I met Obong Umana O Umana, October last year at the Catholic Church in Uyo, when he attended the first year memorial service for the late first Lady of Akwa Ibom State, Alison Attah. He had only recently ceased to be the Secretary to the State Government, SSG under conditions still shrouded in mystery.
Until then, he was regarded as one of those on the other side by those close to Obong Victor Attah, the former Governor; including me. We got together after the service and exchanged cards. Something told me that this was a man to watch closely. Thank God, my instincts, on matters like this, never deceive me. It is already news that Umana had emerged as the flag-bearer for the All Progressive Alliance, APC, in the state just a few weeks after decamping from the PDP where he had been a member since 1998.
The forces which drove Umana from PDP will continue to shape the politics of Akwa Ibom State beyond 2015. But, I have forewarned President Jonathan, since last year in a series of columns titled AKWA IBOM 2015: JONATHAN VERSUS AKPABIO. In all of them, the same point had been made that, given the ethnic composition of the state, with Ibibios constituting about sixty-five to sixty-eight per cent of the population, and Akpabios Anangs accounting for only about twenty per cent, the Ibibios hold all the aces. And, the vast majority of them are resolved not to vote for any candidate supported by Governor Akpabio.
Meanwhile, Jonathan is not only openly totally supportive of the state governors, he is particularly close to Akpabio. Mutual admiration and support, while it might be beneficial in Kogi, where the Igalas are the overwhelming majority is becoming something close to a kiss of death for Jonathan and Akpabio in AKS.
The Ibibio people are still pro-PDP at heart, and would have voted overwhelmingly for GEJ again in 2015. But, his closeness to Akpabio is threatening to exact a heavy price from him. The loss of Umana is the first in a series of shockers awaiting the PDP and the President if the dispute between Akpabio and Ibibio leaders is not quickly laid to rest. Time is not on anybody’s side.
Having decided that Umana was a man to watch, I took Stephen Cranes, 1871-1900, advice. The author of the classic, Red Badge of Courage, had made the point that the prophet who predicts a flood, must be the first man to climb a tree. Since, I was convinced that this man is destined to be a game changer in AKS politics, I went to the state, at least twice, at my own expense, to find out what the people think of him. The details will be made available later if the PDP is foolish enough to let more people like Umana decamp. It will be costly.
As fate would have it, I was in Uyo the day the NATION, on its front page reported that Umana had decamped to APC. I took a few steps; made a few phone calls, and it was certain that a red carpet had been laid out for the newcomer to the party.
The presence of so many top members of the APC, at his declaration and other events on Friday, November 28, 2014, including the reception at Assam Ibibio, the traditional meeting ground of Ibibio people, proved conclusively that a political earthquake had occurred in AKS. This would be the second time in as many months for the Ibibio people to openly show the direction in which they are moving.