Saturday, July 20, 2024


By N. T. A. Efo
It is sad but it is becoming real that Senator Godswill Akpabio is being targeted, in the negative, by men in, around and about the corridors of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s power house.
It is sad because no one expected that if it were to ever happen, it would be this soon. It is sad because Governor Udom Emmanuel was purely Senator Akpabio’s creation. Well, in order not to sound ridiculous and outright blasphemous, you could say he was first of all, God’s creation, and then later, God used Akpabio to re-create him politically. I keep reminding us that if Governor Udom Emmanuel were not God’s plan for Akwa Ibom State in 2015, a little crack could not have occurred in the Umana Umana endorsement plan (that is,when he was still in the Peoples’ Democratic Party,PDP, and was still Secretary to the State Government, SSG). Yet, a major crack occurred. Only God could have made that to happen. After all, I keep repeating, Umana was more of a soulmate to Akpabio than Udom was even a friend to him. They may have known themselves but I can say they were never as close as Umana was to him. People still talk about an Udom coming to seal up openings by Akpabio, whatever that means. Some others believe an Umana seal could still have been okay, just like the seal of any of the other aspirants in the race. But God only approved an Udom seal. So, Umana gave way to Udom, first as SSG and then as Governor-endorsed.
The 22 other aspirants who bought the nomination forms and became G-22, rather than work out their salvation, believed, till the last minute, that the then Governor Akpabio was going to call them and tell Udom to step down for any of them. The only aggressive aspirants in the PDP then, Umana and Senator Bassey Albert, never participated in the primaries. So, somehow, spiritually and physically, the G-22 had given the right to choose a candidate for the PDP to the then Governor.
In endorsing Udom, Akpabio did not consider any of them. He followed his mind. He went all out to market Udom, used all means available to politics-finances, contacts, lobby- to get him elected. At the primaries, I did not hear of an Akpabio put a gun to the head of anybody to vote Udom. The few brave Ibeno people who voted Rt Hon. Okpolupm Etteh were probably the only brave opposition to the Udom endorsement in the Stadium that day because it was as if you will die if you voted any other person no matter what your conscience dictated to you. And contrary to that belief, none of them has died till this moment. Meaning, it was not true that Akpabio intended to kill or killed anybody who did not vote Udom. Others accepted the then Governor’s endorsement of Udom and played along. Even in the general elections, people who allegedly participated in any form of electoral malpractice or manipulation of results,as alleged by the opposition, from the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC, to security agencies, to individuals at the different polling units, most of them highly educated and publicly acclaimed as honourable men, were not forced to do so. If they did it as the opposition alleged, they did it to the dictates of their consciences, whether good or bad.
All that is in the past though, but very necessary for this discourse. Now, Governor Udom Emmanuel is Governor, truly one, after the Supreme Court judgment. He has taken full charge. His aides have taken full positions. Nobody is shaking again. As they say in politics, there is no shaking.
It is, however, real that Senator Akpabio is being shaken. There is a deliberate and calculated attempt to see his back through the door of the power scheme in the state. First, a deliberate media campaign has started, with the aim to ginger the dropping of Commissioners and other appointees alleged to be close and loyal to him, from Udom’s cabinet. The campaigners mention the SSG, Etekamba Umoren; Emmanuel Enoidem; Etido Inyang; Aniekan Umanah; Victor Antai; iniobong Essien; Enobong Uwah as prominent ones amongst them. Aides mentioned include Captain Iniobong Ekong and most of the last batch of what they call “Awaiting negative Supreme Court judgment” aides. Some people close to the Governor believe that with them in, their activities can never be separated from Akpabio’s. Or that Akpabio will be privy to all secrets of government. Or that Udom will not make a name for himself. Or that they will work hard to frustrate Udom so that Akpabio keeps his title of best Governor ever, since the creation of the state. Or the control of party structure against a second term or succession plan will be hard for Udom. Or that the Ibibio and Eket Senatorial District that are supposed to enjoy the full benefit of Udom’s governorship will be shortchanged. And, several other reasons, some rather unprintable.
The second strategy I heard is to rubbish Akpabio’s projects in the media. Some close associates of Governor Udom, I hear will bankroll this. The finality will be to send petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the states of these projects. This is to make those behind the projects, especially past Commissioners, who are still with Udom to give way for investigation. Several other strategies, some also rather unprintable.
A confirmation of all these came in a recent write up by an Udom media aide, Pat Reuben, who wrote that it was necessary and inevitable for Commissioners who served with Akpabio to leave Governor Udom’s cabinet.He even went to the ridiculous extent of dubbing then non-performers and failures who could not complete projects like Ibaka deep sea port,Tropicana et ce tera.
Some others write that the Senator is trying to unseat the People’s Speaker Onofiok Luke, a highly political impossibility since I know the Senator to be a deep political strategist and would not enter a war that he can’t win.
