The Uyo Side of the Supreme Court Judgment Day

Anxious Crowd, Uyo
Why does Akwa Ibom affairs draw so much national attention? What is it about Akwa Ibom State that keeps the entire nation obsessed about the state?  Oil wealth? Is it mere fascination about an exciting people or is it the frustration of having to contend perpetually with a pioneering people? These questions pester the mind when it reflects on how far Akwa Ibom news travels. Things climaxed with the Supreme Court judgment of Wednesday 3rd February. On this very day, there was action every-literal-where. But in Uyo, it was an explosive theatre production. 
Facebook, Twitter and other social media perhaps held the most of Akwa Ibom and other people’s interests in the lead up to that pronouncement. On Twitter, Akwa Ibom was the trend ascending to the top and trending for nearly 2 days following. Others were #AkwaIbomIsPDP and #IStandWithUdom.

Nervousness was palpable on the very streets; you could knock your head on some free floating apprehension. Offices closed but staff remained at work. The traffic swung between lightening and thickening. You could feel a mix of fear and curiosity in the stuffy evening breeze. Those who retired home stayed indoors, preferring to monitor events from the safety, or not, of their shelters. Was the beautiful hearted Governor going to be removed from office? Would Umana Umana emerge victorious. Would there be a rerun? There was no end to these questions.

Both Parties Were Confident
The endless political tussle had widened the gap between Akwa Ibom people along party lines; but brotherhood has always ever prevailed in Akwa Ibom politicking. The only impulses that have ever separated Akwa Ibom people, I dare say, have been homegrown. Imported concepts like the All Progressives Congress have tried hard for years, but have never been able to break apart Ibom people. Once again, they were united, but this time in anxiety. Everyone was anxious.

Confident and expectant people punched themselves on the shoulder to drive away Goosebumps. And, as expected of run-of-the-mill Akwa Ibomites, prayers began to bellow out of uneasy throats.
Media monitors from all sides of the 2-party political divide had representatives at the Supreme Court in Abuja, to send updates back home and everywhere. Channels TV and AIT must have had more viewers than at any other time in the past 1 year save for the 2015 democracy day coverage. If you wanted to hear the final outcome of the case, you kept your TV on, but if you wanted to track proceedings in real time, you kept your Facebook and twitter app open.

On reflecting on this ay, you' notice that Lassa Fever must have been overcome in Uyo an no one notice. It was overtaken by 'Supreme Court Fever'.

Meanwhile, In Abuja

Awaiting the Ruling at the Supreme Court
The drama was fed by production at the Supreme Court . From the point of judges hearing the counsels’ arguments, to questioning the lawyers, to the frequent recesses; it was suspense all through. But the stretch of suspense was punctuated severally by ‘did you knows’.
Did you know that the APC lead counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun has never lost an election case? And then they start reeling out the cases.
Did you know that Olanipekun is leading Damien dodo, the Udom Emmanuel lead counsel, in another election case?
Did you know this, did you know that…
It all went to traumatize already palpitant hearts.

And at Ibom Plaza

Ibom plaza became an opera theatre. Firstly, young bucks began to collect in anticipation of a PDP victory, their umbrellas in hand. Then another crowd began to form across the road from the PDP side – broom in hand. And then as if, but indeed, in competition, their ranks began to swell. Then the PDP side started jubilating; the APC group responded with public address. They had a Dj, and he opened the volumes. You began to commiserate with that one party that the ruling would not favour; whose bubble would burst tonight – for at least one group was preparing for ostentatious humiliation with such audacious fantasy’. Interestingly, the more advantaged group had the more cautious spirit, and the disadvantaged had a far bigger bubble.
While they celebrated on, the Supreme Court wrestled with the Abia state case, having already heard the Akwa Ibom case. Abia’s case seemed to last for eternity everywhere the proceeding was being followed from. And then the judges announced they were going on recess, to return with the final ruling – “when we are ready”, they announced. This was becoming bloodlessly tormenting.  By this time the plaza dichotomy had become a sore concern, and the square was surrounded by armed, combat- and chaos-ready Law enforcement.

The Broom side

The umbrella side
Suddenly, pro-Udom media reportage became sturdier than pro-APC. This was surprising for a side that had constantly broadcasted venom against UGE. Pro-UGE were sooner a monopoly, spilling happiness along with news updates. In what looked more like a dying twitch than a distraction, an APC Facebook-er posted that the PDP media reps had just lost their gadgets to pissed court officials. Humour break it was, as the PDP reporting continued reeling out uninterrupted.
Facebook users did play with the tension which, by now, had translated to the dominance of Akwa Ibom in Social media trends. It was number one on Twitter trends, as many ‘tweeters’ speculated what the outcome of the proceedings would be.
Speaker of House of Assembly, Rt.Hon Onofiok Luke, in prayers
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke whom, you can imagine, must have been freezing tense, had been in the Government House throughout the time, except for a brief time-out to Church for obvious reasons. This was the man that would be governor if the Supreme Court ruled against UGE. Suffice it to say that his written address must have been ready. In the next few minutes, Mr Luke, ‘the people’s speaker’ could become governor of Akwa Ibom for up to 90 days.

Enter Akpabio, The Gladiator
Godswill Akpabio walked into the Supreme Court just when the judges stood up for a recess. As you can imagine, the court tore apart and the online stream changed course. It was now all about Godswill. Overwhelmed by the climate change, Iboro Otongaran, a leading APC media hand rushed to deliver breaking news;

"Akpabio just walked into the court as soon as the justices rose for last recess of the day before judgment. He came in a large entourage and whole place went into frenzy."
Followers in Uyo were pretty surprised by the compliment from a famous Akpabio antagonist. But, yes, the moment was now all about Akpabio. And the Senator marched straight to a seat right beside an Akwa Ibom APC 'emperor', Senator Ita Enang. Akpabio must have resembled a bullfight gladiator: a matador - the man in Bullfighting designated to kill the bull - for the PDP side received an energy boost as he swaggered in and Iboro's compatriots began to complain; "I smell a rat".
Then Scan News dropped the bomb:
“Supreme Court upholds Udom Emmanuel’s election as Akwa Ibom governor” 
and -- all hell did not break loose immediately.
But there was much more random movement as both sides began to make confirmation calls to their friends in Abuja. And then Aniekeme Finbarr posted; “UDOM WINS: the bars of propaganda and falsehood have been broken…” As confirmations trickled in, pandemonium broke out at plaza. The losers’ now pricked bubble slowly deflated as the winners ran wild.

The Frenzy
Brooms go up in flames

The Plaza frenzy moved into Wellington Bassey way heading for the Government House. Brooms went up in flames. Fireworks lit up the skies above the State government house. People came out of their homes screaming and yelling for victory. The mass reaction was visibly startling to the losing party. Udom’s victory was apparently the people’s victory to the rude shock of mischievous propagandists – who thought that, by now, they had sold themselves to the people. They stood gaping at the eruption of excitement in the city of Uyo, around them.

For days following this judgment day, the city was still in a frenzy. Women carnival, thanksgiving celebrations in different Senatorial districts, parties and all manner of festivities have followed the victory celebrations. 

Meantime, the APC national chairman had this to say for his party:
“We have lost very important oil producing states to the PDP. No matter how much crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the highest earning resource for the country.”
It goes to betray their remote intentions for Akwa Ibom and confirms why the state has been as popular.

Uduak Umo
A PR Strategist, Public Affairs Analyst & Music director