Last Wednesday’s defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Obot Akpabio, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the All Progressives Congress (APC) has thrown up fresh variables in the state’s political equation.
Akpabio’s exit has also stirred both anger and joy in equal measure in the state, just as it has shocked many, who did not expect that he would dump his political son, Governor Udom Emmanuel midstream.
The governor is also an in-law to Akpabio’s Annang ethnic group.
The now “uncommon defection” was not so much expected to come to pass considering the fact that before the alleged face-off between Akpabio and Emmanuel, the latter was believed to have done so much to preserve the former’s achievements and cover up his deleterious activities as governor.
However, the cross-carpeting by Akpabio has forced fresh alignments and realignments, especially in the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, where Akpabio comes from, and which the PDP is now frantically combing in search of a strong and reliable replacement for him, especially from the Abak Federal Constituency that has never produced a senator.
Out of the 360 federal constituencies in the country, it is only Abak Federal Constituency that has never produced a senator.
Besides the re-alignments, Akpabio’s departure apart from freeing Emmanuel from the clutches of an overbearing godfather, has also made room for him to play his brand of politics, which is obviously going to be radically different what his departed godfather is used to.
In other words, many believe that the time has come for Emmanuel to reach out to so many former big wigs of the PDP that Akpabio forced out of the party.
Earlier on, it was alleged that Akpabio had wanted Emmanuel to make his wife, Unoma, his deputy, but when that was resisted, he brought in the incumbent, Moses Ekpo.
The foisting of Ekpo from Abak, on Emmanuel, many felt was deliberate.
That is to ensure that that he (Akpabio) remains the only cock to crow in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and by extension the state.
Ekpo is not a politician. In addition to that, he is advanced in age, hence not ambitious enough to seek political control or pose a challenge.
Having also significantly threatened the zoning arrangement; creating posers regarding the future of political relationship between Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts, it is also believed that Akpabio’s defection will certainly pose a threat to the PDP come 2019 if the APC is able to manage well, Akpabio and the big wigs he forced out of the PDP to APC during his reign as governor.
Despite all the odds thrown up, many believe that all Emmanuel needs to keep sailing in calm waters and enjoy the support of civil servants in the state is change his style and ensure that workers are paid regularly, while pension and gratuities should be tidied up without further delay.
And for the generality of the people, those following trends in the state stress that much as the state government is doing roads, building industries, the governor should also get enmeshed in politics, as well as, reach out and empower the people.
According to a former chapter chairman of the PDP in Uruan Local Council, Pastor Ben Effiong, “I do not know what prompted Akpabio to take such a decision because the Akpabio that we know usually consults before acting, but in this case he acted alone.
The action he has taken now is not only wrong, it will be wrong tomorrow and it will be wrong in the future.
It was the collective will of the people that made him governor under the umbrella of AKPF, therefore if he wanted to take a decision, he should not have been unmindful of the people that stood by him and made him to become something.
“What he has done in the name of defection amounts to asking the people to hold the ladder for him to climb up, only for him to kick the ladder away on getting to the top.
This is morally wrong. Almost 95 per cent of the well-known politicians in APC today came from PDP because of the negative and oppressive actions of Akpabio.
Former Deputy Governor, Obong Nsima Ekere, former Secretary to State Government (SSG) Umana Umana, his campaign director general, John Udoedeghe, as well as, Bishop Samuel Akpan, who was the international coordinator of AKPF, that helped in bringing Akpabio to power and many others all left PDP because of him.
Effiong continued: “When Akpabio brought Udom Emmanuel, he said Emmanuel was the best for Akwa Ibom State, but now he has dumped him midway creating serious disaffection among the people.
Akpabio should be able to tell us what changed between then and now.
How can Akpabio claim to defect in order to stop kidnapping, attacks by Fulani herdsmen, robbery and other vices, when he is not the Chief Security Adviser to the President?
Yet he claimed he took the step in the best interest of Akwa Ibom people, but without consulting them.”
While Effiong concludes that “the mere fact that Akpabio left the PDP does not matter; it is only the will of God that can stand in Akwa Ibom state,” the Akwa Ibom State Leaders Vanguard thinks his departure is good riddance to rubbish.
