By Muyiwa Olayinka
Former Governor Godswill Akpabio is a successful Nigerian politician. He has been lucky since he started from a commissioner to governor and now senator of federal republic of Nigeria.
Akpabio came from the private sector before he joined politics.
He graduated from the University of Calabar, Cross River state where he obtained a degree in law. At the University, his charisma endeared him to the students and he was elected the speaker of the student’s Parliament. After graduating from the university, he was briefly a teacher and later an associate partner in a private law firm.
Akpabio also worked in the Nigerian telecommunications and rose to become the Managing Director of EMIS Telecoms company.
In 2002, he was appointed the honorable commissioner for Petroleum and natural resources by the then Governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah.
Akwa Ibom state pitches its tent with the ruling party of.Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the return of democracy in 1999. Between 2002 and 2006, he served in three key ministries.
Towards the tail end of the tenure of Governor Attah, there were many aspirants jostling for the coveted seat of the Governor. Among them is Godswill Akpabio. Attah was favorably disposed to his son in law and the then Commissioner for Health, Dr Bob Ekarika, among those that were vying for the seat
Obong Attah was eyeing the Presidency after the completion of his two term in 2007.The odds were stacked against Akpabio, but he emerged victorious at the primary by defeating 57 other contenders on the platform of PDP.
His campaign with the slogan ‘let God’s will be done’, received mass appeal among Ibomites and was elected Governor in 2007.
Akpabio’s tenure in office witnessed massive infrastructural developments in the state. Uyo the state capital city that was rural in nature witnessed tremendous developments both in commercial activities and industrial developments.
Akpabio,became a poster boy of PDP and a template for success in governance. He had no problem being re elected for second term in office in 2011.
In 2013, he was elected Chairman of the newly formed PDP Governors Forum. In 2015, he contested and won the Akwa Ibom North west (Ikot Ekpene) senatorial seat
Unfortunately his party PDP performed woefully loosing the Presidency and majority in the 2015 general election to APC. This is the first time PDP will loose election after 16 years in power.
He was subsequently elected the senate minority leader of the 8th National Assembly.
His recent defection to the ruling party APC caught many politicians and political actors off guard. It became a rude shock simply because Akpabio faithfully served PDP especially when the party was going through difficult times. They successfully weathered the storm and PDP came out stronger.
The Politics of Akpabio’s defection to APC
My defection to the ruling party APC was done to link the state to the centre, says Akpabio
Akpabio met with President Buhari in London who was on vacation and also met with the National leader of APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu in Nigeria to perfect his defection. The reason giving for his defection is not convincing enough because it is generally believed he maintains a smooth relationship with his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The weekend preceding his meeting with Buhari, the governor and the state’s executive committee of PDP met and prevailed on him to reconsider his position
Akpabio complained and displeased about Governor Udom Emmanuel’s abandonment of most of his legacy projects, and sidelining his senatorial district in terms of projects.
He specifically mentioned the parlous state of Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene, his senatorial district. Political analysts question the propriety of building such a huge hotel in Ikot Ekpene without considering the economic and commercial value to the state.
He once hinted at a mega rally at his senatorial district to endorse him and the Governor for second term that a political party is just a vehicle for winning elections, and that whichever party he decides to pitch his tent in the 2019 elections, he will emerge a winner to continue to deliver dividends of democracy.
His defection was not a surprise to his colleague at the senate because, Akpabio had not been active in defending the position of the party at the National Assembly as he used to do. Akpabio an intelligent, vocal and a dynamic politician had lost his sagacity and verve almost three months to the public declaration. The party had been suspicious of him
As a result of this, chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus. met with Akpabio intimating him of how PDP will gain upper hand in the senate by the time aggrieved members of APC leave. The prediction came to pass when 14 senators joined PDP. Yet Akpabio was unperturbed by resigning as the senate minority leader before joining APC.
His defection on that Wednesday in the month of August saw four lawmakers consisting two from House of Representatives and two from Akwa Ibom state house of assembly joining him in APC. Also two commissioners for culture and tourism in one hand, and commissioner for Labour and productivity.
Governor Emmanuel reacted by sacking the secretary to the state government Sir Ekemba Umoren and the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Udo Ekpeyong. The two cabinet members are loyalists of Akpabio and belong to the Annang ethnic group in his senatorial district.
Many Ibomites did not believe the reasons given by the senator. They believed the former governor was coerced and forced to deliver Akwa Ibom to the ruling APC or face the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). He was being investigated for his stewardship, as a former governor over the alleged mis management of about N600 billion.
EFCC has become a political tool by the ruling government to whip political opponents into line. Shortly afterwards, EFCC froze the Akwa Ibom’s government account.
Governor Ortom of Benue state had a similar experience after decamping from his former party APC. Benue state account was temporarily frozen before it was reactivated
The case of Governor Fayose of Ekiti is still fresh in many minds, despite having immunity, his private accounts were frozen by EFCC .He had to get a court judgement for his accounts to be reinstated .
Implications of Akpabio’s defection
It is possible that his defection could be an asset or a liability to the ruling party APC
Akwa Ibom just like any south south state has been a stronghold of PDP since 1999. The expected movement of the senator was checkmated by the series of rallies held across the district by PDP to bolster support for Governor Emmanuel
This is why the mass exodus of politicians from PDP did not herald the senator into his new party.
Godswill Akpabio is a grass root mobiliser but will his movement to APC has any consequential effect on PDP as we move towards general elections in 2019?
Senator Akpabio’s political career may be jeopardized, just like Alhaji Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Borno state who nearly destroyed PDP with his political misadventure. He’s now a political outcast no worthy politician wants to associate with.
Will Godswill Akpabio’s chequered political career survive this odyssey?