Emmanuel Enoidem, a close political associate of Godswill Akpabio when the latter was the governor of Akwa Ibom State, is set for an epic battle with Mr Akpabio if the former minister of Niger Delta Affairs becomes the APC candidate in the Akwa Ibom North-West District for the 2023 general elections.
Mr Akpabio has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the Court of Appeal’s judgment which nullified his election as the party’s candidate.
Mr Enoidem is the PDP candidate in the Akwa Ibom North-West District. Both men fell apart when Mr Akpabio left the PDP for the APC in 2018.
“Akpabio has no history of loyalty, not to God, not to any political party or any man,” Mr Enoidem said in this interview with Cletus Ukpong.
PT: You were asked to contest for Senate in 2019 but you declined. Why?
ENOIDEM: Let me take you a little bit back. In 2010, I was in my house when (Godswill) Akpabio sent for me. He was a governor then and I was his commissioner for Housing. He said he wanted me to go to the Senate, to take over from Senator Aloysius Etok. Actually, it was the turn of my (Abak) federal constituency to go to the Senate at that time. So I set out, I did the campaign, visited the local government areas and consulted all the people I needed to consult. Everybody was waiting to vote for Enoidem to go to the Senate in the (PDP) primary. A month to the (primary) election, Akpabio called me and said he didn’t want me to go to the Senate again, he said I was one of the pillars of his administration, and that he wanted me to remain as his commissioner.
That wasn’t what he wanted, really. He wanted to lay a foundation for a second term for his Senate ambition. He wanted Aloysius (Etok) to do a second term so that when he finishes Akpabio would take over in 2014, which was our plan to send him to the Senate.
If Akpabio wanted a second term we would have given it to him if he were in the PDP. He didn’t need to deceive me, he didn’t need to lie to anybody. At that 2010, Akpabio and Aloysius were fighting dirty. I and some other persons from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District were planning to recall Aloysius from the Senate. We had finished our plan to recall him only for Akpabio to come up with an intervention that we should allow Aloysius Etok to return to the Senate.
PT: Are you talking about Akpabio seeking a second term as governor or…..?
ENOIDEM: No, for the Senate. The Senate used to be one term for every person in our senatorial district. Senator Ibokessien started it, handed over to Itak Bob Ekarika. Itak Bob Ekarika handed over to Aloysius Etok. Aloysius Etok was supposed to hand over to another person from the Abak Federal Constituency because all the other federal constituencies would have taken their turn at that time. In 2014, we, Akpabio’s close political associates, already had the plan to send Akpabio to the Senate after his second term as governor, although it wasn’t the turn of his federal constituency. But what Akpabio did in his usual way of being smart was for him to foresee that if he doesn’t set a second term history in another person, if he goes to the Senate he too may be hurried out after one term. But even if there were no such history we would have given him a second term in the Senate if he were still in the PDP. We loved him, he was our leader when he was in the PDP.
PT: Is that why you didn’t want to contest against him?
ENOIDEM: 27 December 2017 was when Akpabio told me he wanted to go to the APC. I went to pay him my normal Christmas homage, only for me to meet him talking to a group of people, telling them that he wanted to leave PDP for the APC. (He said) that things were not working well in the PDP in Akwa Ibom State. I went into the meeting, I told him, sir, this is not the kind of thing you should discuss here. If you want to discuss this kind of thing, call the leadership in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and discuss it and let us know what your grouses are. Somehow, my voice was a bit raised because I was surprised at the discussion. So he (Akpabio) said, ‘Are you coming to insult me in my house?’ I left his house. But before I left, I told Prince Akpabio and Emmanuel Inyangetor to tell him not to discuss this matter here, and not to go to the APC because he would fail election. That was 27 December 2017. Akpabio went to APC on 8 August, 2018.
When he left, everybody – the governor, the deputy governor, and the entire leadership of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District – agreed that I should go to the Senate.
Two reasons I didn’t want to contest the election against Akpabio. I knew Akpabio was going to fail, but I didn’t want it to be me that would take over from him, he was my boss. The second one was that we should create a balance in politics; since the history of a second term had already been established, it was proper we get someone from Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency to succeed Akpabio in order to complete the second term.
PT: But that sounds contradictory because you are now standing in the election against him?
