May 28, 2022
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2023: Unmasking Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Wild Card

By Osondu Ahirika

I love the game of Tennis. The Grand Slam to be precise. Australia Open, French Open or the US Open are the grandest of them all. In this beautiful game, the Wild Card is a familiar word.

In professional tennis tournaments, a Wild Card is the term that designates a player whose entry is awarded at the discretion of the organizers. Many times, the Wild Card player(s) becomes the top seed(s).
This presupposes that, such players, enter the competition without necessarily taking part in the preliminaries or qualifying matches.

Unmasking Governor Udom

Unmasking Governor Udom
Unmasking Governor Udom

As in Tennis, so it is in Politics. In 2007 we saw how Barrister Ita Enang was swapped from running for the Federal House of Representatives to being handed a Senate Ticket at the expense of Senator Effiong Bob. In 2015, Obong Bassey Albert stepped down from running for Governor and was thrust into the Uyo Senatorial race to supplant Senator Ita Enang.

In the last Local Government Council Elections in Akwa Ibom State, it happened in Uyo. Dr Uwemedimo Udo, the incumbent Chairman was drafted to replace Mr Johnie Ndukeobong who had earlier won the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primaries. He emerged from the blues. That’s a Wild Card top seed in politicking.

As the 2023 succession battle gathers steam in Akwa Ibom State, I intend to unmask a possible Wild Card for the top job of Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Meet the Itu Local Government Area born Mr Gabriel Asuquo Ukpeh. He is the Special Adviser to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Foreign Direct Investment and doubles as the Chairman Akwa Ibom State Government Committee on Foreign Direct Investment. He is also the Managing Director of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation.

Like two other possibile contenders, namely former Executive Director of ExxonMobil, Mr Udom Inoyo and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Uko Udom SAN,(both of who are also believed to be the Governors annointed), he shares a middle name, ‘Gabriel’ with Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.

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Unknown to many, Mr Ukpeh was Governor Emmanuel’s former boss.
He is a trusted friend of the Governor right from Price Water House as auditors. Indeed, he is behind the investment structure of Ibom Air, the Ibom Deep Seaport, Ibom Icon Hotel, Tropicana Shopping Mall, and as MD of Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, he is technically the Executive Director of St. Gabriel Refinery and companies in which the Akwa Ibom State Government has stakes.

He is characteristically very Godly, quiet, but powerful with huge integrity. Ukpeh is the silent voice behind the industrialization agenda. A formidable but unssen power broker in the System and kitchen Cabinet of Governor Emmanuel.

A Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria the internationally acclaimed Consultant in Business Strategy, Risk Management, Process Re-engineering and Financial Services was previously, a Senior Partner Pricewaterhouse Coopers Inc and a non Executive Director at Zenith Bank Plc.

He is the technocrat behind the various investments and transaction structuring of all Public Private Sector Investments in Akwa Ibom State and also supervises carefully Akwa Ibom State Government investments in different companies, such as Champion breweries and many more.

As power returns to Uyo senatorial District come 2023, this man who is Press shy and has traversed the Corridors of Power at the National level, albeit with cautious introversion should be a Man to watch. He is a typical Wild Card holder.

Stay tuned for my series: Conversations on 2023

Unmasking Governor Udom

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