Fractured Akwa Ibom APC Waiting For Tinubu’s Reconciliation Team

Fractured Akwa Ibom APC Waiting For Tinubu’s Reconciliation Team

BYBINIOBONG SUNDAY, Uyo

Ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections, the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, is yet to mend the cracks that have perennially work against the fortunes of the party in every elections since 2015.

For instance, the party has remained factionalized with no end in sight, especially in the run up to the 2015 polls, which saw aggrieved members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaving in droves to pitch tent with the opposition.

The trend of migration into the opposition party, AljazirahNigeria can recall, started with the protest by the former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator John James Akpanudoedehe.

J.J, as he is fondly called, was one of the founding members of the PDP at the return of democracy in 1998, but irreconcilable differences with his erstwhile friend, former Governor Godswill Akpabio, forced him to ditch the then ruling PDP at the centre, to pitch tent with then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in the run-up to the 2011 polls.

The former Minister, it was gathered, had to strike accord with the then leader of ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who facilitated his entry into the party, and was subsequently given the ticket to fly the party’s governorship ticket, after being found to be a worthy candidate that could give then governor Akpabio, a good run at the polls.

The build up to the contest was massive, after Tinubu and other chieftains of the party flagged off the campaign in Uyo, leaving Akpanudoedehe, to continue the mass movement across the 31 Local Governments -towards dislodging Akpabio and the PDP from the Hiltop Mansion (Akwa Ibom Government House).

However, Akpabio won the polls, both on the ground, the State’s Election Petition Tribunal, the regular Appeal and the Supreme Courts, but with enough hell heaped on him by the massive power and supports of the foot soldiers of the former FCT Minister of State.

In 2015, the conglomeration of opposition parties including the ACN, CPC, ANPP and other lesser political parties unite under the APC, to pose stiff challenge that ensured the PDP was dislodged at the centre.

However, in the build up to the big contest in the State, the former Minister was heavily favoured as the arrowhead of APC in the State to again lead the opposition against Akpabio’s successor and current governor Udom Emmanuel.

But with the big migration of ex-PDP moneybags in Akpabio’s government in likes of the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Obong Umana Okon Umana, J.J, who had the original structure of the party was gambled out of the contest.

“Umana brought a lot cash into the APC that stakeholders of the party could not reject because the opposition party then was in dire need of enough money to match the ruling PDP.

“So, Umana was capable of donating huge sum of money to the party and was rewarded  with the governorship ticket in place of Akpanudoedehe, who actually built and structured the APC in good stead to challenge effectively at the crucial elections”, a member of APC, who would not want his name in print, told Aljazirah Nigeria.

He recalled that “at the APC governorship contest held at the Uyo Township Statdium, those assigned to stage the contest between Akpanudoedehe, Umana and others were given specific instructions to stage-manage the process for Umana”.

Sensing the game plan, the former Minister was said to have arrived the stadium with his supporters and carted away the ballot materials, believing exercise may have been scuttled, but surprisingly, Umana was subsequently declared the winner.

 The action of the APC leaders, seen as a big affront on the former Minister, who was seen as the face of the party in Akwa Ibom, generated bad blood between him and Umana, with lot of nasty altercations between the duo before, during and after the elections.

“Though Akpabio’s anointed candidate Emmanuel won, albeit at the Supreme Court, the big scar the election left behibd has yet to heal in the ruling APC up till toady”, notes chief Ikpaisong Umoekam, a PDP chief in Uyo.

“Currently the party has become more factionalised and fragmented along the lines of those loyal to the former Deputy Governor, Obong Nsima Ekere, who now occupies the position of the Managing Director (MD) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Obong Umana Okon Umana, the MD of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) and others on one hand and those loyal to Akpanudoedehe and his supporters on the other”, he added.

There is also a youth wing of the APC with the name the Real APC Movement led by Comrade Thomas Thomas, as the Director General and his friend, Comrade Solomon Johnny.

Although findings by Aljazirah Nigeria revealed that this movement remains loyal to Akpanudoedehe’s cause to run for the 2019 governorship polls on the APC platform, the current the factional State Executive led by Dr. Amadu Atai, has been at loggerhead with such disposition, declaring the former Minister’s faction as “illegal and illegitimate group of noise makers”.

