AKWA IBOM: AN ERA OF POLITICAL SOPHISTRY
This is the wee morning of January 2018, and the political storm in Akwa Ibom State is already brewing. In this state, the electoral process is always rancorous but here the vista seems to be differently contrived. The new vista of which I speak is a threat by a Senator to truncate the second term ambition of a sitting Governor if he fails to address a ‘perception of the marginalization of his people.’! This Senator is a former Governor of the State who at one time was thought to be speaking for the whole state but now speaks for a section of it, and by himself deliberately abandons the platform of leading the State, which he had hitherto claimed. Chief Franklyn Isong in his very erudite contribution to the political development has dwelt extensively on this and so I decline any further adumbration.
The Vanguard Online, reported on the 1st of January 2018 as follows:
“AHEAD of the 2019 general elections in the country, former governor of Akwa Ibom State and a serving senator, Godswill Akpabio, has given conditions under which he will support incumbent Governor Udom Emmanuel’s second term ambition. Speaking at the annual get-together organized by the deputy governor, Chief Moses Ekpo, to fete the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, Akpabio insisted that he would only support the governor for a second term if perceived current marginalization of his senatorial district was addressed, warning that the era of ‘carry go’ politics was gone and charged the governor to brace up for the big task. —- He lamented that some of the projects embarked upon by his (Akpabio’s) administration including the multi-million naira Four points by Sheraton Hotel at Ikot Ekpene and the dualized Uyo-Ikot Ekpene road, had been abandoned by governor Emmanuel, noting that the completion of the projects would form part of the recommendations for his re-election in 2019 —- Akpabio asked and charged the governor to remove the wedge that stifles development in his zone or be prepared to face the consequences of such action in 2019.”
From the story, which has not been refuted, to my knowledge, the perception of marginalization stems from the non completion of the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road and the non utilization of the Hotel at Ikot Ekpene. Let me quickly say that non completion of projects in the first term of Governors in Akwa Ibom State has never been a condition precedent to re-election. If it were, the first victim could have been Godswill Akpabio himself. I will come to that anon. What is pertinent at this point is to go back memory lane, recalling those fantasy projects that Governor Akpabio would reel out at press conferences, birthday parties, wedding receptions, airport chance meetings etc etc as having been completed and commissioned by his administration and for which he was severally nominated for performance related awards. The endless list always had these projects he now claims are yet to be completed. This hotel, Akpabio commissioned on the 26th of May 2015 with so much fanfare, as ‘Four Points by Sheraton’, an international hotel brand with beds etal was uncompleted? Could ‘Four Points by Sheraton’ lend its name to this monumental fraud without any consequences? Now that this has been
placed in the public domain by the distinguished senator himself, it may be worthwhile to seek the truth, using other avenues.
The Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, project, a 25 kilometer road awarded in February of 2012 to Julius Berger at an undisclosed cost, was to be completed within 12 months. The project was not part of the State’s appropriation for 2012. It was only after its award that as usual, a supplementary appropriation bill was sent to the House of Assembly. Which meant, other projects, as we shall soon see, in the approved budget for the financial year had to be ignored for the funding of this all important project. However, as usual, one lane of the dual carriage road was commissioned by the said senator, when he was in office as Governor. If this project was so dear to the Senator’s senatorial district, that he could hold the current administration responsible for not completing it, how come that for two and a half years after the award of the contract and the payment of huge sums normally attributable to JB contracts, the project was abandoned by Governor Akpabio himself? And if there is anything I can swear to is the fact that Akpabio had one of the most efficient Works Ministry; so what was the problem that needed to be fixed within 30 months of Akpabio’s administration which was left for the next administration, if the completion of the project was of such monumental value to him?
I know Akpabio well enough to say that if this project was important to his people, as he claims, he could have done everything within his executive powers to complete it, and it is on record that this is the ONLY uncompleted infrastructural works in the Senator’s district, taking into consideration the avalanche of multi-billion naira projects that the Senator, as Governor contrived for his district.
It is however instructive to note that the first and flagship project of Akpabio’s Administration was the TROPICANA PROJECT in Uyo, a complex that was to have a five star hotel, a shopping mall, a cinema complex, a conference centre for 5000 persons, a wet and dry park (said to be designed after a facility in Dubai) etc. In an extensively publicized contract signing agreement in July of 2007, the project which was to be completed in thirty months was at a cost of N33,000,000,000.00 (thirty three billion naira). Don’t forget this was in 2007 and as we speak I doubt if anyone knows the cost of this project. At the same time, he awarded the contract for the design and construction of Abak-Ikot Ekpene and Afaha Obong –Etim Ekpo Roads in his aforesaid senatorial district. The wisdom of the road projects could not be questioned. They were roads which had become a nightmare and like a lot of roads in other senatorial districts were in great need of construction. The fact that the Governor started with his district drew no ire or condemnation from any body. It was a necessity. The said roads were completed within record time but the TROPICANA PROJECT in Uyo, outside the Governor’s community, was not completed within the 8 years of Akpabio’s administration nor has it been completed. Yet the Uyo people did not give the completion of the Tropicana as a condition precedent to his re-election.
