WHATEVER doubt was left about the defection of former Akwa Ibom State governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was erased on Tuesday with the announcement of his resignation as the minority leader at the upper chamber of the National Assembly. In a statement issued by his media aide, Jackson Udom, Senator Akpabio was full of gratitude to “the leadership, the minority leadership, all distinguished senators, the Peoples Democratic Party for the opportunity to lead the PDP caucus in the last three years.”
When the defection of Akpabio from the PDP to the APC began like a tale from the rumour mill last week, not a few people dismissed it with a wave of the hand, knowing how passionate he had been about the PDP, the party he once boasted would rule the country for 60 years.
But passion is not without a lifespan, and his for the PDP expired last week. There is no passion found in settling for a lifestyle that is less than the one you are capable of living, former South African leader, Nelson Mandela, had warned long before Akpabio’s defection was capped with the grand reception the APC organised for him in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, on Wednesday. The immediate past minority leader apparently was fed up with the PDP not only as a leader of the party, but also as its symbol in Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta region at large, hence he took what he felt was the next best step: quit the party.
The shock wave that has swept through the PDP on account of Akpabio’s defection would hardly come as a surprise to any keen watcher of events on the nation’s political landscape. Coming at a time the party was basking in the euphoria of the defection of three governors, 14 senators and about 37 members of the House of Representatives from the APC to the PDP, Akpabio’s change of camp neutralised and virtually eclipsed the storm the latter party sought to unleash on the former. It could have been a humiliation of the ruling party until Akpabio stepped into the ring and changed the entire complexion of the defection show.
Surprisingly, Akpabio’s shadow was on the wall long before the announcement of his defection, but few members of the party appeared to realise that the sun was going down. Akpabio had long hinted about his imminent defection from the PDP when he declared that any political party could return to his seat at the Senate in 2019. The signs became clearer penultimate Thursday when the party’s minority leader at the Senate boycotted the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the PDP in Abuja and headed instead for the Presidential Villa for a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in company with his fellow Akwa Ibom politician, Senator Ita Enang.
And while tongues were still wagging over Akpabio’s meeting with the Vice President, his picture with Buhari in London appeared on the social media, sending panic waves through the camp of the opposition party and cutting short its celebration. The master tactician has changed the game and things are not likely to remain the same again for the opposition party in Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta region in general. The massive crowd that turned out at the reception the APC organised for him in Ikot-Ekpene on Wednesday would attest to this fact.
Besides his influence and financial muscle, political observers believe that his oratory power combined with that of the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will make a lethal combination, particularly in the Niger Delta region where the APC appears to be making steady progress ahead of the 2019 elections. That, perhaps, explains the hues and cries that have greeted the defection of the astute political tactician in the camp of the PDP.
For instance, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, described Akpabio’s change of camp from the PDP to the APC as a stab in the back of the senators who supported him to be elected as the Minority Leader in the Senate.
Urhoghide said: “If it is true Akpabio is going away, it is a stab on some of us. He stabbed us in the back and he knows where his place in history will be in this country.
“It is a stab, even if it is because the EFCC is intimidating and harassing him. It would have been more honourable for him to go to jail because those who run away from us, like Senator Joshua Dariye, and went to the APC was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
“If Akpabio was just an ordinary senator, nobody would have bothered about him. But because he was the Minority Leader, that is the leader of the PDP caucus in the Senate, he ought to have come back to us to say the mandate you gave to me to be your leader, I am hereby giving it back to you.”
But Akpabio has since debunked insinuations to the effect that he defected to the APC to seek protection from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), saying that he had been investigated by the anti-graft agency and found to be as clean as a hound’s tooth. That, he said, was the reason he waited for corrupt people to leave the APC before he joined the ruling party. A proof of Akpabio’s wits the PDP would have to endure in the days ahead. (The Nation)