Iniobong Ekponta reports the growing cracks within the fold of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa-Ibom State, amid the peace deal between Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Akwa-Ibom State governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the political space of Akwa Ibom State has started with a flurry of activities as the two major political parties-the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) have already resumed rivalry for the leadership baton.
The leadership of the APC in the state is currently torn between two factions, with one under the control of Senator John Akpanudoedehe, former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the other loyal to the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), Obong Umana Okon Umana.
Penultimate week, APC leaders in the state under the chairmanship of Dr Amamdu Atai, had suspended and later expelled Akpanudoedehe from the party, accusing him of anti-party activities.
But in a swift reaction, the former Minister had rallied his own teeming supporters who joined him in a long convoy from the Ibom International Airport, enroute Uyo township upon his arrival from Abuja.
They made straight to the party secretariat along Atiku Abubakar Way, where they took on remnants of Atai’s executive committee, who had earlier in the day addressed a press conference to affirm the expulsion of Senator Akpanudoedehe.
The former Minister then declared the Atai-led executive sacked, while a new executive committee led by Mitchel George, was installed in an interim capacity pending the time the state congress would be conducted.
“Where were they when I suffered right from the days of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to bring the party to the state? I brought all of them into the party and they are now turning around to fight me,” the former minister was quoted as telling his supporters, adding that he remained the only strong force to wrest power from the grip of Governor Udom Emmanuel and PDP, in 2019.
However, the Nigerian Tribune gathered that a reconciliatory move has been put in place to harmonise all contending issues and put the party in good stead ahead of 2019.
Sources close to the party said that the arrow head of the peace move is the former Minister of Petroleum, Atuekong Don Etiebet, who defected from the PDP to APC in the run up to the 2015 election.
Others said to be involved in the peace moves include former military administrator for Ogun and Rivers state Group Captain Sam Ewang; Honourable Atuekong Sunny Jackson Udom and Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong, former Uyo Local Government chairman.
While the APC struggles to patch up its cracked house, the ruling PDP appears to have set aside the furore that threatened to tear it into shreds ahead of the recent Court of Appeal ruling which affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff’s faction as the authentic chairman of the party at the centre.
The key actors in Akwa-Ibom PDP, Governor Udom Emmanuel and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio recently resolved to lay to rest the crisis that was brewing within the camps. Though not blown on the rooftops, tension and perceived bad blood had trailed the relationship between incumbent Governor Emmanuel and his political god father, Senator Akpabio.
While Governor Emmanuel and Senator Akpabio were alleged to belong to different camps in the ongoing PDP leadership saga, the matter, according to government sources had been resolved, paving the way for the calming of political frayed nerves in the polity.
Recently, all insinuations and speculations that the duo were no longer in talking terms, but operate at cross purposes were set aside as Akpabio openly endorsed Emmanuel for another term in office even though the 2019 elections are still two years away.
It was at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the apex Annang socio-cultural group-Ati Annang, where elders and political leaders of the state converged on Ikot Ekpene, to formerly induct Governor Emmanuel and wife, Martha as patron and associate member respectively.
Akpabio said that he was awed by the performance of his successor so far especially in what he called this excruciating period of cash crunch occasioned by the recession. He said he was moved to endorse his godson for second term.
He commended the governor and assured him that the Annang nation comprising eight out of the 31 local government areas would go with him all the way to 2019, and beyond.
Akpabio, who came with some Senators from Abuja to the forum, enjoined the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and the state to be in the vanguard of sustaining the tempo of development that had been ongoing since 2007.
“Governor Emmanuel has done well, Annang people will support him whole-heartedly to return for second term because we don’t play dirty politics of tortoise,” Akpabio assured.
It would be recalled that at the return of democracy in 1999, PDP elders and stakeholders had agreed to imbibe the power rotation principle in the party for the governorship position to revolve across the three senatorial district of Uyo, Ikot-Ekpene and Eket.
Uyo had taken its turn for eight years with Obong Victor Attah (1999 to 2007). He handed over the baton for Ikot-Ekpene Senatorial zone which produced Senator Akpabio (2007 to 2015).
Incumbent Governor Emmanuel is currently running from Eket Senatorial District. Akpabio is saying that the incumbent should be allowed to complete the race in two terms of eight years like others before him in the interest of justice, equity and fair play.
Delighted at the recognition accorded him by Akpabio, Governor Emmanuel, seized the opportunity enumerate some of the landmark projects his administration has embarked upon in the last 20 months.
The projects include industrialisation projects aimed at turning around the fortunes of the hitherto civil service state and create jobs for the unemployed youths, investments in agriculture, infrastructural projects, and investments in education and human capital development. He also pledged to do more before 2019.