Nine out of the ten monarchs who make up the Etim Ekpo Traditional Rulers Council (TRC) on Friday June 10th, 2016 arrived the office of the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy, Mr. Victor Antai with a Paramount Ruler-elect in the person of Obong Ezekiel Iwok, Clan Head of Ikono Clan.
The TRC members conducted an election on June 3, 2016 at Council Hall, Etim Ekpo in which Obong Ezekiel Iwok, Clan Head of Ikono scored 7 votes while obong Michael Alexander of Ika Annang Clan scored 2 votes.
Their effort to present Obong Ezekiel Iwok to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai however proved abortive as he did not show up in the office throughout the day despite the fact the he gave them the appointment to see him on June 10 when they met with him on May 31.
After waiting for the Commissioner from about 10am to 1pm and it was clear that he was not going to be in the office, the Traditional Rulers told newsmen that this was the kind of frustration they had had to live with since the death and burial of the former Paramount Ruler, HRM Edidem Ebong Nkanta.
According to them, after the burial rites were completed and by the traditional laws, it was time to elect a traditional leader for Etim Ekpo, they drew the attention of the Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs to it but did not get any positive response.
Speaking on the issue, a member of the TRC and Village Head of Nto Unang, Obong Uwem Jumbo Unang said” the late Paramount Ruler was buried on 15th April, 2016 and after that there was a vacuum in the leadership of the traditional institution in Etim Ekpo.
So, we wanted a new Paramount Ruler, we wrote to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai for us to elect a Paramount Ruler, but he did not reply. We wrote a reminder and he still did not reply.
This is why on the 31st of May, 2016, all members of the Traditional Rulers Council went to his office and there we met with him and there was an agreement for us to elect a Paramount Ruler”.
Obong Uwem Jumbo revealed that as soon they went back home they put the right machineries in place to elect a Village Head.
“When we met with the Commissioner, Mr. Victor Antai, he told us that two Clan Heads elect, Professor Amanam Udo and Obong Okokon Udo had not been given certificates of recognition as Clan Heads, so we should wait for them to be so given before an election can hold. But the edict establishing the TRC makes it clear that after a Paramount ruler had been buried, the Clan Heads with certificates are to stand for election. So out of five, we had three with the correct qualifications and certificates. Two of them presented themselves for election on June 3, 2016 at the Council Hall in Etim Ekpo.
One of the Clan Heads declined. At the election Obong Ezekiel Iwok, Clan Head of Ikono emerged winner with 7 votes, beating Clan Head of Ika Annang, Obong Michael Alexander who scored two votes” he explained.
Adding his voice to the matter, the Village Head of Utu Etim Ekpo, Obong Aniekan Udo Eden said it was clear to Etim Ekpo TRC that politicians wanted to hijack the process of electing a Paramount ruler for Etim Ekpo LGA.
“We are the TRC members and we are sure of what the edict says. It says those qualified at the time of electing a paramount Ruler are the ones to contest. Why do we have to go and wait again for those who are not qualified to get certificates to be qualified before we do an election to have a Paramount Ruler.
Nobody can accept this. Let the politicians stay away from traditional matters, so that the right things can be done for our people and communities” he maintained.
Chief Udo Akpan Udoekong, Village Head of Ikot Inyang maintained that the election of Obong Ezekiel Iwok who had been on the throne of his father’s first as Village Head and later Clan Head for about 20 years enjoyed the support of the majority of TRC members and so the government should respect it, so that peace can reign in Etim Ekpo.
He noted that although the Commissioner did not see them on Friday last week to receive the new Paramount Ruler, they have taken him to the Ministry and have introduced him to the staff on duty.
The Paramount Ruler elect Obong Ezekiel Iwok thanked the TRC for supporting him and promised not to let them and the people of Etim Ekpo down.
He said that he is well vast with the traditions and expectations of the people and will ensure he works with all stakeholders to realize these objectives.
According to him, at no time has the election of the Paramount Ruler in Etim Ekpo been problematic, as the Clan Heads always know and agreed on who should lead them.
“Once we meet, we agree and we take the person to the government for certificate and this is what we have done this time, so there is no problem at all. I will bring our people together and we shall all work in unity for the progress of Etim Ekpo” he stated.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai insisted that unless the Clan Heads without certificates now are given and they have a chance to contest for the Paramount Ruler election, then it will be unfair for anyone to talk about election.
He urged the Etim Ekpo TRC to be patient for all the issues to be sorted out maintaining that “The other people who do not have certificates yet have gone to court to stop any election”.
The Sensor gathered however that, influential politicians in Etim Ekpo are behind one of the candidates without a certificate and do not want election yet.
The game plan we gathered is to delay the election until the present TRC’s tenure expires in December, 2016, so that those who will be subservient to the politicians will be appointed into the TRC and they can now have an election in favour of the candidate they support.
The present TRC, aware of this plan has therefore decided to move ahead of them and elect a Paramount Ruler.