After weeks of speculations, rumours and anxiety, Senator Godswill Akpabio last week finally defected from his party of eleven years PDP to the ruling All Progressives Congress APC but Key stakeholders of his former party in the State who were also his loyalists, were glaringly absent as he declared for the All Progressives Congress (APC) at Ikot Ekpene , his senatorial zone.
At a mega rally held at the Ikot Ekpene township stadium last Wednesday, the former senate minority leader was received into the party by no fewer than 30 APC’s senators and members of National Working Committee (NWC), including the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomole and the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustafa, who represented the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, on the occasion, charged Akwa Ibom people to join APC, as Buhari remains the only person who can win the presidential election across the country, even in states like Kano, Jigawa, Gome, Sokoto and Adamawa, which currently have presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP.
The Senate Majority leader, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, who introduced his colleagues spoke on Akpabio describing him as a nationalist and patriot who believes in Nigeria’s unity.
“This defection surpasses all other defections. “This is a defection that has shaken the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). “They followed Akpabio everywhere to prevent him from defecting but he ignored them.
He dismissed the defection of senate president, Bukola Saraki and 14 others to PDP and said losing all of them cannot be compared with the gain APC has made with Akpabio’s defection.
Lawan said Akpabio’s defection has shaken the nation to its foundation and swallowed the defections of the other 15 senators to PDP.
“This defection has shaken the PDP to its foundation. They followed him everywhere. They followed him in Nigeria and overseas, begging him on their knees never to defect.
“But, this uncommon senator is a nationalist who believes in a unity and strength of Nigeria, and, also, believes in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the leadership of APC,” Lawan said.
He said though Akpabio was in the PDP, he was not playing a destructive opposition, but was always considerate of the national interest, even as a minority leader, thus, providing only meaningful opposition.
“He is always conscious of the fact that we need stability, unity, peace and security. Today, my brother (referring to Akpabio), you are no longer minority.
You are welcome to the large family of the APC in Nigeria. Your influence has gone beyond national assembly. Your influence has cut across the entire length and breadth of Nigeria.”Lawan noted.
The National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole who said the event was a reception for “an uncommon defector and a man of honor’ described Akpabio as a symbol of unity who would lead Akwa Ibom to join Edo as APC states in South-South in 2019.
He said that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had deceived the people for 16 years and Nigerians were no longer ready for the party.
The National Chairman of APC added that Senate President Bukola Saraki should emulate Akpabio by relinquishing his seat.
His words: “Senator Akpabio has demonstrated what the people of South-South stand for by quitting the seat of Senate minority leader. “It is the turn of Saraki to vacate his seat as President of the Senate.”
Oshiomhole also said that Akpabio was joining APC to solidify his position as the former minority leader of the Senate.
According to him, Akpabio had demonstrated that he meant good for the people of South-South.
He urged the people to appreciate Akpabio for his role as a builder.
In his address, Senator Akpabio said he joined APC to help salvage the country and added that the ruling party would sweep away poverty and impunity.
He said that his defection to APC was not necessarily to win but to participate in national politics.
He said: “In this period of national emergency, everybody should put hands together to support the government to bring peace to people.
“I like to be a conspirator, who joins hands to conspire to bring food to the tables of Nigerians; I like to be a conspirator, who joins hands to conspire to bring peace to Benue State; I like to be a conspirator, who joins hands to aspire to stop the killings in our country; I like to be a conspirator, who join hands to bring uncommon transformation of Nigeria.
“I don’t want to talk about Akwa Ibom State, because we are here on national platform. But, this is the moment of uncommon change; uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom; uncommon change has come to South-South,” Akpabio said.
He refutes allegation that he was forced to join the APC due to his corruption case at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and said although several allegations bordering on graft were leveled against him, he had never been charged to court, because nothing was found against him.
He also faulted his former party PDP for failing in its reward system. Maintaining that the party ought not to have accord prominence to Senator Bukola Saraki and others who return to the their former party after their defection in 2015.
Akpabio apologized to those who had left PDP in the state earlier to join APC, saying any action he took was for the benefit of the state.
He told the huge crowd that he decided to join APC because he discovered that President Muhammadu Buhari “is a man of integrity and a nationalist’’.
Akpabio said that he decided to join a party that would sweep away poverty and impunity. He said that he joined APC to help salvage the country. “The country is at war and all the hands must be on deck to salvage the situation and not to aggravate it.
“As keepers of national emergency, everyone should put heads together. I decided to join to emancipate the people and provide succor for the people.’’ He said that the PDP of today has no vision and the leadership is replete with arrogance.
On his part, the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, said that change had come to Akwa Ibom and South South. He said that Akwa Ibom has joined the progressive states because the people were dissatisfied with the long misrule of the PDP. He said that Akpabio built the people and provided them with infrastructure but the present PDP government was a failure. Ekere said that the people have agreed to re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
In his remark, National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, alleged that some members of the National Assembly were planning to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari, but warned the plotters to drop their sinister move, because “it is not possible for a lizard to wrestle an antelope.”
“We believe in government of the people, for the people and by the people, but the conservatives believe in government of sharing. Nigeria’s money belongs to Nigerians; we say Nigerians must be given development and we believe in investing in the people. But, they believe in sharing and looting the money. Today, we are aspiring in our vision, but the PDP has no vision. They believe in sharing and looting the treasury.’’
Nigerians, he said, gave PDP 16 years to rule, but the party failed.
“Today, Buhari says we must change and account for Nigeria’s money, but they are resisting it by regrouping to continue in their wayward ways.
Quoting the Bible, Tinubu, a Muslim said: “The people in the city shall be swept away with brooms.’’
