A senator, Godswill Akpabio, has denied saying that he regretted helping Udom Emmanuel to become Akwa Ibom governor in 2015.
Mr Akpabio represents Akwa Ibom North West District in the Senate.
A news report published by the Punch newspaper said Mr Akpabio, a former governor of the state, apologised on Sunday to a crowd of supporters at Ikot Ekpene for his role in Mr Emmanuel’s victory at the poll.
The paper quoted Mr Akpabio to have said: “Udom (Emmanuel) is a mistake that must be corrected in 2019”.
A former senator from the state, Anietie Okon, during a political rally on Monday in the governor’s own local government area, Onna, reportedly cited the remarks attributed to Mr Akpabio and allegedly hit back at the senator.
But Mr Akpabio immediately issued a statement on Monday, refuting the media report and also countering Mr Okon.
“The attention of His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, has been drawn to a speech by Senator Anietie Okon at a purported mega rally at Onna, the home Local Government Area of Governor Udom Emmanuel, insinuating that Senator Akpabio said that Udom Emmanuel was a mistake in 2015.
“We state categorically that such assertion never came from Senator Akpabio,” the senator said in the statement from his media aide, Anietie Ekong.
The statement said Mr Akpabio knows that power comes from God and, therefore, could not have said it was a mistake for God to make Mr Emmanuel governor of the state.
“Senator Akpabio is now an APC chieftain, hence the likes of Senator Okon should concentrate their energy on marketing their party – the PDP instead of continually using falsehood to drive a wedge between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor.
“For 2019, God shall decide the fate of our nation and individuals according to his will,” the senator said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the senator’s media aide, Mr Ekong, he insisted, “If you watch the video of the event in Ikot Ekpene, there is no place you will hear the senator talk about regrets, mistake and all that”.
He said the senator was not properly quoted in the media report.
Political tension has heightened in Akwa Ibom since Mr Akpabio defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on August 8.
He had resigned his position as the Senate minority leader before the defection.
His defection, which has attracted huge celebration from the APC members and supporters in the state, is seen as a major threat to Governor Emmanuel’s 2019 re-election bid.
Although disliked by some people because of his ruthless brand of politics, Mr Akpabio is widely respected as one of the most influential politicians in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria’s South-south region.
He handpicked Udom Emmanuel, a former executive director in Zenith Bank, appointed him Secretary to the State Government (SSG), groomed, and later helped him become governor of Akwa Ibom in 2015, despite opposition within his party, the PDP.
He is also responsible for the election and the appointment of several people in the state into public offices.
Mr Emmanuel, in a veiled attack against Mr Akpabio, during the Monday political rally in Onna, said only one senator – Bassey Albert – was “speaking for the whole of Akwa Ibom State” for now in the Senate.