It seems that another round of crisis is developing in Akwa Ibom Chapter of APC, and this time it is rooted in the fight for the spoils of war. Elections are over and appointments will soon be announced, and so, some leaders are doing all they can to destroy their perceived competitors just to gain advantage and secure juicy appointments for themselves and supporters.
Just this morning, Pat Ruben, a supporter of Akanimo Udofia published an article in which he alleges that Mr. Umana Umana and Mr. Nsima Ekere have begun a hunt for appointments in the Tinubu administration despite that fact that the two men did not support APC during the elections. I was surprised to read this given what I know about the support the two men gave to help the party, which in any case, was already buffeted by a festering war of attrition. Umana practically bankrolled the Tinubu presidential rally in Uyo which was held end of January. I am told that he alone shelled out about N400 million to fund the rally. So impressed was Tinubu himself with Umana’s contributions that he followed the minister home after the event for a lavish entertainment at the minister’s palatial residence in Uyo. Other APC chieftains were at the table also.
I understand that Pat Ruben’s diatribe is a reflection of Akan Udofia’s frame of mind. Udofia has complained to others that Umana did not support him wholeheartedly, and this has been rebroadcast around by many repeater stations within the party. But what exactly did Udofia expect the minister to do? Did he expect Umana to leave his official duties in Abuja and lead his campaigns around the state? In the first place, Udofia himself was not on the ballot till the election day. I have seen the official result sheets given to the candidates, Udofia’s name is not there. But I have seen the names of all other candidates.
Secondly, we are all aware that Udofia and Senator Ita Enang were engaged in a titanic battle for the APC ticket from last July when Enang sued Udofia at the Federal High Court, Uyo, till the Supreme Court which gave judgment a few days to the election. Both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court did not make a consequential order mandating INEC to enter either of their names as the governorship candidate.
So, as I had reported on many occasions, APC got into the election without a governorship candidate. Many key stakeholders of the party, including Umana himself, were aware of this. It is therefore preposterous for anybody to have expected Umana to invest in Udofia who was not a candidate. I recall that in April last year – 10 good months to the elections - Umana had forewarned that the party was running the risk of going into the contest without a candidate due to the crisis it was battling with. If his statement had turned out prescient, there was nowhere that he would turn around to pump money into a campaign that had no candidate.
There is also another lesson of history. Eight years ago, Umana himself was the APC governorship candidate in the state. I sat in the front row seat of that campaign and witnessed how he bore his challenges with equanimity. Umana never one day blamed another person for the challenges he faced. After the elections, Umana hired Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, to challenge the outcome of the election at the Election Petition tribunal all the way to the Supreme Court. (By the way, Tinubu has just hired the same Olanipekun to defend him against Atiku and Obi). Umana bore all the expenses and went into serious debts with grace and calmness. Akan Udofia was never in sight and he never chipped in a penny to help Umana.
Udofia only joined APC in May last year after he failed in the PDP primary which was held a day before the APC’s primary. He was able to conjure a waiver from Abuja, and pronto, he was ready to be governor. Many Akwa Ibom ‘’youths’’ were hailing him as the oil billionaire who will bring in money to fund his campaign. Udofia probably would have succeeded in beguiling the people, but for the legal and political astuteness of Senator Ita Enang whose dogged fights in the courts truncated Udofia’s inordinate ambition. I therefore salute Enang as one of the icons of the 2023 political season in our state.
It is therefore sheer political chicanery, in my view, for Udofia to turn around to blame Umana for his headless and directionless campaign. Not only was Udofia not even a candidate, his conduct and style during the campaigns had given the voters the impression that he was just campaigning for Senator Akapbio to win his senatorial seat. After the Akapbio was announced the winner of the February 25 election, nobody heard of Udofia again. His lights dimmed. Secondly, APC’s chances in the governorship election were also very low because of its inability to match massive vote-buying machinery of the PDP which was, of course, funded by the state government. I understand that the over N300 million the APC headquarters sent to the State Chapter for the election was swallowed by one big python and a baby python some weeks before the election. Udofia knows this, but he prefers to go about badmouthing Umana.
Let me bring in one important point that is heavy on my mind. Senator Udoedehe left PDP in 2010 and joined ACN. He ran for governor in 2011 and won, but the vote was cancelled and stolen from him. Udoedehe became a founding member of APC in 2013 when ACN merged with others to form APC. He served in its Constitution Drafting Committee, and slaved it out in the party. He was made Secretary in 2020 and served till March 2022. He was on his way to picking up the party’s ticket, but some powerful forces were arrayed against him for the sake of Akan Udofia. Even though politics is filled with snake-pit cunning and betrayal, was it okay to push Udoedehe out and bring in Udofia? Is there no morality in politics? I will return to this subject soon.
On the matter of scrambling for political appointments, suffice it to say that the race has begun. Senator Akpabio is obviously positioning himself as the only leader of the party who saved the party from collapse. He will want to corner all the appointments for his acolytes. Minister; Ambassador; Statutory and non-statutory Board members as well as second-line appointments and employments in the civil service are all up for grabs. A principal officer of the Senate could have up to 50 slots to fill in the federal bureaucracy. How will Umana Umana, Nsima Ekere and all the other leaders of the party convince Tinubu that they too had worked for the party? Time will tell. But as an APC chieftain told me recently, ‘’You know, Umana, fights for his share quietly and calmly. He knows how to use the back channels effectively’’. I am watching…