By Comfort Obi
Everything about Godswill Akpabio, former PDP two-term governor of Akwa Ibom state is uncommon – or so he says.
As a governor, he gave himself that name. An uncommon governor. A man of uncommon touch. An uncommon performer. An uncommon organiser. Indeed, he is also an uncommon husband.
Married to a beautiful Igbo girl, Unoma, both are a spectacle to behold in public. As a governor, each time Akpabio was giving a speech in public and, Unoma was present, she would, like a police orderly, stand behind her husband. The difference: A police orderly stands to protect his principal. Unoma stands to fan her husband, as if, and, I don’t blame her, ward off any intruder. And the feeling is mutual. When she spoke, as a First Lady, her husband usually stood behind her, a white handkerchief in hand, wiping any sweat that dared spring up away.
As a governor, Akpabio bestrode Akwa Ibom like a colossus. His word was law. You know, dictatorial, almost. And he brooked no questions, or contrary views. I can’t confirm these, but, I can confirm that he was not very tolerant of a couple of his subordinates, even though quite a number of them were, still are, fiercely loyal to him. He dropped his first Deputy, Engineer Patrick Ekpeuto, his loyalty notwithstanding, after the first tenure. But, it is hard to forget the manner in which he sacked Ekpeuto’s successor, Nkere Nsima. He, it was, who pushed Nsima out of the PDP, to the APC. Lucky guy, Nsima was to be rewarded with a plum job by the APC-led FG as the Managing Director of the money-spinning Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Then, there was an Umana, Akpabio’s very powerful SSG. The story was that Akpabio had penciled him down as his successor. Umana was already carrying on as a would-be governor. He displayed a combination of power and swagger. Too soon.
For, one day, everything came crashing down like a badly packed cards. Akpabio sacked Umana in a very humiliating manner. In his place, Akpabio brought in Udom Emmanuel, a Zenith bank Executive Director. An uncommon imposer, uncommon poser, and uncommon loud mouth, with an uncommon sweet tongue, Akpabio quickly rail-roaded Emmanuel as his successor. And campaigned no end for him to become the governor. He won. There is no point repeating his praises for Emmanuel then. Emmanuel’s Campaign Organisation is putting those into good use.
When rumours were rife that Akpabio and Emmanuel were gradually falling apart, not a few people found it unbelievable. I cannot confirm the many stories behind it but, Akpabio, it was said, was breathing down Emmanuel’s neck. No breathing space was given to him. Most political godfathers fall out with their political sons.
So, finally, both men not only fell apart, they fell into the gutter, fighting. The godfather swore to unseat the godson in 2019. Seeing that he couldn’t do it in the PDP, he jumped into the APC in a most inelegant manner.
Here is a man who was PDP’s two time governor; he was also the party’s first Senate Minority Leader, a position that was given to him above his PDP colleagues, he, being a first term Senator.
But he was still not satisfied. He stabbed the PDP at the back. When Senate President Bukola Saraki, who like the Biblical prodigal son, returned to the PDP from the APC, was warmly welcomed, and quickly anointed the PDP leader, Akpabio took offence.
Preparatory to his defection to the APC, he travelled to London, where President Muhammadu Buhari was at the time, and in a photograph that went viral was, almost, on his knees, head bent, as he shook Mr President with both hands. Back home, he visited Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and took a photograph with him. In that photograph, Akpabio was grinning excitedly like a baby who has just found his lost candy. Shortly after, he joined the APC, a party he had pettily chased both Umana and Nsime to. One of the reasons he cited for defecting, without mentioning Saraki’s name, was the excited welcome accorded Saraki. He said the PDP does not reward loyalty.
Now, this accusation, coming from a man who, on PDP’s flag, was a two-time governor, and, was made the party’s Minority Leader above his seniors, was most uncharitable.
But Akpabio was just unfolding. He faced PDP head-long. He criticized the party no end. He called it useless. And, dismissed its 16-year leadership as a waste. He, like a few others, clean forgot, that he was in one leadership position, or the other, for those 16 years – State Commissioner, Governor, Senator/Senate Minority Leader. Meaning: he himself achieved nothing and, only wasted Akwa Ibom’s money. He said that in 2015, even though he was in the PDP, his heart was with Buhari. No jokes.
He swore PDP would fail in Akwa Ibom . He swore Emmanuel was as good as gone. He went back to Nkere, his vomit, and became his chief campaigner. He declared him the next governor of Akwa Ibom, and literarily declared a war in the state. He immediately became the Senatorial candidate of the APC. He took his victory for granted. And was already, allegedly, positioning himself as Saraki’s successor. Well, good for him.
But politics is weird. Two plus two is not always four. Akpabio’s balloon is punctured. The PDP has shot him down. He has lost his Senatorial bid. The sweet part: Akpabio was defeated by a former Deputy Governor under Governor Victor Attah, Chris Ekpenyong. At the time, Akpabio was one of Attah’s Commissioners. The story is that Akpabio allegedly treats both his former principals with indifference. Now Ekpenyong’s victory couldn’t be sweeter than it is now.
The day Akpabio was received into the APC by its leadership, Chairman Adams Oshiomhole described it as an uncommon defection.
Dear readers, I submit that Akpabio’s defeat in his Senatorial bid is an uncommon defeat. It is an uncommon fall. And not a few people are laughing at this uncommon situation.
Life is funny!