The Akwa Ibom chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC is on the brink as the opposition party seeks to find a bearing after the recent merger. How the party handles the contending 2015 aspirations of its leader, Senator John Akpanudoedehe and others will be an issue .
BY CHIOMA ONUEGBU
GIVEN its position as the only notable and existing opposition party in Akwa Ibom State expectations are high that the party could again find its footing to challenge the dominance of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
However, leadership squabbles here and there seem to be beclouding the objective of the party to stand.
The trouble arose from the feeling of marginalisation by two of the legacy parties in the APC; the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. To many members of the former ANPP and CPC, the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN was seen to have taken much of the choice positions in the party’s state executives.
Trouble even started brewing at the inauguration of the Interim State executive of the party last February.
At one time thereafter, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was stepped in to mediate. Amaechi’s interest and gesture was of course not surprising to many stakeholders given the perceived antagonism between him and Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State on many issues arising from their time together in the PDP and in the cleavage of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF.
Amaechi’s intervention at that time led to the constitution of an inclusive Interim State Executive with Dr. Amadu Antai, chairman of the defunct ACN, as chairman of the APC. Others who emerged were Comrade David Ekanem, Elder Emmanuel Udo and Anthony Udokang as Secretary, Treasurer and Publicity Secretary on an interim basis.
Many thought that would have resolved the crisis. However, the crisis worsened as the party conducted its ward, local government and state congresses.
The congresses which produced the party executive and delegates list for the recent national convention was alleged to have been hijacked by the 2011 governorship candidate of the defunct ACN, Senator Akpanudoedehe, who has however denied the allegations.
In the state congress, Antai and Udokang retained their positions as chairman and publicity secretary while Effiong Etuk emerged as secretary. It was not long after the state congress that it also emerged that Akpanudoedehe was the godfather to the majority of the members of the new executive.
The development seemed to have made former leaders and members of the legacy parties who felt marginalized to develop intense indifference towards party activities in the state.
But not completely. Capt. Sam Ewang (rtd.) and Chief David Ekanem, governorship candidates of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP, and All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA were among few members from the supposedly marginalised legacy parties selected as delegates to the recent national convention. Many others from the other two parties were, however, left out.
The agitations nonetheless, the current state leadership of APC appears to enjoy the support of its national body which may have contributed to the delay in resolving perceived mutterings. This may not be unconnected with the popularity and track record of Senator Akpanudoedehe in mobilisation as evidenced during his 2010/2011 campaigns.
AkpanUdoedehe remains a house hold name in the local politics of the state following his steady rise from local government chairman to the Senate and subsequently appointment as a minister.
Although he has not formerly declared his intent to run in 2015, indications are rife that he desires to be in the race, which explains why he is apparently jealously guarding the party structure.
It is not lost to him and other stakeholders that whosoever controls the party structure has an upper hand in clinching the ticket. Political analysts in the state say that the ride may not be that smooth for him because of other popular and notable governorship aspirants, from the same Uyo Senatorial district as him; though under the PDP platform.
There is the suspicion that some powerful contenders in the PDP who do not find accommodation under Akpabio could move to the APC to slug it with Akpanudoede.
Besides, there is the claim in some quarters that some of Akpanudoedehe’s enforcers have moved on to team up with other gubernatorial aspirants from Uyo Senatorial District.
The APC Publicity Secretary, Obong Samuel Udobong disagreed with the claim that the party has lost its supporters.
“I don’t know where you got such information. The truth of the matter is that James AkpanUdoedehe is the only and greatest mobiliser in Akwa Ibom State. You see those people you think have abandoned the party, when the mobiliser enters the field that is when you will know the end result”.
He denied allegations of marginalisation in the state APC pointing out that the same benchmark which was used before and after the merger to constitute the party leadership at the national level was also adopted at the state levels.
According to him leadership positions were based on the elective seats each of the legacy parties produced during the last elections from the lowest positions (councillorship) to topmost positions.
“Why former ACN is currently occupying most of the State Executive positions is because it was able to produce House of Reps, House of Assembly members, and even governors. The ANPP did not produce even a councilor. So at what level will they come to lead?” he queried.