A strong bid by Mr. Emmanuel Ekon representing Abak-Etim Ekpo-Ika Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom state in the House of Representatives to run for the seat a record third time in 2019 appeared to be garnering massive support by big-wigs of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) after an internal review by the party indicated that the lawmaker had utilized opportunities available to him in his committee to attract mega projects to both his constituency and the state at large.
Although the review had not been made public, highly placed party sources told our correspondent that there is near unanimity among the top leadership of the party that Mr. Ekon who heads the Local Content Committee in the lower chamber had not only surpassed expectations but had also created a record in his constituency.
Pressed further to name party leaders that undertook the review, the source who refused to mention names however, affirmed repeatedly that the review was done by decision makers within the party. He was also not forthcoming whether the review would be made public but claimed the decision would be communicated quietly to members of the party ahead the 2019 polls.
Sources said the review had resulted in a renewed softening of tones among some party leaders who were opposed to his re-run bid on grounds that it was the turn of Abak within the constituency to produce the next House member.
For instance Governor Udom Emmanuel had always insisted on keeping to the unwritten zoning arrangement as a way of checking crisis in the party but said recently at a reception in his honour those that had represented the state well deserved a waiver to run for re-election.
Consequently, a groundswell of opposition mounted against his return to the House of Representatives on the plank of an unwritten agreement to rotate the federal seat among the three local councils constituting the constituency is gradually dying, after leaks of the review indicated that the party leaders had decided to jettison the zoning arrangement based on Mr. Ekon performance.
The key stakeholders in the PDP in the state that undertook the review specifically examined Mr. Ekon’s second term and concluded that stopping his re-election could jeopardize the smooth take-off of the mega projects that he had attracted to the state, and new projects he might be able to attract if he returned to the House.
Since his return to the House in 2105, and subsequent election as Chairman of the House Committee on Local Content, Mr. Ekon has latched on the opportunity to penetrate the oil and gas sector where his state, Akwa Ibom had always been reaping from the crumbs in the distribution of the wealth from the industry, and in less than three years, turned the entire state into a major beneficiary of key oil-funded projects.
The fear among the stakeholders is that the constituency, and the state at large, could be shooting itself in the foot by keeping to the zoning arrangement as the person that might be penciled down to succeed him might not possess the ability to negotiate big deals, or fashion out the right strategy that will enable him grab the hotly contested committee leadership slot.
In the last three years alone, Ekon had initiated a sustained information and communication technology training schemes across his constituency, and re-training hundreds of graduates to become employable in the tough and crowded labour market.
His committee also reportedly trained more than 500 Nigerians in strategic areas in the oil industry where the oil majors had always capitalized on to bring in unskilled workers into the country in the name of expatriates.
Mmost of the trainees, according to available statistics, earn as much as N180, 000 monthly during training, and when finally employed, earn as high as N500, 000 monthly.
Ekon’s most strategic achievements of all is perhaps, the ability to attract the Halliburton Oil and Gas training centre to Uyo, and the planned siting of an oil and gas industrial park in Onna, one of the host council areas to Exxon-Mobil. Besides, a mini training centre is planned for Technical College, Abak and the Maritime Academy will be the site for a sea driving academy.
With these trendsetting projects, the stakeholders were said to have concluded in their review that since the creation of the constituency, and in the representation of the state at the lower chamber, no member of the House had been to attain such feats.
But the truth of the matter is that all these feats didn’t happen overnight. During his freshman years in the House, Ekon almost finished with a near lack lustre performance although he was able to fix some members of his constituency in certain job positions.
Members of both chambers of the legislative branch of government are ranked based on years of experience as legislators, and those who are able to win re-election end up picking the juicest committee leadership.
Ekon who spoke to our correspondent neither confirmed nor denied that a committee of the party reviewed his performance to determine his suitability to vie for the seat for the third time.
Instead, he hinged his ability to attract projects to the state on the fact that his second term re-election provided an opportunity for him to pick up the chairmanship slot in one of the committees.
“If I were not Chairman of Local Content, I don’t think I would have been able to achieve much,”Mr. Ekon said in the interview.
“I’m not representing my constituency now, am representing the entire country but I’ve done so much for my constituency and my state as Chairman of Local Content,” he boasted further.
These projects and other infrastructural development efforts that he had initiated in his constituency and some parts of Akwa Ibom State have all become the strongest selling points in Mr. Ekon’s argument for re-election.
He argued that the zoning mantra is antithetical to effective representation especially in a circumstance where a particular constituency has a serving legislator that is performing above expectations.
“If you want somebody to go to the national assembly, and impact on the constituents and the state, and the country, then allow that person to understand the workings of the legislature and have something he or she can use to impact on the people,” he claimed, regretting that the federal government is wasting money training legislators as a result of the turn-by-turn syndrome.
He said what makes the legislature tick in the United States is that most of the members spent longer time in the committees, saying that since the country’s democracy is based on the US model, it was important to copy it appropriately.