In time for the polls, the former Minister had recently conducted a mock campaign across the 31 Local Government Areas, in a familiarization visits to service APC structures and to meet his hordes of supporters, reminding them of his intention to again stake his hat in the ring in the upcoming contest.

But opposition to his (Akpanudoedehe’s) action from the other big faction consisting of Ekere, Umana, fomer Petroleum Minister, Atuekong Don Etiebet and other party bigwigs, remain stiff, that “the former Minister is an impostor”.

According to the factional APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Edet Bassey, the antics of the former Minister was just a self-serving campaign aimed at drawing empty publicity to a cause not sanctioned by the National Working Committee (NWC).

Speaking in an interview in Uyo, the State capital, the factional image maker of APC in the State urged party loyalists to discountenance the actions of Akpanudoedehe, whom he said was insignificant quantity in Akwa Ibom APC.

Going forward with the raging crises of confidence rocking the party, observers say “it will not augur well if APC must challenge the ruling PDP effectively”.

Chief Effiong Bassey, a card carrying APC member from Oron believes it was time “for us to put our house in order, if the party must prove its mettle at the forthcoming contests which is just a couple of months away”.

“The contest is near. I believe this should be the right time to bury sentiments and work on our supporters to ensure they get enlisted in the voters register and get their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in time for the elections”, he added.

He, therefore, called on the reconciliation Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari with Tinubu, as the Chairman “to, as a matter of urgency visit the Akwa Ibom APC, with a view to uniting all factions under one umbrella ahead of the exercise”.

To chief Ekpe Denis, a community leader in Mkpat Enin, “this is the real time for Akwa Ibom APC to speak with one voice now  that we have the central government because unlike the previous polls, elections will be done on the ground so that whoever wins carry the day”.

He recalled that “previous elections in the past in Akwa Ibom were always heavily assisted by the central government to rig and win, but this time I believe the rule of the game will change since the PDP is no longer controlling the centre”.

However, apparently aware of the impending gang-up, governor Emmanuel’s administration has intensified action to woo the electorates by taking life-touching projects in roads, water, electricity and human empowerments to the nooks and crannies of Akwa Ibom.

In the “Udom-in-your neighbourhood” campaign, the administration has made greater in roads into several areas with major interventions in rural roads and other facilities across the State.

Several markets and tricycles unions have become beneficiaries in soft loan packages laced with political baits to lure the electorates into taking side with the PDP and governor Emmanuel’s re-election in 2019.

At the weekend, leaders, stakeholders and youths of a section of Annang electorates tagging themselves as Abak five, comprising the five Local Government Areas in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, turned out en-mass to endorse governor Emmanuel’s re-election.

It was at the Abak township stadium, where the convener, Comrade Ekpuk Eshiet, rallied the electorates across the five Councils of Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun, to endorse Emmanuel’s second term bid.

Amid these intense horse-trading and bridge building by the ruling PDP in the State, watchers of the unfolding events in the build up to the polls have urged the opposition APC, to “put your house in order, if you really want to effect a change”.

“A party that really wants to change the status quo and bring new things to the table should be able to have a sense of direction. About nine months to the elections, there is no clear figure as a rallying point to fly the party’s flag in the State.

“For now, the electorates with sympathy to the opposition APC are being left in the dark world of conjectures and individual predictions that the ticket would be given to either Ekere or Akpanudoedehe .

“And while these guesswork continue in the camp of APC, the ruling party is busy wooing the gullible electorates with small lifelines and political handouts that may be the major deciding factor when the chips are finally down”, note Otuekong Bassey Effiong, a community leader in Ibesikpo.

While waiting for Tinubu’s magic wand to quell the raging factional fights in the opposition APC’s camp in the State, the administration of governor Emmanuel appears to have taken the path of taking the dividends of democracy to electorate in a carrots-for-votes diplomacy.

Only time will tell if the fractured APC will resurrect in time to wriggle the mantle from the ruling PDP in Akwa Ibom. The people are watching.


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