By Jackson Udom

From recent developments in the polity, jostles  or better put, battles for the occupation of elective offices across the length and breath of the country in 2019 has commenced in earnest.To the layman on the streets, 2019 is still some 24 solid months away.

But to the professional politicians, (those without a second address apart from politicking), campaign for next election commences immediately after the next election.

Therefore, politicians with ambitions in 2019, are already returning to the trenches, campaigning for the peoples’ support, inorder  to achieve their ambition albeit, through churning out derogatory and damaging information against their would be opponents.

However,  the information so churned out when subjected to scrutiny in the court of public opinion, end up as outright falsehood, blackmail and lies.

It is therefore, not out of place, if one explains out the current travails by the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and the incumbent Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, in the hands of his political opponents, as a dress rehearsal by those who are so intimidated by the popularity and unrivalled acceptance of  the Ukana-born legal practitioner.

Akpabio’s intimidating political profile in his state of origin and by extension Nigeria,  is sure strong enough to dwarf any form of opposition in a free, fair and credible electoral contest.

In trying to gain popularity and acceptance through the back door, Akpabio’s political opponents are of the infantile belief that the only avenue left for them in this wild goose chase is to lie, blackmail and raise very spurious and unsubstantiated allegations against him in online news media.

Despite all the campaign of calumny against  Akpabio, the popularity of the former governor has continued to soar, largely because of the selfless service he rendered to the state from 2007-2015 as their leader. 

His achievements in office are verifiable. It cuts across the education, health, aviation, sports, human capital development, roads, housing and tourism sectors. The achievements  earned him the appellation; Uncommon Transformer. Those achievements were no fluke.

The people of Akwa Ibom State are not ingrates. They appreciate good things whenever and anywhere they saw one, and  that explains why his political opponents are finding it difficult to dim the shining light. The jubilation that often herald his presence at any state functions is spontaneous.  It is not what you can control, not even Akpabio can stop it,  because that is the only way the people can publicly say thank you to a man who served them with all his strength and left them better than the way he met them.

On this, Akpabio appreciates the people and has vowed to continue to fight to better their lives as a Senator. 

Unfortunately for the opposition, the peoples’ decision to  remain with the former governor, appears to have sent shivers down the spines of his political opponents, as we move towards the 2019 electoral showdown.

  The opposition became more uncoordinated and troubled, when the news filtered into their camps that the Essien Udim- born politician and the state governor, Udom Emmanuel,  had been unanimously endorsed for a second term in their respective offices by the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.

Akpabio’s kinsmen hinged their action on what they described as the quality representation given them by the Senate Minority Leader  and the scintillating performance of the governor in less than two years in office.

In their grand plan to rubbish the Akpabio; their political nemesis,  the opposition recently engaged some faceless individuals to run riots in some highly compromised online media, through the release of frivolous and unsubstantiated allegations against him and his office.

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The media attacks came in two fronts.

Few weeks ago, a Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP), Senator from Akwa Ibom State, Nelson Effiong, after several pleas, persuasions and late night caucus meetings of Akwa Ibom State lawmakers in the National Assembly at the instance of the Senate Minority Leader,  decided to join the All Peoples Congress  (APC). 

But what did the opposition say? “Akpabio knew about it. It is at the prompting of Akpabio that Effiong left. He sent him there to prepare the grounds for Akpabio and other PDP senators. Akpabio wants to be Deputy Senate President. He will soon join the APC,” and all that and that. 

Because they have a pre-determined target to ‘destroy ‘ they chose to be deaf to the reasons advanced by the decampee senator and efforts Akpabio made to stop him from decamping. 

It is on record that Senator  Effiong, while giving reasons for his action, thanked Akpabio for his yoeman  effort at stopping him from leaving the party, but regretted that the situation was beyond his control. He described Akpabio as a worthy leader who is genuinely committed to the development of his people, the state and the country in general. 

For those abreast with National Assembly politics and its dynamics, no politician worth its salt, not to talk of a politician who is the leader of opposition in the Senate, would pray or work towards the depleting of its membership. He holds  that office by virtue of the opposition members in the Senate. It is, therefore, trash, nonsensical and crass irresponsibility for any individual or groups to attempt to put the  decision of Senator Effiong to  dump the PDP at  the doorstep of the Senate Minority Leader.

Akin to the above is the recent attempt by some faceless individuals to link Senator Akpabio  to the planned, but cancelled national protest against the federal government  by music icon,2face Idibia. Surprisingly, the only reason given as proof for their myopic and pedestrian conclusion is simply because  Akpabio, as the governor of Akwa Ibom State, had presented a Prado jeep to Mr Idibia for marrying an Akwa Ibom indigene and also promised to sponsor some citizens of the state to the wedding. However,  Mr Innocent Idibia had publicly declared that he was not being sponsored by Akpabio nor any other politician.

The argument, therefore,  in informed circle is, If the mere donation of a vehicle to an individual meant the receiver would automatically be controlled by the donor, how then would these apostles of hate sermons,  describe a situation where Akpabio as a governor donated a car to a young lawyer from the state to ease his transport challenges, only for the same young lawyer to turn against him by writing frivolous and unfounded petitions against him? If Akpabio could not control a young lawyer he virtually saw through the law school,  how then would he tele-guide a man whose only contact with him was on the day of his traditional marriage?

While this campaign of calumny, against Akpabio was trending in the Internet,  the achievements of Akpabio in office as the Akwa Ibom State governor, resonated in far away America.

It was in an address to the US Congress sub-committee on Africa by a former president of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan .

Akpabio, as the governor of the oil-rich Niger/delta state of Akwa Ibom  from 2007-2015, was singled-out for commendation by the former president for making judicious use of the 13 percent derivation fund for the radical developmental changes the state witnessed under his leadership.

According to Jonathan, “ during the Obasanjo era, the Federal Government in line with our constitution and revenue laws,  set aside 13 percent oil revenue to be paid as derivation funds to oil producing states and shared on the basis of proportion of oil they produce. As a person from the Niger delta, I can say that the 13 percent derivation has benefitted the Niger delta people more than interventionist agencies. For example, those who knew Akwa Ibom State before the 13 percent derivation became law,  will agree that the derivation fund had changed the face of that state, making it almost overnight, one of the most developed states in Nigeria.” 

It is my hope that the opposition, which has vowed to bring Akpabio down at all costs,  will also not accuse the former president of being  induced by Akpabio for such unsolicited accolades on the federal lawmaker. One thing is however certain, no amount of blackmail, character assassination and name calling would deter Akpabio from serving his people.

Almost two years after leaving the office of the governor, Akpabio remains a recurrent decimal in the politics of Akwa Ibom State and beyond. His activities as Senate Minority Leader is legendary. He has refused to play opposition politics for cheap political gain, rather,  he has been galvanising the opposition towards national cohesion, peace and development.

For those currently worried about their political relevance, where Akpabio exists, the advice for them is to tarry a while and confront  him at the grassroots to test their political wit and acceptance, rather than attempt to destroy whom God has lifted and blessed. 

► Udom is Special Assistant on Media to the Senate Minority Leader.