Lately, the speeches and attitudinal dispositions of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, are to say the least, statesmanlike. Ojo M. Maduekwe writes
Recently, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu was in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, for the groundbreaking ceremony of the state PDP secretariat. But the occasion turned out to be an embarrassment for Mu’azu, who had subtly refrained from giving any speech following those of the governor, Godswill Akpabio.
A source at the meeting quoted the governor as saying: “Even our God Almighty recognised that even the people he worked with, and called them angels, that one of them was going to betray him. And that was Lucifer. What did God do? He threw him out of heaven.
“Has he entered Heaven till today? Those who have betrayed the Governor will not enter Government House. It is very clear. You empower your children so that they will be a pride to you. You don’t empower them so that they come and betray you. That is the lot of the World.”
According to the source, what Akpabio however said that confounded Mu’azu speechless was this: “I go back into the Bible. I saw the story of Absalom and I said may God take away the spirit of Absalom from our midst. Who was Absalom? The son of David, the father trained him and empowered him as the would-be King of Israel.
“Because of impatience, Absalom wanted to take over before the age of 30. He wanted to kill King David. And the King said, leave him to his fate. Did it end well with Absalom? As a young man, he died, while his father continued. I am assuring the game changer and the president that those who want to take power through the backdoor will die.
“They will die! And the PDP will continue. In Akwa Ibom State, those who want to betray, who were supposed to be our political children, of course, they will end like Absalom. But if they changed their minds, then they will obtain favour from the sight of God,” Akpabio was quoted as saying.
However, for those conversant with political developments in the state, the person Akpabio was referring to as Absalom, was believed to be his former Commissioner for Finance, Mr Albert Akpan.
In 2007, Akpan was a banker when Akpabio took office. He was appointed commissioner for finance that year among the first set of cabinet members, and remained on the job till March this year. In the seven years, Akpan was alleged to have grown wealthy and ambitious.
The political atmosphere presently being witnessed in Akwa Ibom state is said to be akin to that of pre-2007 election year. Now and as it was then, Akpabio is a major actor and the issue remains the successor battle. With the table having turned, Akpabio is now playing the role of his predecessor, Victor Attah.
Attah first came into office as Akwa Ibom governor in 1999. In 2003 he won a second term which ended in 2007. Before stepping down, it was his desire to install a successor in the person of his son-in-law, Dr Bob Ekarika, who was a commissioner at the time.
But Akpabio who was also a Commissioner in Attah’s administration showed interest in becoming governor and was opposed by Attah. He however went ahead to meet stiff opposition during the PDP primary, but he won against all odds.
Political observers in the state are accusing Akpabio of trying to recreate the pre-2007 scenario. Like Akpabio in the days of Attah, Akpan used to be in Akpabio’s cabinet but had to step down due to the latter’s disapproval of his governorship ambition. Akpabio’s disapproval was alleged to have also come with repeated curses, threats and intimidation.
Another THISDAY source collaborated this. “Apart from pouring curses on political opponents, the governor is well known in the state for his capacity to swear publicly. At public events and church services, Akpabio would, in the midst of a speech, unexpectedly go down on his knees, raise his right hand up, and with the left hand holding the microphone, he would say: ‘If I have ever been a cult member, may God punish me, my children and generation.’ The recent one was the church service at Winners’ Chapel, Uyo, held to mark Democracy Day on May 29 this year.”
The predominantly Christian-faith state, the source said, views the governor’s resorting to curses as a strange culture.
“The Bible abhors Christians from swearing for whatever reason, and this explains why he has not yet convinced anybody in the state with these antics. But more frightening is the threat that those candidates not endorsed by him would meet a violent end, a situation that has seen the governor evoking memories of the 2011 election in the state in which scores of people were allegedly killed for opposing him.”
Akpan is said to have maintained a studied silence despite alleged promptings from some of his supporters to respond to the governor. Akpabio on the other hand, however, is said to be sponsoring his Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Emmanuel Udom, another ex-banker, as his successor.
Before Udom was picked, Akpabio and some leaders of the PDP in the state resolved to zone the governorship seat to Eket senatorial district. According to a THISDAY report, “The motive, they said, was purely for equity and justice and contended that it was not proper for the Uyo and Ikot Ekpene zones alone to produce governors like Chief Victor Attah and the incumbent, Akpabio, without the Eket axis which produces the wealth of the state and the country, not to have a feel of governance in the state.”
The THISDAY source rather maintained that the zoning of the governorship to the Eket senatorial district was not for the purpose of equity like Akpabio and the state PDP leadership had feigned but that “the zoning was to favour his candidate Udom Emmanuel who is from that district.”
Another person eyeing the governorship is the state’s former SSG, Umana Okon Umana, who is said to be from Uyo senatorial district. Umana is alleging that Akpabio is resorting to intimidation to pressure him to back down from pursuing the governorship. He recently petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate alleged attempt on his life by Akapbio’s agents.
Part of the Umana petition to the commission written by his lawyer, Uzoma Ibegbulem, reads: “The idea is to drive fear into that political prospect and annihilate any stumbling block. On May Day, 2014, the governor openly declared that he would use ‘legal guns’ to terrorise his opponents (tape available) a terrifying statement to proceed from the mouth of the chief security officer of the state.”
One of THISDAY sources said “people in the state are concerned about the rumoured association of Akpabio with cult groups as they worry this could signal the re-emergence of violence and politically motivated killings in the state.”
The source noted that in the last two months, “Chief Don Etiebet, a PDP chieftain and Mr. Umana, have written graphic and detailed petitions to the Inspector General of Police requesting for investigations into the various acts of violence in the state.”
Certainly, those who fail to learn from history are often the victims of a repeat history. Whilst many think it is not too late for Akpabio to change the tide and reconfigure the equation for equity and fairness, it doesn’t look like he thinks anything is wrong with his present demeanour, which unfortunately is now said to be pride-driven and at the expense of glaring consequences.