The Akwa Ibom Elders Council’s meeting with what was supposed to be all governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom State in the forthcoming 2023 election still held on Wednesday, 4th January, 2023 as earlier scheduled. It came on lingering thick smoke of criticisms and controversies.
According to Obong Attah in triple capacity as chairman of the Council, on the event, and the convener-in-chief, the essence of the meeting was to offer candidates an open platform or interactive forum to speak face to face to Akwa Ibom people on their manifestoes. Thereafter would follow a signing of peace accord, to extract in advance the candidates’ commitment to the spirit of sportsmanship with regards to the 2023 election.
Many had criticized and suspected the Elders Council on the intent, purpose and timing of that meeting, considering all that has happened in the political space in the State since January 2022 and the controversial anointing, yet the Elders Council “was sleeping and snoring in pretense and contrived silence” as someone assertively had observed. Hence, some had dismissed the proposal for the meeting as “stillborn”. “medicine after death”, an inconsequential afterthought”, etc.
It must be admitted that the attendance at the meeting, largely made up of faces in the PDP or those sympathetic to it, was a shadow of the expectation, pretty less than half a cupful, which was no surprise to nobody. Even Obong Attah must have been as surprised as he was flattered that the scanty numbers still saw reason and summoned courage to turn up, to give the event some sound.
Some big and bigger names present were a handful of the members the Elders Council; deputy governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), AIG Asukwo Amba (rtd); governorship candidate of NNPP, Sen. John Udoedeghe; and former deputy governor, Lady Valerie Ebe. There were also former SSGs; retired judges and high court judges; serving and retried senior military officers and DSS; etc. Someone may have laughed off the fact the high table was not as rich or successfully enriched with expected personalities and numbers. Were the empty seats historical void of protest against the meeting?
So when Col. Etukudo, a member of the Elders Council in his swift remarks contended that “No serious candidate will miss a forum like this. You cannot aspire to be a governor and you are being callous with leaders of this calibre”, the poor attendance must have been the reason. But could there have been anybody at the event or elsewhere who for some concealed or fanciful personal reasons expected the persecuted governorship candidate of the YPP, Obong Bassey Albert Akpan (OBA), at the gathering? I doubt.
In the present circumstances, it would be tantamount to invasion of OBA’s personal peace for anybody in his right senses to have questioned his justifiable absence from a meeting that many, on sound arguments, have described as belated, self-serving, ridiculous, and suspicious in intent and purpose.
Surprisingly, Mr. Umo Eno, Obong Attah’s saintly adoptee and governorship candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP), was avoidably absent at the parley. One writer was quick to gamble with some ostensible reason(s). Describing Umo Eno’s absence, of all persons, as “disrespectful of the elders”, he observed that that it was due to “speculations that the Appeal Court in Abuja would be delivering judgment in his certificate forgery case this Friday, and that could have put the PDP candidate a bit under weather”.
Udoedeghe stole the thunder at the meeting. He capitalized on the absence of governorship candidates, who in normal circumstances would have mattered most, to outshine himself, speaking with flair and fantasy that attracted rounds of sycophantic applause from an audience who already knew him and his elastic model of politics – and politicking.
I dare to argue that nothing accounted for the generally poor attendance at the meet than Obong Attah himself. His recent oscillations have killed excitement and camaraderie for State matters, undermined his elderly discretion, his hitherto innocence, his acclaimed statesmanship, and his sanctimonious non-partisanship. Obong Attah appears to be more actively involved in backroom partisan politics than his grandstand body language would suggest, to the dismay of many who repeatedly have questioned every of his utterances and moves in recent times, in different instances.
When he publicly signed off from partisan politics in 2015, he said he did so to enable him play the role of an elderstatesman. That was loaded. Also speaking of the Elders Council during the official inauguration of the Board of Trustees of the body on Tuesday April 5, 2022, he is quoted to have said: “This is not a political group. We are here to pour oil on any troubled waters, to build bridges across valleys. Political statements will only be to the extent that bring peace, developments and harmony rather than partisanship”.
Although Obong Attah still remains, in reference and deference, an outstanding, celebrated and iconic leader in history books and on minds, he has raised dust upon the toga of his statesmanship and fatherly figure, courtesy of his action or inaction in recent times. The argument has been that there were instances of greatest need he personally failed or refused lead the Elders Council “pour oil on troubled waters and build bridges across valleys”.