Sunday, 5 March 2017

REVEALED: Untold Story Of Nigeria's Acting President's Visit To Akwa Ibom State

Only a handful of Akwa Ibom people are aware of the back stage political intrigues and conspiracy that attended the visit of the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo to Uyo last Thursday, 2nd March 2016.

Conspiracy or Ommission:

Professor Osibanjo’s visit to Akwa Ibom though hitherto conceived and scheduled by the Acting President’s team was affirmed on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at a recent oil and gas conference in Abuja attended by both the Acting President and Governor Udom Emmanuel. One would have thought that upon confirmation of the scheduled date, the information will necessarily be conveyed to all the stake-holders notwithstanding the description of the visit; whether official or otherwise. The Acting President was going to visit Akwa Ibom state at short notice so why was notification of this visit not promptly conveyed to the President’s Cabinet/Executive members from Akwa Ibom state. Akwa Ibom has a senior Minister, a Senior Special Assistant, 2 Heads of Federal parastatals and a Federal commissioner all of the ruling APC.

It is yet unclear whether it was by design or omission that none of the President’s men from Akwa Ibom was notified of the scheduled visit of the Acting President. News of Professor Yemi Osibanjo’s visit to Uyo only filtered into the ears of Chief Atuekong Don Etiebet (CON) at about 10.30 pm on Tuesday, 28th February night barely 30 hours to the scheduled time of arrival of the Acting President’s in Uyo. It was Atuekong Don Etiebet who then frantically started making telephone calls to alert the President’s men from Akwa Ibom most of whom were unaware of the Acting President’s scheduled visit.

Airport Drama:

If concealment of the visit from Mr. President’s men was not a conspiracy but a mere act of omission, what would anyone say about the mild drama that took place at Ibom International Airport before the arrival of the Acting President.

Distinguish Senator Ita Ennang, the Senior Special Assistant to Mr President on National Assembly matters had arrived the airport well ahead of the time the Acting President’s aircraft was expected to touch down. Bearing his official status in the administration and being that Prof Osibanjo who is deputizing for his immediate boss was visiting Senator Ennang’s own home state, common sense, respect and honour dictated that the Senator takes more than cursory official interest to welcome the Acting President to his home state. That obviously, may explain why he got to the airport early to ensure that nothing was amiss. But alas, Governor Emmanuel had left instructions with his security details not to allow Senator Ennang access to the VIP tarmac of the airport. The senator was accordingly locked out and denied access to the VIP wing.

One could tell from the Senator’s countenance and reaction that what befell him in his home state was unbelievable yet TRUE. Avoiding an altercation with the security personnel, the Senator chose to act “deaf and dumb” by simply instructing his driver and escort vehicle to stay put at the entrance to the VIP tarmac.

The situation was tense and prevailed as the Senator “occupied” the entrance until the arrival of the Governor who himself could also not access the VIP tarmac and his motorcade was constrained to do a detour to the airport administrative building a few meters away.

Ex-Governor Akpabio to the Rescue:

Meanwhile several dignitaries had gone to appeal to the Governor to prevail on him to rescind his orders and allow the senator access but he initially wouldn’t as he ranted without restrain of the Senator’s misdeeds and public rebuke of his government. The situation is said to have been brought under control when former governor and now Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio arrived and stepped into the matter. Akpabio is said to have reprimanded Udom for being callous and less thoughtful in his actions. Akpabio is reported to have told Udom to imagine the harm he will do to his government and people of the state if Ita Ennang should decide to put a call across to the Acting President mid-air to abort the visit for security breaches. It was then the folly of Governor Udom’s ill-conceived action dawned on him and common sense prevailed on him to lift the blockade on Senator Ita Ennang.

Politicizing the Interest of Akwa Ibom state:

Yes, AKwa Ibom maybe divided along political lines but Akwa Ibom people are not divided on issues that will bring benefits and development to the state. It is incomprehensible that persons at the helm of affairs in the state can allow political bickering and tinkering albeit personal to interfere in matters of common interest to the state. It is easy to glean that Governor Udom’s rage on the said day stems and continues to reflect his anger against Senator Ennang following the latter’s radio interview wherein the Senator publicly reproached Governor Udom’s administration for lack of financial transparency and admonished the Governor to be accountable to the people. Senator Ennang made specific reference to the Paris club loan refund of 14.5 billion received by state government intended for payment of arrears of salaries and other benefits to retired public servants. It is expected of a responsive government to simply offer explanation to the Senator’s claim devoid of any rancour. Without saying, it is obvious that the crux of the rift between the Governor and the Senator is rooted in the complexities of the pre and post 2015 election abracadabra orchestrated by “then King Akpabio”. That done, Akwa Ibom had since moved-on.

