By Thompson Essien, Portland, Oregon
Umana Okon Umana has never been known to be a businessman. At least since 1999, when the military handed over the running of the country to civilians, Umana Okon Umana has served as a bureaucrat in different levels in two different administrations. And as a bureaucrat, Umana Okon Umana has always been on a fixed income. But, today, Umana Okon Umana is the richest man in Akwa Ibom State. Those close to Umana say it is very likely that the man is even richer than Godswill Obot Akpabio.
With his command of the intricacies of governmental maneuverings, Umana Okon Umana knows exactly how to use his positions in government to enrich himself. He has served in different capacities, including being the Director of Budget, Commissioner for Finance, and presently, Secretary to the Government. Serving in these high-level positions may explain why and how Umana Okon Umana could become the richest man in a State of nearly or a little over five million (5,000,000) inhabitants.
Now, Umana Okon Umana wants to invest at least some of his ill-gotten money to contest for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State. With backing from Akpabio, whose support for Umana is with the hope that if Umana wins, he (Akpabio) would be shielded from prosecution for his crimes committed against Akwa Ibom people, Umana is walking around and thumbing his chest, with a strongly held believe that the Hilltop Mansion is all his, come 2015.
But while Umana has already flooded Akwa Ibom State with hundreds of vehicles geared towards his campaign, and distributing millions of naira to those he is seeking support from for 2015, the 2011 gubernatorial election is still an unfinished matter, yet to be decided in the court of law. On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, the Election and Fraud Tribunal sitting in Uyo will begin hearing evidence that would help to determine who actually won the 2011 governorship election.
And it appears that no one, except Umana Okon Umana, knows what would be the final decision of the court. Experts say the court may rule that the 2011 election was a charade, which must be cancelled for a fresh election. Others say the court may decide that it was ACN which won the election, which means the Tribunal can declare Senator Akpan Udoedehe as the winner of the 2011 Gubernatorial Election. If the Tribunal takes such a decision, it would mean that Godswill Akpabio would have to vacate the Hilltop Mansion for Senator Akpan Udoedehe. However, Umana is not perturbed by any of these scenarios; the man just wants to be a governor, period.
It could be recalled that in July 2011, when Godswill Akpabio and Umana Okon Umana bribed the Tribunal judges to dismiss the dispute of the election on a simple technical reasons, both of them and all their supporters triumphed in victory. Akpabio even remarked; “It is all over. I have won—case closed! Any protest is nothing but noise-making. I am calling on the opposition to come join hands to build Akwa Ibom.”
In spite of Akpabio’s bluffs, the ACN and Senator Akpan Udoedehe appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. On November 14, 2011, just a day before the dateline for the Supreme Court to act on the case, Akpabio was dinning and winning with President Jonathan in an event, in which another one of those flattering awards was bestowed upon Akpabio. When the ceremony finally ended, aids slipped a note into Akpabio’s palm; “Your Excellency, the Supreme Court has returned the case to the Tribunal in Uyo.”
Akpabio was dazed. He was confused an uncertain of how to react. When reporters pointed several microphones on his face, Akpabio belched; “Even if the election is held 10 times, I will win 10 times.” But, no one told Akpabio about contesting any election—Akpabio was lost, because the unexpected—the possibility of being driven out of office through the judicial process, instead of through corrupt practices—-was starring on his face.
In a few days (January 25, 2012), that judicial process will begin. Both sides (ACN and PDP) will present all available evidence and the learned men will decide who really won the election of 2011. Will Akpabio bribe the judges again? Knowing Akpabio, it is very likely that he will do that, or attempt to do that. But, just as it was during the first instance, when he bribed the Tribunal judges in Uyo and the Court of Appeal judges in Calabar, the matter will also end up where he was not able to bribe and where he will never be able to bribe—the Supreme Court of Nigeria.