Akpabio: In the footsteps of Peter Odili, By Ehis Roberts-Omoighe

Akpabio’s lavish spending on the PDP might be the beginning of his downfall, the author says.

The current most popular and beloved Governor as far as the People Democratic Party, PDP, is concerned is no doubt Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. He is currently also the money bag and honey pot of PDP and has been elevated to the status of a “Fixer” in the Party.

In PDP a “Fixer” is regarded as a party member of unparalleled loyalty who when required is expected to use all means available to fix an issue for the party. Hence, the sorioquiet “Mr. Fix It” has been given to Tony Anenih by the party faithfuls.

Governor Akpabio, has no doubt, excelled in the art of governance no matter what his critic may say. I have visited Uyo, the state capital, several times since he took over and can testify that Akpabio has changed the face of a backward state. In less than six years, he has constructed several roads and opened several areas of the state. In the South-South today, Akwa Ibom is perhaps the most secured state.

Other than Uyo, I do not know of any other state capital in Nigeria where one can drive around 1 a.m. While his critics are quick to praise him for the infrastructural achievement he has recorded in the state, they frown at the fact that the poverty level in the state is still high. This, they attribute to the fact he is not pursuing the industrialisation of the state.

Recently the Governor started attracting controversy the way a moth is drawn to light. A very liberal man who does not know the difference between the state money and personal money, Akpabio is gradually elevating the act of donations to a dubious level. At a fund raising ceremony in honour of the President’s home town church, Akpabio, on behalf of PDP Governors forum, donated a princely sum of N230 million to the chagrin of his fellow governors who through their spokesmen declared that they were unaware or never authorised the donation.

The storm that donation raised was yet to die down when the Governor, at the traditional marriage of Tuface Idibia, the popular musician, donated a Prado jeep to the couple and promised to fly Twenty-Nine guest to Dubai for the wedding proper taking place at Dubai. One would have expected the Governor to greatly frown at the stupid decision of the couple to fly to Dubai for a wedding when several cities abound in Nigeria.

While the nation was agog with the criticisms of the lavish spending of state fund, the Governor at a zonal meeting of PDP donated the sum of six million Naira to the PDP Chairmen in the Zone to have lunch at Mr. Biggs. When massive criticism assailed this latest spending of state funds, the PDP came to the Governor defence and severely chastised those criticising the Governor.

It must be noted that with his recent elevation to the position of Chairman of PDP Governors Forum where he played the perfect role of “fixing” the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, his River State counterpart, Rotimi Amaechi, PDP will always be quick to defend Godswill Akpabio.

The reason for this is not farfetched, PDP machinery like all political machinery need regular servicing. Since all eyes are often firmly fixed on the Federal Government with the National Assembly ever quick to probe any unwarranted spending by the President or minister (notice that the President hardly donates any money at social or political function), the party often turns to the Governors elected on the party’s platform for support. Of course, since the Governors often control their state houses of assemblies, they can afford to give out as much of the state funds as they like without the state lawmakers battling an eyelid.

In Nigeria today, the PDP boasts of twenty three governors. Of these twenty three, only eight are in the South while the North has fifteen governors. Sadly, however, the Northern Governors are currently battling security challenges and so understandably the party cannot be expected to be making monetary demand on them. So the party naturally has to turn the Southern Governors. PDP has long lost their stronghold in the South West, while the South East governors on the party platform are really not buoyant.

Chime Sullivan has been battling with illness, while the Chimaroke Nnamani treatment by PDP would have been a warning to him. Ebonyi has nothing to offer, while Governor Theodore Orji, with a battle on his hands, requires all his state resources. His benefactor, Orji Uzor Kalu, is trying to muzzle his way back to PDP, so any resources available now must be deployed to stop Kalu and convince the people on the need to stay by him.

So, to the five South-South states do the governors of the party have to turn to. There is, however, a hiccup; the James Ibori treatment will, however, never allow Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State to open the treasury door as his mentor Ibori did. Mr. Ibori, in spite of generous contributions to PDP’s success, was eventually abandoned by the party. Governor Uduaghan, having seen and learnt, has been very careful with donating or financing the party. ( notice that Delta State hardly hosts any major national political function).

Although Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is “in” PDP, he is not “of” the PDP. After suffering a personal terrible betrayal by the Party in 2007 when his mandate was taken by the Party and given to his cousin, Celestine Omehia, Rotimi Amaechi’s mandate was only restored to him by the Supreme Court, he has long pitched his tent with the people of River State. He prefers to spend money for the state rather than throw it at ungrateful and spiteful party members.

Notice that unlike the Odili years, when Rivers State was practically the second capital of Nigeria as all majors political functions or meeting were often held there(it is on record that in his eight years presidency President Obasanjo visited Rivers State about twenty two times), Rotimi Amaechi hardly hosts any big political event.

The other state, Cross River, having lost lots of oil wells, really does not have the kind of money needed to service the PDP structure. Bayelsa State, the home state of the President, is still grappling with infrastructural challenge and it will be politically suicidal for the governor to be seem splashing money like a drunken sailor in honour of a political party even if it is the President’s party considering how he emerged as the Governor.

The above analysis effectively makes Godswill Akpabio, the new PDP financial power house . Having seen the reluctance of his fellow governors to service the party, Akpabio moved in to capitalise on the gain and by that acquire enough political IOUs and credits. Currently Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital is destination of all major political events. At the last count since he mounted the throne, President Jonathan has visited Uyo more than any other state capital for official functions. Also, lots of PDP functions have been held in Akwa Ibom State. Each of these hosting or function often sets the state back financially.

Governor Akpabio, however, needs to learn from Peter Odili’s fall and story. Mr. Odili during the Obasanjo’s administration was PDP’s golden boy. He was generous to a fault and went out of his way to service the PDP structure. He has on many occasions made huge donations to the cause of the party and hosted elaborate party events.

Towards the end of Obasanjo presidency, Odili fell out with Obasanjo and the PDP over his alleged refusal to support the ex-president’s third term bid. EFCC was let loose on him and his officials. His attempt to become the Vice President was truncated after he had already humbly surrendered his presidential ambition. In fact, it took the sagacity of his legal team to prevent him from going to jail or at least facing legal humiliation as he has recently narrated in his book. Odili’s book is highly recommended to every PDP member. It will help them to know how to measure their dealings and standing within PDP.

Godswill Akpabio may need to sit down and study Odili’s tragic end and the humiliating betrayal he suffered at the hand of PDP party men who he lavishly expended Rivers State funds on. When Akpabio has done this, he should then decide whether it is wise to continue walking the Odili’s PDP foot path which history has shown leads to infamy.

There is still time for redemption if he will heed this advice.

God bless Nigeria

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