Okon Bassey chronicled events at the Ikot Ekpene Stadium when the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio declared for the All Progressive Congress (APC)

    As early as 8am on Wednesday, August 8, the Ikot Ekpene Stadium was filled to capacity. For event billed for 1pm, the people showed a clear enthusiasm to be part of the proceedings. The formal reception of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio into the All Progressive Congress (APC) was billed as one of the biggest landmark occasions in the country. The venue was beautifully decorated with many aspirants for different political offices using the rally to showcase their ambition. The APC in the state had been boasting that its rallies were naturally attended by members while other parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) depended on hiring its crowd.

    The mammoth multitude was overwhelming and one could not say the scheme deployed in assembling the crowd was different from other political parties. Women in various colours of attires and head ties formed the largest number at the rally. Some of those who attended the rally included PDP members who came to see for themselves if the defection of Senator Akpabio was a reality.

    The defection was witnessed by the Federal Government delegation led by the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole, the National Leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, more than 25 APC Senators led by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

    Those who joined Senator Akpabio to defect from PDP to APC at the rally were two members of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel Ekon representing Abak Federal Constituency and Emmanuel Sunday Akpan representing Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency, two State House of Assembly members, Nse Ntuen representing Essien Udim state constituency and Gabriel Toby representing Etim Ekpo/Ika state constituency, Deputy State Chairman of the PDP, Godswill Afangide, immediate past secretary to the state government, Etekamba Umoren, immediate past Deputy Inspector General of Police, Udom Ekpo Udom, a former Chairman of National Broadcasting Commission, Obong Otu Robert Akpan, two commissioners, Mr Victor Antai and a brother to Senator Akpabio, Barr Ibanga Akpabio just to mention a few.

    At the rally, Osinbajo said the APC government of was recommended to the people of Akwa Ibom state because it had delivered on all its plans. “We are growing the economy, the security is being improved despite of all its challenges. With Akwa Ibom coming on board things will turn around in the Niger Delta region. He praised the defectors for joining the APC and urged those who were in the stadium to go back to their various homes and communities to sing the song of change.

    Promising a fresh beginning for the people, Tinubu said that an APC government in the state will provide the much needed progress and development because the party has clear vision. The other party has no vision. For 16 years we gave them opportunity to change Nigeria but they failed. They believe in sharing and looting of the treasury. Today, Buhari came with aggressive ideology saying we must account for all our money. With the one treasury account we know how much Nigeria has. It is a war between progressive and conservative. It is a war of ideology. Those people believe in sharing, we believe in the government of the people for the people and by the plenty. They are the leaders of yesterday, we are the leaders of today, tomorrow and many years to come. We believe in investing in the people. One thing we give priority to is the education, infrastructure development and the economy. They now rally round to remove President Buhari. One thousand lizards cannot be as fat as one single antelope. They cannot create that change. We are progressives. That is the difference between the two of us. When Akpabio was changing a party that gave him the ticket and Senate Minority Leader, at one of our meetings he told me, tomorrow I am going to resign my position of minority leader in the senate that is honour and character. It is not normal talent that develops a nation; it is character, reliability, integrity, commitment that is what Akpabio is demonstrating.”

    The National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Oshiomhole called on Akwa Ibom leaders to unite for change. Oshiomhole said he was excited by the Senator Akpabio defection to the APC describing it as uncommon defection and historic. He lauded Akpabio for sacrificing his position as Senate Minority Leader to join APC and to help Buhari build a better Nigeria expressing optimism that the ex-governor would bring his transformational qualities into strengthening and boosting the party in the South-south zone.

    “There are two forces that are at war now. Those forces who are saying it is their birth right that Nigeria must continue to remain underdeveloped; it is their right to continue to share the resources of the people and President Buhari says ‘no you have done it for too long. For 16 years you were doing it, now enough is enough. Those of you who have already stolen I am going to take you to prison. They said why should you say so. For too long they were playing the match against APC. We were watching now we take the ball to their goal post. We are not looking from penalty kick. We want to score clean goals.”

    On his part, the Leader of APC Senate Caucus, Lawan said the defection of Senator Akpabio to APC has swallowed all previous defection describing it as one being greater than fourteen. “This is one defection that has shaken the PDP to its very foundation. This is a very uncommon Nigeria patriot, uncommon senator, a nationalist who believes in a united and stable Nigeria. He believes in the administration of President Buhari. From this moment on, Senator Akpabio is a full-fledged APC caucus member.” He stated that even though when Akpabio was a minority leader in the state, he never called him opposition leader because he has always considerate in opposing government. “He has always considerate of the national interest. What he did was meaningful opposition unlike what we do in this country. He was always conscious of the fact that we need to stay together in peace and we need security. Today, you are no more a minority leader you are welcome to the big and large family of APC in Nigeria. Your influence has gone beyond the National Assembly. It has gone beyond Ikot Ekpene or Akwa Ibom, your influence is across the entire length and breadth of Nigeria.”

    Addressing the crowd the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, said with the latest exodus into the APC from the PDP the people of Akwa Ibom State were now overwhelmingly with the APC. Ekere who is being rumoured as the likely governorship candidate of APC in the 2019 election said it was clear that the party was heading for a clean sweep in the elections in the state. “By the grace of God and with Godswill Akpabio and others coming to us, we will return President Muhammadu Buhari in Akwa Ibom State and win the governorship election,” Ekere predicted. “With what is happening today, I can boldly say that Akwa Ibom State is totally APC.” The NDDC boss commended Akpabio for heeding the call of his people in his senatorial district to join APC, pointing out that the people of the senatorial district had totally expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of what they called the clueless PDP state government. Ekere who had a brief tenure as a deputy governor to Akpabio noted the superlative performance during his tenure as Akwa Ibom State Governor which earned him the sobriquet, “Uncommon Transformer.” He assured Akpabio that the incoming APC administration in the state will complete the abandoned Ikot Ekpene – Uyo Road and open the Four-Points-By- Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, which the Akpabio Administration had completed and commissioned.

    Explaining his reason of leaving PDP, Senator Akpabio said he was a nationalist who believes in the progress and development of the country saying when the country is passing through difficult period like this all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation.

    “Some people have called me a conspirator I am a nationalist, when the country is at war all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation. This is a difficult time for Nigeria, insurgents are attacking us. In the period of national emergency, everybody must put hands together to support the government to bring peace to the people.

    “Some people have called me a conspirator for joining the progressive I will like to be a conspirator who join hands to conspire to bring food to the table, I will like to be a conspirator who join hands to bring peace to the people of Benue state, I will like to be a conspirator who join hands to stop the killing in the country, I will like to be a conspirator who join hands to ensure full employment for our children, I will like to be a conspirator who brings about uncommon transformation of Nigeria.

    “This is a moment of uncommon change; uncommon change has come to Akwa Ibom, South-south and Niger Delta. As I stand, there are a lot of petitions against me to EFCC. These petitions were sorted out. I have never been charged to court because nothing was found in my governance of Akwa Ibom State,” he said.

    The former minority leader said he had consulted widely before taking the decision to leave PDP saying he strongly believes that Akwa Ibom and the entire South-south and Niger Delta should be linked to the centre. “The South-south cannot stay on its own. We must partake in the sharing of what is ours. We don’t believe in segregation South-south as minority state cannot stand on its own. What I have done today is take the people of South-south to the centre. I link Akwa Ibom to the centre. Those who said I am a traitor (don’t know what they are talking about). I can never be a traitor.

    The high point of the rally was conferment on Senator Akpabio as the Leader of APC in Akwa Ibom State.