Godswill Akpabio, a senator from Akwa Ibom State, has narrated how his surprise stop-over at a church prompted a pastor to openly ‘cry’ before the congregants.
Mr Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom, said the incident happened in Uyo while he was the governor.
He did not, however, give specific date and location of the incident.
Mr Akpabio narrated the story in a bid to counter a mocking claim by his successor that he was poor before taking up a government appointment.
“There is one Mount Zion Light House Church, they had many people there and it was raining. The thatched roof of the church was not done well, so the rain was dripping inside,” Mr Akpabio said in an interview he granted a radio station in Uyo, late last year.
PREMIUM TIMES got a tape of the interview just last week.
Mr Akpabio said he was passing by to attend a wedding elsewhere when he spotted the dilapidated church.
“So, after the wedding, I was coming out, my convoy had moved on. Being somebody who came by night bus, I dropped immediately and ran inside the thatched building to meet with the people inside the church.
“I forgot I was a governor. I used to forget many times. Maybe, I shouldn’t have done that by way of the protocol. But I entered the church. The old women held me and they were touching me all over.
“The pastor of the church carried a microphone and wanted to welcome me, then he started crying. He dropped the microphone and then went and sat down and started weeping,” the senator said.
Mr Akpabio said he persuaded the pastor to stop crying and gave the church N5 million to purchase land so he could help build a new church for them.
The former governor apparently wanted to use his story in the interview to draw a distinction between himself and his estranged protégé and successor, Udom Emmanuel.
He wanted to paint himself as one who is always at home with the people, compared with Mr Emmanuel.
He repeatedly joked about the “night bus”, a phrase Governor Emmanuel used sometimes ago to attack him.
“How can a man that came with a night bus and the one that came in a chartered flight (interact)?” Mr Akpabio said when asked in the interview if he and Governor Emmanuel were still talking with each other.
“They are arriving at two different places – one would arrive at a motor park, while the other would arrive at the airport.
“The one that arrived at the airport doesn’t have the opportunity of seeing poor people and relating with them, the one that came with night bus can eat groundnut at Ore and can also eat ‘mama put’ (cheap food sold at roadside) with them,” he said.
Nevertheless, the senator dismissed with tact the “night bus” story as being untrue.
“Yes, the night bus was Overland Airways (a Lagos-based airline). I chattered Overland Airways, landed in Port Harcourt, and my cousin picked me up and I came here (Uyo),” the senator said.
“I had five brand new cars in Lagos, with three drivers, before I was appointed a commissioner in 2002. I was a managing director of EMIS Telecom (a wireless telecommunications company) with over 700 staff and three offices in Lagos.
Mr Akpabio said he was able to connect with people because he did not come from a privileged family.
“I never even had a house when I was born; my home was destroyed during the civil war. And then my father died when I was six-months-old.
“I used to sometimes sleep in a primary school building while growing up as a young boy.”
Mr Akpabio in the interview did not say if he eventually gave the church the new building he promised.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted a former commissioner, Emem Wills, whom Mr Akpabio mentioned in his story, he said, “Very truthful, he has done that several times.
“I have witnessed him do that before. When it comes to charity, you can’t fault him.”
Mr Wills, a medical doctor, served as commissioner under Mr Akpabio. He, like Mr Akpabio, is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).