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Akpabio’s Defection And The Ripple Effect In PD

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CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes on the defection of the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen Godswill Akpabio and the ripple effect it’s has caused in PDP.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) experienced a number of emotions following the defection of its erstwhile minority leader Sen Godswill Akpabio to the All Progressives Congress (APC). First, the party was stunned upon learning that the senator, one of its political super star, was flirting with the APC. Then came feelings of hurt, loss and betrayal; feelings the APC is also dealing with over its loss of the Senate President, three governors, federal and state lawmakers. But Akpabio’s defection seemed particularly painful for PDP because the party felt it had invested so much in him, having offered him the platform to serve as commissioner, governor and, despite his inexperience, made him their minority leader in the Senate. And so when he eventually defected it hit them hard, in spite of the rumours that trailed his reason for dumping his former party.

The speculation within the PDP was that the former senate minority leader defected for fear of prosecution over alleged corruption case traced to his tenure in office as governor. It was alleged that party chieftains had pleaded with him not to buckle under the pressure from the APC. Akpabio has however denied the insinuation, saying all the petitions filed against him were investigated and he was found to be innocent. Nevertheless, while the party has tried to treat his defection as inconsequential, the national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, gave a hint as to how displeased they were with him. Although they sensed he was at the verge of leaving the party, Ologbondiyan said Akpabio had told them he was heading to Germany only to show up in London, in a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. Days before he met Buhari however, he had left few persons in doubt about his next political trajectory. While his party held it’s NEC to welcome defectors to the party, Akpabio who was conspicuously absent was sighted at the villa, where he met the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

Also at the reception for the defectors held on the eve of the NEC meeting, he had expressed reservations that the party didn’t hold a reception to celebrate those who stayed back all through the period the party was in crisis. He had also held a mini political rally in Ikot Ekpene, where he declared that he might not contest under the PDP in 2019. But the first clear evidence of his romance with the APC, according to party sources, was as far back as 2016, when he paid a visit to the National leader of the APC, Sen Bola Tinubu, a move which sparked lots of suspicions within the PDP. But party chieftains are addressing his defection
differently. While some have taken the defection in stride, it appears others are prepared to present him as a face of the new onslaught against the party. For instance, while the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, said his defection is not an important issue because it has not affected the structure of the PDP, he also traced the freezing of the Akwa Ibom State Government’s accounts to the defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio. Sen Ben Murray Bruce, also listed the former minority leader as one of those that orchestrated the recent siege at the National Assembly.

The Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman of PDP, Sen Walid Jibrin, said “on behalf of the BoT, we wish Akpabio bye-bye and safe journey,” adding however “we want to advise him to learn from history especially from those that left us and are now returning in troops.” While the former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, believes that the former governor acted purely on selfish interests and betrayed the party, the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, said it is Akpabio’s choice to walk against the tide to endanger his fine political career. According to a statement from Secondus’ media office “Akpabio’s action must have been for self preservation and not borne out of any rational strategic political decision. “I cannot fathom any reason why on earth Senator Akpabio should work against the tide, moving at opposite direction to a place every reasonable persons are escaping from. “He deserves our pity because whatever would make somebody to choose bad for good is clearly one that he should be prayed for for salvation especially given the fact that wolves are waiting for his arrival to devour him.” But while the PDP reeled from the blow of Akpabio’s defection, APC was ecstatic over their feat, relishing their biggest catch yet.

Having lost many chieftains, they needed something to cheer about and reassure members that the party wasn’t losing ground. The array of dignitaries at the mega rally held at the Ikot Ekpene township stadium in his honour, indicated how happy the party was. No fewer than 30 APC senators. All members of the National Working Committee of the party led by Adams Oshiomhole, were present. Others are, secretary to the state government, Boss Mustapha, represented Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Lai Mohammed, Udo Udoma, Ahmed Lawan, Hilliard Eta, Iniobong Okopido, Nisma Ekere, Don Etim, John Eno, Ali Makana, Mohammed Sanni, Abdulahi Yahaya, Abdulahi Gumel, Uche Ndu, Magnus Abe, Kabiru Gaya, Ali Ndume, among others. They took turns to celebrate and gloat over his defection. Akpabio, on his party betrayed any inkling of sobriety on the day of his defection. He sang, danced and lapped up the cheers from the crowd whenever his name was mentioned. He seemed at home in his new party, where he was declared a leader. Four lawmakers consisting two from the House of Representatives and two from the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly also defected with him. He gave his reasons for moving to the APC. He said, “People are saying why the APC, you need to know I am a nationalist . In troubled times like this when the country is at war , all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation . This is a difficult moment for Nigeria . In a period of national emergency , everybody should put hands together to support this government to bring peace to the people . “I will like to be a conspirator , who joins hands to conspire to put food on the table of Nigerians, to bring peace to Benue State, to stop the killings in our country , to ensure employment for our children, to bring about uncommon transformation for Nigerians.

