•We will begin the process of his recall – Sen Okon
•We feel sorry for Akpabio – Udoh, Commissioner for Information
•Akpabio wanted to trade us to get position of Senate President – Nduesse,ex-Minister
•Akwa Ibom will change to APC with Akpabio – Ekong, former Commissioner
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Harrison Okon-Emmanuel, Dirisu Yakubu& Chioma Onuegbu
Associates and supporters of Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel were at the weekend celebrating what they claimed as the failure of the erstwhile Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio to trigger a political meltdown of the state with his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
With Akpabio only able to take two out of 27 members of the House of Assembly to the APC, the governor’s associates were lauding the development as a victory for the PDP which they said is well entrenched in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh while emphasising Emmanuel’s instruction to aides not to engage in a public spat with his onetime mentor, nevertheless, expressed sorry for Akpabio who he said had moved from the comfort zone to dine with sharks.
Professor Chris Ekong, former Commissioner for Economic Development in the state, however, dismissed such assertions saying the state’s political dynamics had changed with Akpabio’s movement from the PDP to the APC.
Former Minister of Housing, Chief Nduese Esseien was, however, unforgiving of the former governor saying that the former Senate Minority Leader had sought to trade the people of the state to the APC for the position of Senate President.
Emmanuel’s associates spoke against the background of what they claimed as the fact that only two out of 18 commissioners, two out of the 27 members of the state House of Assembly defected with the former governor to the APC.
That was despite the claim that Akpabio was directly involved in the emergence of more than half of the current set of office holders in the state.
Saturday Vanguard gathered yesterday that Governor Emmanuel and his close associates had psychologically prepared themselves for the defection and were not taken by surprise especially after Akpabio had last December and two weeks ago gave warning shots of his political intentions.
Mr. Udoh, who said the governor had given express instructions not to join words with the former governor even as he acknowledged Akpabio’s role as God’s channel for the emergence of Governor Emmanuel, said:
“It is erroneous for that man who is that vessel that God uses to begin to think that he is God himself. When things like that happen you know something has gone wrong somewhere.”
“In every public forum, if you could recall when he had to address the former minority leader, he addressed him as my boss my mentor. Beyond that, you would also see that in the state executive council, appointments were highly skewed in favour of the former Minority Leader.”
“However, he (Akpabio) has chosen his path disregarding the collective interest of everyone. He has chosen a path of his own pursuit.
Leaders from various sections of the state have also continued to pledge loyalty to the governor with the 31 Local Government Area Chairmen, their deputies, and the councilors as well the 24 members of the state legislature leading the pack.
Leaders from the governor’s base in Eket Senatorial District in their response described Akpabio’s defection as a blessing during a call on the governor.
Leader of the delegation and former Minister of Lands and Housing, Chief Nduese Essien said since the announcement of Akpabio’s defection, there has been celebration throughout Eket Senatorial District and in other parts of the state.
He said to prove that Akwa Ibom does not belong to a single individual, “a number of youths have come to me to say that, if they did not support you before, now they are going to support you fully.”
Chief Essien said Senator Akpabio cannot deliver ‘’us to the APC, to go and be appointed Senate President because that is one of the incentives we understand he has been promised.
“You are now free to take charge of your administration, you are now free to work with whom you please and direct affairs without looking back on what the headmaster will say.”
“We are conscious of the fact that Uyo and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts had given us their promise to support you. We want to assure you that your senatorial district is solidly behind you, we are ready to organize ourselves to be able to deliver,” he added.
The same promise of support also came from the youth population at the Youth Summit organised by the state government.
This position was further affirmed by speakers from the three federal constituencies in the state, with Chief Etim Okpoyo, Former Deputy Governor speaking for Oron Federal Constituency, Chief Obot Etokafia for Ikot Abasi and Senator Helen Esuene for Eket.
They maintained that the voluntary exit of the former governor from the party without any provocation spells a good omen for the state, as the people have obviously refused to follow him to his new abode.
Responding, Governor Emmanuel thanked his senatorial district leaders for the show of love and solidarity, maintaining that he cherished all the pieces of advice to him.
“If your house does not support you, the outsiders will not support you. Getting this support from my own strengthens me a lot more.”
He said nothing takes God by surprise and added that he was not shaken by the developments.
“I can only say what I keep telling the youths, no shaking. There is nothing here that happens that will ever be new. Everything happening in the world today had already happened in the past.”
Also, elders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from the three Senatorial Districts have expressed their readiness to recall Senator Akpabio over his defection to APC, describing the action as a betrayal of the mandate freely given to him by the electorate,
Speaking under the aegis of the Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard (AILV), the former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Senator Anietie Okon, described Akpabio’s action as smacking of mischief and selfish interest.
Okon, who read the communiqué, described Akpabio as “a big burden to governor Emmanuel and the PDP family in Akwa Ibom”, saying his exit would usher in a new lease of life for the administration to focus on its core mandate of providing the dividends of democracy to the people.
“Let it be on record that the defection of Senator Akpabio to the APC calls for celebration by every genuine lover of Akwa Ibom and the PDP family across the country 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 a hush basket of demands.
He, therefore, asked the leadership of the Senate to immediately declare his seat vacant as soon as the lawmakers reconvene from the recess.
Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Asam Asam on his part described the lawmaker’s move as an act of political suicide.
Asam, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Justice stated this while fielding questions on a Channels Television breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, monitored by Saturday Vanguard.
Observing that the movement would later hurt him, he said:
“The former governor, former minority leader has committed political suicide. I told him a year ago that he would eventually leave, that he won’t be here to support the government of Udom Emmanuel.
“Akpabio was governor of the state for eight years, you can’t dispute it. He was a primary key in the growth of the PDP in the state for eight years. And if you add another three years, he did well for the party and nurtured the current administration. There is no way the history of the state will be written without giving him a prominent place. But don’t you know prominent people have committed suicide?
Asam who further noted that Akpabio had never been sincere in his political dealings stressed that the former governor was notorious for throwing his support behind three to four aspirants for the same elections at a time; a development he described as unexpected of a leader worth his salt.
He added: “Akpabio has never been sincere in his politics. In 2011, he sponsored four people to the senate in the same senatorial district and gave them money. Prior to the 2015 elections, he supported three people to contest the election. What I am saying is that the word of a governor is like the word of a pope. You can take it to the bank. But if a governor says he is backing you and did not mean it, it is unheard of. I worked with him as the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and so I can make this remark based on the working relationship I had with him.
“He (Akpabio) was a student of the University of Calabar while I was practicing. He was quite close to me. So, I know the man like the back of my palm. When he makes a move, I know. When he is sincere, I know but this time, he is not sincere.”
On whether his defection would affect the chances of the PDP in the state in the 2019 elections, Asam maintained that while some people would naturally leave with the lawmaker to the ruling party; the PDP remains the dominant political party in Akwa Ibom.
This position was, however, faulted by Professor Chris Ekong, former Commissioner for Economic Development who accused Asam of being economical with the truth.
“I think Asam is economical with the truth. He should know that Akpabio was a topical issue in PDP. With Akpabio moving to the APC, a lot of things have changed. As small as the state is, if you look at the Ikot-Ekpene where Akpabio comes from, the district has already moved with him,” Ekong countered.