In fact, to further rubbish the TROPICANA PROJECT, while the hotel in the project was nearing structural completion, Governor Akpabio abandoned it to build the hotel in Ikot Ekpene, two years to the end of his administration, in order that his community would not be marginalized. At the end he left Akwa Ibom State without a functional hotel. Could it not have made sense to complete one before starting the other.
The distinguished Senator made no bones about the development of his community. I use community in a very limited sense, not in the wider perspective of the senatorial district, which he claims to speak for. The Senator’s district is divided into three contiguous areas. The old Abak Division, the Ibibio Local Government Areas of Ikono and Ini and the old Ikot Ekpene which is his immediate constituency. Akpabio as governor built no road, bridge or notable infrastructural facility in Ikono and Ini the Ibibio Local Government areas of his senatorial district. NONE. All the projects in Abak were designed to channel development or traffic to Essien Udim and Ikot Ekpene, the immediate constituency of the Senator. Let me cite just a few.
The Uyo-Abak dualized road with a two hundred meter bridge emptying into a single carriage Abak-Ekparakwa road was designed to ensure that the Prisons in Abak was relocated to Essien Udim as a part of the prisons relocation exercise of the Akpabio Administration. The dualized Abak – Ikot Ekpene Road complete with street lights and drainage; the Afaha-Obong Etiim Ekpo Road which links the Etim Ekpo-Ika Road to Ukana East in Essien Udim Local Government Area the immediate ward of the distinguished senator; the Ikot Ekpene prisons relocation exercise on the pretext that it was within the immediate precincts of the city centre. While this argument may be correct, the senator, while Governor completely forgot or did not know that outside Ikot Ekpene and Abak Prisons, Eket prisons, which was the first in the state was within the immediate precincts of the city centre too but it behoved the Governor to construct an ultra-modern prison in his village. The Ikot Ekpene city centre is today a model in city reclamation programs in Nigeria. The entire roads in the town is asphalted with drains in the most qualitative way. Then the hotel, the first of its kind in the state though designed without an industrial kitchen and a conference centre and without the inputs of the brand whose imprimatur was used to commission it on the 26th of May 2015. Even the much vaunted fly-overs built in Uyo are all directed at traffic to Ikot Ekpene. The ever busy and traffic ridden Aka Road enjoys a remodeled roundabout and deserved no fly-over because it did not lead to Ikot Ekpene. The Federal Government needed to cite a polytechnic in the State, HE took it to his village. To now accuse Udom Emmanuel of marginalization of his people makes the senator come across as a selfish, self conceited bigot. This a classic case of calling a dog a bad name to hang it.
When the Senator’s story broke, I was worried that maybe because Akpabio, during his administration did nothing of any substance in Eket Senatorial District, Udom Emmanuel may have decided to pay him by the same coins. I went with my friends from the district on a two day visit to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and this is what I found, by myself: the current government has completed a seven kilometer road with two bridges measuring about 50 meters in span from Nto Edino to the Abia State town of Ekwereazu. The administration has also completed a five kilometer road leading to the School of Arts and Science in Ikono, beautifully finished with drains and outfalls; and in Ini Local Government Area I saw a road project at Odoro Ikpe heading to Arochukwu, which was not motor able when I recently visited to commiserate with my friend who was bereaved. In the Ukanafun – Oruk Anam axis, I saw ongoing works on the 25 kilometer stretch road leading from Ikot Ekaide to Ikot Okoro and another project from Ikot Ibritam to wherever, I would not know. The Akwa Ibom State University Obio Akpa looks like Ikot Ekpene township – all the internal roads are asphalted. On the personnel in the State Executive Council, until now, the senator’s district has ten out of 20 members of the State Executive Council including Udo Ekpenyong, who the Governor recently sacked to please Akpabio. How do you spell MARGINALIZATION?
I hold the opinion that Senator Akpabio was not really intending to complain about uncompleted projects in Ikot Ekpene. He intended to send a message to Governor Udom Emmanuel that he has an alternative to him as the Gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party come 2019 elections. For me and a host of people who already know this for a fact he did not need to use tribal sentiments to buttress that point, though generally he has difficulty in thinking before speaking. In my earlier memorandum to the distinguished senator
I had assured him that no reasonable person would take his assurances of support for Udom as a statement from the scriptures because of his antecedents in such matters. He did not deny that assertion though I had a visitation which I could not fail to ascribe to that memorandum. One of his goons even pretended to insult me for calling his god by its name. But I still hold that view.
Why should my views on the matter change? No reason! Throughout Akpabio’s eight years in office no access road was constructed to any part of Eket Senatorial District, where the entire revenue of the state comes from and someone is talking of marginalization! The Uyo-Uya Oron Road was abandoned; the Etinan-Eket Road was abandoned and as for Ikot Abasi Federal constituency, no effort was made to provide any infrastructure. Even the Eket to Ibeno road project, which was part paid for by ExxonMobil, was truncated by the Akpabio administration using all sorts of subterfuge until reason prevailed during this Government.
