By Uche Mbah
It started as a rumour. Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, who has been vocal in the criticism of the failures of the Federal Government, suddenly is making plans to decamp to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. He is of the Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and, before the Tsunami of defections, the Senate Minority leader. As things stand now, when the Senate convenes in September, if the restive ruling party did not effect a Kangaroo change of guard as alleged by the PDP, he is likely to resume as the Majority leader in the Senate, with the Senate having 55 PDP members and 50 APC members, though with the current defection-allegedly-of a senator from Ebonyi state from PDP to APC, the margin is narrower. Akpabio has everything going for him. Or so it seems.
So why is he now defecting? This Magazine gathered that his travail dated to the period immediately after the 2015 presidential elections. According to sources, Akpabio had almost single handedly installed the current Governor, Udom Emmanuel, who now wants to build his own political structure independent of Akpabio. Like what has been happening in other places, as, for example, Benue and Sokoto, where former governors who are currently senators still want to control the people they installed, Akpabio was no longer finding it easy with Emmanuel. The ego war resulted in Emmanuel allegedly sponsoring one lawyer to Petition the EFCC detailing what they described as financial improprieties of the ex-governor. Instead of acting on the information directly, the EFCC allegedly forwarded the file to the APC hierarchy, who now advised on what to do. Later, Akpabio, who was basking in the Euphoria of a fire brand senator, was invited and shown his misdemeanor. Part of his crime was an alleged $7.2 billion in Dubai, that the EFCC, in collaboration with CBN, blocked his access to.Negotiations were brokered, and various versions emerged on how he was finally cowed by the hang man’s noose over his neck. During the same period, his convoy had an accident and he was flown abroad for treatments, with speculations running wild that it was an assassination attempt. The message appears to be clear: co-operate or be dealt with. He chose to co-operate.
Since then the hangman’s noose has not left his vicinity. His activitism in the senate slowed down, and there were unconfirmed rumors of fifth column activities. As the 2019 elections approached, talks were allegedly in top gear between him and the ruling party for him to decamp, but he was said to be foot-dragging on the issue. But with the Tsunami that swept fifteen Senators, including the Senate President, out of APC to PDP, desperation became the name of the game. First hint of danger appeared when he went with the other senators to commensurate with the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, after the barricade saga. EFCC was said to be piqued that he should be in the forefront when the case with Ekweremmadu is between him and EFCC. Then he was part of the reception party for decampees.
That was when he was summoned and given an option of decamping to APC. He booked and had an appointment with president Buhari on the issue. The outcome of their discussion, however, was not known. Buhari then jetted to the United Kingdom so that, according to the PDP, he will not be around when his boys will begin action, both in the Benue type senate impeachment and the Akpabio case. Akpabio was so worried that, according to sources, he confided in a few senators, including Senator Dino Melaye, of his dilemma. The Senators blamed him for not standing up earlier for his position. Now, they have seen him as a weak link to use against the PDP. Later, Dino was said to have driven him home, and talked to him. There may have been plans and agreement for him to decamp to save his neck, but be PDP in sprit. But this will definitely destroy his political career since all politics are local, and, according to reports, the average Akwa Ibom indigene is very angry about his decision to decamp. Even in APC Akwa Ibom, they are jittery over a new State leader emerging with his caucus followers. Already, the deputy governor, Pa Moses Ekpo, has resigned. He was hand-picked by Akpabio, and may be eying governorship under APC.
Meanwhile, Akpabio has asked for an extension of time till the senate convenes by September to decamp. But the EFCC allegedly gave him a marching order to decamp before the 9th of August or they swing into action. He made his way to the office of Vice President, Yomi Osinbajo to complain. Osinbajo reportedly told him to go and discuss with Buhari in London. He jetted out to London, and has been seen in several photo ops with Buhari in London. From all indications, barring last minute changes, he may decamp on or before Thursday, 9th August 2018.
His proposed defection has resulted in outrage, particularly on the social media. It came from both the high and mighty and the plebeians on the streets. APC defenders are having a hard time reconciling the anti graft stance of the president and the open arms with which Akpabio, whom they have describe as a looter, is being received. Comrade Zulu Ofulue, a well known author, noted:”Buhari is fighting kworuption (Corruption) by ensuring that corrupt people are either in jail or in APC”. Olisa Metu, the embattled former spokesperson of PDP, who has been having a running battle with the EFCC, even on a stretcher, was worried. “It is a lonely road when you are visited with state sponsored media trial, your family name and reputation tarnished with falsehood”, he said.” It is a lonely road when some of those you hoped will defend, console and support you are frightened even to assist in any manner whatsoever. Indeed it is a difficult path to tread when you envisage that they might even deny you access to prescribed medical treatments.”
His defection may have a lot of problems when plenary resumes next September. The senate will have to rejig principal officers, including the majority and minority leaders.But he may have little impact in terms of the number of people that will defect with him. When Saraki (Senate President) defected to PDP, he went with 1 governor, 2 senators, 7 reps, 23 House of Assembly members, 17 LG chairmen and numerous councilors. Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal defected to PDP with 1 senator, the speaker of the Sokoto house of Assembly and 16 house of Assembly members Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso defected to PDP with 1 deputy governor and 12 house of Assembly members Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state defected to PDP with 1 senator, 22 house of Assembly members, 23 LG chairmen and numerous councillors . But when Senator Akpabio defect to APC, four of his personal aides resigned.