Akpabio meets former political foes at first APC caucus meeting since defection

Senator Godswill Akpabio (right) smiles at Mr John Udoedehe at Akwa Ibom APC Caucus meeting on Saturday in Uyo

A senator, Godswill Akpabio, on Saturday, attended the caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom state for the first time since his defection a few days ago from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The meeting, which was held at a private event centre in Uyo, was attended by several APC leaders, including Don Etiebet, Umana Umana, Nsima Ekere, and John Udoedehe, who have had one terrible story or the other to tell of their encounter with Mr Akpabio when he was the governor of the state from 2007 to 2015.

For instance, Mr Udoedehe, a former senator, was Mr Akpabio’s campaign chief in the 2007 governorship election.

He later fell out with the then Governor Akpabio, left the PDP to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) where he got the governorship ticket to challenge Mr Akpabio’s re-election.

Mr Akpabio won re-election, but Mr Udoedehe almost lost his life when he and his campaign team were violently attacked in Ikot Ekpene, March 2011, by thugs suspected to have been hired by the PDP.

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Some ACN supporters were killed in the attack.

Mr Udoedehe, ironically, was subsequently arrested, detained, and charged to court for murder and arson by the Akwa Ibom state government, but was later discharged and acquitted.

Another politician, Mr Ekere, who is the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), was the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom. He served under Mr Akpabio.

Mr Ekere hurriedly resigned as deputy governor on October 31, 2012, after receiving a tipoff that Mr Akpabio was plotting his impeachment.

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He had served for only 17 months and two days in office and made history as having had the shortest tenure as deputy governor in the state.

One year after dealing with Mr Ekere, Mr Akpabio moved against the then Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Umana, considered then as his strongest political ally and fondly called “the engine room” of the administration.

Mr Akpabio pushed Mr Umana out of office under controversial circumstances, and went ahead to block his ambition of becoming a governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2015 election.

Mr Umana, out of frustration, defected from the PDP to the APC where he stood election and lost to Udom Emmanuel, who was handpicked by Mr Akpabio.

Today, ironically, Mr Akpabio has parted ways with his successor, Mr Emmanuel, and is now hoping to rally the likes of Messrs. Etiebet, Umana, Ekere, and Udoedehe to stop the governor’s re-election in 2019.

An APC leader who attended the meeting said Mr Akpabio informed the caucus that he has come into the party to help strengthen it, and begged for forgiveness from those he offended in the past.

The meeting was chaired by Mr Etiebet, a former petroleum minister.

“The mood was neither here nor there,” the APC source said. “The meeting was very brief, slightly beyond an hour.”

Apart from Mr Etiebet and Mr Akpabio, the only person allowed to speak at the meeting was a former state secretary of the APC who confirmed to the caucus that he and his faction have withdrawn a suit filed at an Abuja high court against the party over the conduct of the last state congress.

Some political analysts believe Mr Akpabio’s defection to the APC would likely cause friction between him and his former political enemies, besides depleting the goodwill the party hitherto enjoyed in the state.

There are, however, those who think otherwise.

“He is a very ebullient leader. He is very charismatic. I believe his coming to the APC will change the fortunes of the APC in Akwa Ibom in particular, and the South-South in general,” President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Since the senator’s defection, the PDP-controlled state government has been holding series of rallies around the state to show off political might ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

“I am overwhelmed. The number of people here (in the stadium) is enough for me not to say anything here today. You’ve written the story, you’ve shown it to the whole world that Akwa Ibom is PDP,” Governor Emmanuel said on Friday in Uyo to a large crowd of supporters when he declared his bid to contest for a second term in office.

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