A lawyer who served as a commissioner in Akwa Ibom State under the then governor, Godswill Akpabio, has painted a picture of Mr Akpabio as a leader who seeks to bring down his own allies in order to gain dominance in politics.
Mr Akpabio was the governor of Akwa Ibom State from 2007 to 2015. He was succeeded by Governor Udom Emmanuel whose administration will end in the next four months.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Emmanuel Enoidem, the former commissioner, said Mr Akpabio would stop at nothing to ensure that his political associates do not make progress in politics, whether at the state or national level.
“Because Akpabio doesn’t want strong people, when he wanted to leave the government, before he handed over, he said that those of us who were in his (Akpabio’s) government should not last more than one year in Udom Emmanuel’s government,” Mr Enoidem said in the interview which gives a rare insight into the power politics in Akwa Ibom State during the Akpabio era.
Mr Enoidem was the commissioner for Housing & Urban Renewal from 2013 to 2014 under Mr Akpabio. Mr Akpabio later moved him to serve as commissioner for Special Duties from 2013 to 2015.
As a member of Mr Akpabio’s kitchen cabinet, he was one of the most powerful commissioners at that time.
He said besides supporting Mr Akpabio to become governor, he bought the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nomination form for Mr Akpabio to go to the Senate in 2015.
Before his appointment as a commissioner, Mr Enoidem was the PDP treasurer in Akwa Ibom from 2001 to 2007.
He later served in Governor Emmanuel’s administration as commissioner for Investment, Commerce and Industry from 2015 to 2016.
Mr Enoidem said when Governor Emmanuel refused to give in to Mr Akpabio’s pressure to drop him and others from his cabinet, the former governor devised another means by pretending he wanted him to become the PDP national legal adviser.
He said it was the same Mr Akpabio who mobilised the South-south regional bloc against him when he resigned as commissioner to contest for the position of the party legal adviser.
“Akpabio went and conspired with (a House of Reps member) Emmanuel Ekon that the APC has a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as their legal adviser, how can they bring Enoidem that is not a SAN, what if there is a case between PDP and APC? They took the story to (Governor) Wike (of Rivers State), but Udom Emmanuel said no, that that is his choice and that there is no provision in the PDP constitution that you must be a SAN before you become the party’s legal adviser.
“That was how I became the party’s legal adviser,” he said.
Mr Enoidem said Mr Akpabio gave a similar treatment to Otu Ita Toyo who was the PDP chairman in Akwa Ibom at the time Mr Akpabio won the party 2006 governorship primary in the state.
“He (Akpabio) was the one who told Toyo to go for the South-south zonal chairman (of the PDP). He is also the one that stopped him because he doesn’t want anybody that has a voice,” Mr Enoidem said.
Mr Akpabio had picked and supported Edet Mkpubre, who was not a part of the party politics at that time, to fill the position of the PDP national vice chairman, South-south zone, instead of Mr Toyo.
“Akpabio wanted somebody who wasn’t very strong,” Mr Enoidem said of the choice of Mr Mkpubre.
Mr Enoidem compared Mr Akpabio to Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, who is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Tinubu left government in 2007 as the governor of Lagos State and was raising people across the western states. When he was satisfied with the west, he went to the north and raised people – he made people governors, ministers, sent people to the Senate, House of Representatives.
“Godswill Akpabio thinks he can be a leader without having strong men, without encouraging other people to be strong. God will not allow that to happen. Tinubu waited for long, raised men and he strategised to win the 2015 presidential election (for the APC), and then Godswill Akpabio jumped boat to go and join him because he must eat food is ready.
“Akpabio has no history of loyalty, not to any political party or any man,” he said.
Messrs Enoidem and Akpabio fell apart when Mr Akpabio defected from the PDP to the APC in 2018. Both of them want to represent Akwa Ibom North-West in the Senate in 2023.
Mr Enoidem is the PDP candidate for the election, while Mr Akpabio is in court, battling for the APC ticket.
“In a free and fair election, I will win Godswill Akpabio 10 times,” Mr Enoidem boasted in the interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
Jackson Udom, the media aide to Mr Akpabio, told PREMIUM TIMES, Wednesday, they would respond “soon” to the claims made by Mr Enoidem.