When the going got tough, Governor Udom Emmanuel, a former Sunday school teacher at the Qua Iboe Church and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, introduced a religious dimension to the campaign, to whip up sentiment. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI, who monitored the election in the South-South state, reports.BEFORE the March 9 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel was clearly seen as the underdog in the contest. That was the impression that assailed the reporter, as he moved round Uyo, the state capital, trying to feel the pulse of the people on the streets. His main challenger, the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer, Obong Nsima Ekere, appeared to have an edge. Campaign posters of the APC candidate were all over the town and his billboards were everywhere, at strategic locations in the capital. Emmanuel on who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looked like a drowning man.One taxi driver aptly captured the mood on the streets when he told the reporter that the two candidates had a 50/50 chance of winning the election. Nevertheless, other taxi drivers who spoke were categorical in their views that, with Akwa Ibom being a PDP state, Emmanuel would carry the day. But at the time it sounded unbelievable. The trend of conversation at newspaper stands around Ibom Plaza, the hub of the city, was tilted in favour of the APC candidate.For instance, a day before the election, an elder in The Apostolic Church and a newspaper distributor, Mr. Effiong Etukudoh, had predicted confidently that Ekere will win the election, based on the word of God. Etukudoh who sells newspapers at a strategic spot around Ibom Plaza said the Lord revealed to him as far back as 2017 that the APC flag bearer will emerge as the governor of the state in 2019, a time the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was not even in contention for the position.He said: What I want to tell you is that when God says this is what is going to happen, nobody can stop it. The PDP in Akwa Ibom plays politics of blindness, because they close their eyes to the realities of the day. I got this revelation in 2017 and I told people here that Nsima Ekere would become governor of Akwa Ibom State on 2019. By that time, he had not even mentioned that he was going to contest in 2019.So, when the primary came last year, everybody expected Senator John Udoedehe to win the ticket, because he is somebody that is well known. But, I told them that the person that would emerge as the APC flag bearer is Nsima Ekere.Etukudoh said he was not certain that the governorship and House of Assembly elections would be concluded in Akwa Ibom State, as well as in Imo State, where Governor Rochas Okorocha had been insisting that his son in law, Uche Nwosu, would succeed him. The prophet added: It is not even certain that elections will hold in Imo tomorrow. The problem that will rear its head will not make the election hitch-free like the presidential and National Assembly elections.It is believed that the defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in August 2018 influenced the last governorship election in Akwa Ibom. At the time, it was perceived as a heavy blow on Governor Emmanuel, because he was seen as a rooky politician who does not have the political sagacity and the structure to guarantee his re-election for a second term. In the wake of this development, a succession of political aides, former chapter chairmen and an entire structure of the party in Essien Udim, Akpabios local government area, defected to the APC.Like a drowning man, Governor Emmanuel, whose campaign for re-election was anchored on his administrations industrialisation drive and a peaceful Akwa Ibom where everyone is guaranteed the freedom for self-actualisation, was clutching at anything within reach. His campaign slogan, only God, suggested that he had resigned himself to fate that only the Lord can save him from defeat.It was apparent to many observers that Emmanuel, a former Sunday school teacher at the Qua Iboe Church, had introduced a religious dimension to the campaign. His campaign organization is known as the Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation. Observers said he never failed to acknowledge his human frailty and that he needed supernatural help to contend with a collection of men who are too powerful for him throughout the campaign.There was no doubt that he got sympathy votes from the people of Akwa Ibom who questioned the sudden turnaround of Akpabio. People queued behind him for his perceived effort to break away from the apron strings of Akpabio. Indeed, they say whatever Emmanuel has become it was Akpabio who foisted him on the state.Incidentally, most of the residents who spoke to the reporter after Emmanuels victory blamed Akpabio for the APCs woes in the state this time around. They say the way the boastful manner the former governor promised to deliver the state for his new party, following his defection, did not go down well with the people of Akwa Ibom.They see the former Senate Minority Leader as a loud and arrogant