“This is the moment of uncommon change , uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom , South- South, uncommon change has come to the Niger Delta,” he said. However, as the euphoria of his return dies down, it will be interesting to see how Akpabio’s defection impacts the APC in the state. How will he work with APC stakeholders whom he frustrated out of the PDP while he held sway as governor? Some of the party chieftains in APC are former minister of petroleum, Don Etiebet, former governor Victor Attah, former APC candidate Umana Umana, a former deputy governor Akpan Udoedehe and Mr. Nsima Ekere. Although it remains hazy whether a solid reconciliation move was done in anticipation of Akpabio’s return to the party, he had a sour relationship with each these chieftains as governor of the state. While he might not have enormous control as he once had as governor, the ripple effect from the recognition accorded him as leader of the party in the state will be instructive. What’s more, as the party prepares for it’s primaries, the internal tussle as to who becomes the party’s flag bearer is wont to strain whatever political arrangement was reached before the immediate past governor entered the APC. As for the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, the defection of his political benefactor to another party won’t come easy. Although there were rumours of friction between both of them, insiders believe the situation had not degenerated to the point of the former governor defecting. But with Akpabio out of the party, Emmanuel would now have full control of the PDP leadership in the state. But how that would translate to electoral victory for the PDP and a return to office for the governor is another matter. So far watchers of the geopolitical dynamics in the state aver that the incumbent governor, who hails from the majority zone might hold his own.

Moreso with the APC still struggling to make major inroads in the state and the region, he retains his political edge going into the 2019 governorship polls. Nevertheless, Emmanuel has since dispelled fear that he would be politically handicapped following Akpabio’s defection to APC, what with the resultant defections from the APC and the fact that most state lawmakers and local government chairmen didn’t defect with the senator. The governor gave the assurance during a solidarity visit by the local government chairmen and the councilors across the 31 local government areas of the state. “I am not perturbed by my predecessor’s defection to the APC; every person is entitled to exercise his fundamental human rights and freedom of association. Therefore, Senator Akpabio has the right to belong to any political party that he wishes,” Emmanuel said. He added “The political atmosphere is helping to deepen democratic governance and reinvent the consciousness of the PDP that every member would be proud of”. While the PDP in the state will hope to benefit from the tussle in the APC, by way of counter defections, there seems to be stormy days ahead for the governor as the state’s account has come under the radar the antigraft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Interestingly this situation emerged barely days after the former governor crossed over to the APC. Clearly the months leading to the 2019 general elections in the state will be intriguing transformation for Nigerians. “This is the moment of uncommon change , uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom , South- South, uncommon change has come to the Niger Delta,” he said. However, as the euphoria of his return dies down, it will be interesting to see how Akpabio’s defection impacts the APC in the state. How will he work with APC stakeholders whom he frustrated out of the PDP while he held sway as governor? Some of the party chieftains in APC are former minister of petroleum, Don Etiebet, former governor Victor Attah, former APC candidate Umana Umana, a former deputy governor Akpan Udoedehe and Mr. Nsima Ekere. Although it remains hazy whether a solid reconciliation move was done in anticipation of Akpabio’s return to the party, he had a sour relationship with each these chieftains as governor of the state.

While he might not have enormous control as he once had as governor, the ripple effect from the recognition accorded him as leader of the party in the state will be instructive. What’s more, as the party prepares for it’s primaries, the internal tussle as to who becomes the party’s flag bearer is wont to strain whatever political arrangement was reached before the immediate past governor entered the APC. As for the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, the defection of his political benefactor to another party won’t come easy. Although there were rumours of friction between both of them, insiders believe the situation had not degenerated to the point of the former governor defecting. But with Akpabio out of the party, Emmanuel would now have full control of the PDP leadership in the state. But how that would translate to electoral victory for the PDP and a return to office for the governor is another matter. So far watchers of the geopolitical dynamics in the state aver that the incumbent governor, who hails from the majority zone might hold his own. Moreso with the APC still struggling to make major inroads in the state and the region, he retains his political edge going into the 2019 governorship polls.

Nevertheless, Emmanuel has since dispelled fear that he would be politically handicapped following Akpabio’s defection to APC, what with the resultant defections from the APC and the fact that most state lawmakers and local government chairmen didn’t defect with the senator. The governor gave the assurance during a solidarity visit by the local government chairmen and the councilors across the 31 local government areas of the state. “I am not perturbed by my predecessor’s defection to the APC; every person is entitled to exercise his fundamental human rights and freedom of association. Therefore, Senator Akpabio has the right to belong to any political party that he wishes,” Emmanuel said. He added “The political atmosphere is helping to deepen democratic governance and reinvent the consciousness of the PDP that every member would be proud of”. While the PDP in the state will hope to benefit from the tussle in the APC, by way of counter defections, there seems to be stormy days ahead for the governor as the state’s account has come under the radar the antigraft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Interestingly this situation emerged barely days after the former governor crossed over to the APC. Clearly the months leading to the 2019 general elections in the state will be intriguing.



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