By Otobong Sampson
These aren’t the best of times for Godswill Akpabio. If his immediate comeback to relevance after he was trounced in the last election is a best of time, his current travails as federal minister have made it the worst of times too.
In ‘The Trials of Apollo’, a Rick Riordan classic, an angry Zeus in punishing his defiant son – Apollo – stripped him of the status of a god. He is thrown down from Olympus to the earth and made to become human. Weary and befuddled, Apollo who now takes on the human name of Lester, a gawky teenager finds himself in New York. His immortal power now gone, the four thousand year old god has to find a way to adapt in a modern but strange world until he is able to win back Zeus’s heart. Winning back his father’s favour is the only way Apollo would regain his rightful place on Mount Olympus and to have this, he has to restore several oracles that have gone dark.
But then, the formerly glorious Apollo has many enemies – mortals, monsters and even gods – who desire to see the former Olympian go down in permanent destruction.
The demystification of phenomenon Akpabio began effectively when his return bid to the senate was audaciously resisted by his former subalterns including incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom. If there was a doubt to that, his remarkable failure to have the tribunal and Appeal Court upturn that loss firmed the assumption that he has been subdued and reduced to an impotent General.
Everyone now fancies a battle with him. They think he is very beatable. They also think his mojos are gone. Assumptions aren’t necessarily facts but if anything is fact, it is that the old Akpabio and the new Akpabio are two different, completely contrasting personalities. While the former man as governor – in the worship of his fawners – was an ’emerging tiger’, the minister appears to be a terrified cub – and goes about like a battle weary Turk.
A certain peacockish swagger for which the man is affectionately known for is missing. This is unusual. Akpabio is never one to run his shows like a Puritan spinster in nudists’ colony. In his present office, he has been shuffling awkwardly through his abstruse actions – turning his pages forward and back, his words frequently interrupted by bouts of daring dissensions. Nobody could defy the other Akpabio. Not his words or his actions. Anybody who tried to, became irrelevant. Today, everyone enjoys a brawl with him because he is thought of as a man with faded relevance.
The funk oozing from the corner of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission which Mr. Akpabio watches over as supervising minister and the consequent furore is threatening to dim further whatever political brightness remains of him. But until facts are established, the minister is clean. So says the law. This is where the problem is: why should anyone oppose senate’s probe of the IMC?
News sources report that the IMC allegedly spent N40billion in three months. Vanguard online in its story published on April 25, 2020, reported that the commission spent a whooping N5.4billion on the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Covid 19 sensitization campaign contract in the nine states of the region.
For a man who assumed office proclaiming the cleaning up of piles of mess in the commission and preaching transparency – with forensic auditing of previous regimes on his card, this is a damning allegation.
It’s only been about a year since he left the National Assembly as a member of the senate. That he is having a bitter battle with the same institution where he loomed large barely 12 months ago suggests he has lost mastery of the game. A game which he was so adept at. The minister should have known that those responsible for the accumulative rots in the NDDC and its blatant rape weren’t going to run away from the scene simply because he is Godswill Akpabio. Not when they think he’s got an underbelly that is unclean too.
Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi, Chairman Senate Committee on NDDC has been talking tough, making ‘revelations’ and brandishing documents in the media. The minister must be allowed a fair hearing on the matter to prove he’s been upright in his dealings. Some people say he is. The senate on May 5, 2020, constituted a six-member adhoc committee to probe the accusations. This is the proper process to follow. It is an opportunity for Mr. Akpabio to put to shame his traducers and stick his tail in their mouths.
It is not enough to scream transparency. It is time to throw open all chapters of the NDDC book, not selected pages. The minister wants the interventionist agency to be unshackled. He has our full support. The people of the region have longed for such a time. The former senator and his IMC must not then behave as if the Statute book forbids mutual probe happening simultaneously; else, they would be trying to enter paradise fastened to the crosses of unbelievers.
Considered the most prestigious politician to have emerged from the Niger Delta region in recent times in its chequered history, he is at risk of being never despised so much as now. In the same region, he is finding himself unloved. The music should be sounding strange and unfamiliar to him as night threatens to fall with a vengeance.
Will he pull this one off and sustain the momentum in self reinvention following his decimation at the 2019 poll?
In my April 1, 2019 opinion titled ‘Not To Bury Nor Exhume Akpabio’, I had remarked: ‘records show the man is gifted in maneuvering his way through the web of complexities… he is a smart schemer, disapproving shrewd and sometimes, pleasantly ruthless’.