The leadership crisis within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State has deepened, with the party now having two headquarters in the state.
The headquarters of the APC in Uyo is at Ikot Ekpene Road.
But a faction loyal to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, recently opened a new headquarters elsewhere in the city, at Ekpo Obot Street, off Oron Road.
Some officers inside a pickup truck manned the entrance of the new office most of the time, apparently to scare away potential troublemakers.
The other faction of the party is loyal to the former national secretary of the APC, John Akpanudoedehe.
It is led by Austin Ekanem, who until March, was the chairman of the APC in Akwa Ibom before he and others were sacked via an order of a Federal High Court, Abuja.
But it later turned out that Stephen Ntukekpo, the man who leads the APC faction loyal to Mr Akpabio, had presented forged documents to the court to secure the judgement against Mr Ekanem.
Meanwhile, the former national secretary of the party, Mr Akpanudoedehe, has gone to the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to challenge the ruling of the lower court.
The APC chieftain, Sheriff Banki, who headed a seven-man committee that conducted the October 16, 2021 APC state congress in Akwa Ibom, said it was Mr Ekanem, and not Mr Ntukekpo, that was elected the chairman of the party in the state.
Mr Banki said Mr Ntukekpo forged his signature on the result sheet and presented it as an exhibit before the court.
He (Banki) filed a petition with the APC, the police, the State Security Service, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the matter. He called for the criminal prosecution of Mr Ntukekpo in his petition.
Mr Ntukekpo was not even at the venue of the party congress, Mr Banki said.
A certified authentic copy of the results of the congress obtained from INEC by PREMIUM TIMES corroborated Mr Banki’s claims that the documents presented in court by Mr Ntukekpo were forged.
The law mandates INEC to monitor how political parties in Nigeria elect their leaders.
“I wasn’t the author, I didn’t manufacture, I didn’t produce in any form or fashion the so-called result sheet of the congress,” the chairman of the APC in Akwa Ibom, Mr Ntukekpo, told PREMIUM TIMES, Saturday.
Mr Ntukekpo did not argue that the documents he presented in the court were not forged.
“I want to tell you clearly that the person who should actually be in a better position to confirm whether that document was forged, is the APC as a party. So, all the questions should be addressed to the national office of the APC,” he said to this newspaper.
When our reporter told Mr Ntukekpo that PREMIUM TIMES has a certified true copy of the results of the APC state congress from INEC, he retorted: “Which of the INEC are you talking about, is it Akwa Ibom State INEC or the national INEC?”
He wanted to talk about the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, but he suddenly pulled himself back.
“You’re talking about Mike Igini. Mike Igini knows what he knows,” Mr Ntukekpo said at the beginning of his response.
He paused, and then said, “I don’t want to make any accusations on this.”
“If you’re talking about Akwa Ibom State INEC, I don’t understand what you’re talking about because I have told you, INEC has absolutely no legitimacy to conduct a party congress,” he said, in conclusion, without really answering the question why the result sheets he presented at the Federal High Court, Abuja, is completely different from the certified true copy that INEC.
PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr Ntukekpo why, apart from Mr Akpabio, other chieftains of the APC in Akwa Ibom were not in support of his leadership.
“Those few individuals are not APC,” he responded.
“They are just members of APC. So, I would rather advise you to go to the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja and ask them who the state chairman of the APC is.”
Mr Ntukekpo confirmed he was interrogated for forgery by the police in Abuja.
Jackson Udom, the media aide to Mr Akpabio, declined comment on the matter, saying the minister would not want to comment on “a matter that is already before their Lordships”.
APC chieftains abandoning the party
Apart from the APC now having two headquarters in Akwa Ibom, the two factions of the party have been issuing conflicting statements on the affairs of the party in the state.
Solomon Johnny, the spokesperson for the faction loyal to Mr Akpanudoedehe, issued a statement on Tuesday to counter the activities of Mr Ntukekpo’s faction.
“Anything done by the impostor as the State Chairman of the party is null, void and of no consequence whatsoever,” Mr Johnny said in the statement which he posted on Facebook.
Many members have left the APC in Akwa Ibom lately because of the festering crisis.
Not less than 25 chieftains have left the APC in state in the past months, with the latest being Inibehe Okorie, the party candidate for the 2015 election for the Akwa Ibom North-West District.
Mr Okorie is now a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Godwin Udoedehe, a brother to Mr Akpanudoedehe, has also defected from the APC to the PDP.
Mr Akpabio’s relative, Ibanga Akpabio and several of Mr Akpabio’s political allies have left the minister to pitch tent with his rival – Mr Akpanudoedehe.
A former minister of petroleum, Don Etiebet and several other party leaders in Akwa Ibom are supporting Mr Ekanem whom they all voted for as the chairman of the APC in the state.
Mr Etiebet has made a few unsuccessful attempts at persuading Mr Akpabio to recognise Mr Ekanem, and not to foist Mr Ntukekpo on the party.
“We cannot condone an illegality of causing Stephen Ntukekpo who was not even at the congress to be sworn-in as the elected chairman of the APC in Akwa Ibom State,” Mr Etiebet told PREMIUM TIMES.
Adamu’s role in the crisis
Abdullahi Adamu-led national leadership of the party has compounded the crisis in Akwa Ibom APC.
Mr Adamu, apart from allegedly taking side with Mr Akpabio to shield Mr Ntukekpo over the forgery, had hurriedly sworn-in Mr Ntukekpo as the APC chairman in Akwa Ibom in defiance of the order of the Court of Appeal.
The APC national leadership has also made an attempt to frustrate the case at the Court of Appeal–the case is likely to expose the forgery against Mr Ntukekpo.
KufreAbasi Etuk, a former member of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, said he and over 600,000 members of the APC in Akwa Ibom are worried over the leadership crisis in the party.
“Honestly, I do not know who to direct this memo to, having witnessed the degree of polarisation in my party in Akwa Ibom State,” he said in a Facebook post, on April 14.
Mr Etuk said the 2023 general elections could be the best chance for the APC in Akwa Ibom, if only the party can quickly resolve its leadership crisis in the state.
Politicians seeking for elective positions in Akwa Ibom may become unwilling to do so under the APC because of the crisis, he said.
“Let the leaders of the party sit down, let’s talk,” he said, as a way forward for the APC in Akwa Ibom.
Imaobong Akpan, a member of the APC in Akwa Ibom, said Messrs Akpabio, Akpanudoedehe and other leaders of the party need to seek a “common ground” that could enable them to build the party back and prepare it for the 2023 elections.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To place an advert here . Call Willie - +2348098788999