“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” Rom. 9:16.
The day Sunday January 30, 2022 will remain ever green in Akwa Ibom State. It personifies the day over 5 million Akwa Ibomites fixated their eyes at Hilltop Mansion waiting for the White smoke to signal glad tidings and fulfilment of the promise of Governor Udom Emmanuel to name his successor in office. Within minutes, there was tumultuous shouts in the air, “He has spoken” He has spoken. Governor Udom Emmanuel chose one of his commissioners in charge of Lands and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, as his successor in office come May 29, 2023.
While the choice of Umo Eno did not come as a surprise to many, some persons are jilted by his choice. Severally, Governor Udom Emmanuel has said he was waiting on God to give him direction on who the person will be. He even asked Akwa Ibom people to pray God to choose his successor. “I have no hand in who emerge as the next governor. Akwa Ibom people should ask God for their next governor. I am not using God’s name in vain. Let us allow God to do what he wants to do. It will be in the best interest of Akwa Ibom State,” Emmanuel declared.
The Governor confessed that he has been under severe pressure over the choice of his successor and went spiritual by saying that he will not be another Saul, who sinned against God by bowing to pressure and do what he was not supposed to do as King. Emmanuel, whose reelection campaign slogan was ‘Only God,’ insisted that; “God will make his choice for Akwa Ibom State.”. Finally, what was secret has become public knowledge. Umo Eno is the chosen one, the preferred, the anointed of the incumbent and the one the Governor is disposed to supporting as his worthy successor in office come 2023.
Ever since the news broke out, there has been argument in support and against the decision of the Governor. Those in support are of the view that it is within the right of the Governor to support a candidate and give direction to his party, the PDP on who to market as the next governor. This school of thought says that it has been a tradition for an incumbent to have a preferred candidate. They went on to cite instances in the state to buttress their point. For example, Obong Victor Attah anointed his son-in-law Dr. Udoma Ekarika as his choice successor although Senator Godswill Akpabio went on to clinch the ticket and became Governor. Pundits cite Attah’s inability to produce a successor to the fact that he was gunning for the presidency, had some axe to grin with former President Olusegun Obasanjo ostensibly because of his stance on resource control and at the same time wanted his son in law to succeed him. In 2015, Senator Akpabio, then Governor chose and anointed Udom Emmanuel fresh from the Bank as his successor. Not everyone in the party supported the idea but he succeeded. We are back to the same scenario as we approach 2023 even as Governor Udom Emmanuel has made his choice.
Those against Udom’s choice are of the view that it is undemocratic, means imposition of candidate and has the potency of shutting out other contestants. Some persons even went ephemeral and juvenile by questioning the colour of his skin and that he is Albino hence can’t be governor. Excuse me; what has skin colour got to do with performance?
Like Etimbuk Ekpenyomg wrote, “Pst Umo Eno’s skin colour did not stop him from building mega businesses. It did not stop him from founding and running a church successfully. It did not stop him from becoming aa commissioner. It cannot definitely stop him from being a governor…”
Truth be told, the role and impact of governors in the emergence of their successors in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. In fact, governors are so powerful in their respective states such that they dictate and direct the tempo of political behavior and to a large extent the electoral process of their respective political parties. You cannot ignore the power of incumbency as far as Nigeria’s democratic experience is concerned. It is within this context that Udom Emmanuel acted and he cannot therefore be faulted as he has merely done the obvious as is expected of him. The choice of Umo Eno does not in any way invalidate the ambition of others. The Governor as a citizen has rights to vote and be voted for. He has right to support any candidate same way we all do. He has exercised that discretion by declaring his sentiment to the public. That does not in any way means that he hates other aspirants. It simply means that as a political animal and free moral agent, he can take decisions and be responsible for the outcome of his action. As a leader who believes in the efficacy of God’s word, Udom has sought the face of God as he has always done from the first day he took over as Governor. He asked God for direction in the choice of who will take over from him and God obliged his request.
