By Emmanuel Aziken
The emergence of at least four heavyweight political ministers out of the Niger Delta is indicative of President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to reshape the political configuration of the region in the interest of his All Progressives Congress, APC party sources have said.
High level sources in the party told Saturday Vanguard that the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP over the region would come to an end in 2023 as the likes of Senator Godswill Akpabio, Rotimi Amaechi, Festus Keyamo and Timipire Sylva fight to put the APC in the ascendancy in the region.
Remarkably, the heavyweight ministers from the region have been allocated strategic portfolios through which they are expected to generate the goodwill that will propel the party unto higher grounds in unfolding political contests in the region.
“With these men, some of them former governors PDP is not going to do what they used to do before, there is no way that we will not have a good share of the electoral spoils in the Niger Delta by 2023,” the high-level party source said.
Senator Akpabio who is the minister of Niger Delta speaking on Wednesday night at a post inauguration reception was his political combative self, vowing that the political philosophy of President Muhammadu Buhari would sooner than later be imprinted in his state.
“They stole my election, they thought they were doing me evil, but it has turned out for good,” the former two term PDP governor and PDP Senate leader said to a highly partisan crowd of APC faithful present at the inauguration party.
Among them were Nsima Ekere, the APC governorship candidate in the 2019 election and Akpabio’s one time friend turned enemy and lately, political friend, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe.
Like Akpabio, all three who spoke at the post-inauguration party spoke with fervency that the state would soon be taken over by the APC.
The momentum for the APC in nearby Bayelsa State is also bubbling after Sylva was removed from the forthcoming governorship contest in the state and appointed minister of state, petroleum.
The former governor is now being looked upon to yield his political structure in the state to the candidate to emerge ahead of the forthcoming governorship election.
Sources say that the appointment of Sylva as a minister has given fresh hope for the party given insinuations that had he not been appointed minister that he would have used his overwhelming control of the state structure of the party to make himself candidate and again fall to the PDP in the main election.
The growing confidence of the APC is, however, challenged by the PDP’s senior official in the region, Hon. Emmanuel Ogidi, the national vice-chairman of the PDP.
Ogidi in a chat with Saturday Vanguard punctured the confidence of the APC saying that the party’s heavyweight forces were around when the PDP routed them in the 2019 General Election.
“All these names you have mentioned were there during the elections but what did they do? Akpabio even lost his seat,” Ogidi said in a telephone interview.
“Amaechi couldn’t do anything even after getting somebody from another party. You know what is going in Rivers State, nobody can defeat Wike.”
Asserting that the APC ministers and chieftains lurk around Abuja only to draw false attention to themselves, he said:
“They make noise in Abuja but at home they cannot do anything.”
A chieftain of the APC from Akwa Ibom State and former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, however, saw the appointment of the heavyweight ministers as an indication of President Buhari’s recognition of the development challenges in the region and the determination to address such.
“The presence of these people is to show the sensitivity of the Federal Government to its development challenges in the Niger Delta. These people who were former governors and community mobilisers understand the development template of the Niger Delta.
“Bringing them into the Federal Executive Council is an expression of the Federal Government’s sensitivity to the yearnings of the people of Niger Delta when it comes to development,” he said.
“You can take it to the bank that this is going to be the first time that Niger Delta is going to experience a spiral and impacting development,” Eyiboh further submitted.
However, one political actor who surprisingly took the path of peace was Senator Akpabio’s political nemesis in the last Senate election.
Senator Chris Ekpeyong who defeated Akpabio in the Senate election in a letter of congratulation to the new minister of Niger Delta was conciliatory in victory.
In a letter of congratulations to Akpabio obtained by Saturday Vanguard, Senator Ekpeyong called for harmony between the new minister and political actors from Akwa Ibom to enhance the development of the state.
In the congratulatory letter dated, August 21, Ekpeyong wrote:
“Our Niger Delta is one area so neglected for decades despite her contribution to the nation’s resources base, the entire component states despite including our own are yet to maximally benefit from the national current drive for development.
“To this end as you channel development efforts to turn around the landscape of the Niger Delta region, I enjoin you to drive a more formidable synergic effort along with other elected and appointed representatives of Akwa Ibom State extraction to bring more infrastructural and human capacity development to Akwa Ibom State.”