He mounted the saddle like a political colossus. His rise was meteoric but his fall abrupt. The political tsunami blowing across the country have swept him rough. Now, the mighty has fallen. This is the fate of Chief Godswill Akpabio, a former Senate Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom State.
Akpabio, senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, has lost his bid to return to the senate in Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) senatorial district to Engineer Chris Ekpenyong. Before now, it’s been speculations all through as results from the polling units of eight out of ten local government areas of the district started trickling in. He polled 67,487 against 136,373 votes garnered by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State.
The former minority leader never saw this coming. What may have occupied his attention would have been how to secure the Presidency of the Senate for which is rumoured to have been promised him. During the campaigns, Akpabio and his folks were jubilating at campaign grounds with mockery songs video buzzing across the social media.
What may give an indication to his seeming overconfidence is his speech at a rally in Ikot Ekpene on July 16, 2018, attended by the state governor, Udom Emmanuel. It was there Akpabio gave notice of his impending defection from the PDP. He told his audience to deemphasize the platform, because “Godswill will be done again and again irrespective of the political party”. Less than 30 days after, he crossed over to the All Progressives Congress on August 18, 2018 having gone to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in faraway London.
Unknown to Senator Akpabio, that defection was to become his albatross. But his greatest undoing was the series of ‘declarations’ which trailed his defection. At one point, he vowed to match ‘fire for fire’ in what has become his infamous “Warsaw saw war” antics. In another breadth, the Senator is said to have promised that he will deliver Akwa Ibom State votes to President Buhari in three hours. These avalanche of threats and boasts united friends and foes alike to treat Akpabio like an enemy of the state which considers the PDP as a religion. Akpabio’s travails reflects a culmination of his endemic arrogance.
From his days as governor, every authority and power which begot anything for anyone was arrogated to himself. His word was law. He could make or mar, his commands were final – and this made him believe that nothing could happen without him. I recall an instance where, during the 2011 elections, Governor Akpabio had boasted of crossing off the winner of the primary election and writing (in his hand), Senator Aloysius Etok’s name to single handedly make him a senator.
In any case, making and destroying people were his trademark. Nearly all of the elected officials in 2015 were ‘crowned’ by him, explaining the rampant cases of victimization and electoral heist which characterized his tenure. And this is why the people bade farewell to, probably saying “enough is enough”, in response to a era of orderliness brought about by the present administration. This is largely responsible for the crushing defeat of the All Progressives Congress in presidential election, with an impending repeat in the governorship polls.
Senator Akpabio’s defection also earned him more enemies than friends. He had failed to realize that the glory of the king lies with his subjects. Akpabio had, all along, been dwelling in the erroneous impression that he made the people and not the other way round. But the people who understood that they were the ones who made Akpabio found a way to deflate his ego and power. Now, he has been defeated in his own game. Except he finds his way through the courts (as he has always maneuvered), he will not be in the 9th senate and his dream for the office of senate president will also collapse like a pack of cards. But the lesson here is that, power belongs to the people.
Again, another interesting aspect of Akpabio’s fall is the rise of his beneficiary, Governor Udom Emmanuel. But for the defection of Senator Akpabio, Governor Emmanuel’s second term bid would have been a herculean task. Not many people would tend to share or give in to this line of thought. However, a candid reminder is that nearly all the people who dumped the PDP for the opposition (ACN and now APC) did so because of Akpabio. Similarly, the “broom revolution” which was spearheaded by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate, Senator John James Akpan Udoedeghe, in 2011 profited mainly because the people united to fight a common enemy in Akpabio.
The incessant cases of kidnapping, high profile assassinations particularly against the Ibibio stock, and other dissenting voices had become unbearable. There were also cases of broken promises about projects and even individuals. For instance, the 31 cottage industries for each of the 31 local government areas did not see the light of day. His promise, also to shift power to Oron in Eket senatorial district, proved a serious deception. Need we also remember his antagonism against his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah whom, from the first day he accused of leaving behind an empty treasury?
In his treachery to cede power to Oron, he had projected both Ekpenyong Ntekim and Barr. Effiong Abia and made both commissioners, but in the end none even stood a chance for the primaries. These infamous tendencies have betrayed his pretence as a selfish leader and this perhaps, explains why his move to the APC was viewed as a betrayal not only to the party but the state. However, the scenario of 2011 ACN has played out in the 2019 PDP. Again, the common enemy is Akpabio. It must be said that Senator Akpabio survived the 2011 onslaught essentially the for two reasons. First, the PDP as a political party is deeply rooted in Akwa Ibom and like Dr.
Effiong Edunam pointed out, as a fighting force, it is the only party that exists organizationally at the grassroots. Secondly, as a ruling party in Abuja, it was easy for then Governor Akpabio to manipulate his way through inspite of the widespread malpractices. His quest was to reenact the adventure of his PDP days in the hope that he can always find coverage under the Buhari presidency. But again, he could only have done all these because the “people” accepted.
From the outset Akpabio didn’t hide his love for power. He started out as commissioner and then began to build his empire. Gradually, he had warmed his way to the heart of his boss, Governor Obong Victor Attah. No doubt, Chief Godwill Akpabio is a man of many parts. His towering attribute has distinguished him as a leader of no mean repute. He has been a mentor to many with a knack to identify would-be-leaders whom he feels and recognizes their capacity and capabilities. His retinue of aides from his days as commissioner has had some good stories to tell about the man that came to be known as the uncommon transformer.
His fame as commissioner started from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs where he was strategically positioned and groomed for the task of higher stewardship. Akpabio’s relationship with the traditional institution also aided his support base at the grassroots which catapulted him to become governor. At some point, his boss Attah, had considered him for the position of deputy governor during the crisis of confidence between him and his former deputy, Chris Ekpenyong until he narrowly missed out.
During Akpabio’s reign as governor his influence and swag could be felt around the country. Now, it is waning and, perhaps, may recede to an all-time low.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki shares the same fate with Akpabio. He will not also return to the senate unless through the courts. Both were good folks in the PDP until Akpabio’s defection set them apart. Unlike Saraki, Akpabio will forever remain in the black book of the PDP for betraying the party on whose wings he rode to fame and power. Perhaps his wealth may speak for him but the verdict of the people will haunt him for a long time. This may be the end game.