Akwa Ibom and Politics of The Bigger Picture

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By Jackson Udom

Five months to the 2019 general elections, the politics of Nigeria has shifted into top gear, with a plethora of activities taking place in the polity, culminating into a daily change in the dynamics of the country’s politics.

One of such activities that has continued to rankle in the land is the defection of the former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Since the August 8th, defection, the political narratives in Akwa Ibom and across the country have centred on Akpabio’s defection and its implications for the state and the south/south geo-political zone.

People who know little or nothing about the politics of the former governor, became the mega phones of those calling for his head, simply because he decided to exercise the fundamental rights guaranteed him in the constitution, while those who understand the man and his vision have not only lauded the move, but also teamed up with him in the new party.

For those who do not know Akpabio, there is the need to deconstruct the “Lagos Boy,” who by providence, rose from being a commissioner to becoming Akwa Ibom State governor despite vehement opposition by the powers that be then.

It must still remain clear in the memories of those old enough to know how Akpabio distinguished himself as Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs under former Governor Victor Attah.
His desire to serve his people at the highest office in the land did not in any way, come on a platter.

Akpabio had weathered the political storm with like mind supporters and his effort was crowned with the electoral triumph over all opposition that massed against him and was sworn in as the state governor on May, 29, 2007.

His election not only shaped his style and kind of politics as a Niger Deltan, with a nationalistic outlook, it also signalled the beginning of a rise we have continued to witness till date.

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As governor of Akwa Ibom for eight years, it does not need saying that Akpabio changed the story of the state and opened it up to the nation and the world, delivering masterpiece projects and policies that have now made the state a primus inter pares among states in the country in terms of development.

From the Ibom International Airport to the Ibom Power Plant, from the world-class Olympic-sized stadium to the building of countless other infrastructure including schools, hospitals, roads and the first fly-overs ever witnessed in the state since its creation, Akpabio took the state by the scruff of its neck and dragged it to the pantheon of modernisation and transformation, an effort that could only have been achieved due to his exposure and nationalistic tendency.

It will be recalled how as governor, Akpabio had said that his anger pushed him to transform the state, citing how the status of the state as one of the backwater states and its people were only thought worthy of being house helps, drove him to change the narrative.

What the former governor did not say explicitly was that as a Niger Deltan, who has sojourned in Lagos for years, he had seen the Nigerian dream and would never want any Nigerian to remain a local champion. Akpabio had seen the bigger picture and his politics had always been driven by this realisation.

One would recall how countless dignitaries and businessmen from around the world had been able to access Akwa Ibom without stress as a result of the Ibom International Airport constructed by Akpabio.

Of particular interest was the fact that the crème-de-la-crème of the Nigerian society as well as corporate organisations and groups immediately turned Akwa Ibom to a proud destination as a result of the massive development brought about by the Akpabio -led government.

Presidents, former Heads of State, top government functionaries and other influential individuals including, Dr Goodluck Jonathan; General Yakubu Gowon; Jerry Rawlings, Professor Wole Soyinka and Chief Segun Osoba, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, late Ooni of Ife,Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, among others, praised Akpabio at different periods during their visit to the state, while the former governor also received several awards from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), media organisations, the NDA, traditional institutions and even the United States Congress.

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For Akpabio, however, the bigger picture was beyond just delivering on governance; it was about belonging to the party that could continue to help his people to realise their aspirations and to be at the centre of the plans and programmes of the central government.

The realisation that Akwa Ibom must never ‘carry last’ made Akpabio become a central figure in the PDP.

It is, however, interesting that though Akpabio gave his best to the PDP, as a politician with a national outlook, he maintained cordial relationship with politicians across all divides and states, keeping the traditional handshake across the Niger, firmly in place in the interest of his people and the development of his state.

This was why it was not difficult for the former Senate Minority Leader to move to the APC to join President Muhammadu Buhari’s worthy ongoing efforts to rebuild and reposition the country for greatness.

For Akpabio, the defection to the APC was never about his selfish interest or personal aspiration as being erroneously bandied around by members of his former party, but about the people and Akwa Ibom State, which needed to belong to the party at the centre to continue to remain relevant, and could therefore, not afford to isolate itself for clear developmental and political reasons that could affect its fortune in the not-too-distant future.

Unfortunately, however, some people who failed to see the bigger picture Akpabio saw, which made him quit the post of a Senate Minority Leader to become a floor member, have alluded to many reasons for his leaving.

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But for those who care to know, the good of Akwa Ibom, Niger Delta and Nigeria, which Akpabio constantly seeks that made him always want to be nationalistic in political outlook, is the main reasons for his defection to the APC.

And it is worthy of note and pleasing that the people of Akwa Ibom have also seen that bigger picture, hence the massive support the former governor has continued to receive ever since he moved to the ruling APC.

It is evident that Akwa Ibom people, like Akpabio, who has today become the biggest political leader in the state. They have also realised the need to fish in a bigger ocean by remaining with the party at the centre.

This evidence is in the presentation of Akpabio as the sole candidate for the Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District in the 2019 election by his party in appreciation of his selfless service to the state and as a worthy representative of his people at the NASS in the last three and a half years.

Like the Biblical Prophet Ezekiel, Akpabio can be said to have breathed life to dry bones, as the APC has now become the toast of Akwa Ibom people, with PDP members defecting on a daily basis across the length and breadth of state while many others are still waiting in the wings to abandon the sinking PDP ship for the APC.

Today, the song on the lips of Akwa Ibom people is APC, change. They no longer want a state government that could not even manage to live in the shadows of its predecessor.

Akwa Ibom people have resolved to massively support Akpabio and the APC, having seen the light that the party remained the best option for Nigeria to attain greatness.

Udom is a public affairs analyst, based in Lagos.

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