In politics, they say all is fair; so far it helps to maintain the power base of those in power. To be candid, Akpabio is a player in the corridors of power and should, if he has not given a thought to it before now, start to consider that these things, real or imaginary, could be true. Some even say “Kpa nte ekenamde eno mme Gentile…” meaning, he may have also in his early days, devised strategies to crack former Governor Victor Attah’s incursion into the power base of his government. Obviously, but the circumstances I believe are so very different. In Attah’s case, it was necessary. This was a situation where you were not supported by him at all and you entered into office to face a looming war that lots and lots of reconciliatory moves could not quell. So, what do you do? You fight back. Even Attah would have fought back. In this case, there was no war. There is no war. So, to manufacture a war is the most uncivilized political thing to do. Many mentioned that Governor Nyesom Wike could easily have won a rerun if any had come up because of the attitude he put up when he came in. They say he asked all contractors under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s administration to go back to site, reviewed their contracts and paid them. In Akwa Ibom State, there was no war. Yet, I hear no contractor under Akpabio’s administration has been paid monies owed them. Some have been forced to leave town. Many believe it is to weaken his support base and set up a new regime of contractors loyal to Governor Udom. Is that not a way of creating undue tension? If there is no money as we are made to believe, and yet still, new contractors are working and are being paid, is it not contradictory.
I believe Governor Udom is sensible enough to know that he does not need a war at the moment. He should also know that he needs the Senate Minority Leader now more than ever, especially because in the PDP, he is a notable voice and a figure that has effective contacts that can help stabilize him politically. The Governor should know that if an Akpabio (or Abuja) front is formed, whether with the Senator’s support or not- some people close to him, and who feel they were used and dumped for Governor Udom to emerge are battle ready- he will face a serious distraction that will make all his plans to be dead on arrival. The Governor should know that most of those so called Akpabio loyalists whom people want out are hard workers and got close to Akpabio through dint of hardwork only. I wish the Governor could notice that it is only the Akpabio clan of appointees, who gets up and run around to fix things at government functions to make it succeed while the new clan of appointees take seats of prominence, cross their legs and announce their arrivals. The Akpabio clan members who do this do it because they are used to it, not as eye service to the Governor but because a standard of performance has been set that needs to be maintained. For Udom’s government, it is a plus to have them. I do not believe anybody is indispensable though. In letting them go, it should be that they are not impacting on the administration or adding any value to it or have been proven to be disloyal to the Governor.
Governor Udom is different in style to his predecessor and it should not be a tough thing for his style to define him. This is very important. Some of us were sad at first that Governor Udom was trying to talk like Senator Akpabio which was not necessary since no two persons can be the same. Recently though, especially in the speech he made at the Thanksgiving Service and 10th Marriage Anniversary of the State House of Assembly Deputy Chief Whip, Otuekong Nse Essien, I saw a change and I pray the change stays for life. His swag should also be different and this will create a name for him, whether there was, there is and there ever will be an Akpabio name to compete with. Is the Governor not called Mr. Industrialization? Akpabio was never Mr. Industrialization but Mr Infrastructure. So, there is no basis for a conflict. Governor Udom should concentrate on industrializing the state. He should thank God that politician switch loyalty like chameleons change colour. He will have several politicians, especially in this austere times, coming to pledge loyalty to him, genuinely though. But he should guard against those who come to tell him how Akpabio is planning to deal with him in Abuja. Such plans are always not there.
Senator Akpabio already has an image cut out for him. He does not need a nose around government to keep that image afloat. The only worry people have is that a few relations of his may not know things have changed and might still want to be in control. I doubt that the Senator will support them on this. It is then in the power of the Governor to deal with such people without bringing in a Senator Akpabio into it. If they were useful in coordinating the political class towards his emergence like Sir Emem Akpabio did or coordinating the women like former First Lady Unoma Akpabio did, the Governor should find a way to compensate them without their going all out to ask for their political due. In such circumstance, the Governor should know that people are daily pressurizing them for handouts, appointments, assistance, contracts, scholarships and amenities to their communities based on their perceived contribution to the making of the Governor. Akwa Ibom Consolidated Alliance (ACA) people have greater access to Sir Emem Akpabio than they have to the Governor, the same way Women in Politics have to Mrs. Unoma Akpabio than they have to First Lady Martha Udom Emmanuel.
For Governor Udom’s kitchen cabinet Commissioners, Akan Okon and Ephraim Inyang in particular, who are putting up political structures to succeed him, they should be told there is still time. A lot of people believe the duo is solidly behind some of the “create a fresh cabal” moves. For Akan Okon, people believe he is eyeing the Governorship after eight years of Udom. For Ephraim Inyang, many say he is eyeing the Governorship since Udom had, according to some close sources, said he is not interested in a second term. Whatever it is, since I was not there, they should take it easy. Some even mention Ufot Ebong. Hard to believe since he is believed to be an Akpabio ‘brought up’ and is not supposed to bite the fingers that fed him.
Meanwhile, people believe the three of them will not mind the creation of the office of the Chief of Staff for them. And the purpose is to use that office to checkmate the office of the SSG and make Commissioners (especially the Akpabio clan members) pass through them. No problems. It is politics and in politics, interests drive actions. But heating up the polity in the name of creating a new face is not necessary.
There is nothing to fear in Senator Akpabio. I believe if there is anybody who knows the politics of compromise and that of give-and-take, it is Senator Akpabio. And players in the new government had better look at him that way, for the sake of their immediate future.
Efo is an Uyo based media practitioner


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