“I have finally accepted God’s calling to preach salvation of souls through Christ Jesus, and to witness to the power of the Resurrection….”
Those were the words of John Udoedehe, a well-known opposition politician in Akwa Ibom State, who announced on Facebook, April 29, that he was now a pastor.
Probably, sensing that people could misinterpret it as retirement from politics, Mr Udoedehe, a former senator, added the phrase “….alongside my political and business career, as a role model to this generation” to his Facebook post.
Photos of Mr Udoedehe preaching to congregants and administering Holy Communion have flooded Facebook.
Mr Udoedehe is one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom. He has contested for the APC governorship ticket in the state, at least twice.
The former senator, then a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, directed the campaign for the election of Godswill Akpabio as governor in 2007.
He fell apart with Mr Akpabio and left the PDP for the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) where, as the party’s governorship candidate, he contested the 2011 election against Mr Akpabio.
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.
Some of the 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.
The former senator after his incarceration continued as a voice of the opposition politics in Akwa Ibom, while Mr Akpabio became a PDP senator, representing Akwa Ibom North-West.
However, in a twist of irony, Mr Akpabio resigned his position as the Senate minority leader and left the PDP to Mr Udoedehe’s APC last year.
Both politicians reconciled last year as they prepared their party, the APC, for the 2019 general elections. But the APC lost the governorship and all the elections in the state, including Mr Akpabio’s re-election bid.
Apart from his past representation of Akwa Ibom North-East in the Senate, Mr Udoedehe has served as the chairman of Uyo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom, and as a minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
Mr Udoedehe, noted for some controversial remarks, early last year said he would not mind accepting an appointment as a messenger or a cleaner from President Muhammadu Buhari.
The remark, which elicited disapproval from some of his supporters, came after Mr Udoedehe was appointed a board member for the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency.
His supporters felt the appointment was humiliating, considering his reach in politics.
“It will be disrespectful to the president for me to reject the offer, I am a loyal party member.
“If the president finds me worthy to be a messenger or a cleaner in the government, as a Christian I should humble myself and accept it,” Mr. Udoedehe had told PREMIUM TIMES.
To foreclose any argument on whether he was still going to be involved in active politics, the former senator later issued another press statement through his media office where he explicitly said, “It should be noted that Senator Akpanudoedehe will execute his commission, alongside pursuit of his political aspirations, business interests, and other social endeavours, because he remains an active politician and a committed businessman.”
“It is hoped that this clarification will serve the intended purpose of guiding the public aright, and inspiring other politicians, businessmen and citizens out there, to acknowledge Christ, and join the effort to import His message into our politics, business, and social life,” the statement added.
Mr Udoedehe’s media aide, Ata Etuk, in response to a question from PREMIUM TIMES, said on Sunday that the former senator’s future political ambition depends on what “his” people would decide.
“For now, he is a party man who is doing everything he can to build his party, support President Buhari, support his party and do everything to get his party to do well in the next election,” Mr Etuk said.