The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has indicated that he is set for the 2019 political battle against his estranged godfather, Godswill Akpabio, who is a senator from the state.
Mr Emmanuel, during a political rally in Uyo, December 10, delivered what could be considered his most scathing remarks against Mr Akpabio so far.
A video of the governor making the remarks has been posted on the Akwa Ibom state government’s Facebook page.
The rally was organised to welcome several people who were defecting from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Empty vessels make the loudest noise,” the governor, apparently referring to the Mr Akpabio, said from the stage where he was standing to address the large crowd.
Mr Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, has become the leader and the voice of the opposition APC in the state since his defection from the PDP in August. He has been consistent in attacking the performance of Governor Emmanuel whom he helped to win the 2015 governorship election.
“Those who came to Akwa Ibom by night bus and those who came in a chartered plane, are they the same?” Governor Emmanuel said at the Uyo rally.
“No!” the crowd chorused.
The crowd laughed, clapped, and cheered on, apparently excited to see the hitherto quiet governor take on Mr Akpabio and other APC chieftains in the state.
Standing on the stage with the governor were Paul Ekpo, the Chairman of PDP in the state; Bassey Albert, a senator from the state; Idongesit Nkanga, a former military administrator of the state and chairman of the PDP campaign council in the state; and other PDP chieftains.
Governor Emmanuel’s “night bus” comment is a line often used by the PDP supporters in the state, although without proof, to portray Mr Akpabio as one who could not afford flight ticket from Lagos to Uyo in 2002 to pick up an appointment as a commissioner during the administration of Victor Attah.
Mr Akpabio, a lawyer, had had a flourishing career at a Lagos-based telecommunication firm, EMIS Telecoms Limited, where he rose to become the company’s managing director in 2002 before his appointment as a commissioner for petroleum and natural resources in Akwa Ibom.
He served as the national spokesperson of the Association of Telecommunication Companies in Nigeria (ATCOM), while he was a director in EMIS Telecoms.
One person close to Mr Akpabio said the senator had a 505 Evolution car then, while he was in Lagos.
“Does that sound like a man who couldn’t purchase ticket for a flight from Lagos to Calabar,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel, in an attempt to build a contrast with the image painted of the senator, said he (Mr Emmanuel) flew from Lagos into the state in a chartered flight.
He did not, however, say when he chartered a flight and the circumstances around it.
Mr Emmanuel’s first appointment with the Akwa Ibom government was in July 2013 when he was made the secretary to the government, ironically, by Mr Akpabio.
The governor, during the Uyo rally, attacked Mr Akpabio’s signature projects like the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo, the Four-Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, as being mere “monuments”.
“People should not make noise about monuments which they claimed are projects,” the governor said. “Monuments are not projects.”
“Let’s set up a platform for us to debate with facts. I mean facts, not lies.
“We are the children of truth, not lies.
“God has already blessed Akwa Ibom, Satan cannot take away the blessings,” he said.
More than 20,000 APC members defected to PDP on that day, the governor claimed. “Only people who are in servitude still carry broom about,” he added.
The “night bus” comment shook the APC supporters in the state and got them sulking for days on Facebook.
But in the other hand, it became a good ammunition for the PDP to use in stepping up their attack against the opposition.
“Just a mild slap and every APC man has turned a Pastor. The thing has entered well,” Aniekeme Finbarr, Governor Emmanuel’s media aide, boasted on Facebook.
“Keep the insults coming, one more clapback and you will all be ordained monks.”
Mr Finbarr capped his Facebook post with a hashtag #NightBus.
Aniefiok Macauley, another media aide to the governor, commented on Mr Finbarr’s post, “If the claimant says he didn’t come by night bus then let him show us his flight and ticket number.”
Mr Finbarr, in a subsequent day, posted on his Facebook page, an article in defence of the governor’s remarks. The article was written by another person, though.
The article reads in parts, “At first, they thought the governor was incapable of challenging the ‘great teacher’. How wrong! Apparently, Mr. Akpabio has been overrated and his influence exaggerated.
“His successor deserves many kudos for the level of tolerance he has shown towards a man infamously known for his overbearing attitudes; not knocks for speaking up in defense of his person and his administration.
“There’s no wrong in fitting issues into proper perspectives. For whatever gratitude there is, respect should be mutual. You can’t run a man down and not expect his opinion of you to go down by many degrees.
“The people are glad that Governor Emmanuel is finally ‘talking’. They are backing him to talk more. Civility isn’t timidity. Courtesy can’t be poltroonery. It is nauseating mischief for cheerers to emerge when the former Senate minority leader throws words carelessly at his successor and governor of the state but shout hoarse when the latter replies in equal measure.”
Mr Akpabio has refused to issue a response to the governor’s comment.
“The senator cannot respond to such frivolities,” Anietie Ekong, the senator’s media aide, told PREMIUM TIMES. “If he were to talk about serious issues of governance we would have probably offered a response.”
John Udoedehe, a former minister and a chieftain of the APC in the state, said the governor’s remarks against his predecessor was “a display of ungratefulness”.
“Is that not ungratefulness? A man who came to Lagos with a government aircraft to pick you to Uyo, and you are now insulting him! A man who has been your mentor!
“It is not fair. He has been pretending to be a gentleman; that is not the language of a gentleman,” Mr Udoedehe told PREMIUM TIMES.
The former minister said the senator comes from a great family dynasty and had “seen money” before he became a governor.
When reminded that he (Mr Udoedehe) has made horrible remarks against Mr Akpabio and other fellow Akwa Ibom politicians in the past, he responded: “If I have said horrible things against Akpabio or other politicians it is because I helped them to be what they are today.”
Mr Udoedehe also spoke on the claim that the “20,000” APC members who defected to PDP were his loyalists.
“These are impersonators. How can you just call names of people in each local government area and say they were chapter chairmen?
“Lies!” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES told Mr Udoedehethat the paper was able to independently confirm the defection of one Joseph Amah, a former chairman of APC in Onna Local Government Area.
“Yes, he was (of the APC),” he admitted. “They gave him a new car because of Udom Emmanuel’s desperation to buy our people.
“These people are like children of Israel when Moses went to meet God for the 10 Commandments, instead of waiting for Moses to come back, they started asking Aaron to get idol god for them to worship.
“I refuse to call them my supporters.
“What happened there, is nothing to worry about. It cannot affect APC victory in 2019.
“They said the people who defected were up to 20,000. They are lying. Can Ibom Hall ground (the venue of the rally) take up to 1,000 people?
“You can see desperation here. Udom is behaving like a snake whose head has been cut off, leaving the body to wriggle about aimlessly and helplessly.
“Because of this, people are now scamming the governor; they are making a lot of money from him,” Mr Udoedehe said.