By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Following his inauguration for second term, all eyes are on President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to take Nigeria to the ‘next level’.
In his first term, which ended on Wednesday, the President worked with a team of ministers to realize his change agenda but many Nigerians wouldn’t hesitate to say the team failed.
Very soon, Buhari is expected to assembly another cabinet to help him deliver on the new mandate and it is against this backdrop that the people of Akwa Ibom State are making suggestions on the kind of men and women expected in the new cabinet.
In a letter to the President last week, Elders from the state, seemingly from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and acting under a group called ‘Ibom Integrity & Servant-Leadership Culture Initiative’, cautioned against nominating Senator Goodwill Akpabio as minister from the state.
The letter titled, ‘Ministerial Appointment: Why Appointing Akpabio May be Counter Productive’, and signed by the Executive Vice President of the group, Dr. Asuquo Edidem Etim, is copied to the National Chairman of the party, Mr Adams Oshiomole, the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
A former governor of Akwa Ibom on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Akpabio defected to the APC shortly before the 2019 general elections during which he contested to return to the Senate but failed.
According to the group, Akwa Ibom boasts of men who fit into ministerial positions to help realize the ‘next level’ agenda of the APC government.
The letter read in part: “The poor showing of APC in Akwa Ibom in the last general elections was, to a large extent, as a result of the authoritarian tendencies of Senator Akpabio.
“Many had thought that his joining APC would bring fortunes to the party in the state, but rather his high-handed nature and disrespect for internal democracy in the party, and the will of the people to choose their leaders, became a raging storm that uprooted the recognized structures of the party right from the grassroots, as he imposed party leaders from the wards and even unit levels.
“This left many party men and women disgruntled. It sadly affected the chances of our governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere.
“Akwa Ibom has many personalities that can represent the state creditably at the federal executive just as our son, Mr. Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Economic Planning, has done in the past four years.
“In terms of contributions to the APC development in the state, we have party men, including Chief Umana Umana and Senator John Udoedehe, among others, who toiled day and night to keep the party afloat over time in the state.
“We are not unaware that those close to Akpabio have been boasting to those who cared to listen that the former governor has been nominated for a ministerial position.
“His aides cite his recent meeting with Mr Festus Keyamo and Mr Rotimi Amaechi to drive home their point.
“But watch the video clips of all the names he called Mr President few years back in the name of political campaign as governor. Find out also who drove your party, our party into the bush throughout his days as governor out of his dictatorial and intolerance disposition to the opposition.
“The same Akpabio only recently boldly told global television viewers that he ‘did not decamp from PDP but moved’.
“Finally, Mr. President, we implore you to be circumspect in considering him as minister in your government so that it doesn’t appear like you are insensitive to the people he has upstaged in Akwa Ibom APC.
“May God bless you as you grant our request and congratulations as you start a fresh term of office”.
You are on your own, APC Working Committee tells group
Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom State Working Committee of the APC, in a statement titled ‘Re: A/Ibom Elders Write PMB, Kick Against Akpabio’s Nomination and authored by its Publicity Secretary, Nkereuwem Enyongekere, stated that the group was not known to the party in the state.
The statement read: “The State Working Committee of the Akwa Ibom APC has observed, with utter dismay, the action of the said Elders’ group – Ibom Integrity & Servant Leadership Culture Initiative – parading and arrogating to itself the power of condemnation and recommendation.
“We hereby confirm that the self-acclaimed leader of the group, Dr. Asuquo Edidem Etim, is not an APC member and we have no such group in our APC Register in Akwa Ibom.
“Accordingly, the party warns such non-existent group claiming to be an affiliate of APC in the state to desist forthwith from such engagement, as there is no provision in the APC Constitution that grants such power (s) to anyone or group to dabble into the function which is solely the prerogative of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the APC in Akwa Ibom”.
Umana dissociates self
In a related development, one of the names which appeared as among those to be considered for ministerial appointment from the state, Umana Umana, distanced himself from the group.
A statement by his media aide, Iboro Otongara, stated that ministerial appointments were the prerogative of the President.