The Akpabio’s dilemma – By Attah Essien


    “He who wishes to dine with the devil must first have a long spoon,” Anon.

    The decamping of Senator Godswill Akpabio from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), just before the 2019 General elections, came as a surprise to many political scientists and stalwarts. The Senator left the comfort of his ideological brothers to seek solace in the habitation of some of his sworn enemies like Umana Okon Umana (the former Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government), Senator John James Akpan Udo-Edehe (Former Minister of State FCT) and Nsima Ekere (the then NDDC MD).

    Indeed at one time or the other, Senator Godswill Akpabio had exchanged verbal blows with these men who lay claim to the APC political structure in the state and who were far from happy to see Akpabio join their camp, for they knew that he was destined to push them aside.

    But Akpabio is an astute politician. He knew that with his clout and charisma he will bulldoze every internal opposition with a view to returning to the Senate to capture one of the principal positions. Maybe a Deputy Senate Presidential role or the Chief Whip. Akpabio knew that a return to the Senate on the platform of the ruling party was a ticket to elevation and enhanced status.

    But as Akpabio was counting his eggs before they were hatched, the cabal was counting their hatchlings and nursing their counter strike. There is no politician alive in Nigeria that does not fear or respect Akpabio. He is a crowd puller and a charismatic leader who nurses a track record of visible achievements.

    He transformed a rustic rural state into one of the most modern progressive cities in Nigeria within a generation. The toga of houseboy and housegirl mentality of his people was forever cast off as he raised a class of billionaires and millionaires who changed the narrative forever….

    Indeed Akpabio may have his faults like his ability to brag with verbose language but on the balance scales of good versus bad, he tipped the scales towards good by a huge margin. Hence, the cabal hatched their plot out of fear, for an Akpabio in the Senate can scuttle their deviant plot to build a rubber-stamp legislature.

    The first pawn in their hands was the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Ogini. Countless times in the build-up to the General Elections, the Akwa Ibom State (AKS) APC sought to remove Mike Ogini who was seen as a stumbling block to their plot to capture Akwa Ibom. There were even rumors of his removal but Ogini stood firm. This is a situation that just one phone call from Abba Kyari to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Chairman, will rectify.

    That call was never made. And while Akpabio felt he had Federal Might behind him, he did not know that another agenda was in play to send him to war with a toy gun and fake ammunition. And Mike Ogini acted out the script, for, by his decision to cancel the votes of Essien Udim and declare Chris Ekpeyong the winner without recourse to a rerun, he denied Senator Godswill Akpabio a smooth ride to stardom.

    The behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the electoral process cannot stand the microscope of close inspection, but the courts have ruled that Ogini’s actions were improper and have ordered a fresh election in Essien Udim alone. This recent ruling has sent shock waves through the stratosphere of political watchers. Already the Akpabio camp is dancing with glee at this development for they know Akpabio has the clout to overturn the marginal numbers of Chris Ekpeyong in his home turf of Essien-Udim.

    But once again caution should not be thrown to the wind. Under this second term of President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing is exactly what it seems, especially now that the cabal controls all the three tiers of Government by putting their yes-men in the most vital positions.

    The Cabal wants Akpabio to return to the Senate. The Rochas Okorocha issue is a prime example of the mindset of the cabal. Rochas Okorocha was declared the winner of his Senatorial seat but did not get his Certificate of Return until all the Principal positions of the Senate had been filled. This was not a coincidence but a blatant attempt to muzzle his voice and ensure that he is schemed out of the power play in the Senate.

    Now they want Akpabio to return to the Rubber Stamp Senate, where bills are passed without members even getting a copy of the bill. A Senate that approves 10 Billion for Kogi State just 3 days before an election without fear or fervor, in the midst of mounting controversy behind the man who swore that even Donald Trump cannot force him to pay staff salaries. Is this the kind of Senate Akpabio wants to return to, where Senators are literally whipped into line without remorse? A Senate that has already dished out all the Principal positions and juicy committee appointments? What is Akpabio going to the Senate to do? To be muzzled by Lawan and his gavel that speaks the hands of Esau but the voice of Jacob.

    Rather as a Minister of the Federal Republic, he is guaranteed a seat in The Federal Executive Council just a few seats from President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Chief of Staff Abba Kyari. No matter what Abba Kyari does at the FEC meetings, Akpabio will have access to the President even if it is restricted to handshakes, and in politics access is power. And already Akpabio is upsetting the apple cart as the revelations on how the Niger Delta Development Commission was being run by successive Managing Directors has been mind-blowing.

    The cabal knows that a man who talks a lot can never keep a secret. Ensuring Akpabio returns to the Senate will end his desire to probe failed NDDC contracts and chase erring contractors. For it is certain that unearthing this can of worms will reveal top politicians with skeletons in their cupboards.  This will not go down well with the cabal who place loyalty above integrity. Hence, as the camp of Akpabio rejoices and celebrates his possible return to the senate it will be worthy to note that the cabal is also celebrating that one more thorn in their side has been removed and rendered ineffective.

    However, Akpabio should carefully ponder over what he hopes to achieve if he decides to return to the Senate. With the rumors of a third term agenda gathering momentum so early in the day, a return to the Senate by Akpabio may not be such a bad proposition. In times of great turmoil and threat to democracy, a Cicero needs to stand up and speak, thus common sense might prevail. Akpabio might just be the Cicero the legislature needs to halt such an agenda.

    Whichever way Akpabio looks at it he is in a dilemma, a return to the Senate to fight for relevance will relinquish his access to the powers that be, but will grant him a platform to fight the draconian senate who wants to hang people they do not like on the premise of hate speech. Akpabio needs to do what will be best for his political career and his people. He has always put uplifting the lives of his people above every other sentiment, hence if he can use his Ministry to affect lives positively then he should remain as the Minister of Niger Delta and fight the cabal from within. But if he foresees his wings getting clipped like the man whose aides were sacked without his knowledge, then a return to the Senate may be the escape route out of the high stakes drama of the Presidency. Akpabio should seek wise counsel.

    This is not a time to celebrate but delve into calculative introspection. Whichever way, the road ahead will rough and far from rosy.

    Dr Attah Essien is a medical doctor/writer and patriotic Nigerian.


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