Anxiety has enveloped Akwa Ibom State following the widely rumoured planned defection of Senate minority leader and its former governor, Godswill Akpabio from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) tomorrow.
The APC on its Twitter handle yesterday posted a picture of the former governor and the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu, chatting relaxedly. It announced: “Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio meets APC Leader Bola Tinubu in Abuja this afternoon. Both men are in consultation, a day after the PDP senator met with President Buhari in London ahead of his planned defection to the APC.”
Many political stalwarts on both sides are silent on the simmering news, possibly out of fear of being quoted or sheer amazement.
Many in the Akwa Ibom APC are actually worried about the awkwardness of receiving a new political friend who once viewed them as ‘enemies’ of the state.
Sources from both parties confirmed the planned defection. They admitted that the rumour had been afloat since 2017 and that the body language of the senator always suggested the development would happen.
It was sought more clarification from the camp of Akpabio’s loyalists. Those contacted, however, refused to pick their calls or reply to text messages. It is believed they have also decided to follow the ‘master’ wherever he goes.
One ardent supporter, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, expressed unwillingness to dance along. “If he (Akpabio) does this, it will be the second time he has led and abandoned us in the middle of the road. Before the 2015 general elections, he promised us that he would hand over power to his then secretary, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, whose success we were asked to ensure. But this was not to be. In the middle of the struggle, he told us to dump Umana for Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the incumbent governor.”
He said Akpabio made everybody to believe he would support Emmanuel beyond 2019, adding: “This is why most of us are worried for our political future.”
The move by Akpabio is described as a betrayal and an attempt to scuttle the political formula in the state and deny Abak federal constituency the opportunity to produce a senator.
A former chairman of the PDP in Uruan Local Government Area, Mr. Ben Effiong, said: “With his exit, the former governor owes Akwa Ibom people, especially members of the PDP an explanation. If a father is married to a wife and has children who are grown up and the father wants to divorce the wife, he should call the grown up children and tell them. If he does not want to explain anything and decides to leave, two things will happen. One, it is God that removes a king and puts another. The second thing is that he is leaving for a reason he alone knows and that has nothing to do with PDP.
“This action will create friction between Eket senatorial district and Ikot Ekpene, because if Eket stood with an Ikot Ekpene man to become governor for eight years and at the end of the day you cannot do the same for Eket, it is deceitful and wrong. Akpabio has destroyed a relationship through his own selfish interest.”
But APC chairmanship aspirant in Abak Local Government Area, Mr. Augustine Edet, said: “It is true that Akpabio is coming. And everywhere in Abak and Akwa Ibom, we are rejoicing. With his coming, we know that PDP is finally buried.”
Top members of the PDP in Ikot Ekpene reportedly met on Sunday to map out strategies to counter Akpabio’s defection. They were said to have resolved to disassociate themselves from the move and declare loyalty to Emmanuel.
In a related development, the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Moses Ekpo, described as false rumours suggesting he has resigned.
“I have not resigned. I have no reason whatsoever to resign or jump ship from a government that is responsive and performs optimally, while giving practical meaning to democratic dividends for the people of Akwa Ibom. I cannot and will not jump ship,” he said in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Mr. Ekikere Umo.
Also, a group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), expressed concern over what it called the gale of defections by politicians, saying the development could kill the nation’s democracy.
In a statement entitled, ‘Defections as funeral ceremony of democracy and good governance in Nigeria, signed by its chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, the society said: “It troubles and saddens our heart that democracy and good governance built on mandatory fulfillment of social contract obligations by elected and appointed public office holders are not only threatened and endangered but are also witnessing funeral ceremonies through maddening and reckless defections.
“Defection is the oddest side of parliamentary cross-carpeting and the greatest threat to party politics founded on ideology. We have watched with total dismay the reckless abandon with which the Nigerian democracy is threatened and bastardised by anti-democratic forces and elements wearing the garb of political actors and institutions.
“Apart from structural and cultural decimation terminally suffered by the country’s democracy, especially since June 2015, it is further passing through funeral ceremonies in the hands of anti-democratic elements parading themselves as serving governors, federal legislators or ministers of the federal republic or former public office holders.”
It has been explained that defections by key members of the APC to the PDP are informed by the opposition party’s formula for sharing political structures.
The formula is contained in the report of the PDP contact and mobilisation committee headed by the immediate past governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke. The committee was set up to seal deals with other political interests towards forming a coalition to wrest power from the APC.
Sources confirmed that the structure is shared 60 per cent in favour of any governor who defects to the PDP and 40 per cent to those he meets in the party. But where principal officers of the National Assembly are involved, they get 50 per cent.
Special consideration was reportedly given to Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso with a share of 51 per cent control of the political structure in Kano State because he defected with a large number of state lawmakers, local government chairmen and the deputy governor. So far, three governors, one deputy governor, 14 senators including Saraki and dozens of state lawmakers have moved to the opposition party.
It was learnt that in PDP-controlled states, defectors get the general treatment accorded every other member.
The PDP’s alliance with 38 other political parties that has resulted in the formation of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has a slightly different arrangement.
Although details of the arrangement are still being worked out, a general understanding among all partners is to produce and support one common candidate for the 2019 presidential election.