A former aide to Godswill Akpabio has alleged that Mr Akpabio’s wife, Unoma, was prevented from getting inside the Government House Uyo to see Governor Udom Emmanuel in October 2020.
The Government House Uyo is where Governor Emmanuel’s office and official residence (Governor’s Lodge) is.
Mr Akpabio is Mr Emmanuel’s predecessor.
The aide, Ata Ikiddeh, who is a lawyer, said in an article he posted on Facebook on Monday that the former First Lady of the state was at the Government House to deliver a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari to Mr Emmanuel.
The letter, according to him, contained the president’s communication to the governor on his (Buhari) decisions on police reforms and other demands of the Nigerian youths during the EndSARS protests, for onward dissemination to residents in the state.
Similar letter was said to have been sent to other governors.
Mr Akpabio, then the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, was meant to personally present the letter to Governor Emmanuel but he delegated the responsibility to his wife because he had other engagements in Abuja, Mr Ikiddeh said.
Mr Ikiddeh, who is based in London, was a special assistant on project monitoring to Mr Akpabio when the latter was Akwa Ibom governor.
He currently works with Nigeria’s presidency as a consultant and coordinator of President Buhari Legacy Projects.
‘She broke down and wept bitterly’
“She (Unoma) introduced herself to the security guards at the gate. They all knew who she was and would have allowed her in but protocol had to be followed.
“Word was relayed to the occupants of the Governor’s lodge. Nobody knows what was relayed back to the gate but the former First Lady was denied permission. And this is not an exaggeration, she was kept outside the gate for a good six hours, she could not believe that the same Udom she had risked all – including her marriage – could treat her this way. She broke down in the car and wept bitterly,” Mr Ikiddeh said in the lengthy Facebook post which has been shared on the social media site by several of Mr Akpabio’s political supporters.
“She had never witnessed this level of ingratitude in her life, this was a hot knife searing the insides of her heart. She had never quarrelled with Governor Udom. The hurt was indescribable,” he added.
Mr Ikiddeh did not, however, state if the governor was pre-informed of Mrs Akpabio’s visit.
The spokesperson to Governor Emmanuel, Ekerete Udoh, did not respond to calls and a text message seeking comment from him.
Before the incident narrated by Mr Ikiddeh happened, it appears the relationship between the former governor and his successor had already gone so bad, which may have contributed to Mr Akpabio defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in August 2018.
It deteriorated to a point where Mr Akpabio’s wife publicly breached protocol and attempted to push aside Governor Emmanuel’s wife, Martha, so she (Unoma) could receive the visiting Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, at the Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo.
A clip of the embarrassing incident showed Mrs Buhari and her entourage retreating inside while the aircraft door is quickly pulled back as security and other officials from both sides shouted and pushed one another.
Akpabio humiliated allies
Mr Emmanuel, a Pricewaterhousecoopers-trained chartered accountant, had a flourishing career in the Nigerian banking sector where he eventually became an executive director with Zenith Bank before his appointed by then Governor Akpabio as the Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government (SSG) in 2013.
He (Emmanuel) was relatively unknown then in the politics of the state and was considered an outsider by many.
But Mr Akpabio suppressed all other political interests and went as far as humiliating his erstwhile SSG and political ally, Umana Umana, and others in order to help Mr Emmanuel succeed him as governor.
He ordered security operatives in July 2013 to seal off Mr Umana’s office inside the Government House in an attempt to truncate his (Umana) 2015 governorship ambition.
The incident and other political intrigues of that time happened after Mr Akpabio had presented Mr Umana at different times to the public as his preferred successor.
Mr Akpabio later said he was constrained not to support Mr Umana because of the rotation of the governorship position among the three senatorial districts in the state.
Messrs Umana and Akpabio’s political journey have been somewhat interconnected. Mr Umana, perhaps more than any other politician in Akwa Ibom then, helped Mr Akpabio to become governor in 2007 while both were serving as commissioners in Governor Victor Attah’s cabinet.
Mr Umana later defected from the PDP to the APC in 2014 and ran for the 2015 Akwa Ibom governorship election as the APC candidate after Mr Akpabio eventually presented Mr Emmanuel as his preferred successor.
Mr Akpabio forfeited his position as a Senate minority leader and left the PDP to join Mr Umana and others in the APC after he fell out with Governor Emmanuel.
