Niger Delta

Niger Delta Transformation: Sen. Akpabio Cannot Do It Alone

By Substance Nature-Udo


“We have self-centred minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self awareness, which is our greatest blessings, is also our downfall”. – Joko Beck

Close followers of Akwa Ibom’s psychological mutation and political evolution patterns cannot be surprised that of all the voices that so far have spoken in defence or support of the introductory and controversial steps taken by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, since he took up that office, none yet may have come from any individual or groups from his own State of Akwa Ibom.

Those who pretended to have said a thing did so in cautions whispers in safe corners. This fact stands tall, menacingly.

It might be easier and quicker to remember names of groups in far flung Niger Delta States, like the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), led by Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo; Ijaw People’s Development Initiative (IPDI) under Mr. Austin Ozobo command; Niger Delta People Liberation Force (NDPLF), with Mr. Aaron Akpoyibo leading; and Chief Mike Loyibo-led Niger Delta People Congress (NDPC), etc.

Right in the uproarious remonstrations leading to Akpabio’s eventual appointment as Minister of the Federal Republic, down to the things he later did that generated even more questions and arguments, these daring groups rooted in the Niger Delta, without condoning what is condemnable though, have in written and spoken forms repeatedly and publicly expressed solidarity and strong confidence in Akpabio’s potential capacity to make things happen in the region like never before.

A slight take is that their regional concerns alone can serve both as motivation and challenge to the minister that they are close allies and compatriots watching him, to be vindicated or disappointed in the final analysis.

For instance, in the raging storms wherein many expressed fears over the possible outcome the dangling sledge hammer of the forensic audit could ultimately have on big names to whom the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was an open cheque vault of personal aggrandizement, the groups encouraged Akpabio. There was already enough controversy surrounding the Commission’s removal from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to the Ministry of Niger Delta.

Not until later revelations may have proven otherwise, the initiative was erroneously suspected to have been inspired by Sen. Akpabio to witch-hunt marked political opponents at the behest of those in the corridor of power. Therefore, by vehemently arguing against the audit proposal, those likely to be affected by findings of the audit were indirectly seeking to reduce the voltage in Akpabio’s power as a supervising minister.

In the heat of the wild insinuations and politicking, the above groups in the Niger Delta who perhaps saw the current as coming from familiar sources, again, rose to the occasion through press statements and protests in favour of Akpabio.

Unlike these ones who have taken their advocacies and solidarity songs to Aso Rock and also placed them in popular and prominent media platforms in favour of Akpabio, those in Akwa Ibom who, if not for the kind of politics we play, should have lent their voices but failed to do so.

It can be argued without a string of opposition to the contrary that nobody or groups in Akwa Ibom State, till date, to the much that can be gathered, have been bold enough to step into the national arena or really want to be quoted in matters relating to why Akpabio deserved the appointment and solidarity in his epiphanic drive to clean up the miasma that has accumulated on the face of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Niger Delta as parent region in the past 19 years.

Having put on their political binoculars, the few who have spoken may rather have demanded for Akpabio’s head; seeing no reason the President should have considered him first as a minister and in as juicy a ministry as the Niger Delta Affairs.

A pointer to this pathological home front indifference may have been expressed earliest in the events leading up to the appointment of the former two-term Akwa Ibom State Governor and immediate past Senate Minority Leader.

Not as many wished or believed that the “Uncommon Transformer”, to the greatest shock of many, was going to make the ministerial list of President Muhammdu Buhari’s second term mission in Aso Rock. Strength for the fears was largely drawn from Akpabio’s political misadventure and adventurism in the 2019 elections.

Some commentators and newspaper headlines, understandably, had concluded that Akpabio had reached his political cul-de-sac, having already failed to secure victory for his party in Akwa Ibom State in the presidential election in a matter of hours as he had boasted as well as lost his second term bid for the Senate for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District to a relatively unknown and unexpected Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Even the senator’s newfound political family in Akwa Ibom State lost faith in him ominously on grounds that he contributed to the loss the party suffered in the state and therefore was going to be more of a cankerworm to the fortunes of the APC should he be compensated with any strategic position by the President.

Of course, to Akpabio, nothing was hidden about his people’s bad wish for him –all on account of politics- even though elsewhere, like in Saraki’s Kwara, fences were easily and quickly mended for dreaded foes to become bedfellows almost as soon as elections were over.

Recall that in an open letter dated May 24, 2019 to President Muhammadu Buhari entitled: “Ministerial Appointment: Why Appointing Akpabio May Be Counter Productive”, sponsored and signed by the Executive President, Dr. Asukwo Edidem Etim, on behalf of a group that claimed affinity with the Akwa Ibom APC, Ibom Integrity & Servant Leadership Culture Initiative, it was stated that giving Akpabio any appointment would be a case of playing on the intelligence of older and supposedly more active members of the party.

Hence, the letter had argued that the best thing President Buhari could do for them or Akwa Ibom State in the thinking of the factional group was to completely eclipse Akpabio in the political atmosphere.

There could have been no bitter letter to the President than this. It was possible that the President also must have been shocked that such could have emanated from Akpabio’s home front. But Akpabio cruised on his sagacity and political craftsmanship to the present Federal Executive Council, and is already proving to be a cardinal member.

The elections having been lost and won, if the voices at home that spoke against Akpabio’s ministerial appointment largely on account of political biases or personal differences have been as vociferous in support of his current moves as a minister, even his staunchest opponents in other zones of the country would have had a thing to fear.

But as it stands, greater number in Akwa Ibom appear to have swallowed an overdose of narcotics of mischievous silence and timidity in public arena. The fact remains that, although a prophet has honour except in his own home, the strongest voice of support for Akpabio even in his inhibitions and excesses should be coming from his people.

But as obvious as it stands, the minster appears to be alone on his odyssey, without conscious and overt home support, drawing strength only from the “outsider”.

The fact remains that Akpabio’s appointment must be seen exactly for what it is – a political offer – that comes with tall stakes. To the enlightened and selfless, every of such offers in Nigeria has always been primarily seen as a rare opportunity to create impact on core areas of assignment so that a legacy could be left at the end of the day.

It fell squarely in the 50s and 60s to the Balewas and Awolowos and the impact they created cannot be erased till today. And their people were solidly behind them even in the harmattan of politics.

Hence, the greatest and most accessible source of support for Akpabio today to succeed should be his people, his immediate constituency. It should not be a one-man affair.

It cannot be dismissed that Sen. Akpabio’s body language and utterances sometimes, arguably, predispose that of a lone ranger who is determined to damn consequences and shake the table. But that is no reason for many in his own State of Akwa Ibom to be indifferent to his ministerial concerns for a region in need of socio-economic redemption, directly or indirectly.

In the end, whether Akpabio succeeds or fails in his current office, it is the entire Niger Delta region that shall share in the ultimate outcome. In that way, what sounds like a curse from the Niger Delta Peoples Congress that, “It is we the people of the Niger Delta region that are under-developing our own area and not the government because if we had used what had been provided for us judiciously, we would have achieved a lot”, may have been reversed for good.

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