Obong Umana Okon Umana, who, until last week was the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, has left the shores of Nigeria for a well deserved holiday and consultation overseas.
Umana, an Ibibio from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of the state was said to have travelled out in company with influential Ibibio elders, who would confer with him on how best to leverage the tense political situation in the state in favour of their illustrious son.
Reliable sources confided to us that Umana’s decision to seek for succour in a foreign land as well as speak heart-to-heart with his kinsmen in a free atmosphere may not be unconnected with the embarrassment emanating from the way and manner he was booted out of office by Governor Godswill Akpabio, in the aftermath of his open declaration to run for the office of governor of the oil-rich state.
Things have, indeed, fallen apart between the governor and his erstwhile, powerful SSG. And the past one month has been quite difficult for Umana, who was said to have been instrumental to Akpabio’s emergence as governor. First, Umana’s name was said to have been presented to the Presidency as candidate for the position of Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
And sensing that his long-time friend and political ally was about to side-tract him from his long-held ambition of becoming governor, by dangling a carrot stick in the guise of the NDDC job, Umana immediately convened a press conference in Uyo, where he openly declared his intention to run for the office of governor and citing pressure from the three senatorial zones of the state as the major propelling factor.
His declaration, obviously, didn’t go down well with the governor who saw his action as an affront to his authority. The Governor then ordered Umana’s ouster with his office under lock and key, and also placed stern looking security operatives to oversee the premises. The rest, like they say, is history.
But due to the intervention of mutual friends and political associates who are said to be privy to an agreement between Umana and Akpabio, Umana was eventually given the option of resignation and was even cajoled into attending the swearing-in of his successor, Mr. Gabriel Emmanuel Udom.
Even though Governor Akpabio is said to have offered an olive branch to the aggrieved Umana in order to salvage whatever is left of their friendship and subsisting agreement, political observers in the state are of the opinion that the harm has already been done and that Akpabio has dealt a deadly blow to the ego of a man who was once revered as the “political Iroko tree” and who once bestrode Akwa Ibom politics like a colossus.
There are strong insinuations that the former SSG was getting drunk with power and was beginning to reach for the governor’s jugular, and had to be relieved of his position.
However, political analysts believe the last is yet to be heard of the friendship gone awry as Umana, who has travelled abroad to refuel may actually be coming back for his pound of flesh.
Those in the know swear that Umana sees his ascension to the throne of Ibom as his birthright and a debt that Akpabio must pay.
However, the Ibibio elders are said to be solidly behind Obong Umana who has done them proud in many respects.
It is a known fact that Umana rose from humble beginnings as a former teacher at the Cross River State School of Basic Studies, Akamkpa, to join the Akwa Ibom State Civil Service in 1989 as Principal Budget Officer, and in the course of the journey had enjoyed a meteoric career success, rising to the position of State Director of Budget within just 9 years.
Furthermore, Umana was appointed the commissioner for finance for two terms of eight years by the administration of Obong Victor Attah before being appointed by the Akpabio administration into the lofty office of the Secretary to the State Government in 2007.
Umana also goes down in history since 1961 as the longest serving permanent secretary in this part of the world.