President Buhari recently replaced Mr Akpabio with Mr Umana as minister of Niger Delta Affairs after Mr Akpabio resigned to contest the APC presidential primary (he eventually stepped down for Bola Tinubu who won the primary).
Mrs Akpabio’s role in Emmanuel’s election
Mr Ikiddeh’s article has confirmed an open secret in Akwa Ibom – that it was Mrs Akpabio who perhaps compelled the husband to change his mind on Mr Umana.
“Those of you that were in Uyo between 2014 to 2015 would recall that Governor Udom became the First Lady’s personal project,” Mr Ikiddeh said.
“It was the First Lady that convinced the former Governor and assured him – that he had nothing to fear with Udom being Governor of Akwa Ibom State,” he added.
Mr Ikiddeh wrote about the closeness and the “mother-son relationship” that had existed between Mrs Akpabio and Mr Emmanuel.
“Everyone knows the former First Lady is a tried, tested and devout practicing Catholic. She personally demanded a strong Christian to take over from her husband and when she was told Udom (Emmanuel) was a Deacon, born-again Christian, didn’t drink or do women, Udom became her numero uno.
Continuing, Mr Ikiddeh wrote: “On the day Udom made his public declaration to run for Governor in Uyo Township Stadium, it was the former First Lady that took him to the stadium, the Governor stayed back in the lodge, she stood by his side on the rostrum that day with thousands of women from the 31 local government areas.
“In fact in July 2013 the day Akpabio swore Udom in as SSG, he was going to wear a suit on that occasion. The Governor’s wife said to him nobody wears a suit for such important occasions – there and then a few hours to the event she went into her box and handed Udom her brand new red wrapper. A wrapper she had never worn. The traditional attire you see in these photos (of Mr Emmanuel’s swearing-in as the SSG) were given to Udom by the First Lady. This was how much the First Lady valued Udom. She took the actual role of a loving mother.”
This is the first time a former official of Mr Akpabio’s administration would publicly reveal the relationship that existed between Mrs Akpabio’s wife and Governor Emmanuel.
It is not clear for now if Mr Akpabio, a former senator, had a pre-knowledge of Mr Ikiddeh’s article.
“It’s entirely Mr Ikiddeh’s opinion,” the spokesperson to Mr Akpabio, Jackson Udom, said on Saturday when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him.
The article is coming at a time when Mr Akpabio and his supporters are feeling frustrated over the hurdles to his 2023 senatorial ambition. They are, without any basis, blaming Governor Emmanuel for the court judgment that nullified the former senator’s nomination as the APC candidate.
Mr Ikiddeh, apart from being a former aide to Mr Akpabio, is said to have been a close friend for several years to the former governor.
When Mr Akpabio lost his bid to return to the Senate (Akwa Ibom North-West) for a second term in 2019, Mr Ikiddeh called from London to speak with the former senator about his defeat.
“He felt betrayed by the very people he has nurtured in the past eight years. But he was unbowed,” Mr Ikiddeh said then.
‘All that Akpabio wanted from Gov Emmanuel’
Mr Ikiddeh said Mr Akpabio, during the 2015 campaign, said that all he needed from Mr Emmanuel when he (Emmanuel) became governor was “respect”.
“Here is one thing I ask of you – when I become a Senator and I come into Akwa Ibom State from Abuja for a visit. Whether you send a car to pick me up or not wouldn’t matter to me. In some of those trips from Abuja I may get hungry and I might decide to come to the Governor’s lodge for a meal,” Mr Ikiddeh quoted Mr Akpabio as saying to Mr Emmanuel.
READ ALSO: Governor Emmanuel denies ‘face-off’ with Akpabio
“I wouldn’t expect you to be there waiting for me – that will be very selfish of me. I wouldn’t expect you to personally receive me. It wouldn’t be right, a Governor is a very busy person. But if someone can drop my name at the gate and tell the guards that I am on my way. I want to come to the Governor’s Lodge knowing Her Excellency will welcome me in your absence. Then I want to be able to tell her to prepare that my favourite White Soup with goat meat.”
Mr Ikiddeh said Mr Emmanuel promised he would never betray Mr Akpabio’s trust.
“No man can do what you have done for me sir and for me to repay such a gesture with evil is impossible! I stand here before you all to say I will always be grateful,” he quoted Mr Emmanuel as saying to Mr Akpabio.
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