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Akwa Ibom: Akpabio’s defection, Udom’s bounce

It was a rumour that had been long in coming both in Akwa Ibom State and even at the national level where he relocated to play national politics in 2015 after eight eventful years as governor of Akwa Ibom State.

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

It was a rumour that had been long in coming both in Akwa Ibom State and even at the national level where he relocated to play national politics in 2015 after eight eventful years as governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Akpabio

Senator Godswill Akpabio’s touch in Akwa Ibom State had during his time in office been dubbed as the uncommon transformation. With an estimated N3 trillion that came the way of the administration between 2007 and 2015, Akpabio initiated what came to be dubbed the uncommon transformation of the state. He, however, built on the foundation laid by his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah who with the limited funds available to him laid the foundation of some infrastructure projects that Akpabio came to celebrate and build upon.

However, with his landmark infrastructure developments, there was the stress in relationships among a people who had beheld peace and tranquility as a common feature. In its place was an uncommon rise in tension aggravated by assassinations, kidnappings and sorts.

Akpabio’s ascension to political dominance was also marked with various plots. At least three deputy governors served under him in eight years with majority narrating bitter tales of political servitude.

Nsima Ekere was a loyal deputy governor until late October 2012. Akpabio’s entourage had told Ekere that the governor was on his way out of the country. However, unbeknown to Ekere, Akpabio had relocated to his native home near Ikot Ekpene where the plot to impeach Ekere was being perfected.

Word slipped out to Ekere what was being done, but Ekere dismissed it saying that Akpabio was out of the country. It took a top official of the Department of State Services, DSS to get word from one of the few details with Akpabio to know what was happening. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Ekere to the shock of those who saw him in the warm embrace of Akpabio two days before, quickly penned his resignation to the State House of Assembly to avoid impeachment.

A year later it was the turn of Umana Umana, the secretary to the state government who had generally been seen as the next governor of the state. Umana’s fixture in the Akpabio government as a fixer came by way of the role he played in the rebellion against Obong Victor Attah in 2006. As commissioner for finance in the Attah government, Umana had the means and connections that funded Akpabio’s takeover of government from Attah in 2007.

Akpabio easily rewarded him as SSG and governor in waiting. It was perhaps because of Umana that preceding deputy governors including Ekere were possibly exited. No one was expected to contend with Umana.

However, things unfolded late in July 2013 when Akpabio was out of town and a lady with a prominent role in Akpabio’s family moved to lock up Umana’s office. The story of his exit befuddled the state and it seemed as if perhaps out of loyalty to a former benefactor that the plot to remove Umana unfolded when Akpabio was out of town.

In came Udom Emmanuel, an executive director at Zenith Bank. Whatever Akpabio saw in him has not been fully laid out, but the church deacon cut an image of a technocrat needed to supervise what had become Akpabio’s heritage in Akwa Ibom.

Akpabio broke many allegiances to push Emmanuel as governor. The plot of 22 governorship aspirants was easily broken by Akpabio through his connections in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP headquarters. As chairman of the PDP Governors Forum he surely had his way in the affairs of his party.

Taking over the state it was logical that Emmanuel would inherit the political baggage that came from his relationship with his political mentor. He sought to avoid, and where not possible, deal cautiously with Akpabio’s enemies. He, however, could not deal with the issues of alleged financial profligacy that was thrust on him. Many of the projects he inherited were allegedly completed on paper and paid for. Even more, the state was soaking in debts. A month before leaving office the former government had taken a N75 billion loan from a major commercial bank with a name ranging from an old generation bank. Even more, the loans which were taken at commercial rates saw the state sometimes paying up to N4 billion to service the loan monthly and the new government’s predicament was worsened by the recession that came after the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

So while Akpabio fumed that Emmanuel was not completing his projects, Emmanuel’s entourage was also peeved by what they claimed as the repeated humiliation of the new governor by his predecessor who they say delighted in coming into functions when the governor was already seated.

“He (Akpabio) liked to disrupt ceremonies. He would come in when the governor is presenting his address or seated and with his boys they would cause confusion to the displeasure of the governor,” a source said in Uyo.

But while these undercurrents ensued, at the national level, Akpabio despite being the second highest political office holder in the PDP increasingly kept mute. He hardly spoke on issues in the polity.

In March 2018 a plot by PDP senators to remove him as their leader derailed. While Akpabio kept quiet under the radar, his colleague in the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu rolled from one trouble to the other. What was amiss?

There were reports that the security agencies were pressing hard. Not just against him, but against his wife too. PDP aficionados were appalled. It, however, took the wisdom of Chief Olisa Metuh to caution critics that it was a lonely road out there when the institutions of the state come against you.

In a posting on his facebook page, early August, the erstwhile spokesman of the PDP said:

“Indeed it is a difficult path to tread when you envisage that they might even deny you access to prescribed medical treatments. But then, you are Godswill Akpabio, the uncommon governor. If lesser mortals have survived, how much more the ‘lion of the south’. I still do not believe….

“No matter what happens, I plead with our members to remember the Akpabio that contributed so much to the growth and image of our party. We do not have the culture of denigrating our members when they choose to exercise their democratic right of freedom of association.

“If Akpabio leaves, I do not think he can criticize our party, he will find it difficult and will need more than a lifetime to explain and/or justify such a decision.

“In the meantime, Please do join me to pray for my friend and brother, Senator Godswill Akpabio to make the right decision in this circumstance.”

In any case, news of Akpabio’s defection was confirmed by President Buhari’s special assistant on prosecutions, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, who announced it on facebook. He also told the online newspaper, Premium Times that Akpabio would be received into the APC the following week.

What role the special assistant on prosecutions had to do with the defection is not known, but it has not ceased to amaze spectations about what has been dubbed as uncommon developments in Akwa Ibom.

 

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