Akpabio denies rigging election, claims he was misunderstood

Godswill Akpabio
Godswill Akpabio confessed to rigging the 2007 senatorial primary elections in his state.

The Akwa Ibom Governor blamed ‘mischief makers’ for the report.

The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, late Sunday struggled to explain away an indicting video where he brazenly admitted to manipulating his party’s senatorial primaries that produced Aloysius Etok, a serving senator.

Mr. Akpabio said he personally “used my hand” to strike off the name of the winner of the nomination, replacing same with Mr. Etok’s name. He spoke during the controversial Good Governance Tour to Akwa Ibom state two weeks ago.

Mr. Akpabio later backtracked in the lengthy footage after his attention was drawn by an aide to the consequences of his comments. The governor said the he only mobilized support for Mr. Etok to win since his region, a minority in the senatorial district, had not produced a senator since independence.

The video, published by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, sparked outrage with many calling for sanctions against the governor.

The Akwa Ibom Government blamed the media and “mischief makers” for the governor’s gaffe in a statement issued late Sunday. The state’s Information Commissioner, Anieka Umanah, said Mr. Akpabio was misunderstood, and emphasized the governor’s subsequent attempt at clarifying the comments.

“Contrary to false impression making the rounds that Senator Aloysius Etok, representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District was imposed on the people of the area by Governor Godswill Akpabio, it has been explained that the choice of the Senator was the outcome of due political process,” a statement by Idris Mabadeje, an Information Officer, said.

Mr. Umanah is quoted by the statement as claiming that Mr. Akpabio “was misunderstood in a video post on some websites and in the social media.”

“Chief Akpabio has never, and would never engage in the rigging of election at any level,” he said, assuring that “Governor Akpabio is a true democrat who will always support and promote efforts geared towards deepening Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.”

Mr. Akpabio has been at the centre of multiple “donation” scandals involving his well-known profligate use of state funds for indiscreet purposes.

Despite clear evidences exposing the governor in the past, the state government’s reactions and those of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which has been a key beneficiary of the governor’s largesse, have been to dismiss the attacks as political; occasioned by Mr. Akpabio’s recent emergence as the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum.

The state government and the party said the wave of media disclosures on the governor are sponsored by the opposition parties and some disgruntled PDP members.

But amid the claims, there have been no letup in the governor’s extravagance. Mr. Akpabio himself told journalists in Uyo over the weekend that the attacks will not deter him from his habits. He followed that pledge up with cash gifts to the Super Eagles who played a World Cup qualifier in Calabar on Saturday.

This time though, as if subtly reflecting his acknowledgement of the criticisms, the donations appeared fair and not characteristically outlandish. Each player at the Nations Cup got N1 million while Coach Stephen Keshi received N2 million. Assistant Coaches got N500 thousand each.

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