Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The man Ini Okopido, APC State Chairman, Akwa Ibom State

... His emergence and prospects for APC in Akwa Ibom State


No one saw it coming. No one gave it a thought. His emergence seemed divinely planned and executed with clinical efficiency, reminiscence only of a military styled coup d'etat by some army strategists determined to change the status quo and herald a new order in leadership and party management.

The intrigues, deception, silent conspiracy, element of surprise, twists and turns, lobbying, plots and his eventual emergence has left many political analysts grappling to understand how it all started. The suspense generated from the Ini Okopido emergence, like a political movie thriller, is still yet to be subdued even as it opens a new chapter of political suspense, disbelief and resurrection.

The surprise was more confounding when viewed against the background that barely 24 hours to the May 19 APC State Congress, Hon Ini Okopido had just withdrew from the race and stepped down for a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon Abom Tony Esu, who was earlier favoured to win. But never did many knew that the alignment and realignment of forces and the marrying of political interest will throw up Okopido, younger brother of Nigeria's former and pioneer Minister of State for Environment, Dr Ime Okopido again as the grand winner of the converted trophy.

Before now many had predicted a bloody and rancorous state primary that will divide the party. But surprisingly, Okopido's nomination which came from all major APC stakeholders and chieftains in the state turned out to be a nomination that was not only the masterstroke needed to consolidate on the gains of the peace accord recently agreed upon by major stakeholders and herald a new dawn in party management, mobilisation and administration in the state but diffuse a ticking time bomb many "prophets of doom" has predicted will go off and torpedo the prevailing peace. So call Okopido's emergence some sort of "denuclearization" of political crisis by Akwa Ibom APC towards charting a new course for the party and you will not be wrong.

Though many see Okopido more of a peace maker and mediator than a political fighter, not a few agree his peaceful disposition, accommodating philosophy, reconciliatory attribute and great managerial skills will very much help prepare the party for the task ahead of 2019, an election many predict is a make or mar between the ruling PDP in the state and the main opposition party, the APC on who will occupy the Hilltop Mansion, Akwa Ibom's seat of power.

Many believe Okopido apart from being versatile with the Akwa Ibom political terrain is one man who is capable of galvanising the party in the state to victory through a well coordinated and massive grassroot mobilisation, redefine party administration by running the party with a new philosophy of "Think Locally but Act Globally", as well as adopt, entrench and enthrone a managerial model whose aim is to achieve participatory, grassroot, people-centered democracy where the vast majority of party men and women will claim ownership.

It is believed that the new party boss having understood the underlying inclination and expectations of his party men and women, will hit the ground running by building a new, invigorated, and dynamic party through the provision of a new leadership paradigm that inspires the followers, unifies the various blocks and interest groups, mobilises rather than alienates supporters with a charismatic recalibration that restores confidence, trust and hope while also dismantling mediocrity and godfatherism, vices that hitherto hindered the party's growth and undermined its prospects for political survival and relevance.

Born on May 17, 1963, the Ika born party administrator attended Four Town Group School, Ikot Akpan Awa from 1971-1976, Comprehensive Secondary School, Atai Otoro 1976-1981 and had a brief stay in 1982 at School of Arts and Science Uyo.

He proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University from 1982-1986 where he bagged a degree in Zoology and did his mandatory one year NYSC from 1986-1987 in Bida Niger State. He was privately employed as Technical Director of Alito West Africa Limited, from where he grew to become Managing Director from 1994 to date.

Chief Ini Okopido became a political student under the tutelage of the late Chief Etokudoh Ekpro and Dr Ime Okopido his elder brother.

In 1995 he was appointed Chairman Akwa Ibom State Revenue and Expenditure Committee as well as Chairman Committee on the Reorganisation of Akwa Ibom State Government Parastatals under Government Subventions. In 1996, he was appointed Member Akwa Ibom State Government Representative on the Board of Quality Ceramics in Itu LGA.

He became the Chairmanship candidate of SDP in 1990 in the then Abak LGA, an election that was hotly contested between him and Chief Okonko Udoutin. He won but was robbed of victory, and as a democrat and believer in the rule of law, he seriously challenged the outcome at the tribunal, a move which saw the case go up to the High Court which declared that the tribunal erred in law to have dismissed his petition under a no case submission. He lost because like all election petition cases, it was time bound.

He was later elected Chapter Chairman of then Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Etim Ekpo LGA.

He cojoined UNCP, contested and won the Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika Federal Constituency seat under the UNCP but like his colleagues, was not inaugurated following the death of the then Military Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha.

He was one of the founding members of the People's Democratic Party, PDP, in 1998 in Abuja who came back to establish the party in Akwa Ibom State.

He was to later recontest the Abak Federal Constituency seat again in 2003 under the PDP alongside the late Hon Ezekiel Anaka and Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo, though he lost at the primary. He did several assignments for his former party, PDP, including conducting party primaries in Anambra and Bayelsa States as well as served as Director General, DG of Hon Saviour Enyiekeke Campaign Organisation in his native Ika LGA.

He defected to the APC in 2014 alongside other prominent Akwa Ibom people at Asan Ibibio prior to the 2015 Governorship election and has contributed immensely to the growth and rapid expansion of the APC in the state and his defection contributed greatly to APC's growth in Ika LGA.

Chief Okopido takes over from the outgoing APC State Chairman of the party, Dr Amadu Attai whose tenure expires in June 2018.

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Disclaimer: Comment expressed do not reflect the opinion of Isaac Yoma