The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State has reportedly picked Godswill Akpabio as its consensus candidate for the 2019 Senate election for Akwa Ibom North-West district.
Mr Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom, is the senator representing the district. He is seeking re-election for a second term, after defecting from his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
Mr Akpabio had resigned as the Senate minority leader shortly before his defection.
A statement from Mr Akpabio’s media aide, Anietie Ekong, said the senator was picked as the APC consensus candidate after his main challenger, Inibehe Okorie, was persuaded on Monday morning to “forgo his interest” in the race.
The senator emerged as a consensus candidate after a “protracted meeting” of the party leaders in the country home of Mr Okorie in Obong Ntak, Etim Ekpo local government area of the state, the statement said.
Those who reportedly attended the meeting included, a former petroleum minister and the APC caucus chairman in the state, Don Etiebet; the state chairman of APC, Ini Okopido; Mr Akpabio; the Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere; and a retired deputy inspector general of police, Udom Ekpoudom.
The statement quoted Mr Okorie as saying that he decided to forgo his aspiration in the interest of the party and the district.
He reportedly praised Mr Akpabio as “an uncommon senator” and said he was excited about his coming to the APC.
“As far as his (Akpabio’s) aspiration is concerned, we in Akwa Ibom North-west Senatorial district have declared Senator Akpabio as the unopposed candidate of the APC,” Mr Okorie said.
“We decided that we have to send our best to be our voice at the national level. Senator Akpabio is a prophet whom we all respect at home.”
Mr Okorie called on his supporters to work for the victory of Mr Akpabio and the APC in the 2019 election.
The senator, in his response, reportedly thanked Mr Okorie for his dedication to the party and his decision to forgo his ambition.
He said Mr Okorie decided to step down unconditionally to avoid any acrimony in the party.
He said for the APC to pick him as a consensus candidate for the Senate race meant that his coming into the party in Akwa Ibom was generally accepted, adding that he came along with others to add value to the party.
APC in the state, the senator said, was working hard to mobilise support for the party at all levels so as to go into the elections with a united front.
“We are trying as a party to work as a family in the state,” he said. “With the policy of the federal government that every vote must count as we witnessed in the election in Osun State, we have to work extra hard to deliver our party at all levels.”
The senator thanked the party leaders in the state for the “confidence” they have on him and promised to do more to give effective representation to the district and the state.
Mr Etiebet announced at the meeting that another aspirant for the party ticket’s in the Senate race, Ekperikpe Ekpo, had earlier stepped down for Mr Akpabio.
Mr Etiebet said Mr Akpabio’s coming into the APC boost the fortunes of the party. He expressed delight the party in the state was forging a common front ahead of the 2019 general elections.
For the general election, Mr Akpabio is most likely going to face a former deputy governor of the state, Chris Ekpenyong, who has been endorsed as a possible PDP flag-bearer for Senate race in the district by the party caucus in the state.