Sunday, 10th December 2023

Akpabio’s fall versus feasibility of Emmanuel’s agenda

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
05 March 2019   |   4:26 am
There are rich political lessons to learn from Senator Godswill Akpabio’s defeat in the recent National Assembly election in Akwa Ibom State.

Godswill Akpabio

There are rich political lessons to learn from Senator Godswill Akpabio’s defeat in the recent National Assembly election in Akwa Ibom State. Given that the governorship and State Assembly election holds this Saturday, part of the moral is that there is strength in humility. Akpabio, who governed the state for eight years and proceeded to represent Akwa Ibom Northwest at the Senate for another four years, had all the while been a proud member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

However, at the build up to this year’s general election, Akpabio decided to wrestle with his chi (personal god) by defecting to All Progressives Congress (APC). Shortly after he left PDP, the senator relinquished his post as Senate Minority Leader, which was conferred on him by his membership of PDP.

But, what Akpabio failed to reflect in his new political odyssey was the fact that Akwa Ibom people hold the ace regarding who gets what in the democratic dispensation at play. Rather, the senator believed that since he played some roles in bringing about the PDP’s governorship under Udom Emmanuel, he could begin to win the friendship of his new allies by dismantling the PDP structure in Akwa Ibom.

What Akpabio failed to factor into his calculations was the power of focus deployed by Governor Emmanuel in the delivering on his mandate, which sort of endeared him (Emmanuel) to the people. Yet Akpabio decided to pledge his allegiance to APC and destroy PDP with the best of his tactics. Last Saturday, Akpabio did not only lose his second term ambition in the Senate as expected, but also demystified by the very PDP he set out to crush. By clinching all three Senate seats and 10 Federal Constituencies in the state, PDP displayed its strength of structure and the character of Governor Emmanuel’s four years of service to the people.

It could be concluded that the fall of Akpabio could be traced to PDP’s dominance of the state and Governor Emmanuel’s leadership style, all of which had little to do with Senator Godswill Akapbio. Having come to that juncture, is it possible for Akpabio to bring his bag of political mischief to bear on the governorship poll as revenge?
Next to that, how far could the alliance between Akpabio and his former estranged deputy and APC gubernatorial candidate, Nsima Ekere, go in defining the governance structure in Akwa Ibom?

Referendum on Emmanuel’s years
IN 2007, the people of Akwa Ibom insisted that God’s will must be done in the state as they resisted the attempt by one of the founding fathers of the state, Obong Victor Attah, to install his brother-in-law as his successor at the expense of his then commissioner for works, Akpabio. This time around, history is about to repeat itself, as Akpabio swears to replace Governor Emmanuel with Ekere. But the reality on ground is that the 2019 gubernatorial poll would be a referendum on the last four years.

Perhaps in recognition of that fact, Governor Emmanuel has been able to carve a separate niche for himself away from Akpabio by not only distancing himself from the former governor’s style, but also embarking on projects that impact on the lives of the people. Across the three Senatorial Districts, the people feel government presence such that when the opposition introduced violence, it was the masses that rose against it in defiance. It is this type of solidarity and native patriotism that would play out on Saturday.

Unless the people are scared away from the polling units, it is not likely therefore that PDP would be upstaged by the Akpabio-Ekere alliance. That strategy could be what informs plans by the opposition to levy violence on the election environment. If the violence that precipitated cancellation succeeded in reducing PDP’s vote tally in the presidential election, there is nothing to support the fact that it could be replicated in an election that directly involves Akwa Ibom people contesting as lawmakers and governor. Moreover, the fact that the three Senators-elect and Reps-elect have secured their tickets is an added spur, as they would naturally join forces to protect the state from invaders.

Spread of amenities
One area where Governor Emmanuel differs from Akpabio is in the spread and integrity of developmental amenities. It is generally believed in Akwa Ibom that as governor, Senator Akpabio concentrated his projects and developmental amenities in Ikot Ekpene, which is his immediate Senatorial District.But Governor Emmanuel overlooked such narrowness and even accommodated Ikot Ekpene in the allotment of his programmes and projects, especially when natives disclosed how the immediate past governor (Akpabio) concentrated projects in his Ukana hometown of Essien Udim local council and Abak, Ikot Ekpene local council.

