There are few politicians with his spirit. Everywhere he goes and everywhere he speaks, the atmosphere is ablaze with love and hope. Unlike the typical politician, he seeks votes with the humility of a servant and the responsible mien of true leaders.
In this season of political acrimony, mudslinging and hate speeches, Nsima Ekere, the Akwa Ibom State Governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is a chunk of good news that we must relish.
Last Sunday at Cardinal Ekandem Catholic Church Uyo, Ekere’s essential personality was in full display. In a move quite unfamiliar in this clime, Ekere smashed bitterness and acrimony under his feet and embraced his main rival in the March 2nd governorship election-Udom Emmanuel, the incumbent governor of the state, shortly after service. The two were locked in a warm embrace that was long enough for the congregation to soak in.
It was a move that electrified the atmosphere with joy and jubilation. A rare display of camaraderie by political gladiators in a state where threats of thunder and rainstorm were common campaign vocabularies. The crowd that gathered to watch the rare spectacle felt a joy akin to that of beholding something that one had waited so long to see.
Ekere spoke after the embrace when he urged the Church to pray for the state and the political process so that it could be devoid of violence. “It’s not about APC. It’s not about PDP. It’s about Akwa Ibom State. And you know that God knows the end from the beginning. So, even as we stand here, God knows who the next Governor will be. And so, all we have to do as Christians is to continue to pray.
“So, please, pray for us, sir (Bishop), pray for the political process. We need peace and we need security. We do not need to spill the blood of any Akwa Ibom child in the course of these elections.” Ekere however used the occasion to alert of plot by some desperate politicians in the state to bring in thugs to disrupt the political process and cause widespread violence in the state. He called on the Church to fight and defeat such plans with prayers.
It was a promising moment for the state, and the significance of the day was not lost on the incumbent who also deserved commendation for providing the right environment. Governor Emmanuel also took his part in the historic occasion. Taking a cue from Ekere, he said: “Let me also say here, I want to join my faith with what my brother(Ekere) has said, at the end of the day, it is not about us. It is about the soul of the state. It is about the destiny of this state.
“Whatsoever we do today as government, it is for the destiny of Akwa Ibom State. Everything we do in this state today is about the future of our own children.”
The import of the moment was also not lost on the Church which provided the venue for the historic meeting. The Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Uyo, John Ayah referred to the two governorship candidates as children of the church and declared the Catholic Church would be neutral in the forthcoming elections.
He said: “I wish to state it very clearly that the church doesn’t stand in preference to one party against the other. There are my sons who are in PDP. There are my sons who are in APC. They all belong to me.”
Senator Godswill Akpabio, immediate past governor of the state who has been at loggerheads with his successor, was also part of history. In the spirit of true leadership, he also exchanged greetings with Governor Emmanuel, who is believed to be his political god son, after the ceremony.
Akpabio, also a politician who espouses peace and strongly believes in the guidance role of the Church, said prayers by the Church would ensure peace before and after the elections in the state. Akpabio who is popular called the “Uncommon Transformer” for his achievement as two-term governor of the state, urged the people to embrace peace.
Ekere, who is the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), kicked off his gubernatorial campaign late last year with a public lamentation of the backwardness and poverty that had swamped the state in recent years. He said he had come to make Akwa Ibom great again and promised to reverse the trend with his five-point vision for economic prosperity: infrastructural and rural development; education, health and social protection; security; and governance and infrastructural reforms.
Ekere also said when he first indicated interest to contest the 2019 governorship election, his desire was founded on the need to offer the state a new vision for collective prosperity and promised to domesticate in the state all Federal Government social intervention programmes if elected governor next year.
He had stated: “Our government will launch a N20 billion to fund and raise a critical mass of transformative entrepreneurs (TEs) who will use and innovation to grow the private sector and create wealth,
“Best practice Indian models of TE development will be put in place. About 3,000 TEs will be produced and empowered every 6 months in the State,
“In four years, we would have created 24,000 TEs who in turn will stimulate the economy and create no less than 120,000 jobs.”
He promised to improve food security in the state by harnessing the value chain for major food and cash crops such as oil palm, cassava, fruits, and seafood, stressing that his goal would be to create policies, implement the Graduate Farmers Scheme to enable self-sufficiency in food production by 2023.
In a region where youths are taking to militancy and crimes, Ekere’s plan holds the promise of a developmental vision that is youth-focused. He said his government, if elected, will promote the participation of 15,500 Akwa Ibom Youths annually in farming and as extension agents, promising that the Extension services will be revived and made an important unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Akwa Ibom State may well be on a march to becoming an economic hub that is set to rival the neighbouring Rivers State. But March 2nd would show whether the people of the state have bought into his vision.
Effiong wrote in from Uyo