By Hillside Akpama

In the last two months or more, individuals and groups, like Eket Senatorial District Media Professionals, must have hosted a thousand nocturnal and grandstand press conferences, or authored press releases on Ephraim Inyangeyen’s head.

Heavily gratified or sponsored, they have maligned his character, contemned his personage, questioned his civic rights, and attacked his ambition to run for the Senate in 2023.

Their justification for the insult and assault has been that 2023 Senate in Eket Senatorial District “had been zoned to Ikot Abasi Federal Constituency”, the Elders having so resolved, or the Governor having reportedly issued the directive.

But after all the pretenses and blackmail, they now play dumb and blind as some who are not from the very federal constituency the slot “had been zoned to”, some with covert links to Hilltop Mansion, are said to have bought nomination forms, or sponsored to do so.

It will add to the subterfuge if it is true that senate ambition has also been forced upon the First Lady, who “in a matter of days”, may declare interest. And we ask: Has the ink pot for press releases and rejoinders dried up? Who is deceiving who?

Governor Udom Emmanuel had expressly said that he was not eyeing the Senate in 2023.
According to sources, the governor even included his wife in his concession to no intention. Whether or not he will stand by his words, the way things are presently,
no circumspect fellow could risk to forecast.

But contrary to insinuations, Governor Udom Emmanuel never gave any allusion that his decision not to run for the Senate was because it had been “zoned” to Ikot Abasi federal constituency. It is possible that that decision was not unconnected with bigger targets, especially with his latest dalliance with the Arewa group.

Akparawa Ephraim Inyangeyen never played pranks with his 2023 aspiration. Fearlessly and relentlessly, he had argued, and still argues, that his ambition to go to the Senate was inspired by three basic factors.

One, his personal conviction and ambition to represent his people because God has blessed him with the wherewithal to change the narrative of representation in the senatorial district.

Two, he is not breaking the status quo ante, but comes at the ripeness of time because all the three federal constituencies in the senatorial district have all taken their fair turns from a rotation process that began with Sen. Udo Udoma in 1999, and is set to end with Sen. Akon Eyakenyi in 2023.

He argues that when Sen. Udoma won in 1999, it was essentially not because the Senate was zoned to Ikot Abasi but because he was, in all ramifications, the candidate to beat, the most popular and generally acceptable. If the best candidate had come from any other federal constituency, that is where the cycle of rotation would have started.

So. now that the cycle has been proportionately shared, Inyangeyen’s third leg of contention is that it can begin anywhere, and still go round, but based solely on tested capacity and proven competence of the candidate to deliver quality results. Such a person, who mustn’t necessary be him if the people so decide, can come from anywhere within the senatorial geography.

Except those condemned to die by pretence, every objective and keen follower of history can admit that, outside the Udoma days, in comparative terms with other senatorial districts like Uyo and Ikot Ekpene, Eket Senatorial district has been the pampered weeping child on the scale of distribution of dividends of democracy from the National Assembly.

Therefore, without claiming monopoly of divine benevolence or excellence of character and acquired credentials, the fulcrum of Inyangeyen’s thesis is that anointing and zoning, at all cost, for every Tom and Jerry that comes around has done Eket Senatorial District more harm than good.

Expressing his convictions at a setting of PDP faithful and delegates during one of his consultations, the Mkipsong of Eket posited that those aspiring in 2023 should do so on the basis of capacity and competence, than merely on the platitudinal justifications of zoning, where anybody can be sent to the Senate only to sleep for four or eight years.

“After serious contemplation and earnest review of the history of representation in Eket Senatorial District since 1999, I have, on my own, brought myself forward with the conviction that God, in His goodness, has blessed me with what it takes to represent you effectively in the National Assembly in 2023. I have the passion, drive, capacity, network, competence and ambition to represent Eket Senatorial District.

”Henceforth, to change our stories, whoever desires to go to the Senate from the senatorial district should forget about ‘anointing’ He or she should come forward and allow the people to assess him or her and make informed choices, instead of being foisted on them by a cabal. The anointing oil has finished”.

You must be sure to be attacked and vilified by sycophants if you reason and act like Akparawa Inyangeyen, especially more so if, based on circumspection and personal volition, you have proven to be resolutely indifferent to Gov. Emmanuel’s bandwagon of political slay queens.

It is nonetheless gladdening that Inyangeyen continues to be justified and vindicated for his audacity and realpolitik postulations.

With latest developments, where people from zones outside Ikot Abasi have bought nomination forms and some in the offing, yet champions of zoning are saying nothing and doing nothing, it is now clearer why zoning was made the tantalizing article of their argument.

The stunts and noise over zoning were indulgent gerrymandering with Inyangeyen as principal target. It was to whip up sentiments, possibly distract and set the people up against his ambition.

The false alarm was also deployed because, having benefitted greatly from mediocre tradition of zoning which they’ve elevated to a dogma, they are pathologically afraid of fair and open contest that would produce excellence, which battle they were always sure to lose.

The zoning dummy also offered them sanctimonious liberty to anoint, adopt or endorse “even a cripple”, to quote Sen. Chris Ekpenyong, and send him or her to Abuja, not as a dignified senator, but mere messenger who will only be seen and never be heard.

If for a moment we can afford to be frank, having known all the bare face and ghost aspirants for a reasonable long time, it cannot be hard to know, without sentiments, those who have and those who glaringly do not have requisite qualities of a senator.

*Hillside Akpama, a public affairs analyst, lives in Uyo

Wisdom Bassey

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