underestimated him by going to work from the top to get the ticket,” our source who is an official of the APC told Propeller in confidence last week Wednesday.
Propeller learnt on good authority that the APC leadership has been pleading with Udoedeghe to run for Senate in Uyo senatorial district instead, but he has severally refused to yield. Though political observers say if Udoedeghe runs for Uyo senatorial district he will easily pick it from the PDP, he has remain unbent.
As it stands , Umana will be facing Udoedeghe in a primary election which will see to the election of a governorsip flag-bearer for the APC in Akwa Ibom state, a situation Umana’s men find very worrisome.
In a telephone conversation with our reporter at 9:42pm on Sunday, Udoedeghe said he remains the leader of the APC in Akwa Ibom and that the doors of his party is open to whoever wants to come in.
He said: “Though I am the leader of the party in Akwa Ibom, I think proper interview should be given to you by the Chairman of the party in the state. I am not the chairman of the party. Our party welcomes everybody. This is why we threw our doors open to everybody and opened membership of the party recently to everyone. So we are not discriminating. But truth remains, I am the leader of the party in Akwa Ibom”.
He refused to comment on what impact Umana’s coming to his party will have on the APC in the state.