personality and that he has made a lot of enemies in both the PDP and the APC who would not be happy to see him playing the role of a godfather in Akwa Ibom politics.On election day, the reporter set out early. After monitoring some polling units in the capital, he headed straight to Emmanuels hometown of Awa Iman, a community located a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, in Onna Local Government, passing through Ibesikpo Asutan and Etinan local governments and got there just as the governor was arriving at his polling unit located at the Awa Iman Town Hall.Emmanuel and his wife, Martha, voted at about 9:15 am. He told reporters afterwards that he could not use the peaceful and orderly conduct of elections in his unit to conclude that the exercise was free and fair, so far. He said: In terms of preliminary reports, I think its a little bit early to assess the situation. I will go to the situation room to find out what is happening.But so far so good, the accreditation, authentication has been smooth today, based on my own personal experience. I think I need to check with others to find out the situation all over the state. But by mid-day, I should be able to give you more authentic report on this.He thanked Akwa Ibom people for coming out to vote and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) for improving on the effectiveness of the Card Readers, compared to the presidential and the National Assembly elections, which took place two weeks earlier.At his polling unit located within the Community Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Ebere, Onna Local Government, the governors campaign coordinator in the council, Mr. Ephraim Inyang, hailed the exercise, saying the tension that had enveloped the state on the eve of the election was a social media phenomenon.Inyang, who is also the Commissioner for Works, commended security agencies, said: The tension that enveloped the state on the eve of this election is restricted to the social media. People are out in their numbers to vote, because they have realised the need to come and exercise their civic duties. The voting process was smooth; people were coming out freely to vote and that its been quite peaceful.If what I have observed in Ikot Ebere in particular and Onna in general is replicated in all the local governments of Akwa Ibom State, then the election could be considered as the most peaceful election ever conducted in Akwa Ibom State, because there are no incidences; the military are patrolling, they are not even entering the voting area.At the Ukan Edemaya village square, Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, near the APC candidates country home, there was a long line of prospective voters at Polling Unit 006, Ward 1, which has a voting population of 1,366 registered voters. The head of the unit said accreditation and voting started at 10am, due to the delay in collecting from the INEC office.An APC stalwart, Ubeh Edidiong, who spoke to The Nation said the exercise has been peaceful at Ukan Edemaya, which delivered a large number of votes for President Muhammadu Buhari two weeks earlier. He added that he had received reports of pockets of disturbances in other places. But Edidiong, a legal practitioner, said that is perhaps why the Federal Government considered it wise to deploy the military to the state to keep peace.Accreditation and voting started late at the polling unit of APC leader Umana Okon Umana at Unit 1, Ward 4, Indiya, Nsit Uboum Local Government, due to the late arrival of materials. An APC agent said the process of accreditation and voting started at 11am, after the arrival of materials. The Managing Director of the Oil & Gas Free Zone Authority said everything went well in the three voting points with a voting strength of 1,800 registered voters.In all, the March 9 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State was not really a tough election battle, as many people anticipated, as Emmanuel won convincingly in 30 out the 31 local government areas; he lost only in Essien Udim, Senator Akpabios local government. It was also not a bloody election as many had feared, except for pockets of violence here and there.Nevertheless, it was a dramatic scene at the state collation centre, as the APC state agent, Archbishop Samuel Akpan, rejected the results of one local government after another won by the PDP, saying they do not reflect the will of the people of Akwa Ibom, as expressed during the election.He said the exercise was married by massive rigging and that his party would not accept the outcome of the exercise. Akpan said most of the Collation Officers for the various local governments are card-carrying members of the PDP and were commissioned to achieve a pre-determined outcome.The APC only won in Essien Udim, though INEC cancelled the result in nine out of the 11 wards in the council. The collation officer for the local government, Nsikan Esenam, said voting in Akpabios ward, Ukana West Ward 2, and other wards in the area were marred by violence, hijacking of ballot boxes, and kidnap of election officials. Click here to read full news..