Those against the choice of Umo Eno seem to have forgotten the place of God factor in the affairs of men. Instances abound where a person is eminently qualified to occupy a certain exalted office yet the absence of the God factor zeroes in against the person. God’s word in Daniel 4:17b says “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” The message bible says that God arranges kingdom affairs however he wishes and make leaders out of losers. From the bible verse above, it must be noted that God can choose anyone and make him King over others out of His will. Isa 2:8a says “ He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory:”. Obong Victor attah, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Udom Emmanuel may not have been the most qualified in their time to become Governors based on political pedigree and other factors yet they were favoured to become the Governors.
In other words, God does not call the qualified, he calls the unqualified and qualifies the fellow so the fellow fits into the office he is called to occupy. The bible is replete with instances of unqualified persons that God called, qualified and made them Kings and Princes over nations. 1 Sam 16:6-7 is a classical example of how an unqualified can be qualified. 6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him. 7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart”.
The summary is that while as humans we set our criteria on whom we deem fit to have rule over us, God is the one who qualifies such a person. As it stands, grace and favour has located Umo Eno, the most unqualified to be the choice of Governor Udom Emmanuel same David was favoured more than his brothers who had intimidating qualities. This is in line with the words in Eccl 9:11, “ I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Umo Eno may not be the best or the most qualified for the job but divine providence has made it possible for him to be the chosen one to fly the gubernatorial ticket under PDP. He remains one of Akwa Ibom finest entrepreneurs; served Obong Victor Attah’s administration as Chairman Ibom Hotels Management Board, served as Executive Director, Akwa Ibom State Agricultural Investment before being appointed Commissioner .
He may not have had all the political exposures in terms of the offices he has occupied whether elected or appointed. He may not have had an intimidating profile, may not have had all the grassroots contacts, connections and savvy. But as Romans 8:29, NLT says,: For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Sometimes, God make choice of leaders for reasons best known to Him and beyond our comprehension. This is confirmed in 1 Cor. 1:27-29 which says God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence”.
In any case, his choice by the Governor does not in any way invalidate the ambition of others. Those seeking to jostle for the PDP ticket will have to slog it out with him during the primaries. Besides, elections in Nigeria are in stages – being cleared by the party to contest, taking part in primaries, undergoing security check and winning it and facing candidate of other political parties at the general election where the people will decide the ultimate winner via the ballot. So, it is not yet uhuru for Umo Eno in spite of his choice by the incumbent governor.
Like Anietie Usen the award winning writer said, the Governor may have opted to support Udom Emmanuel because he is convinced that Pastor Eno would continue with the developmental projects and programs that he is executing in the State right now. He depends on God Who sees tomorrow, for guidance on major issues of this magnitude and the Christian credentials of Pastor Eno weighed significantly in his considerations. Umo Eno is a highly respected person because of his enormous capacity for hard work and visible managerial skills, even in his own private businesses and chosen field of endeavour. He earned his wealth from his personal labour and sweat, yet has remained an epitome of humility, with a common touch, and a compelling grass to grace story.
Dr. Udeme Nana the founder of Uyo Book Club in one of his widely shared writings had noted that executive leadership in a competitive society goes beyond sophistry and playing to the gallery. It demands deep thinking, big picture visioning, planning, organizing, discipline, motivation, monitoring, evaluation, execution. According to Nana (2022), “It is important to headhunt for an adaptable person who truly understands planning and has the knack to go through the rigors of systematized planning and the monitoring and evaluation process that ensures success of a plan. It needs someone who stands on time tested principles and values of hard work, honesty and integrity. A person whose credibility is not cloudy. Someone who is open minded; approachable, a listener who has the ability to motivate and mentor. The State needs someone who respects and responds to others with readiness to go through ideas brought by someone else, modify them, and implement with deference to the originators without feeling diminished in any way; someone who is not bossy, but trusts others and delegates responsibilities without looking away, without abdicating his roles”
Without sounding immodest, Umo aptly fits into the picture of who will take the state to the next level. For now, he is the choice of the Governor as the oil of leadership has dropped on his head. Even if he is not qualified for it, he has been chosen. His political party, delegates, the people will do the needful while God will finish the rest by further qualifying him.
Deacon Aluu Vincent, a Research Scholar, Public Affairs Analyst and Publisher of Naija Eye Witness News, contributes this piece from Uyo. 08036688375