ENOIDEM: Akpabio is not in the Senate as we speak.
PT: So if he was still in the Senate, you wouldn’t have contested against him?
ENOIDEM: I am not saying I wouldn’t have contested. Akpabio is not in my party. He has moved to the APC, so I don’t owe him that allegiance. But at the time he was still in the Senate, I didn’t want to be that person that would remove him from the Senate.
PT: But he says you are his boy, and he feels insulted that you are standing in the election against him?
ENOIDEM: If Akpabio says that, then he is a very dishonest person. If Akpabio feels insulted by my ambition to the Senate, then he is a very dishonest person, one who doesn’t have regard for God. He thinks he is God. I have two reasons for saying so. One, I got my ticket on 23 May 2022. At that time, Akpabio wanted to be the president of Nigeria. So the whole world will wait for Akpabio because his name is Akpabio, so that when he chooses what he wants everybody will now pick whatever is available. It would be the height of dishonesty and lack of integrity for him to say that. If anybody is contesting election against anybody it is Akpabio that is contesting the election against me. I hope he won’t say that in public because I would insult him in a way he wouldn’t love. Two, Akpabio is not in the PDP, he is in the APC. PDP must have a candidate. So are we saying that because Akpabio wants to contest the election, PDP won’t field a candidate?
PT: He feels Udom Emmanuel is pushing you against him?
ENOIDEM: Udom Emmanuel is not pushing me! Is it not Akpabio who wanted me to go to the Senate in 2010, was Udom Emmanuel in politics then? Akpabio knows that I have the competence to be in the Senate. It is part of his lame excuses to blame everybody, instead of blaming himself for where he has put himself. I am not a child. If Akpabio is older than me it is just for two years. It just happened that Akpabio was a governor and I was a commissioner under him. But Akpabio was a commissioner under (Victor) Attah! He contested the governorship election against Attah’s wishes, was he insulting Attah? Attah wanted Udoma Bob Ekarika.
Akpabio has no history of loyalty, not to God, not to any political party or any man. Akpabio did everything to rig the (2007 governorship) election in Akwa Ibom, against the wishes of Attah. If Akpabio had loyalty to our party that made him a commissioner for six and a half years, made him a governor for eight years, and a senator for four years, he wouldn’t have crossed over to APC. I knelt down for Akpabio, one of the first persons I have ever knelt down for in my life, to beg him not to go to APC. I told him plainly you don’t have a future in APC. APC is a house that was built by some group of people, you can’t go there and dominate.
PT: But we learnt that he was frustrated out of the PDP?
ENOIDEM: Who frustrated him?
PT: Yeah, that there was a conspiracy against him by Udom Emmanuel and others?
ENOIDEM: Akpabio is a liar if he goes through that route. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a sitting governor lent the name of the state through the office of the attorney general of the state to go to the court to defend Akpabio that Akpabio did not get himself involved in corruption, that Akpabio did not steal the money of Akwa Ibom State. Udom Emmanuel did it for Akpabio. So what was the conspiracy? Akpabio doesn’t want to stay without power. If you remember in the 2015 election when we were campaigning for Jonathan, all that Akpabio was saying was that Akwa Ibom should support Jonathan so that Jonathan should win the centre because Akwa Ibom does not want to stay without the centre. That was a bad political campaign. Nigeria is a federation. You don’t run your campaign on that kind of basis, what happens if the centre is taken by another party? Akwa Ibom is a state among the comity of states in Nigeria. For you to campaign that you don’t want us to stay out of power means that you yourself it means that you must be in power forever. So when Buhari won the election, the morale of Akwa Ibom people was very low because the plank of Akpabio’s campaign had fallen. It took me to go to the media houses to talk to our people that we, as a federating state in Nigeria, can stay without the centre.
Akpabio could not imagine himself staying without being in the federal government. Akpabio couldn’t be a minister in an APC government while he was still in the PDP. So he escaped in order to go and be a minister. He did everything, both noble and ignoble, to get a ministerial appointment.
PT: Are you saying that Akpabio had no issues with Governor Udom Emmanuel?
ENOIDEM: Akpabio had not a single issue with Udom Emmanuel. All the agreements they had, Udom Emmanuel fulfilled them, including all the laws Akpabio made to be paid this and that, to be given this and to be given that.