Come Saturday, Governor Emmanuel would most likely reap from his political magnanimity, especially in completing some bogus projects initiated by Akpabio and commissioned in their uncompleted stages. Some of these projects include Four-Point by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene, Rice Mill and Fertilizer blending factory in Abak.
The incumbent has also completed work on the controversial Uyo-Ikot Ekpene dual carriageway that Akpabio’s administration abandoned. Similar continuity was displayed in the health sector, where abandoned General Hospitals were rehabilitated and equipped. That the repertoire of these developmental improvements would bring Governor Emmanuel massive returns by way of votes is a given, particularly as some opposition political parties plan to rally round Emmanuel at the poll.

Most Akwa Ibom voters that witnessed the violence engineered by APC in the last election seem disposed to re-electing Emmanuel despite intimidation and gangups to preserve the prevailing climate of peace in the state.While he campaigned, the governor kept his message to the achievements recorded by his administration in the past four years, instead of dissipating energy in responding to threats and imprecations thrown his way by his predecessor. Apart from allowing Akpabio sound hollow, the strategy rather brought attention to the unspoken manner the governor piloted the affairs of government in contrast to Akpabio’s rambunctious and loud displays while in office.

“The governor was just being modest or humble about his achievements,” has become a common refrain among officials of Akwa Ibom government. The response is also to underscore the point that Governor Emmanuel has broken the jinx in the state whereby, during previous elections, aggrieved communities became hostile to governorship candidates campaigning for re-election on the grounds of marginalization and nepotism.

The convoys of two past Akwa Ibom governors were stoned and even chased away by angry youths during their re-election campaigns, particularly in the Oro axis of Eket Senatorial District as a result of neglect and failure to fulfill campaign promises.Explaining the rationale for the governor’s even spread of amenities, the state commissioner for works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, told journalists that the governor adopted a smart costing plan to tackle many road projects in the different parts of the state based on competitive bidding. The commissioner said some of the roads, spanning Ikot Ekpe, Eket and Uyo Senatorial zone, include Obtome-Arochukwu road, Awa-Ikot Edem-ikot Edem, 10 kilometres Udung Uko road, Ring road II in Uyo,

He said: “If you go to Akwa Ibom State University, Obio Akpa campus, 6.4 kilometres, including those linking communities are ready for commissioning. Oron Phase 2 is also on course notwithstanding the financial setbacks. By end of April, Etebi Enwang road will be ready. In Mkpat Enin and Oruk Anam LGAs we have roads ready for commissioning.”

In relating the achievements to the 2019 poll, Inyang-Eyen contended that not even the outcome of the presidential election could affect the result of Akwa Ibom governorship polls in the state.His words: “Akwa Ibom people stand with governor Udom Emmanuel. The choices before Akwa Ibom people are very clear and by March 9, they will speak very loud. That is why there are fears in the camp of the APC.”

A prominent member of Akwa Ibom APC confided in The Guardian that even though most of them voted President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election, the consensus of opinion in the state is for Governor Emmanuel to continue so that the peace being currently enoyed in the state would continue.He said: “We are not disposed to voting for our governorship candidate because that would not augur well with our state. The fact is that we do not trust Nsima (Ekere) Umana Umana and Akpabio to sustain peace and security of Akwa Ibom State. Election without bloodshed is a major step towards deepening our democracy in Akwa Ibom State and entrenching a new political culture different from what was obtainable in the recent past.”

The immediate past Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Ekere, is being held in suspicion not only regarding his ability to deliver in the area of peace and security but also the desperation he has demonstrated in his quest to be governor despite the zoning arrangement. APC is also accused of jettisoning the state’s slot midway to contest the governorship without minding that the incumbent is doing well. Ekere’s stint at NDDC is also being factored into the consideration by the electorate on who to vote for on Saturday.

To a large extent, the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State seems to have taken a new dimension following recent boasts by Senator Akpabio to deal with the incumbent. This claim has not only energized the people, but also made the governorship acquire the reputation of a last battle to silence a loquacious politician who has chosen to challenge the masses.