When Gov Emmanuel renewed ‘war’ with Akpabio at father’s burial

INIOBONG EKPONTA writes on the renewal of hostilities between Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, at the burial of the governor’s father.

 

Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, is apparently still smarting from former Godswill Akpabio’s defection to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), as he could not resist talking about his erstwhile political mentor and regrettably declared: “He (Akpabio) brought me into politics (but) he later abandoned me midwayy.”

Speaking at the funeral service of his father, the late Pa Emmanuel Gabriel Nkanang, who died at age 90, Udom further lamented his loss, saying he could only relied rather on spiritual and economic fathers “who will not abandon you when you need them most. For my biological father, he was always there for us. But for the political fathers, you see them today; tomorrow you see them no more.”

In the run up to the 2015 general election, the then Governor Godswill Akpabio had sacked the erstwhile Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Obong Umana Okon Umana, due to what political observers linked to his speculated ambition to succeed Akpabio. Udom, then a senior director with Zenith Bank in Lagos, was immediately drafted in to replace Umana, who defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), where he was given the governorship ticket for the electoral contest.

Also, Akpabio, then leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, was said to have bended the rules and granted waivers to enable Udom win the party’s ticket for the election which pitted him against Umana in the main opposition APC.

Against all odds, the PDP won the governorship election and its candidate, Udom emerged as the state governor. But barely three years down the line, the war between the godfather and the godson raged and tarried till now over irreconcilable differences. The feud got to a fever pitch when Akpabio had to change political camp and pitched his tent with the opposition APC in August 2018, with a clear mission to oust his godson. “I have come to liberate my people from the shackles of poverty, insecurity and underdevelopment,” Akpabio said when he led notable PDP leaders and stakeholders in the state to defect to the APC at Ikot Ekpene stadium in August, 2018.

In an apparent ploy to stampede Emmanuel out of office, Akpabio had threatened that “the take-over of Akwa Ibom” (by the ruling APC at the federal level) would be like the Second World War invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler’s soldiers where, according to him, “Warsaw (capital of Poland) saw war”.

However, determined to avert being disgraced by his former godfather, Governor Emmanuel was said to have taken the bull by the horns. He was said to have mustered the needed energy and resources, including an alleged resort to vote buying, to ensure that his second term was not shaken in 2019.

Present at the burial ceremony of the governor’ late father last weekend, were retinue of eminent Nigerians, including former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Senate presidents and hordes of former and serving senators, ministers, several serving and former governors and diplomats.

Speaking at a conference held in his native Awa Iman in Onna Local Government Area, the governor expressed his resolve not to forgive his political godfather for leaving him naked in the murky waters of politics. To him, it was better to have confidence in his economic father, the former chief executive officer of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia who mentored and tutored him to the apex of Corporate Nigeria, rather than a political godfather who he admitted launched him into the political limelight.

Akpabio was represented at the burial ceremony by his wife, Ekaette Unoma. But her presence, though acknowledged, could not evoke the carnival-like atmosphere that usually heralds the appearance of her enigmatic husband at public events.

It can never be known if the tone of the governor’s speech at his father’s funeral would have been altered to reflect compliments for his former master should Akpabio, who is Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, had personally attended the event. But one thing remains clear: the battle between the godfather and the godson in the Akwa Ibom political turf is far from thawing and may continue to fester as Nigeria inches towards another election year in 2023.

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