Governor Emmanuel being the chief executive of the state is not expected to speak with two different tongues nor say one thing and do the other. You cannot claim to encourage the opposition to join/support your government yet remain abstruse and intolerant of criticism and opposing views. Only a tyrant would attempt to constrain the rights of men to their opinion. In a democracy, government has no right over the opinion of men. Criticism properly intended and well given is a critical aspect of democracy. Government should do well to accept criticism without necessarily crying wolf particularly where there have no secrets and nothing to hide.

Prejudice and Bias against the opposition:

Akwa Ibom government had emphatically declared that Professor Osibanjo’s visit was an official visit to the state. To this end, it will be devoid of anything political. A security meeting was convened by the State Commissioner of police and all stake-holders including party Chieftains were made to sign an undertaking to be of good conduct and to abide with the “dos and donts” prescribed by the State Commissioner of police. Isn’t it worrisome that Governor Udom was the first to breach the rules of engagement? He was the first to cast the stone against a political foe putting his political acrimony and concern above all others in defiance of the peace accord, against the interest of the state and contrary to the acclaimed official visit of the Acting President. Governor Udom’s insensitivity and lack of self-restraint would have marred the visit.

Interestingly, while the government declared the visit an official, non-political and friendly visit of Mr. President, the PDP government of Akwa Ibom state took extreme and surreptitious measures to exclude the main opposition Party-APC from the itinerary of the Acting President. On the surface, nothing seemed wrong in the schedule of programme of events and activities for Osibanjo’s visit released by the state Commissioner for information but one would not cease to ponder why no “small room” was created for Osibanjo to fraternize with his constituents of the APC knowing that he-Osibanjo is an APC man. As a politician, isn’t it proper that he was spared a moment to confer with his Party stalwarts? Chieftains of APC including high ranking government officials of the Party from Akwa Ibom state where tactfully eased off the protocol of recognition if not for Senator Akpabio who when he came up to speak, painstakingly introduced and announced the presence of all the federal appointees from Akwa Ibom state and thanked the Federal government for the appointments. The programme of event did not feature nor demonstrate acknowledgement and appreciation by the government for sons of the state appointed to serve in the President’s cabinet. Kudus must be given to these eminent sons of ours, Senator, Udomah Udo Udomah (Hon. Minister of National Planning) Obong Umana Okon Umana who has contributed to the development of the state and now DG, Nigeria Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone, Engr. Benedict Ukpong (Fed. Commissioner, NPC) and ofcourse the “Master of Parliamentary matters” and SSA to Mr. President, Senator Ita Ennang all of whom braved the humiliation and remained unabashed though ingeniously schemed out of due recognition and not accorded requisite honour as sons of the soil by the event organizers.

What was touted to be a town-hall meeting was nothing but a PDP “Arrangement” negating every sense of the word and contrary to the so called official/friendly visit wherein the interest of Akwa Ibom ought to be held sacrosanct as both parties interacted and mingled freely. Alas, everyone given opportunity to speak at the town-hall meeting was a PDP card carrying member. Former governor Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga who spoke for the Pan Niger Delta forum, Dr. Dorothy Thompson who spoke for the women, Former Minister, Chief Ndueso Essien who spoke for oil producing communities. Bishop Etim Ante (Aka Nso) who spoke for other interest groups is a PDP Exco member, Barr. Onofiok Luke and Speaker of the State House of Assembly (though not listed spoke), the Senate Minority leader, Obong Godswill Akpabio spoke for Akwa Ibom elders and then Governor Udom Emmanuel all of whom are PDP apologists. Not a single person from the other side was given an opportunity to speak.

Let me end this piece by saying that the Acting President’s visit to Akwa Ibom state was about the people and for the good of the people. It was not about any singular person or political power block and interest. An official visit so described could have been well handled devoid of the biases and prejudice exhibited by the government and event organizers. Notwithstanding the flip flops, nothing can be said to have been lost or taken away from the state and its people except the arrogant display of power exhibited by government that may have caught the attention of the visitors. All in all, Akwa Ibom people were indeed a very generous host and it is certain Osibanjo will attest to that.

APC Media Directorate
Akwa Ibom State
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