By CHARLES KUMOLU
WHEN Akwa Ibom State Governor Godwill Akpabio was supporting the senatorial ambition of Senator Aloysious Etok in 2007, in the spirit of equity, hardly did he know that he was embarking on a mission that would later degenerate into a messy affair.
At the moment, the governor and the lawmaker are reportedly at loggerheads over their individual ambitions to contest the senatorial seat in the 2015 general elections.
Akwa-Ibom North West, it will be recalled, had not produced any senator before 2007. In order to address this anomaly, Akpabio threw his weight behind the candidature of Etuk, who subsequently won the election.
Ever since, the lawmaker has remained in the upper legislative house, where he served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation.
However, following, the reported senatorial ambition of Akpabio to represent Ikot Ekpene Senatorial Ddistrict when he completes his second term as governor in 2015 , there seems to be no love lost between the duo.
Infact, the political atmosphere in Akwa Ibom said to be reaping the fruits of good governance, appears charged following the strained relationship.
For instance, the alarm by Etuk that the governor was after his life is not unconnected with the undercurrents of the squabble with the governor.
An infamous move
In what analysts described as an infamous move, the lawmaker recently accused Akpabio of planning to assassinate him over his ambition for re-election to the Senate.
Etok, who made the allegation in a briefing with newsmen, recalled the abduction of his wife and mother-in-law and the series of text messages convening assassination threats if he insists on contesting the senatorial election come 2015.
He said, “I have on this phone some text messages that if I don’t retract the statement that I will contest election, after seven days, I will see what they will do. The governor has also instructed different groups that if I don’t retract the statement within seven days, I will either be dead to stop me or alive to retract the statement. Therefore, I want you, all the media, to ask the governor, or those he had let loose, to tell the world. What is the insult: that as soon as they knew I was going to contest, my wife was kidnapped.
‘’After the release of my wife, my mother-in-law was kidnapped. When she was released, she died because of the torture she received in the hands of the kidnappers. As a result, my father-in-law died of heart break. Therefore, I also want Nigerians to ask Governor Akpabio what I have done to him.’’
He further said, ‘’I want all of you, like I am going to send a petition to the president, to ask Governor Akpabio to let me be; that his hit squad, which he has resurrected, should let me live. If anything happens to me, I want the world to know that Governor Akpabio is after my life.” The senator said that his aspiration to seek re-election to represent Akwa-Ibom North West remained unshaken.
Following the allegations by the Senator against Akpabio, security agencies swung into action, in order to unravel the truth. The Department of State Security Services,SSS, uncovered the person behind the assassination threats.
The suspect, who was identified as Mr. Adelola Tamunotoye Olaore, confessed that, contrary to the claims by Etok, he (Olaore) hatched the plot to extort money from the senator.
Making the revelations when he was paraded in Abuja, the suspect confessed that he exploited the perceived rift between Etok and Akpabio. He said he had wanted to use the proceeds to pursue a master’s degree.
Olaore, a graduate of mechanical engineering from Rivers State University, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, said he went to the NDDC office in Port-Harcourt to submit a mail where he stumbled on a mail bearing the senator’s complimentary card from where he obtained Etok’s number.
In addition, he said, being aware of the political interests between the senator and the governor over the Ikot Ekpene senatorial seat ahead of 2015, he seized the opportunity to contact him.
Explaining how he was able to convince the lawmaker that he was sent by Akpabio, Olaore added that he introduced himself as General Africa, an ex-militant from Bayelsa State, and then told the senator that he had been contacted by three of Akpabio’s loyalists to assassinate him.
According to Olaore, in order to convince the senator, he offered to furnish him with details of the governor’s purported bank account and Energy Company in South Africa. He however confessed that he had never met Akpabio or any of his loyalists.
According to the Deputy Director of Public Relations of the DSS, Ms Marilyn Ogar, the Service swung into action following a letter titled: “Report of planned assassination by a man who calls himself General Africa (an ex-militant)” by Etok.
Ogar said on getting the letter, the Service directed the senator to play along with the suspect which eventually led to his apprehension on April 29, 2013.
The spokesperson said Olaore would be charged to court and warned the general public to be wary of individuals who exploit activities, be it political, religious or economic, for criminal ends.
Not a few analysts, based on the turn of events, argue that the governor appears vindicated even as others labelled the lawmaker as politically inexperienced.
Some of the analysts say that despite the reported frosty relationship between the duo, the lawmaker ought not to have raised the false alarm which, according to them, was capable of overheating the polity.
Meanwhile, Etok has come under criticisms from his constituents, who were not comfortable with his allegations against the governor.
It is believed this informed the recall process initiated against the senator.
The recall move allegedly followed the failure and or refusal of Etok to tender an apology to Akpabio and the senatorial district.
Political leaders from the 10 local government areas of Ikot Ikpene senatorial district, that converged at a meeting convened by Itai Afe Annang and Okuku Pius Eside over the matter, claimed that they wrote Etok on April 20, 2013 to appear before them in order to begin a reconciliation process but he refused.
They said they were therefore left with no option than to call on stakeholders to begin the process of recall.
The motion to begin the recall process was moved by Engineer Iboro Ekanem of Ukpom Ward 5, Ikono Local Government Area, who said Akpabio would get overwhelming support in the 2015 senatorial poll in the state.
Chairman of Essien Udim Local Government Area, Mr. Nse Ntuen, who spoke on behalf of the other chairmen, said the district will recall the senator, who he accused of adding salt to an injury by alleging that the governor was responsible for the kidnap of his mother-in-law and other security problems that surrounded him and his family. There are those who believe that a public apology from the lawmaker would be in order.