As the internal crisis within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State continues to fester, ANAYO EZUGWU examines the chances of the party in the state given the sharp divide between the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, and secretary of the party’s national caretaker committee, John Udoedeghe
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State is a house divided against itself. The party is enmeshed in a supremacy battle between the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio and a former senator and current secretary of the party’s caretaker committee at the national level, John Udoedeghe. Udoedeghe is said to be planning to run for the governorship of Akwa Ibom in 2023, but the former governor of the state, Akpabio appears not to be in support of his ambition. As a result, the party is now divided with members and stakeholders picking different camps that suit their interests. A clog in the wheel of the ambition occurred recently when the APC faction that is loyal to Akpabio met recently in Uyo and announced that the minister was the political leader of the party in the state. The Akpabio group recalled with nostalgia that Senator Akpabio was named and publicly declared the leader of the party in Akwa Ibom State on August 8, 2018, by a delegation of the APC national leadership led by the then national chairman who was in the state to witness Akpabio’s defection to the APC. It insisted that it is common knowledge that governors are the leaders of their parties in their respective states.
The group noted that where the party is not in control of the state, its highest political office holder naturally becomes the leader of the party. “Hence, in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva is undoubtedly the APC leader, while Rotimi Amaechi is the party leader in Rivers State because they are the highest political office holders in their respective states.
But, in Akwa Ibom State, there seems to be an unbridled and inordinate quest to change the standard to satisfy some odious cravings. “APC does not have a governor in Akwa Ibom State, having shot itself in the foot in the 2019 election through this same putrefying rancour and acrimony. The highest political office holder is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, who is an influential member of the Federal Executive Council,” it said.
In buttressing the position of Akpabio’s group, a chieftain of the party in Akwa Ibom State and former military governor, Sam Ewang insisted that Akpabio is the leader of the party in the state and none of those opposing him can stop him from leading the party. He said those fueling crisis in the party do not mean well for Akwa Ibom people.
“Akpabio is the leader of the party and none of them can stop him from leading the party.
He was financing the party until April last year when John Udoedeghe began to sing songs that he is the leader of the party. How can he be? This is the crux of the matter. Somebody has put him (Udoedehe) in that office; somebody puts Umana Umana (in office) and they are ready to subject themselves to that man.
“They think Akwa Ibom must not exist; that Akwa Ibom people must be subjected to that man. But I’m saying no. That is the problem, and as a matter of fact, it’s not a crisis because we have overcome it. Akpabio is the leader of the party and we are all subjected to him.
The constitution of the party does not know who the leader of the party is. “But conventionally, the leader of the party is the man who holds the highest political office or a former governor, if you don’t have a governor in power.
But right now, these other people, like Udoedehe, Umana Umana and Ita Enang, sold themselves out and they don’t want to come under Akpabio because that is what they’re told by their master and I am saying no, we are not going to honour that. Akwa Ibom is Akwa Ibom. Let him go and control his territory and leave Akwa Ibom for Akwa Ibom people. “Akpabio is the leader of the party; there are various other leaders like Udoedehe; he is a leader in his own right. Umana Umana is a leader. Everybody is a stakeholder; even those that have sympathy for the party is stakeholders and I have the right to call a stakeholders meeting,” he said. According to Ewang, this set of people against Akpabio are only interested in appointments and that is why they are doing what they are doing. “The problem with the APC in Akwa Ibom is simply that the major players are servants of somebody, an outsider who wants to be in charge of the South-South and also Nigeria and these players have become servants to him because they have been bought and pocketed.
“They want to ensure that the entire Akwa Ibom people are also subjects to him. And as a result, they believe that the same master of theirs is an enemy to Godswill Akpabio because Akpabio will always say no to what their master wants. That is the whole problem of the APC in Akwa Ibom State.
Unfortunately, these are people who have not wished Akwa Ibom people well. “They are always interested in appointments and that is what they’re trading (integrity) for. Even the party chairman has been promised that appointment; that is why you see him doing what he is doing, but the issue is ignorance. I am only pleading with them to allow Akwa Ibom people be.”
Despite the strong argument of Akpabio’s group that as a former governor of the state and a serving minister, he ought to naturally be the leader of the party, the opposing group has kicked against the unilateral decision of the group to appoint Akpabio as the leader. It insisted that the minister of Niger Delta is not their political leader in the state.
The group led by Udoedeghe at a stakeholders meeting in the state adopted the decision of the State Executive Council (SEC) of the party to nullify the declaration that Akpabio was the party’s political leader in the state.
The party chieftains in the communiqué issued after the meeting, said: “The stakeholders endorse the decision of the State Executive Committee (SEC) to declare as a nullity the unilateral proclamation and announcement of Senator Godswill Akpabio, as the State Party Leader of APC in gross violation of the Party’s Constitution in the unauthorized and illegal Stakeholders meeting of Sunday, March 28, 2021.
“The Party hereby reminds every member and the general public that the State Chairman (or Caretaker Chairman as applicable here) is the Chairman of the State Caucus as provided for in Article 12.9 Sub (i) of the party Constitution (October 2014 As Amended) and remains the Party Leader in the State until further notice.”
The group said the caretaker chairman of the party, Ita Udosen and not Akpabio, is its recognized leader in the state. It noted that its decision was in line with Article 12.9 Sub (i) of the party’s constitution (October 2014 As Amended), which recognizes the chairman, who is also the chairman of the State Caucus as the party leader.
In the face of the crisis over his leadership of the party in the state, Akpabio has said he has no preferred governorship candidate from Uyo Senatorial District for the 2023 election in the state. He also denied the reports that he plans to impose a governorship candidate on the party and the state. According to the former governor, based on the zoning arrangement in the state, the next governor should come from Uyo Senatorial District (officially known as Akwa Ibom North East).
“My goal is to work with like-minded associates in Uyo Senatorial District and nominate a suitable candidate that would win the election. I have no particular person in mind, and I cannot repeat the mistake I made in 2015. “Akwa Ibom people of various political persuasions do agree that we need dependable leadership in 2023.
In that case, I will work with all of you to identify and support any candidate that will develop our state. Uyo Senatorial District is capable of bringing up good a good candidate that would be acceptable to the rest of the state. ADF will work with Uyo in this regard,” he said.
With the camps refusing to shift grounds over the leadership crisis in the state, electorates and indeed political watchers of Akwa Ibom State are enthusiastically waiting to see how APC would form a formidable opposition to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.