The dust of the defection ceremony at Ikot Ekpene had barely settled when two commissioners in the state excecutive council lost their position for receiving the former Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, at the airport in Uyo.
The sacked commissioners are Victor Antai Culture and Tourism, and Ibanga Akpabio of Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning.
Meanwhile Government of Akwa Ibom says it is not losing sleep over the Senator Akpabio’s defection.
Governor Udom Emmanuel said that the state is not distracted by the defection of the Senator from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Emmanuel spoke when the members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly paid him a solidarity visit on the defection of Akpabio.
Similarly the Peoples Democratic Party in the State has said that the defection of the former Governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, from the party to the All Progressives Congress will not stop the PDP from winning the state in the 2019 elections.
According to the party, it is laughable to insinuate that the strategy for winning elections in the state is inherent in the former governor, noting that the party has been winning elections in the state before he (Akpabio) became a politician.
Speaking with newsmen, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Mr. Ini Ememobong, said the PDP had become even stronger with Akpabio’s defection to the APC on Wednesday.
He said, “Akpabio’s defection is not a huge loss to the Peoples Democratic Party; he defected with himself and insignificant number of people. The team that won elections for Akpabio is still intact and we will win for Governor Udom Emmanuel.
But more than any other thing, the divine mandate of Udom Emmanuel is anchored on the phrase, ‘Only God’.
“How can we be terrified because of an individual that left the party? There was the PDP that had been winning elections before Akpabio and the PDP will still win elections after Akpabio. He is an individual, he is not the party.
“APC can never stop us from delivering Akwa Ibom for the PDP. After all, Akwa Ibom is the PDP and the PDP is Akwa Ibom. The election is for us to win and that is why we have started consultations and we are going around the three senatorial districts. The APC is not working and they will be shocked but the people will not be shocked.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Moses Ekpo, had stated that it would be “silly” of him to resign, defect or quit working with the governor, given his character and honesty in service.
Speaking at the Akwa Ibom International Airport, Ekpo said the state would be united, indivisible and supportive of the governor in whatever circumstance that might manifest.
He said, “It will be silly of me to resign or quit from working with a man like Governor Udom Emmanuel; a man of impeccable character, honesty in service and someone who is working hard to improve the fortune of Akwa Ibom State and its people. Akwa Ibom is absolutely the PDP. Akwa Ibom will remain indivisible, united and supportive of Udom Emmanuel.”
Oron, which used to be a major APC stronghold, witnessed mass defection of over 1,000 of its members to the PDP on Thursday, a day after Akpabio’s defection to APC.
Some of the defectors said following Akpabio admission into the APC, he would “rubbish the party” in the manner he did the PDP.
They said Akpabio’s hatred for Oron would not change “whether he defects a million times into the APC.”
Those who defected along with Akpabio included two House of Representatives members, Mr. Emmanuel Ikon and Emmanuel Akpan; two state House of Assembly members, Mr. Nse Ntuen and Mr. Gabriel Toby, and two sacked commissioners, Mr. Victor Antai and Akpabio’s younger brother, Mr. Ibanga Akpabio, both of whom were relieved of their duties for gross misconduct and non-compliance with public service rules.
Some members of the state Exco who are loyalist and kinsmen of the Senator Akpabio such as the Deputy Governor Moses Ekpo and other holding key positions in the public service has distant themselves from the senator Akpabio defection
Major groups and political organization including Akwa Ibom Elders forum led by Senator Anietie Okon has also denounced Akpabios defection to the ruling party.
Many officials of the state like the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, the senator representing Uyo Senatorial District, Bassey Albert, and some legislators have refuted ever supporting Akpabio.
Two commissioners in Government Emmanuel’s cabinet were relieved of their appointments over the Senators defection
Although no reason was advanced for the sacking of the commissioners but a statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Emmanuel Ekuwem, said Antai and Akpabio were sacked from the State Executive Council because of their “reluctance to comply with good governance processes of government”.
But a former Governor in the state Obong Victor Attah, speaking on the Akpabio’s defection and feuds with Governor Emmanuel has called for caution.
He lamented quarrels between governors and their successors, adding that Akwa Ibom has divided along different lines.
“I was quite astonished because even if it is true that Udom Emmanuel has neglected or failed to complete some of Akpabio’s projects, I did not think that Akpabio would be the one to complain about a successor not completing the predecessor’s projects because of what happened during his tenure”,
I want to rise completely above all of that and express my worry over what I see happening today in Rivers and even in Kano State. As an elder statesman and a leader, I want to do everything I possibly can to see that nobody brings that sort of situation into Akwa Ibom.
“When I was in government, I did everything within my power to put Akwa Ibom together; to make sure that we were cohesive, we acted as a people, that we had a common purpose, which formed the agenda of my developmental programmes.
“But today, Akwa Ibom is so fragmented; so divided- ethnic groups, cult groups, personality groups and so on. So, the first major thing that we must do, and I have taken it as a task, is to put Akwa Ibom back together so that we can develop that bond of unity, cohesion, and brotherhood that we know is the only thing that can help the state to grow and move forward.
“What I admire about Lagos is the fact that one governor comes, continues with what was started, and that is why Lagos is making the kind of progress that we are witnessing. I will be the first to admit that nobody should feel obliged to throw good money after bad projects.
“If somebody deviated and indulged himself in outrageous projects, I do not see why an incoming governor should feel obliged to continue with whatever had been wrongly done. But for a successor to deliberately destroy and turn his back on what was there, that too is wrong and does not serve the purpose of good governance.
“But all of these, in the end, depend on the people. If a governor knows that he is there courtesy of the will of the people, does it matter if one person threatens to withdraw support or whatever? It does not matter’’.
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