A senator, Godswill Akpabio, on Wednesday, officially defected from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
At a reception organised for him at Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, by the APC, Mr Akpabio criticised the PDP as not being fair to him and others who he said worked faithfully and loyally to build the party.
The senator’s wife, Unoma, accompanied him to the event.
The PDP, according to Mr Akpabio, was rather quick to celebrate and reward those he said abandoned and betrayed the party during the 2015 general elections, apparently referring to the recent defection of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, several other senators, and other politicians from the APC to the PDP.
Mr Akpabio told the large crowd, which included a leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, and the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, that the PDP is finished in the Niger Delta region.
“This is the end of PDP in the Niger Delta,” Mr Akpabio said, throwing the crowd into jubilation.
“What I have done today is to take Akwa Ibom State and the South-South to the centre…. We will gather together to vote in President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Nigerians are yet to see the best of President Buhari; we must give him a chance to govern this country.
“Do not be afraid of President Buhari if your hands are clean,” the senator said.
He apologised to those he offended in the past, who left the PDP for APC because of him.
“For those of you whom I have offended who are already in the APC, please forgive me. For whatever I did, I did it for collective interest.”
Mr Akpabio dismissed speculations that he was forced to leave his former party.
“Some people said they put a gun over my head. But let me say it here, I have never been charged to court by the EFCC,” he said.
He said part of the reason that made him leave the PDP is that he is a “nationalist”. “In times like this, all hands must be on deck to salvage the country,” he said.
He said he did not mind people labeling him a conspirator if he is able to join hand with others to “bring food to the people’s table, and to stop the killings, and bring peace to Nigeria”.
The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
More than 30 APC senators were present at the event to show solidarity with Mr Akpabio.
The APC national chairman, Mr Oshiomhole, welcomed Mr Akpabio to the party and presented him with a broom, which is the party’s symbol.
“I accept this broom to sweep away poverty and tyranny in Akwa Ibom State,” Mr Akpabio said.
Mr Oshiomhole described the event as “historic” in the life of APC.
The Senate majority leader, Mr Lawan, said Mr Akpabio’s defection has shaken the PDP.
“This is one defection that has swallowed all previous defections. They followed him everywhere, they followed him overseas; they were on their knees, begging him not to defect.
“From today, Senator Akpabio is a full-blooded APC Caucus member,” Mr Lawan said, adding that Mr Akpabio’s influence has grown beyond Akwa Ibom State and the National Assembly.
The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), Umana Umana, and a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, John Udoedehe, were among the APC chieftains who attended the event.
“Today, I am happy to say that change has come to Akwa Ibom State,” Mr Ekere said. “With what is happening today, I can conveniently say that Akwa Ibom is APC.”
Two members of the House of Representatives, two state legislators, who are members of the PDP, were among those who defected with Mr Akpabio to the APC.
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