By Franklyn ISONG

I have read a lot about 2023. Of the many trending conversations in Akwa Ibom State at the moment, is the issue of elections. Not just the general elections, per say, but the conversation of who succeeds the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, at the Hilltop Mansion. The tenure of Mr. Emmanuel will constitutionally terminate on May 29, 2023. He would have served for two terms of 8 years. Would he be interested in who succeeds him? Would he influence the process? Would he anoint one of the many contestants to the office? These and many more, are the components of the 2023 conversations. I do not have the power of wizardry to understand the governor’s thoughts process.

Nevertheless, the governor is a professional-in-politics. In my estimation, the governor is a gentleman to the core and in my view, he is a very peaceful man. He is so far on the pathway of peace, and is pursuing peace in the cause of his administration. This to a large extent, translate into the peace we are enjoying in the state under his tenure.

As a pundit in public affairs, I am also a good student of body-language communication, though, it is too early to read the body language of Udom Emmanuel with respect to 2023, but, even the deaf and dump know that the governor as a thoroughbred professional would not like to handover affairs of the State to anyone other than someone with a second address.

Mind you, second address in this perspective is not one’s second residence but one’s business or career apart from politics. I think this is the best way to go too! Arc. Victor Attah and Barr. Godswill Akpabio had their second addresses. While Attah was a successful architect, Akpabio was doing well as legal practitioner before joining active politics. I stand corrected!

Believe me, when I say that Udom Emmanuel like other leaders of Akwa Ibom will be interested in who succeeds him in 2023. Why would Governor Emmanuel show interest on who becomes governor in 2023? My thinking is that ‘since the present administration under Udom Emmanuel – give it or take it, like or leave – has built successful on the foundations of his successors, Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio, he would wish to have someone of his kind as a successor.’

Here, I am not talking about politics of imposition. I am against imposition. I detest it and strongly oppose it in its entirety. Imposition is likened to a tele-guided democracy. As a democrat, I crave for a society of open political contest. Let the best amongst the contestants emerge through the poll.
So far, in no particular order, I have heard names like; Nse Willie, Michael Etim, Michael Enyong, Akan Okon, Iniobong Essien, Udom Inoyo, John James Akpanudoedehe, Ita Solomon Enang, Effiong Bob, Ekere Afia, Onofiok Luke, Ini Ememobong, Bassey Albert Akpan, Umana Okon Umana amongst others not mentioned here, as those touted to have fixed their eyes on the governorship seat in 2023.

This is good enough. It is a welcome development. Even though, there are pretenders among them. Let the list continue to increase. After all, in 2007, we had about 56 governorship aspirants coming out across the three senatorial districts and from across the political parties to seek the office before God’s will was done in Godswill Akpabio. And in 2015 there were more than 20 governorship aspirants before divine mandate of God showed up in favour of Udom Emmanuel.
I expect a lot of governorship aspirants in 2023. Like I said, and even though there are both pretenders and contenders on the list, let the political space be opened to all and let the best amongst them be my governor.

Some time ago, on this platform, I had said we should drop the conversation of zoning. Zoning will narrow the political space. Zoning will breed mediocrity, incompetency, failure and lack of good governance. We have suffered enough as a people in the hands of our political leaders. So in 2023, I have set up a searching team, to search for the best across the state and across the political parties.

I want someone that understands that being a governor is not a political title; it is not all about blaring of siren around the state and causing traffic gridlock for other road users; it is more than that. I want someone who must be able to understand the problems of Akwa Ibom state: identify the problems, proffer solutions that will solve them.

My search team has the mandate of searching for someone who will know that being a governor is not an entitlement, heritage or birthright by virtue of his senatorial district, tribe or religion. They will search for such a candidate who does not believe that the governorship of Akwa Ibom state is ‘turn-by-turn Plc’ but a call to serve the people in all honesty.

2023 governorship will be about capacity to deliver development to the people. It will be about the unusual courage to step on toes, if need be, in order to provide the needed transformation, industrialisation and good governance to the people.

Akwa Ibom state was created out of Cross River State on 23rd September, 1987 and will be 36 years old in 2023 and at 36, the state is an adult. Suffice it to say that the state has recorded little or nothing in development. Across the 31 local government areas, the underdevelopment staring at our faces is second to none.

Though there had been governments (military and elected) but the fortunate few who had been and are privileged to pilot the affairs of the state had either been selfish with governance, shown ineptitude to the service of fatherland and/or lacked capacity to transform the constant declining state of Akwa Ibom to a modernise city in the comity of states.

Akwa Ibom State deserves the best. Akwa Ibom people must be liberated from the shackles of bad governance, primordial sentiments, myopic leaders and parochial politicians who see the State and our collective patrimony as their personal estate.

Join the search team now!

• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society

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