Akpabio and Udom: Godfather Versus Godson

How much longer would the political romance between Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and his immediate predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, endure? That is the question that has been provoked by a couple of incidents that have transpired between the two in recent times.
A few weeks ago, the million-dollar question would amount to a sacrilege. No one had a reason compass or contemplate a breakdown in the relationship between Akpabio the godfather and Emmanuel the godson. Those were the days when Akpabio stuck his neck out for Emmanuel as the contest for his coveted seat became so fierce that the average Akwa Ibom indigene feared that Armageddon was in the corner.
For the love of Emmanuel, Akpabio was said to have sacrificed the governorship ambitions of other aspirants he had earlier given his word before Emmanuel shot forth like a bolt from the blue. As Akpabio himself would later confess during the PDP governorship campaign inauguration in Uyo in the build up to the last general election, Emmanuel was nowhere in the picture until he was recommended by Akpabio’s wife, Unoma. Akpabio, who on the occasion described Unoma as ‘Mother Theresa’ spared no adjective as he showered praises on her for spotting Emmanuel.
Proceeding on the principle that one good turn deserves another, Emmanuel wasted no time in demonstrating his unflinching loyalty to Akpabio as soon as he became the governor. Emmanuel followed Akpabio everywhere like the baby chick does the mother hen as he awaited his inauguration as governor. And at the inauguration ceremony, the new governor made an announcement that did not only startle the gathering but left many with the impression that Emmanuel’s tenure would be as good as Akpabio remaining in office for a third term. In other words, the new governor would be nothing more than a protégé whose every move would be guided by Akpabio.
With the said speech, Emmanuel appeared to kill the enthusiasm of the crowd who had gathered to witness his inauguration ceremony by naming the ultra modern Akwa Ibom State International Stadium after his immediate predecessor. The stadium, previously called Nest of Champions, was renamed by the new governor as Godswill Obot Akpabio International Stadium.
But even the governor himself was stupefied by the dead silence the announcement generated from the ecstatic crowd that had been cheering and clapping all day. Perhaps to reassure himself that the announcement was responsible for the pin-drop silence that suddenly fell on the crowd, he repeated the announcement and the people remained quiet.
As a matter of fact, some people in the gathering reportedly wondered aloud that the announcement did nothing to portray the governor as one with a mind independent enough to lead the state.
As things have since turned out, however, the experience might have been a defining moment for the new governor to decide on whether he wants to be his own man in leading the state or sit perpetually in the shadow of his benefactor.
Three major issues in recent times have, however, been interpreted by watchers of events in the state to mean that Governor Emmanuel might have finally made up his mind to stop living in Akpabio’s shadow.
The first was the appointment of the Secretary to the State Government. While Akpabio was said to have rooted for his elder brother, Emem Akpabio, to occupy the sensitive position, the governor was said to have rejected the nomination, opting instead for Etekamba Umoren. Although some see Umoren as an Akpabio boy because he served as the former governor’s Chief of Staff, the fact that he did not pander to the ex-governor’s preferred candidate is taken as an indication of the battle that lies ahead.
While the controversy over the choice of SSG raged, the governor ordered the demolition of a filling station allegedly belonging to ex-governor Akpabio’s personal assistant and brother, Prince Ukpong Akpabio. The filling station, located on Nwaniba Road, opposite Uruan Street, was levelled by officials of the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA).
After the demolition, the state government, in a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ekerete Udoh, directed developers and owners of filling stations located in residential parts of Uyo, the state capital, to produce approval by Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) within 14 days, beginning from Friday, June 5, 2015, saying that failure to do so will result in the demolition of such filling stations.
The choice of Speaker for the Sixth Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly was another sore point in the hitherto cordial relationship between Akpabio and Emmanuel. Ex-governor Akpabio was said to have rooted for Ime Okon from Ibiono Ibom Constituency against Onofiok Luke, the representative of Nsit Ubium Constituency who many believe had the sympathy of Governor Emmanuel.
In fact, on account of the disagreement, the inauguration of the House, earlier scheduled for 10 am could not be done until about 7 pm, allegedly as a result of pressure from the camps of the governor and his predecessor. At the end of the day, the House had to settle for a fresher in the person of Aniekan Uko, representing Ibesiko Asutan Constituency.
The emerging power tussle between Akpabio and Emmanuel is already raising concern among some indigenes of the state, one of which is the National President of Concerned Patriots of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Peter Ekwere. Ekwere said Senator Akpabio must face the reality that whatever contract he had with the people of Akwa Ibom State as governor had expired on May 29, 2015.
But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, said there was no feud between Ex-Governor Akpabio and the incumbent governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Umanah recalled that Governor Emmanuel had publicly declared at a thanksgiving mass organised for Senator Akpabio in Ikot Ekpene recently that the enemies of the state should leave him and Akpabio alone; and that there was no feud between them.
“Their relationship is cordial. They are working together with other stakeholders for the benefit of the state,” he said.

Via The Nation

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