The Defection Of Senator Bassey Albert To APC And Other Political Undercurrents In Akwa Ibom

The Defection Of Senator Bassey Albert To APC And Other Political Undercurrents In Akwa Ibom

5 months ago
4 mins read

While other parts of the country were rounding off their holidays this January, with some engrossed in the many decisions of the Supreme Court on various election petitions, Akwa Ibom State was witnessing a different kind of political drama. Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, a two-term PDP senator, who ran for governorship of the state last on YPP, defected to APC on Friday, January 19. He decamped with all the EXCOs and chieftains of the party and there are indications that the House of Reps member and two House of Assembly members elected on YPP will also move into APC as soon as the forthcoming byelections are concluded.

In the 2023 elections, Senator Akpan (widely known by his initials as ‘OBA’) polled 132,262 votes, while the APC, whose candidate, Akan Udofia, was removed from the ballot by court order, scored 127,602. Pastor Umo Eno won the elections with 350, 348 votes. OBA is therefore coming into APC to begin early preparations for the 2027 elections, notwithstanding that the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the appeal against his criminal conviction by the Federal High Court in Uyo. His future political fortunes depend on the judgement of the Supreme Court. But his defection into APC signifies his seriousness and deep passion to occupy the governorship seat. There are, however, some undercurrents that continue to affect the strength of the party.

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In the first place, that the defection event took place in the palatial country home of Senator Godswill Akpabio in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, and not in Uyo, has rankled many leaders from Uyo senatorial district who have all along been smarting from non-recognition by President Bola Tinubu since he assumed office.

In politics, symbolism could be more important than substance. Of all the important 10 political appointments made by the President to the people of Akwa Ibom State, none is from Uyo Senatorial District. The district is not only the most populous of the three districts, it is also home to Ibibio ethnic stock, the largest ethnic bloc in Akwa Ibom. A few weeks ago, some Ibibio leaders have drawn the President’s attention to this egregious act of discrimination. At its general meeting early this year, Ekid Peoples Union said:  “we note with dissatisfaction the non-appointment of indigenes of Ibibio which make up 5.2 million of Akwa Ibom’s 7.7 million people by the Federal Government so far’’. EPU described the lopsided appointments as “very sad’’ and urge the President to reverse it.

Apparently aware of the disaffection of a cross-section of Akwa Ibom people in general and APC members in the state in particular, Senator Akpabio attended the meeting of Uyo senatorial district stakeholders’ meeting last Thursday. It was at this meeting that Akpabio promised that he would facilitate appointments of Uyo persons into some federal agencies. He then made a curious statement that the reason he did not campaign for the APC governorship candidate in the last election in some parts of the state, especially the nine LGAs of Uyo senatorial district was because he was not invited to participate in the campaigns. It was quite a strange statement because the candidate himself, Akanimo Udofia, had earlier joined Akpabio to campaign for his senatorial election. Senator Akpabio’s absence from the governorship campaigns of his party had caused quite a concern among APC members last year; and so, when he gave the reason that he was not invited to join in the campaigns, not a few were taken aback. How could that be when the director general of the campaign was his commissioner for works for eight years?

Eventually, Senator Akpabio’s donation of 50 bags of rice; nine cows and N10 million to the people at the meeting might have helped to appease the rank and file of the party.

Another source of anxiety at the Thursday meeting was the absence of key party members stayed from the meeting. Former Minister Umana Okon Umana; the party’s governorship candidate in the 2023 elections, Akanimo Udofia; businessman Chief Sunny Jackson Udoh; Mr. Sunday Okon Anyang, a Federal Commissioner at RMAFC and Engr. Maurice Ebong, a businessman were among prominent leaders who did not attend the meeting. Even Dr. Ita Enang, the Zonal Secretary of the party did not attend because ‘’I got the notice of the meeting while I was out of town’’.

‘’The morale of our members, especially those from Uyo senatorial district, is very low. We have been humiliated, weakened and embarrassed by the selfish actions of certain persons. We shall make our case known to the party in Abuja and as a last resort, we may consider pulling out of the party’’, said a party chieftain who has played important roles in building the party since 2015. It is a strange political development that those who fled from PDP to APC in 2015 due to some actions of Akpabio who was then governor, are now contemplating fleeing from APC due to the actions of the same Akpabio.

But Hon. Kufre Etuk, a prominent APC member from Uyo senatorial district who was also a member of the House of Assembly, told this writer that since Senator Akpabio has promised to facilitate appointments of Uyo persons into boards of federal agencies, it is important for members to wait and see how well the promise would be kept. “I think we should show some restraints and wait and see the quality of appointments that come to Uyo,’’ he said.

Another cause of discomfiture among APC members was a statement made by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan at his defection ceremony Friday. His assertion that no Akwa Ibom governor, apart from Akpabio, has served the state well has resonated negatively with supporters of Obong Victor Attah who is widely revered in the state as Father of Modern Akwa Ibom State. ‘’It was the height of insensitivity and political stupor for him to have made such sweeping attacks against our former leaders’’, said Gabriel Udofia, an APC leader in Ibesipo-Asutan LGA, Obong Attah’s community.

Akpabio and Senator Bassey Albert Akpan have built quite an interesting relationship over the years. He was the commissioner of finance for almost all of Akpabio’s tenure. But after he resigned in 2014 to contest for governorship, the governor forced him to withdraw his ambition and brought in Udom Emmanuel. Akpan was placated with a senate ticket on PDP platform. He spent eight years in the senate and last year, made another attempt to run for governor, this time on YPP, while Akpabio was running for senate on APC. Akpabio, ever wiser than the serpent, convinced OBA to get his YPP supporters to support him for senate on the condition that he would announce to APC members to vote YPP for governor. OBA kept his own side of the bargain, but it is not clear if APC members had voted OBA in return. With OBA moving into APC and getting set for 2027, Akwa Ibom people are waiting to see how OBA-GOA relationship will unfold in the years ahead.


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