Mr. Sonni Anyang, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC served as commissioner in the Godswill Akpabio administration in two ministries, Ministry of Rural Development and subsequently in the Ministry of Economic Development. He left the government in 2013 following his uncompromising support for the governorship aspiration of Umana Umana, who was opposed by Akpabio.
In this interview, he speaks on the impact of the defection by Akpabio and its import on the politics of Akwa Ibom State.
What is the import of the defection of Senator Akpabio to the APC?
It is a major loss to the PDP and a major gain for APC.
What were the issues you had with Akpabio that made you leave the PDP?
I didn’t have issues with him; it is just that I supported a different governorship candidate from the one he preferred in 2015. I felt that he did not provide a level playing field for all the credible aspirants to contest inside the PDP in the first instance. So, by the time we got to the general elections, I had already left the PDP for the APC.
So, you left the PDP mainly because of him?
I left PDP because of the way PDP restricted the democratic space.
As dictated by Akpabio?
Yes, by Akpabio.
The same man that pushed you out of the PDP has now come to your new party, so what was your reaction?
First of all, the party is open to all who are willing and are prepared to abide by its major tenets in terms of campaign platforms, in terms of programmes and so on. Of course, you cannot say that Akpabio should not join APC if he wants to, and more importantly, circumstances have changed. I believe that Akpabio thought that by bringing Udom Emmanuel in 2015 that he believed that he had found somebody who will continue with his programmes and some of his projects but that has proven not to be the case. Equally paramount in the movement of Akpabio to APC is that he is an astute politician.
Akpabio has read the signs and found out that it could be very difficult if not impossible to defeat APC at the federal level and Senator Godswill Akpabio that I know is a very unlikely opposition figure. He likes to be where things are happening, he likes to be part of the decision making and by leaving the position of governor after eight years, he went to the Senate to be able to influence things for his constituency as he said and he probably feels constricted in the role of minority leader, not being where decisions are taken. So, moving to APC allows him to do that.
What would account for the exit of some APC leaders back to the PDP since Akpabio defected?
Senator Umoyo’s issue may have to deal with local issues in his area. I have read comments in the press that some key political operators in his local government area are at loggerheads with him. So, some of these defections may not have anything to do with the bigger picture, it may have something to do with local politics.
With the loss of Akpabio, the incumbent government here has gone out to do a lot of recruitment, recruitment that I understand is accomplished with a lot of inducements. Of course, he is governor and there is patronage to be given out. So, he is wooing people, some successful and some not successfully.
Overall, the people who left PDP because of Akpabio, I don’t think they have made much trouble working with Akpabio again. They worked with Akpabio before and if the circumstances are changed and there is no basis for disagreement and we agree to work together in our new party, I don’t see how we cannot work together.
APC as a party has a constitution and a structure and whoever gave anybody the idea that Akpabio can come in and disrupt that structure, I don’t know. Akpabio has not attempted to disrupt that structure. He will simply flow along. Automatically, he is a member of the national caucus being a former governor and a senator for that matter. He is a leader of the party naturally but we know we already had a structure, we had the State Working Committee, had the state caucus and the chairman Chief Etiebet and Akpabio’s entry has not done anything to disrupt that structure.
Who do you see as the APC’s likely candidate?
I believe that the forerunner in this contest who by the way has not declared his intention is Obong Nsima Ekere. He is the man to beat.
What of John Akpanudoedehe?
He is a major contender, but I don’t see him winning.