Until Tuesday August 7, Obong Godswill Akpabio, a first-timer, was the Minority Leader of the Senate. Neither his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nor his colleagues in the same political family had forced him to relinquish his exalted position. Sen Akpabio was never under political pressure: either from the PDP or his successor-governor, Emmanuel Udom, who incidentally is his political god-son. He enjoyed all the political latitude, leeway and privileges accorded to him as the Senate Minority Leader and PDP leader in the Senate, former PDP governor and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When the news broke out that Akpabio was making clandestine moves to defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC), many Nigerians dismissed it with a wave of hand. Nothing ever could have suggested such political move by someone whose sudden rise in the national political radar is wholly attributable to the PDP. Akpabio’s strong disposition and involvement in wooing APC governors, senators, Reps and other prominent politicians that recently decamped to PDP never portrayed him as a politician on transit. Instead, his audacity and sagacity rather conferred some measure of confidence and security to the defectors, including the embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki, whom his former party, the APC, plots to unseat at all cost.
But the shocking reality has started staring at our faces. Akpabio has abandoned his once beautiful home as he journeys to an unfamiliar and unknown destination. Indeed, Akpabio, the shepherd, has dismantled his conscience, thus abandoning his sheep in the wilderness to worship an unknown god. He has dumped Sen Bukola Saraki, who had banked on his strong voice and legislative sagacity to retain his seat as President of the Senate after decamping to PDP. How can Akpabio comfortably operate in the Senate by opposing the positions and submissions of Sen Dino Melaye, Sen Enyinnaya Abaribe, Sen Ben Bruce and the Senate president himself? What exactly are the problems with Akpabio? What exactly is the former governor of Akwa Ibom searching for at this point in time? How did they convince and railroaded Akpabio into taking this controversial step?
Granted that Akpabio, as a typical Nigerian politician enjoys the constitutional provision of freedom of association and political mobility, as some may describe it, I will somehow isolate his case based on some prevailing but moral reasons. Recall that Akpabio was appointed a commissioner by his erstwhile political godfather and former PDP governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah, between 1999 and 2007. As providence would have it, Attah’s poorly scripted move to foist his son-in-law on the people of Akwa Ibom as his successor was fiercely and vehemently resisted by his party-men. As the political war raged, a coalition of PDP leaders and top government officials adopted and delivered Godswill Akpabio as the party’s governorship candidate, against the wishes and aspirations of the outgoing governor. The opposition mounted against the succession agenda of the former governor was all that Akpabio needed to emerge the 2007 PDP governorship candidate and, subsequently, Governor of Akwa Ibom State. He governed the state for eight uninterrupted years and successfully crowned himself the godfather of Akwa Ibom politics, using instruments of power provided by the PDP.
It is also on record that Akpabio was deeply involved in the planning of the 2015 election, which PDP woefully lost to the APC by not only losing the centre but many states earlier controlled by the umbrella party. Akpabio didn’t just rank as one of the ‘super’ PDP governors, but a top-notch that coordinated many activities that heralded ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s poor and lousy preparations for the 2015 presidential election. Though Jonathan and some others in PDP lost, Akpabio and Akwa Ibom PDP recorded a total victory. This also accounts for reasons why Akpabio deployed enormous wealth and goodwill within the party to procure the Minority Leader position, which ought to have been occupied by a ranking senator.
Suffice to say that Akpabio was before his resignation as Senate Minority Leader involved in all crucial activities of the PDP in the Senate. During the PDP turbulence days, he was never sidelined as important decisions were being taken by the national leadership, beginning from the Sen Ahmed Markafi-led caretaker committee to the current Chief Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC).
Back to his home state, Akwa Ibom, the governor, Elder Udom Emmanuel, had taken time to explain what many had hitherto termed frosty relationship between the duo. Going by the account of the governor, Akpabio is accorded due privileges and recognition deserving of a former governor and political leader in the state. Udom also disclosed actions taken by his administration to shield Akpabio from EFCC’s further investigation with regards to how the state funds were expended during his tenure. There is no gainsaying that Akpabio was adored, respected and dignified by the PDP and Governor Emmanuel.
Today, the entire story has changed. Akpabio has found new friends and leaders in APC. The Akwa Ibom senator was recently flown in a presidential jet and chauffeur-driven to see President Muhammadu Buhari in London, and later met with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Abuja before decamping to the APC. The leaders of the PDP are bewildered and shocked to the marrow that their own Akpabio has suddenly turned to a Judas. Painful as it is, while meeting with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, Bola Tinubu and President Buhari, Akpabio armed them with the confidentialities and secrets of the PDP at his disposal. As Judas, he empowered his new political allies with possible strategies that could be deployed to dethrone PDP in Akwa Ibom and ensure that the party doesn’t resurrect at the centre by 2019.
While watching Akpabio’s brief interview on Channels Television shortly after he was received by APC leaders, one thing struck my mind: What actually was that? Akpabio’s defection to APC is obviously driven by greed and unquenchable appetite for power. As a matter of fact, he has missed the presidential dining table for too long. Remember that the Ikot-Ekpene-born born senator was a regular face at Aso Rock: he dined and wined with ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. Prior to 2015 elections, Akpabio wielded enormous influence and was always in the frontline, dictating how things will go. He railroaded and mis-packaged the former president to the political abyss and disgraceful defeat.
Today, Akpabio has dumped the PDP and jumped into the APC boat, believing that his membership of the broom party will again accord him the opportunity of returning to Aso Rock dining table. Having been promised heaven on earth, Akpabio may also be wishing to become either the Senate president or Senate leader.
But suffice to say again that Akpabio’s act of betrayal and breach of trust are second to none. It is disheartening that Akpabio, after wooing Senate President Saraki and other APC senators over to PDP, has suddenly turned to APC and those plotting to unseat Saraki. It is also appalling that Akpabio is eyeing to occupy Saraki’s seat. That is unimaginable. I don’t think that history and posterity will forgive Akpabio. I am confident that the people of Akwa Ibom will somehow teach him some political lessons in 2019.
We are all watching to see how Akpabio will unseat the governor – who is already seeking reelection – and deliver Akwa Ibom to his new party, the APC. We are also curious to see him on the floor of the Senate, as he prepares to navigate his loyalty and legislative support to APC. We are also waiting to see how he fights the President of the Senate and the entire PDP senators.
Oga Akpabio, we are eagerly waiting!
•Uzoukwa, a seasoned journalist and PR practitioner, is currently pursuing his Doctorate Degree on Mass Communication in Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri.