The alarm bell is abuzz. Senator Godswill Akpabio, immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, may dump the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Right? Wrong? To be or not to be? Well, this insinuation, real or fictional, is bad news to the APC in Akwa Ibom State and the PDP as a whole.
We will shortly examine why.
If you are not patient with learning, please back off at this point.
First, why this red alert across political divides?
The PDP caucus in the Senate is reportedly rattled. Akpabio has been accused of engaging in anti-party activities by his colleagues after his secret visit to the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu leaked.
The fear is that, Akpabio may soon dump the PDP for the APC.
This puzzle comes on the heels of PDP senators announcing withdrawal of their support for President Muhammadu Buhari on June 22.
Ironically the statement was read by Emmanuel Bawcha, Deputy Minority Leader, as Akpabio was magnified, only by his absence. The PDP senators said the reason for their decision was because of the “belligerent” stance of the APC-led government, citing the cases of Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose and the Senate leadership among others.
This reversal, came less than a year after the PDP Senate caucus declared support for the President Buhari administration.
It was on September, 30, 2015, that Akpabio spoke onbehalf of PDP senators, pledging that support and urged the ruling party to see PDP as a trusted ally in matters of governance in order to move the nation forward. More noteworthy is his addendum: a charge to the APC to stop chasing away those who were willing to support the government of the day. Could that explain why he didn’t appear in the latest PDP recant?
Worse is that the PDP is stricken and afflicted with internal strife, decay and corrosive infighting.
Actually, the PDP more than anything needs its most authentic leaders now than ever before. Akpabio ranks high on this reputation. Besides him in the current equation, others are easily, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Fayose (Ekiti), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo) and former Senate President David Mark.
Of course, all current PDP governors are factors in that leadership scale.
Truth however be told, Akpabio is about the strongest and the weakest link of the PDP as it stands. We will debate this before we analyze why Akpabio is the beautiful bride for both APC and PDP.
Senator Akpabio, is arguably, the most sagacious, urbane and discerning politician Akwa Ibom State ever saw.
Although, he leans to despise being identified as a politician, our judgment is never left in doubt, that beyond late Senator Victor Akan, none other from this part, has, bestrode the political turf like Akpabio.
Parading a resume, apt for tag, as the proverbial cat with nine lives, he has surpassed his forebears: the late Ibanga Udo Akpabio, and Senator Justice Nsima Ukpong Akpabio with his depth, networking and reach. Thriving from being the most decorated governor of his Class 2007-2015 set, he was easily the poster face of the PDP and deservedly emerged, the pioneer Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum.
With all his paramountcy and halo, something in him died each time he lost a contest. Of the nine lives, let’s see what was lost.
Following a devastating defeat of his candidate in the election into the post of the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, that took place at the Rivers State Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja on Friday, May 25, 2013, Akpabio lost political glitz.
Then Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, with a score of 19-17 votes, beat, Jonah Jang of Plateau state; (Jang’s candidature was reportedly agreed upon when the PDP governors met at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge hours to the election). Akpabio, who rejected that outcome, then flaunted a sheet of paper containing 19 signatures, which he said belonged to the governors that agreed to vote for Jang.
Even though the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, recognised the jang faction, NGF was split.
Akpabio, however was sucked by the betrayal of his faith in their pact.
The next time he lost, was when former President Jonathan conceded defeat to Buhari in a telephone conversation, hours before the final result of the 2015 presidential elections was made official.
He had campaigned vigourously and religiously for his party and Jonathan. Not used to coming second in political contests, some lustre in Akpabio died afterwards.
That is where his Love-Hate relationship with the APC came full circle. The charge of the newly formed mega-party led by his former colleague-governors, who had defected from the PDP presented a monstrous challenge to his ascendancy.
He came back home, rallied his troops and vowed to retain his political space. But for the resilience of men like Akpabio, the APC cavalry could have overrun the region.
In helping facilitate the victory of the PDP candidate, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, in the 2015 governorship polls, Akpabio, like a phoenix, resurrected his political paragon. With the judicial confirmation of Governor Emmanuel’s mandate by the Supreme Court, Akpabio’s reputation became imperishable.
He was well on his way to making good his wish of being rated, in his words, as “a governor who produced the best goveronor.”
But for a third time, something in Akpabio withered. His entanglement with the Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, was no doubt a sore punch.
Akpabio, was quizzed by the anti-graft agency over alleged multi-billion naira fraud and money laundering. This was sequel to a petition written by one Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, an Abuja based lawyer, who alleged stealing of N108.1 billion of Akwa Ibom State’s funds by Akpabio.
While his political opponents were yet celebrating reports of his arrest, he was released around 11pm on that eventful October 16, 2015. This was uncommon in our climes, going for the uncommon Transformer. The experiences of several others, who are usually remanded in EFCC custody, then sent to Kuje prison, and thereafter, released on stringent, conditional bail terms by the court litters the chronicles as proof.
To underscore how important this reprieve was, the social media was awash with pictures of Senator Akpabio having dinner at late hour, regaled by family and friends.
The near blot, was enough to slay a giant in him.
Howbeit, his ever increasing stature says a different thing. On arriving the Senate, Akpabio upended the bookmakers to emerge at the critical core of the National Assembly’s principal officers, bagging Senate Minority Leader. For a first timer, this was eye-catching. It is also no secret, he helped midwife the present leadership cast of the Senate in particular, and National Assembly at large. To that extent, no serious party will take him lightly.
The APC has no foothold in the South-South geo-political zone. With all their pressure, showboating and exertions, the fiesty Amaechi, is their biggest laurel.
Unfortunately, Amaechi has lost his homefront and can’t muster enough followership to lead the South-South into APC’s embrace.
That is where, for the far sighted and pragmatic Asiwaju Tinubu, an Akpabio can become a major missing piece of the political jigsaw.
Like him or hate him, Akpabio is the ‘Blue Whale’ of the South- South. If he tilts to the APC with his prominence and goodwill, then, APC would have made a major inroad that can potentially buoy the fortunes of the party in the region without much toil and sweat.
If that is good business for the APC National Leader, it is a poisoned chalice for the APC rank and file back home.
Akpabio moving to APC will have its far reaching implications of change. He will change the dynamics. Revise the trajectories. Displace and rearrange political interests. He will no doubt, even become more luminous, outshining the drudgery of its existing chieftains.
That is reason, APC in Akwa Ibom will rather, this political calculation never happens. It is their worse nightmare.
Akpabio’s defection, and that is, if it ever happens, will also impact on the state PDP. As surely as the sun rises and sets, he may move with his governor and party faithfuls en masse and that will be a tsunami. It is not probable. It is also not impossible to conjecture.
That said, the question is: will Akpabio leave the PDP for APC? That will be the biggest political upset of this republic.
Given his antecedents, it is not likely and still far-fetched. Recall the vermin, when he scolded the Group of Seven (G7) governors, minding that, they were at liberty to leave the PDP if they felt aggrieved on November 25, 2013.
Akpabio made this remark in a chat with State House correspondents during the launch of the third phase of the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) programme by President Jonathan at the Presidential Villa. The governors who had been at loggerheads with the leadership of the party, back then, were, Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa). Eventually five left, save Aliyu and Lamido.
Will he now eat his vomit and join the other five? Well, interest is superior to logic in politics and that’s a clear idea on a plausible answer.
Again, Akpabio is touted as a possible vice presidential candidate to run with a Northerner for the 2019 presidential election on PDP ticket. Some even went as far as rumouring his interest to run for the Presidency in the same ‘magic’ year.
But a May 4, 2016 statement by his media aide, Anietie Ekong, reads in part, “... Senator Akpabio has no ambition of contesting for the Presidency in 2019 and is not behind such campaigns. It is the handiwork of mischief makers,” didn’t however foreclose the issue of Vice Presidential run.
So, what will be his bargain in the APC when the PDP supposedly offers a wider range of options including the office he wields currently?
Then, there is this raging PDP infighting. Akpabio, may hold that against the party and walk-out on it.
He has remained at most, non-commital, as the issue festers. It is quite unlike the very vocal Akpabio Nigerians are enheartened, listening to. The unstated fact is, with this evisceration of the PDP, something in Akpabio is drained.
For a politician, divinely blessed with survivalist instinct, Akpabio will not get scorched with a party that disembowels itself. He will move, if the wilting of PDP continues. Of course, with the scheming wiles of a Tinubu watching this self-inflicted unraveling, PDP will be lucky to survive the drain. Tinubu, is also skilled enough to fish in PDP’s troubled waters for the gold fish. Are you making sense out of this?
Finally, as a student of literature and its rich metaphors that instruct us about the metaphysical and psycho-spiritual, something in Akpabio’s recent history rings a bell. Akpabio survived what could have been a fatal motor accident on August 31, 2015, at Bolingo Junction, Abuja.
A sober Akpabio spoke of the miracle later, at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, during a convocation to mark the 28th anniversary of Akwa Ibom State. He regretted that his traducers and some state-based tabloids were wishing him dead and writing ill about his fate.
But on his return from the traumatic experience , Akpabio said: “The wish of the enemy has been defeated. All the newspapers in Akwa Ibom State, tomorrow your headlines should be ‘Akpabio rises again’, ‘Akpabio rises again’.” Isn’t his political career on the rise again?
To underscore his bipartisan political credit, he made a disclosure. “Let me place on record,” he said, “...the support of President Buhari who did something extraordinary. The President called the hospital that I was in London. He called the hospital line, and said put me through to the Minority Leader of the Senate who is in your hospital. And they connected him. The room number was Room 215. And he spoke with me. He said, ‘Akpabio we are praying for you. Insha Allah, it shall be well with you’.”
That was a disappointing revelation for the ears of APC opponents, who would rather have a President Buhari at loggerheads with Akpabio.
In politics, all options are on the table. That Akpabio survived that accident, is obvious testament, that he has nine lives, in and out of politics. He is still living it.
What tomorrow holds on the political burner, we will see.
I don’t see PDP in Akwa Ibom State, in a hurry to lose its prized asset.
In alliance with Governor Emmanuel as party leader, they remain formidable and can again resist the surge of APC and other parties.
The PDP as a whole, will do well to renew its contract with one of its most promising members. The same way, Barcelona has tied down Brazilian superstar, Neymar with a long-term five-year contract, after doing same with world’s best footballer, Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
For now, we wait on our watch.
Ahirika writes in from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.