The vanguard in a statement jointly signed by Senator Anietie Okon, Senator Effiong Bob, Dr. Emmanuel Ukpong, and Dr. Augustine Usoro, described the exit as a huge relief for Emmanuel and a new era for the administration as the governor had over the years tolerated Akpabio’s overbearing influences, huge debt burden of over N500b, uncompleted projects fully paid for and other negative legacies he left behind.
They said Akpabio’s defection “calls for celebration because finally we have the biblical Jonah out of our boat of progress.
Henceforth, Governor Udom Emmanuel will fully focus on the development of Akwa Ibom State with every financial resource at his disposal, instead of being distracted by a so-called political godfather with huge baskets of demands.
Governor Udom Emmanuel will no longer spend meagre resources of the state in endless legal interventions whenever anti-graft agencies move against Senator Akpabio.
“His decampment is a welcome relief to the PDP both at the state and national levels.
This is because of the moral and political burden of managing a party member, who was daily facing threats of prosecution.
A development that brought shame and reproach to the party was unbearable. By divine arrangement, God has lifted that opprobrium from us and had taken it elsewhere.
“Never again shall we live under the weight of chameleonic, dishonest, double-speaking and disloyal members.
We, however, are glad that APC has thankfully relieved the PDP in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria of this undue burden.
When a man is fighting for personal survival and relevance, but claims to be a patriot fighting for the interest of the masses, he should be reminded that no man can run away from his shadows.”
To further underscore Akpabio’s lack of consultation with his constituents before decamping, the PDP in the 10 local councils that make up Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District were holding rallies to disassociate themselves from what was going on at Ikot Ekpene Stadium as they said, Senator Akpabio never told them of his intention to dump the party, which they collectively voted for him to represent them at the National Assembly.
At Ritman College Ikot Ekpene, where the people of Ikot Ekpene Local Council held their rally, Senator Ibok Essien, described Akpabio’s action
as shameful to the whole of Annang nation in the saying, “this kind of thing has never been done by any Annang person dead or alive.
The people have withdrawn the endorsement and the support they had earlier given to Akpabio.”
Essien said his defection means liberation to the people of the area since according to him, “out of the 54 appointments in the district, Akpabio got 34 appointments for the people of Essien Udom Local Council, while Ikot Ekpene got only five, and eight other councils in the senatorial district shared the remaining 15.
Governor Emmanuel, who is from Akwa Ibom South (Eket Senatorial District) will serve for eight years since Akpabio has also served for eight years.”
He therefore charged PDP supporters in the senatorial district not to panic, but continue in their support for Emmanuel come 2019, as Akpabio’s action constitute an anathema, since he who was the director general of Akpabio’s senatorial campaign was not even consulted.
While the APC’s National Chairman, Adam Oshiomhole, described Akpabio’s defection as historic in the life of the party, and one, which would help it take over South South states and the Niger Delta, other speakers, who spoke in the same vein described Senator Akpabio as the messiah they have been waiting for.
On his part, an APC chapter chairmanship aspirant in Abak Local Council, Mr. Augustine Edet said, “We are happy that Akpabio has come to APC; everywhere in Abak and Akwa Ibom State we are rejoicing. With his coming we know that PDP is finally buried.”
On how APC will handle the political situation in the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District given the fact that Abak Federal Constituency has not produced a senator before, and Chief Iniebehe Okori has been in the fore front for APC for the seat, he said, “I have been a proponent for Abak Federal Constituency to produce a senator because out of the 360 federal constituencies in the country, it is only Abak that has not produced one.
We have always cried out to the people to give us a chance. I know Akpabio coming to APC is a tsunami, going by the fact that he is well known.
I believe that APC that is vested with the knowledge of management, will know how to handle him as he is coming in.”
Chief Bassey Etim, an APC stalwart in the state is so hopeful that, “the PDP government in Akwa Ibom State will fall with Akpabio’s defection.
Akpabio has touched many lives and we love him. He did much to take the state to the national scene and his achievements cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
“I expect APC elders and stakeholders to come together and forge a common front to take over power, but if selfish interest and imposition prevail, I am afraid of our success in 2019.”
Forging a common front by top shots in the party in the state is something that many see as a Herculean task, considering the varied personalities in the party, the manner of their convergence, and the sour relationship between most of them and the “uncommon defector.”