Three years after the defection of former Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State to All Progressives Congress (APC), the state wing of the party is yet to experience any peace.
Akpabio who is currently Niger Delta Affairs Minister dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party that made him in August 2018, to APC where he is expecting to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Though he was able fo take some PDP members along to APC, he has not been able to build cohesion in the party since his defection more than three years ago.
APC Interim National Secretary, Senator John James Udoedehe, who was Akpabio’s campaign manager in the 2007 governorship poll in the state, does not agree with Akpabio politically. In the 2011 governorship poll, Udoedehe made a ‘failed’ attempt to unseat Akpabio.
Before the 2011 polls, the APC chief has been the face of opposition in Akwa Ibom politics. For some political observers, the emergence of three APC State Chairmen in Akwa Ibom after the party’s congress on Saturday was not surprising.
It rather underscores the worsening crisis within its ranks and the inordinate ambition of the stakeholders who prefer to create factions for their selfish interest rather than hammer out a common front.
Local sources say President Buhari’s party in Akwa Ibom has been bedevilled by leadership crisis for years and the outcome of the state congress did not come as a surprise as the various factions reportedly elected three chairmen at two of the venues and one of them said to have been elected in an unknown location.
Udoedehe does not seem to be in a hurry to look the other way in his stout opposition to Akpabio as governor on the platform of PDP. Sadly, while holding sway as governor, it seems Akpabio did not know today will come.
If he did, he would, perhaps, not have terrorised Udoedehe the way he did. For daring to build a formidable opposition party when Akpabio who exhibited a seeming dictatorial tendency held sway as governor, Udoedehe was framed with ‘treasonable felony’ charges.
The current phase of the crisis in the party took a turn for the worse when Sam Ewang, a retired Air Force Group Captain attempt to dislodge Udoedehe by convening a meeting in which Akpabio was announced as the leader of the party in the state, a development which further factionalised the party.
However, after the congress, Austin Ekanem was announced the state chairman in a statement by Acting Caretaker Chairman, Dr Ita Udosen. Names of Stephen Ntukekpo and Douglas Elewe, were also flying about as ‘’elected’’ for the number one position of the party in the state.
While Ekanem who until his election was the state secretary of the party is said to belong to Udoedehe’s faction of the party, Ntukekpo belongs to Akpabio’s camp and Elewe is from Ita Ewang’s camp. Dramatically, all the key stakeholders had shown up at the approved venue of the congress held at Sheer Grace arena but later left the venue to hold a parallel congress in another venue.
Party player, Imaobong Uboh, who belongs to the Udoedehe faction, said both Akpabio and Senator Ita Enang allegedly showed up at the Sheer Grace arena, venue of the state congress of the party alleging that they were afraid of being sanctioned by the party hierarchy saying that a directive was given that if they fail to attend the party congress, they would be sanctioned.
“They were all here and they knew why they came but surprisingly, some of them left and went to organise another congress, they were told that if they do not attend the congress held in the recognised venue, they would be sacked’’, she said.
She is also alleging that the party’s top officials elected to form parallel executive committee to use it as a bargaining chip pointing that out those who are following the so called stakeholders were doing so at their own risk since according to her, the followers would not be there when those bankrolling the factions would be invited for negotiations.
She wondered why people who do not have structures at the ward and local government level would be comfortable with producing state officers of the party, saying it would be difficult for such people to garner any support.
Sources say it will be difficult for Akpabio to relinquish the party structure for Udoedehe because to do so will mean accepting the current interim secretary of the party as his leader.
Already, Udoedehe has his eyes on the governorship seat of the state in 2023, and party members are finding it hard to understand why they are creating factions within APC.