PT: But it is said that Akpabio’s wife was prevented from entering Akwa Ibom Government House?
ENOIDEM: Who said it?
PT: Ata Ikiddeh, a former aide to Akpabio, said it.
ENOIDEM: Ata Ikiddeh is not a normal human being, he thrives on controversy. I know him.
PT: But the government hasn’t refuted it?
ENOIDEM: Government does not need to come out and refute a junk report.
PT: Akpabio too hasn’t come out to say the report was false?
ENOIDEM: I don’t think Akpabio needs to say that. I am telling you that as an insider there was no real problem between Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel by the time Akpabio left PDP. Akpabio left because he said EFCC was harassing him. Tell him I say so.
PT: Akpabio, while he was governor, significantly changed the infrastructures in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, including in your own local government area. And he appears well-loved by the people in the district. Just yesterday, I spoke with someone in the district who said you are part of a conspiracy to humiliate Akpabio.
ENOIDEM: The person who told you that is daft, he doesn’t know the elementals of politics. I and Akpabio are not in the same political party. All the things you said Akpabio did, he did them under PDP. When Akpabio left PDP and became the minister of Niger Delta Affairs under APC, what did he do for the Annang people? No, he did nothing.
If the people love him that much he wouldn’t have failed the 2019 election.
PT: He said they rigged him out?
ENOIDEM: Nobody rigged the election, it was Akpabio who was trying to rig people out. Ask Akpabio if he beat up the PDP chapter chairman in Essien Udim with his own hands. Ask him if he used the military to terrorise the collation centre in Essien Udim. Ask him whether he got people to write results for him at the INEC centre in Essien Udim. Akpabio thought he could use all the votes in Essien Udim to win the election in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Akpabio doesn’t think very well. If he has deep thought, he wouldn’t dare contest election in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. The qualification to go to the Senate is not because you did roads. We are talking about justice, fairness, equity and good conscience here. If Akpabio cannot see that Abak Federal Constituency has not gone to the Senate in 63 years of Nigeria’s independence, then Akpabio is a very wicked man. We cannot wait for Akpabio to become everything before anybody will become something. Akpabio has been a commissioner, a governor, and a senator. When he was in the Senate what did he do for us? I heard he is telling people he wants to be Senate President. Who contests elections because he wants to be Senate president? Is that reasonable? Who even told him that APC would form the majority in the Senate? If Akpabio is reasonable, he would know that Nigeria has rejected APC after what Nigerians have been passing through.
PT: What’s the focus of your campaign?
ENOIDEM: To give my people proper representation. Nigeria is being negotiated. It has been like that since 1960. I am going to make sure what is being shared to other parts of Nigeria gets to my people too.
PT: Like what?
ENOIDEM: The Federal government cannot give us electric power, we need to sit down and agree that the states should provide electric power for themselves. Nigerians are very enterprising people, if you give them electric power they will fend for themselves.
Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District has the largest belt of palm trees. Palm trees are one of the most important revenue-yielding businesses in the world. Don’t forget that the Malaysians came to Abak here to get their palm seedlings. We can return to that history when Nigeria was the highest producer and exporter of palm produce. That has been the message of my campaign. If you get to any village in my place, the first business of every woman is palm produce, to produce palm oil. They sell this oil at cheap rates to people from Aba, Abia State. We are looking at refining the oil for export and sale across Nigeria. A barrel of palm oil is more expensive than a barrel of crude oil. The beauty is that we are going to provide off-takers for our people. We are also going to make sure we provide palm mills in each of the 10 local government areas in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
PT: But the Akwa Ibom State Government has established mills in some of these areas and they appear not to be working.
ENOIDEM: What I am talking about here is not a state government matter, it is going to be private-sector driven. The Central Bank of Nigeria has a lot of money to fund agriculture. So if we get a loan for 10 per cent interest, we can share it to our people. Our people are honest enough to return the loan. I will leverage palm produce as much as God will give me the strength. We are also endowed with clay, some of the best qualities in the world. If we get an investor to set up a clay refinery, we would have empowered our people. We can set up ceramics factories.
PT: But must you be a senator before you do these things? You have been part of the government for several years as a powerful commissioner.
ENOIDEM: I don’t know what you mean by a powerful commissioner. There are certain things I wouldn’t want to say here. But this will be my focus.
