As the political battle rages for the soul of Akwa Ibom State, these are indeed very interesting times. Banking on his acclaimed performance in the delivery of democracy dividends, Governor Godswill Akpabio is gunning for a second term while his former ally Senator John Akpanudoedehe backed by former Governor Victor Attah, in an elitist conspiracy and for reasons that cannot be said to be altruistic, believes that Akpabio’s march to the Hilltop Mansion should be truncated.
For followers of politics in Akwa Ibom State, the alliance between Attah and Akpanudoedehe, can be described as a marriage of strange bed-fellows characterized by political treachery, opportunism and a dangerous ethnic agenda. During the first term of Attah as governor, Akpanudoedehe is reported to have sided with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to fight Attah and the collective aspiration of Akwa Ibom people during the battle for resource control and the abrogation of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy. For waging the economic war to pauperize the state to the satisfaction of his pay master, the former Senator was handsomely rewarded with oil blocks and a lot of money.
By 2003, the fight between Attah and Akpanudoedehe had become so messy that he printed posters and declared his intention to challenge Attah for the gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) only to make a U-turn on the eve of the primaries. It is also a well known fact that he sponsored several anti-Attah articles in newspapers and with the backing of the then President used anti-corruption agencies to harass Attah and vowed that he would make his tenure a failure, which he actually did. Since then the duo have been at daggers drawn politically. But in a curious twist, today Akpanudoedehe and Attah have become political soul mates as reports say Attah wants to resuscitate the ambition of his son-in-law, Dr Udoma Ekarika by drafting him to be a running mate to Akpanudoedehe. So it is an alliance steeped in selfishness and ignoble intentions that are at best self-seeking.
But the intentions of the former Minister to vie for the governorship of the state appear to be against the collective will of the people. Many people are of the opinion that former Governor Attah who is backing Akpanudoedehe and who has become an apostle of one term is doing so for selfish reasons. In 2007, Akwa Ibom people had rejected his attempt at foisting his son-in-law, Ekarika on the people as the Governor after his two-term tenure. Attah gives the impression that he has not forgiven Akpabio for such effrontery of truncating his desire to create a political dynasty of sort after a failed attempt at the becoming the President. The former Governor seems not to have come to terms with the fact that Akwa Ibom people are resolute in rejecting every attempt to impose his son-in-law on the people even if it is through the back door as the current attempt suggests. However, the people seem to be unwavering in their support for the incumbent Governor to do a second term and midwife a smooth transition to somebody who will continue with his vision of massive development of the state.On June 5, 2010, youths of the former Abak Division comprising five local government areas in the present Akwa Ibom State had organized a mammoth rally to adopt Governor Akpabio as their sole candidate for a second term.
Speaker after speaker had harped on the need for Akpabio to continue his stellar performance of transforming the state through massive infrastructural development. The adoption of the Governor by the former Abak Division was very significant. Before then there had been spins in the political circles that the Governor had marginalized the zone and that the people were so bitter that they had vowed to sponsor one of their own to complete Akpabio’s tenure or swing their support to somebody else. But the event of that day had put a lie to such insinuations. The message was clear: the people are satisfied with Akpabio and can’t wait to see him return for a second term.Similarly, during the last democracy day celebration the mass of the people had trooped to the Uyo township stadium where they adopted a motion that endorsed the Governor for a second term. It was a gathering of who is who politically in the state and they spoke with one voice. The motion was well articulated by the leader of the state caucus in the national assembly, Senator Effiong Bob. “We, on behalf of the entire people in the state and in the national assembly caucus having seen what the Governor has done for the past three years hereby move that he continues in the office in order to complete all the ongoing projects.” It was put to a voice vote and the answer of a resounding ‘ayes’ rented the air.
Once again the people and their representatives had spoken: it is imperative for Akpabio to get a second term. This is incomparable to when Akpanudoedehe gathered a few supporters in a primary school in Uyo to ‘declare.’ It was former Governor Attah who stole the show as there was absence or total boycott of the event by any known politician in the state. Before then all the ethnic blocs in the state, Ibibio, Annang, Oron, Ekid and others had similarly adopted Akpabio for a second term.
It is instructive that the battle for Akwa Ibom State government house as waged by the opposition is not about the people but the desire of a few political elites who are fighting to regain lost political glory and relevance. In fairness to the opposition, they have never faulted Governor Akpabio on performance, as there is a consensus that he has performed excellently well. The opposition has not clearly articulated any policy issue that will benefit Akwa Ibom people. They are not talking about free education or building new roads. They just want ‘their’ power back. They have not said what they intend to do to improve the lots of the people, what we are hearing is a curious appeal to ethnic sentiments like, “we are the majority so power should be returned to us” sentiments that don’t have a place anymore in the emerging Akwa Ibom State, or stuffs like “Akpabio has not carried me along after I made him the Governor,” and other such mundane things.
When a politician cry of not being ‘carried along’ what he means is that he has not been allowed unhindered access to the public till, through contracts that are often abandoned after huge mobilization fees have been collected. But I don’t care when one politician cries of not being carried along. I would care if millions of Akwa Ibom people who use the roads constructed by the Akpabio administration cry of not being carried along. It would bother me if the horde of Akwa Ibom children who are beneficiaries of the free and compulsory policy of the Akpabio government cry of not being carried along. Similarly, if pregnant women, children and the elderly who are beneficiaries of the free healthcare policy of the Akpabio government say they have not been carried along, it would make me worry. But when an over pampered politician who has lived off the system for most of his life, begins to howler about not being carried along because he has not got political patronage for a year or two, then the people can tell him to go to hell.
Whatever the level of few elitists gang up, Governor Akpabio need not lose sleep over his second term bid as he has the people behind him. His good works further recommends him to continue. In the last three years there has been a consensus that the Governor has delivered on his mandate as the state has experienced unprecedented transformation in all facets of its existence. There has been a renaissance in infrastructure in the state. Grandiose projects which three years back were thought to be white elephant projects, like the Independent Power Project and the Ibom International Airport and which were kept on an architectural drawing board for eight years have been given new meaning of execution by Akpabio and the people are happy for it. New mega projects like the ultra-modern Governor’s Lodge, the fly-over, the remodeling and urban renewal of the capital city, the multi-billion underground tunnel flood control project, the Tropicana, E-Library, the Industrial City Project, the several road construction projects speaks volume about the vision of Governor Akpabio for Akwa Ibom State.
Beyond the mega projects, the administration has touched the rural areas like none ever. From road projects to rural electrification projects, in a concerted campaign to banish darkness in the state, from new classroom blocks to healthcare facilities and mini-water projects, life has never been the same for Akwa Ibom people. For the first time in the history of the state the people have seen and felt the impact of the government no matter how remote their communities. These are what matters to the people not the ambition of a few disgruntled politicians with bloated ego. For Akpabio it will be a roller coaster ride back to the Hilltop Mansion next year.
Ekong is a Lagos-based Journalist, public affairs commentator and the Convener of League of Akwa Ibom Patriots.