By Dennis Udoma, Harris-Okon Emmanuel & Chioma Onuegbu
The simmering feud between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his political mentor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, yesterday, recorded its first casualty as the governor sacked an Akpabio loyalist, Sir Etekamba Umoren, as Secretary to the State Government.
Umoren, who is of Annang extraction like Akpabio, served as Chief of Staff to the governor during the Akpabio administration.
Following Akpabio’s exit, he was appointed SSG, the same position Emmanuel held before he was picked by Akpabio to become governor of the state in 2015.
In his place, the governor announced Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, an engineer, as the new SSG obviously putting his own man in the office to coordinate the affairs of government.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udoh, in Uyo, yesterday, said: “This appointment is part of a continuous effort to rejig the governance structure of the state which started with the swearing-in of two new commissioners less than two months ago.”
The sack of Umoren is bound to escalate the crisis of confidence that recently erupted between Governor Emmanuel and his political benefactor, Akpabio. Akpabio had triggered the face-off on New Year eve when, at a reception organised by the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Moses Ekpo for the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, alleging that his successor had marginalised his senatorial district.
“2018 is less than one year to election. All is not well. Don’t allow anybody to deceive you that all is well. If the hotel in Ikot Ekpene rots after so much money has been expended on the project, would that be a good thing?” he questioned.
The former governor’s assertion has been queried by some political bigwigs from Uyo senatorial district, who faulted the former governor’s comment which they described as a campaign of calumny.
The Uyo Senatorial District Leaders Forum, USDLF, in a communiqué, said Akpabio’s Ikot Ekpene senatorial district has benefitted and continued to occupy superior advantages in appointments and projects even under the current government.
Among the signatories were Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga and Senator Effiong Bob.
However, Senator Aniete Okon, the pioneer publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was quick to distance Umoren’s sack from the crisis between the former governor and his successor.
According to Okon, Umoren’s presence in the government as SSG was to stabilise the Emmanuel administration.
“It is very unfortunate when Nigerians feel every issue is political. I must say that his removal has nothing to do with the perceived in-fighting going on in the state. So people should not make a case out of nothing,” he stated.
Dr. Ekuwem, who hails from oil-rich Mbo Local Government Area, was until the appointment, the Chairman of Teledom Group, an indigenous Information and Communication Technology company. He is a former President of the Association of Telecommunications Company of Nigeria, ATCON.
Dr. Ekuwem will be sworn in today.
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