But to think that it is Akpabio who should threaten the Governor, publicly, is preposterous. According to the statement, there will be consequences if the Governor fails to abide his instructions! Hawk-wash. I am certain the senator did not mean that. I know that his supporters have always insisted that they will show Udom at the end when that time comes. But what has the young man really done to deserve the venom that is spewed to malign him on a daily basis. For me and those of us who are without the inner caucus of Government and have never been invited to the PDP’s caucus meetings even though eminently qualified, the opportunity to err views is said to be denied. But for Akpabio who sees the Governor at will, why the public vilification when you can discuss except the intention is to achieve an ignoble end.
The point is not lost on me, that all these may be because of the character, mien, carriage and natural attributes of Udom Emmanuel. I did warn him and even if he did not believe me then he does now, that Akpabio will try a last minute gambit on him. I also tried to persuade Akpabio not to be so completely predictable. But each day I find myself battling to resist the truth. But as the Efiks say “truth is like a goat-head; it cannot be lost in the soup pot and you cannot swallow it with your ball of foofoo’.
I think the main reason for the apparent disdain with which Akpabio treats Governor Emmanuel is because of all the Governors in Nigeria, Emmanuel is the only one who has not embarrassed his predecessor, particularly the self-styled godfathers. Governor Emmanuel has a permanent place in his public utterances for Senator Akpabio. He refers to him as his mentor. And he means it. He uses every opportunity to extol the virtues of his predecessor and squirms at criticisms of him. He struggles with excuses for him even in the face of very obvious gaffes. He does not leave anyone in doubt that he has a lot of respect for the Senator. What he has not done and will not do and perhaps that is what Senator Akpabio expects him to do, is to make a molten image of him to be worshipped as part of the State’s Calendar of events. But the Senator is not cut in that mold. He deploys any and every opportunity to let his audience know how he brought Udom and made him Governor and how Udom has not lived up to his bidding; putting it most urbanely.
A lot of people have spoken to me and feel angry that the Governor is exhibiting a great weakness in making himself Akpabio’s whipping object. They opine that what Akpabio, as Governor resisted most of all was control. They testify to the fact that Akpabio would not let his predecessor into the Government house and insulted and abused him whenever possible and generated enormous hate against Obong Attah. They feel that Governor Emmanuel must assert himself and paddle his boat. It is their opinion which I subscribe to, that remote control is good for electronics only. They believe that respect being reciprocal, and having not been reciprocated Governor Emmanuel has no business humiliating himself just to please a man who will never be pleased.
I know both gentlemen well. I am certain they too know each other well. They are in a position to evaluate each other’s strength and weaknesses. But to take an adult for granted is to take a risk. As adults in politics they can sort themselves out. My unsolicited advise to Udom is not to pretend to be me or somebody else. He has to continue to be himself, respectful, urbane, humble and focused. You know why Akpabio encouraged you above every one else to succeed him. It was because he believed you had integrity, and could enhance the development of the state based on the model he had set in the state. However, do not copy your predecessor’s model completely particularly the model which ensured that the development of the state should start from the home of the Governor and where possible other communities should be sacrificed for the sake of satisfying the Governor. Be generous in your disposition and accommodate those from without your family.
To Senator Akpabio, don’t forget the story of the frog and the snake, both of them are being advised by their mothers. Udom may not be that completely humble person you think he is and your insults could colour his attitude. You may be under estimating him. Do not forget the story of Nebuchadnezzar the King who played god. Your memory cannot fail you so fast that you cannot recall that you left office as governor with over N500 billion in debts and sundry financial commitments, N83 billion of which was due to Julius Berger, your choice contractor alone, in spite of the huge financial resources at the time. As you may recall, the situation was so bad that Julius Berger dared to lock up the Stadium for non payment of outstanding debts sequel to a crucial international football engagement. This is not to mention the cost of maintaining the stadium which you negotiated at the unbelievable sum of N600 million per annum for the same Julius Berger.
I will urge you not to exert too much pressure on your successor. The weight of the pressure may be too heavy and if he drops the pot it will break and spill its contents and that which you tried to hide may become public knowledge. As you well know, one man cannot be the sole custodian of the puerile game of blackmail. That others do not play it does not mean it is not available to them. The more you publicly malign him, the more people want to find out the history of your relationship and the revelation of what cover he has given you these past years become apparent. They even come to admire and respect him, leaving someone else the scoundrel.
I had in my earlier memorandum to you urged that you try not to be remembered as the father and mentor of political sophistry and double speak in Akwa Ibom State. You are still young. You can still change. But the first sign of change will be when you learn to think of what you want to say and its consequences before you speak. It is becoming a gaffe too many, dear Senator. In that same memorandum I told you that when you moved the motion for Udom Emmanuel’s second term in the PDP caucus meeting in Uyo, you intended to ensure that Udom was relaxed while you truncate his bid. You now deploy excuses to do so but have voiced no reason. Please do not be so predictable. Try and prove me wrong this time distinguished Senator.
May the truth always prevail. Anwe Akpa Senyi!
Ambassador Assam E. Assam, SAN.
Abugh Ekid; Nkuku Idua; Adaha Ekid Afaha; Ada Idaha ke Efik Eburutu.
January 8, 2018.