In all of Africa, Akwa Ibom must be the most interesting case study of how not to co-exist or play politics. Carved out of old Cross River on September 23, 1987, the state was supposed to be the land of fulfilled promise. Three decades on, the state has instead remained ‘an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself’ -which is how the respected professor of history, and pioneer vice chancellor of the University of Calabar, Emmanuel Ayandele, described that old Cross River state. Akwa Ibom has not been able to shake off that tag.
Of course, the state is roundly endowed by nature: abundant resources, development-conscious leaders and a very hospitable people. Resource-wise, the state which belongs in the golden-egg-laying Niger Delta is rich in oil/gas, seafood, salt, clay, limestone, lead/zinc, diverse agricultural produce, etc. Leadership-wise, the five indigenous governors so far (Idongesit Nkanga (military), Akpan Isemin (now of blessed memory), Victor Attah, Godswill Akpabio and incumbent Udom Emmanuel) were known quantities before the call up.
There’s a snag, though. Akwa Ibomights famous for being quite hospitable are exactly so but strangely only to outsiders. At home, we are hypercritical, super-fastidious, ultra-disunited (or self-hating). In fact, anyone looking for the global headquarters of petition-writing, pull-him-down syndrome, monumental ingratitude and hypocritical bitterness need not search farther than Uyo. The hate in the street is palpable; so too the clannishness.
In the mix, our value system which used to be our Unique Selling Point has crashed. Now, Akwa Ibom brings up the rear within the committee of states in matters of virtue. Our youngsters are insolent, miserly, excellencifiers of nonsense and nonsensifiers of excellence. Our elders -especially those in politics- are worse culprits and horrible exemplars who have no business leading anybody. They blackmail blood and relationship just to gain advantage.
This is the reality of the Akwa Ibom which Nkanga threw himself into initiating; which Isemin developed with bare hands; which Attah sacrificed to redesign; which Akpabio broke protocol to transform; and which Udom has been manoeuvring to consolidate. Yet, in spite of and despite their historic inputs, the five-some remain butts of thankless salutations, silly jokes and unmerited sarcasm.
Most Akwa Ibomits cannot forget mistakes said to have dented the era of each of these leaders but they don’t remember the quantum leap these men brought to the state. As it was in the past, so it is now: Gov. Emmanuel is going through hell in the hands of his people. The attack on Sen. Godswill Akpabio is an attack on the governor’s success and second helping!
The incumbent and his predecessor, whom he calls ‘mentor’, should know that their relationship is the target of the emerging bad press. Unprintable commentaries online and malicious advertorials in national dailies have no other objective than to put Udom/Akpabio asunder in order to hurt the former’s 2019 chances. These must not happen.
In particular, Gov. Emmanuel needn’t lose sleep over the size of governorship shoes because his predecessor left him the exact same shoes inherited from Obong Attah. And in 2023, the incumbent would hand over the same shoes, not something different; governorship being a customised one-size-fits-all.
Similarly, the predecessor should not bother about his flagship projects being discontinued since posterity had already written that the Akpabio Years left enough reminders and to spare. What’s been written has been written. No amount of malicious media can obliterate the cornucopia of tangible exhibits of excellent performance (such as transformed landscape and a globally-branded state) from the annals of history and the minds of the majority of people worldwide.
However, this piece would be incomplete without blaming someone for the anti-Udom-Akpabio virtual missiles starting to fly all over the place. Who’s responsible: Gov. Udom Emmanuel and his supporters or Sen. Godswill Akpabio and his foot soldiers? I think the supporters of both men are not part of the internecine confusion. For me, the brunt should be borne by the two men themselves.
For allowing their political enemies to have this field day of mischief, the governor of Akwa Ibom state and the minority leader of the senate must take responsibility for the unnecessary heat that is starting to come into the Akwa Ibom state governmental kitchen!
To come clean, both men should hold the tete-a-tete which should have happened on the eve of the 2015 governorship election. Behind closed doors and with their wives also present, the governor and his ‘mentor’ predecessor should be brutally frank with each other. The no-holds-barred should be guided by love and respect, the two considerations which initialled their coming together.
No mistakes: Akpabio is a great friend but a greater foe. This makes him the man you need if you are going to war. But, the minority leader should need no reminding that the way the office of governor in Nigeria is wired, the occupant who understands his limitlessness can only defer to a senior by mouth, hardly in deeds.
I expect Gov. Emmanuel to say: ‘my dear Mentor, I know that God used Your Excellency to get me here. On no account would I betray that trust. With Your Excellency standing with and by me all through the remaining six years, I shall continue to consolidate on the gains of transformation’.
On his part, Sen. Akpabio should without his trademark smile reply, ‘Your Excellency, congratulations on the excellent job so far; especially in the midst of excruciating financial difficulties. Rest assured of my support well beyond 2019’.
Truth is: until Udom lands in 2023, Akpabio’s job is not done. What’s brewing now is the dry run for the mockery that would come, if things were to go kaput before 2019. God bless Akwa Ibom state of Nigeria!