PT: But people would like to have you tell them why you didn’t do these things for all the years you have been in government.
ENOIDEM: A commissioner is like a messenger, you don’t have your own policies, you depend on the policies of the chief executive who is your boss. When I was the commissioner for investment, I was the one who rejuvenated the Peacock Paints factory in Ikot Ekan, Etinan, with the cooperation of the governor.
PT: Have you ever been involved in electoral violence in Akwa Ibom?
ENOIDEM: Never. Never. Every journalist that came to my polling unit from 1999 to till the last election would see that that is the most orderly polling unit.
PT: You have never been part of election rigging?
ENOIDEM: How do you mean? Me, carrying ballot boxes?
PT: You encouraging people to do it?
ENOIDEM: Not Emmanuel Enoidem. I will never encourage rigging elections.
PT: Some people out there think you are….
ENOIDEM: (Cuts in) But you can’t stop them from enjoying their thoughts. But I am telling you the reality about me. I challenge anybody to say that they have caught Enoidem rigging election. Let me give you an example. In 2019, we had a man called (Mike) Igini. I was the PDP state agent for all the elections – presidential, governorship elections, in Akwa Ibom State. This man called Igini, may he live long. This man said INEC had a server, INEC had the capacity to do what they are saying they want to do now in the 2023 elections. And they were doing it. The only person in this country that held onto this policy was Igini. And because I knew how serious he was, what I did was in my ward, I made sure every vote passed through the card reader. You know what? When we got to the local government INEC office my ward was number one. The votes in Etim Ekpo reduced to less than 10,000 from the 20,000 plus that we used to have. Because I wanted to show people that we could make a difference, I ensured that the votes in my ward passed through the card reader.
My prayer is, God as I am going to the Senate, let me have partners that will be ready to change things in Nigeria, to give hope to Nigerians.
PT: Akpabio and his rival in the APC, Udom Ekpoudom, are still in court over who should be the APC candidate in the district. Who between the two would you prefer to stand against in the election?
ENOIDEM: Anybody. I have paid my dues in politics. I supported Akpabio to be governor, I bought (the PDP nomination) form for Akpabio to go to the Senate. There is nobody that went for election in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District as a senator that I was not at the forefront of his campaign.
PT: Do you think you can defeat Godswill Akpabio in a free and fair election?
ENOIDEM: This election is going to be free and fair. Godswill Akpabio is on the wrong side of history. Godswill Akpabio is on the offside of God. God is justice, equity and of good conscience, and therefore he cannot win this election (that is if he becomes the APC candidate). He is a greedy man who wants to be in power every day. Can’t Godswill Akpabio be (Bola) Tinubu that he went and surrendered to at Eagle Square? Am I not better than Tinubu whom he surrendered to? Don’t I have more energy than Tinubu? He will surrender to me or I will win him in this election.
Tinubu left government in 2007 as the governor of Lagos State and was raising people across the western states. When he was satisfied with the west, he went to the north and raised people – he made people governors, ministers, sent people to the Senate, House of Representatives. Godswill Akpabio thinks he can be a leader without having strong men, without encouraging other people to be strong. God will not allow that to happen. Tinubu waited for long, raised men and he strategised to win the 2015 presidential election (for the APC), and then Godswill Akpabio jumped boat to go and join him because he must eat food is ready. Godswill Akpabio is a food-is-ready politician. In a free and fair election, I will win Godswill Akpabio 10 times.
PT: You have been part of the PDP leadership in the state. Otu Ita Toyo, who was the PDP chairman in Akwa Ibom, is one man with great intellect. How come your party prevented him from becoming a part of the leadership of the PDP in the South-south zone?
ENOIDEM: The leader of our party was Godswill Akapbio at the time Toyo wanted to go to…. As a matter of fact, he (Akpabio) was the one who told Toyo to go for the South-south zonal chairman. He is also the one that stopped him because he doesn’t want anybody that has a voice.
PT: But you were there as a powerful party man and a close associate of Akpabio, did you advise him against that?
