…AKWA IBOM: AKPABIO’S DEFFECTION, UDOM’S BOUNCE
Senator James John Akpanudoedehe represented the Uyo Senatorial District at the onset of the Fourth Republic and subsequently served as minister of state, FCT, and was the governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the 2011 governorship election. In this interview he speaks on the defection of Senator Akpabio and how the two of them are reconciling their past differences.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
How did you receive news of Senator Akpabio’s defection to your party?
Incidentally, we had heard about it in the grapevine for many months as there were a lot of insinuations and that made us to prepare our minds before it happened. It was very good for the party. At least, the PDP has lost a major political figure as far as Akwa Ibom is concerned. You cannot underestimate a former governor.
You were his campaign manager in 2007 and subsequently fell out with him leading to the bloody election of 2011 following which you were charged for murder and all that. So, given this background how did you receive him?
What really helped me was my belief in Christ Jesus and knowing that if I don’t forgive him, my sins would not be forgiven me. It is a principle in Christianity. I don’t think I had any option as my options were limited as my interest is salvation and the interest of the people of Akwa Ibom State.
How did you receive him?
Don’t forget, it is like a relationship of brothers, you may quarrel but still remember old fraternities, laughter and all that. We were very close. By interacting with him and discussing those things that were done, some, he said he didn’t know about and coming together I have given him information on what really happened, how many lives we lost and we now examined those things from the perspectives of what really happened and we talked about it and how do we heal those wounds. Our intention would be to build a government where we can compensate those families so that those things don’t repeat themselves.
You discussed all that?
Yes we did and the unity of our various tribes. If I am selfish and I don’t forgive him, what of the fact that I am married from Akpabio’s tribe?
We have achieved a lot of political freedom and independence and if we don’t come together the battle line would be for eternity which will not really potray my Christianity in good light.
Eket is having its first shot in office of governor, why would you not allow the senatorial zone to have a second shot like the other senatorial zones?
Because I am not in the PDP. If you are going to take power from the PDP you have to use your best strategy. Is that the best strategy for APC? When Nyesom Wike wanted to take power in Rivers State he did not go with the strategy of allowing the riverine to produce Amaechi’s successor which should have been the option, but he replaced an Ikwere man!
If you insist on Eket Senatorial District, then why are we in APC? All of us should have moved to the PDP where there is zoning. A large chunk of the youths are unemployed, so has zoning put food on peoples table? If zoning were real, why didn’t you give it to an Oron man? Oron has a stake in the zone, but why an Ibibio man in Eket Senatorial Zone? If you repeat another Ibibio man in that senatorial zone for example; and the argument you are bringing is that I am going to do one term and Udom has finished one term, if you were from my senatorial district, Uyo, which is the vote basket of Akwa Ibom who would you believe? Udom that has one term or the one that is just entering?
Automatically, if I accept that kind of thing that means that I don’t love my party that my loyalty is not to my party.
Thanks to the wisdom of the caucus in Akwa Ibom they have removed the issue of zoning; in the wisdom of the caucus we have removed that and we are using the strategy that we can use to win the election, let the popular man win the ticket. We are in opposition in Akwa Ibom, we cannot use our enemy’s strategy to go into the election.
What of your assesement of three and half years of the present administration?
I see poverty.
Compared to the preceding eight years?
I see a lot of development of deviance in behaviour because you see a lot of youths who were not tested in occupation get into wealth and after a while they don’t see the wealth.
The APC is celebrating Akpabio but you criticised him for eight years….
….No we welcome Akpabio. We are not celebrating him because he was not a governor of APC.
What advantage does he bring to your party?
His people believe in him.
Who are his people?
Where he comes from. You cannot ignore the fact that Akpabio was a former governor of the state and can command some follwership and we must respect that. It would be foolish on our part if we don’t welcome him and celebrate him as you say. You cannot ignore that fact.
I don’t have any inferiority complex so, I say the truth as it is. Is Akpabio strong? Yes! My joining with Akpabio if both of us are sincere, then Udom is as good as gone.
Because we are the biggest forces in Akwa Ibom politics.
Who do you consider as your strongest challenger for the APC ticket?
I don’t see anybody. I don’t see anybody.
Have you not heard of Nsima Ekere?
Until he resigns and comes out I will see him as a rival, but for now it is speculation.
What do you have for Akwa Ibom.
Our people do not have entrepreneurial skills as others. You will see an Ibo man coming to Uyo and he takes over and becomes an institution. We have a lot of unemployment and many have turned into beggars.
There is a deficit in our education system, there is a division between major ethnic groups that needs to be bridged. We will need to continue to develop infrastructure, but human beings also need to be developed. Our fishing business has been taken over because of lack of investment. If you buy crayfish in Lagos it is cheaper than what you would buy here. We have everything in abundance but we are living in poverty, so we need a social engineering to change the mentality of our people.
What are your options if you don’t win this ticket?
If they rig me out, they will have themselves to blame but that doesn’t me I will leave my party for the PDP.
Even if the governor approaches you?
Yes, he knows that I have character and I am consistent. I follow one person at a time and I have political relationship with Asiwaju Tinubu until when he finds me not worthy to be his friend then I will go somewhere else.
Since Akpabio joined your party a number of people have left your party, why?
Those were the people who came in 2015, not the original APC founders. We came into APC with a lot of people from ACN, CPC, ANPP. Cross check your facts the people who came in 2015, about 75% of them have gone back to PDP.
Why I am so happy with Akpabio coming is that it is a dream come true that Akpabio can hold broom. All of those people when I brought Buhari here they were abusing me. But when I see them eulogising Buhari, it makes me proud, at least they have seen my vision.