Last weekend, as part of the festivities marking Akwa Ibom State 32nd Birthday Anniversary, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, (GCON) was the Special Guest of Honour. He was invited by the Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to help commission the first of its kind flour mill in the South- south-the Kings Flour Mill, the Plywood and Timber Factory, and the fully digitalized power Sub-station in Ekim, Mkpat Enin, which would help ensure the Power- for- All by December 2021, a bold and strategic initiative by the Governor. On Sunday, September 22, 2019, the Vice President, capped his visit when he presented the homily at the well-attended Thanksgiving Service to mark the anniversary at the Ibom Hall grounds.
The Governor, in a State–wide broadcast the next day, enjoined the people of the State to see the 32nd Anniversary as the start of a new Akwa Ibom State predicated on love and a deep sense of brotherhood and shared values. “On this occasion of our 32nd Anniversary, let us begin to respect our common values and even when we disagree with our leaders or among ourselves, such should be done with civility and mutual respect, knowing that what binds us together is more enduring than the temporary impulse of partisan politics”. It was truly a “pan-Akwa Ibom” moment as the Governor had put it.
All things considered, it was a spectacular success and the visit of the Vice President was flawless and hitch-free. However, the ugly side of politics was seen all over the visit. The APC in the State led by the Niger-Delta Affairs Minister, Godwill Akpabio sadly was bent on injecting the poisonous chalice of politics into a visit that should otherwise have been celebrated as an inspiring bi-partisan moment in our democracy: a siting Vice President from another party coming to commission and celebrate a successful and hard-working Governor from another political party.
The APC in the State, led by Senator Akpabio, broke every known thread of protocol. The standard order of protocol is that whenever a president or vice visits a state, the political class-across party lines must be on hand at the airport to receive the visitor. That was not done. The APC leadership in the State, led by Senator Akpabio other than Senator Ita Enang, the SSA to the President on Niger-Delta Affairs, refused to show up at the airport to receive the Vice President when he arrived on Saturday, September 21 at the Victor Attah International Airport. It was shocking to observe that none of the APC stalwarts from Akpabio to Nsima Ekere; the defeated Gubernatorial Candidate of the party at the last March 9th elections was at the airport.
According to credible sources, the party hierarchy in Akwa Ibom State had applied every known instrument of blackmail to scuttle the trip by the Vice President. They went to great lengths according to impeccable sources to blackmail the Vice President into cancelling the planned visit to no avail. “How can the Vice President come to Uyo to celebrate the success of a Governor we are fighting? Our modus- operandi has been to say that all the great things the Governor has done, from the industries to aviation, to agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure, do not exist. With the Vice President coming to commission these industries, our narratives would be seen to be what it is: pure lies and this will help validate these great achievements by the Governor; we didn’t want to see that happen” a source had confided.
Unable to stop the Vice President from visiting the State, the Senator Akpabio led APC had devised another devious and evil plot. They scheduled a Stakeholders’ meeting of the party to coincide with the time the Vice President was to have commissioned the Kings Flour Mill, the Plywood and Timber Factory and the fully digitalized Power Sub-station at Ekim, Mkapt-Enin and the launch of the Governor’s bold initiative “Power for- All, by December 2021.
Having failed to stop the Vice President from commissioning the projects, they shifted the Stakeholders’ meeting to prevent the Vice President from also attending the well-organized State Banquet in his honour at the Banquet Hall of the Government House. The Vice President, however, attended their meeting and still managed to attend the State Banquet. Again, in utter breach of protocol, Senator Akpabio and his APC members, refused to accompany the Vice President to the State Banquet.
It was after this breach of protocol by the Akpabio -led APC got the attention of Nigerians and the attendant social media backlash, that Senator Akpabio reluctantly attended the Thanksgiving Service held at Ibom Halls Grounds on Sunday, September 22, 2019 and as usual, demanded a celebrity treatment.
The Compere of the event had so masterfully done his job, by properly acknowledging all the VIPs in attendance and the order of protocol so established, was followed by other dignitaries. The Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel had simply followed the established protocol and did not see the need to exhaust the list of all the dignitaries in attendance. Akpabio was later to unleash his media goons who went to the social media space to spew all manner of things about what they termed a “slight” by the Governor in not acknowledging him, when he gave his address.
Akwa Ibom State, under Governor Udom Emmanuel, has truly been what the Governor had termed it “Nigeria’s best kept secret”. From the industries the Governor has successfully attracted as part of his grand industrialization agenda, to what is arguably the best road network in the nation, to an almost 22 hours of uninterrupted electricity all over the State, to Ibom Air, the first State owned airline in the county and indeed, Africa, to giant strides in healthcare and education, Akwa Ibom is showing the world what modern governance is all about.
As a regular visitor to the State and an apostle of good governance, Akpabio and his APC should give peace a chance to reign in the State. He should recognize and accept the fact that his successor has done so well and today is seen as easily the best Governor in the nation, which the Vice President had acknowledged. This is something that should bring a sense of pride and joy to him as an Akwa Ibom person and not to engage in these overt and covert blackmail and other evil plots against a State he once governed and a Governor. Enough of these shenanigans!
Ekundayo, a public affairs analyst lives in Lagos