ENOIDEM: What would I have done as a commissioner? Toyo is my friend till tomorrow, he is a very cerebral guy and I respect him. Go and ask him what happened, I would have allowed him to go to anywhere he wanted to go to because I believe in his capacity. I was the state treasurer of PDP when he was the chairman of the party. Akpabio doesn’t want anybody that has a strong voice. When Akpabio left PDP for APC, how many people followed him? How many people are with him now? They went and discovered the Akpabio that we already knew. Mention everybody that left with him, how many of them are still with him? Nse Ntuen, Emmanuel Akpan, Otobong Ndem, Emmanuel Ekon, Gabriel Tobby, Godwin Afangideh. All of them have left Akpabio.
PT: At some point, you wanted to be a deputy governor (to Udom Emmanuel)?
ENOIDEM: There is no sane person that would sit down in his house and say he wants to be a deputy governor, you don’t buy a form to become a deputy governor. Akpabio said he wanted to make me a deputy governor. He didn’t and I didn’t quarrel with him because I know he is not God. You see, why I am a different politician is that if a man promises you something, just know that he is a man and may not keep to his promise. I know that if God wanted me to be deputy governor, he would have made me. Akpabio doesn’t want any strong voice around him.
PT: You were the PDP treasurer in Akwa Ibom at that time, where did you get Edet Mkpubre to fill the position of the PDP national vice chairman, South-south zone?
ENOIDEM: Akpabio brought him.
PT: Was Mkpubre involved in the PDP politics of that time?
ENOIDEM: Of course, he wasn’t. Akpabio wanted somebody who wasn’t very strong.
PT: But how can he survive in politics without having strong people around him?
ENOIDEM: Oh, there are things I would have loved to say but not today. Ask me this question next year, I will tell you a lot of things.
PT: Is it true Akpabio stopped you when you wanted to be the PDP national legal adviser?
ENOIDEM: He wanted to stop me but God stopped him. If Udom Emmanuel was not a man of integrity… Because Akpabio doesn’t want strong people, when he wanted to leave the government, before he handed over, he said that those of us who were in his (Akpabio’s) government should not last more than one year in Udom Emmanuel’s government. The man (Udom Emmanuel) wasn’t ready to honour the deal. So after one year, he (Akpabio) went to him and said this deal must be observed. That’s why I keep saying that Udom Emmanuel wasn’t the problem, it was Akpabio that was the problem.
He wanted to force Udom Emmanuel to drop all of us who were up to five years in government. So when he told the governor to remove me, the governor said how can I remove this man that is productive? Akpabio said no, that that was the agreement. The governor asked where he would keep me. So Akpabio went and negotiated for the position of the PDP national legal adviser to be zoned to Akwa Ibom. He was the Senate minority leader then, don’t forget. When the governor said who’s going to tell Enoidem about this, Akpabio left Uyo and flew to the US where I was attending the Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria (US) conference in Virginia to come and tell me that the governor wanted me to resign as commissioner and contest for the PDP national legal adviser. It was his game, not the governor’s game. Since it was his game the governor asked him to manage it. When they told me that Akpabio was in the US to see me, I said how can Akpabio travelled all the way to see me when I had only three days to stay in the US. I told Akpabio I would give him my response later. When I got back to my hotel room, I called the governor, the governor told me that it was Akpabio’s proposal, not his. I said okay, I would resign when I come back from the US.
When I came back I resigned as commissioner. For almost one year the PDP did not have its election because of the Ali Modu Sheriff issue. In between that one year, the governor said instead of being redundant I should go to the London Business School. In between that time, Akpabio went and conspired with Emmanuel Ekon that the APC has a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as their legal adviser, how can they bring Enoidem that is not a SAN, what if there is a case between PDP and APC? They took the story to (Governor) Wike (of Rivers State), but Udom Emmanuel said no, that that is his choice and that there is no provision in the PDP constitution that you must be a SAN before you become the party’s legal adviser.
He (Akpabio) didn’t want me to occupy any position. That was how I became the party’s legal adviser. Before we went to Eagle Square, they called a meeting of national assembly members across the South-south in Akpabio’s house to decide whether they will support me or not. Fight broke out in Akpabio’s house in Ikoyi because of me. Akpabio and Emmanuel Ekon brought those people to come and say they don’t want Enoidem. Mike Enyong and Bassey Albert told Emmanuel Ekon who are you to come and say you don’t want Emmanuel Enoidem when the governor says he wants him. When I became the national legal adviser, I performed very well because I didn’t want to let Udom Emmanuel down.
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