By Ofonime Honesty
The in-house fire ignited by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State has become uncontrollable. From a mere pocket flame used in scorching fellow party bigwigs and other perceived in-house ‘enemies”, the flame has snowballed into a terrible inferno currently destroying a “house” painstakingly built since yesteryears.
And the conflagration is raging uncontrollably.
Sometime in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, yours truly requested for a virtual interview from a frontline chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Edet Okon Isong, otherwise known and addressed as Chief Windy Isong. The subject matter was the brewing discontentment within the APC in the state.
Please note that Akwa Ibom APC was more concerned by infighting than the lockdown which became necessary as the virus threatened to put an end to human existence on earth. At the height of the lockdown, press releases and counter releases, accusations and counter-accusations, and kinds of vitriolic warts were flying in the media space. It became glaring that the party had degenerated into serious chaos after the 2019 general elections.
The virtual interview with Chief Isong rolled and the interviewee swiftly hit the nail on the head. He raised an alarm that the party’s leadership in the state is an assemblage of sworn enemies and strange bed fellows who are not ready to work together.
He lamented that his advice to party leaders to entrench internal democracy and sheath their warring swords has always been rebuffed.
Chief Isong warned of possible consequences if the status quo persists. He clearly saw a frightening tomorrow.
Promptly, the interview shook the party, it reverberated across the land, but those whom it concerned later consigned it to the waste bin.
Without dilly-dallying, let me relay excerpts of the interview:
“If we do not entrench initiatives and procedures in the party, make the party more inclusive, establish a foolproof reward system and propagate internal democracy, we will face a herculean task convincing Akwa Ibom populace to pitch their political tent in APC in 2023, and that would spell doom for our beloved party.
“The party is retrogressing. The retrogression is wrought by leaders and federal government appointees who are not bothered about how the party and its faithful are faring. Although it is painful to admit, the reality is that Akwa Ibom APC is being rendered unattractive by those entrusted with the responsibility of propagating the ‘Next Level’ agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Despite having over 30 federal government appointees from the state, most APC faithful in the state are shielded from benefiting from the dividends of the APC-led federal government at the centre. A situation where all dividends accrued to the state chapter of the party are hijacked without recourse to consultation among leaders and members who sacrificed their resources to nurture the party for years is regrettable.
“Clandestine scheming, nepotism, blackmail and other antics should be de-emphasized and abandoned in favour of an emphasis on dedication, competence and character, otherwise APC will remain a perpetual opposition party in Akwa Ibom – an impotent opposition party at that. Obong Nsima Ekere (APC Governorship flagbearer in 2019) represented an APC that was all-inclusive. All elements and interests were accommodated. But for electoral thievery and eleventh hour sabotage and betrayal, APC was coasting to victory in the state. I urge Mr. President and the national leadership of our great party to reinvigorate and recalibrate the APC mechanism in Akwa Ibom State. The federal government appointees who have been fighting each other at a time like this should stop. Their attitude is akin to sleep-riding a bicycle.”
End of quote!
In September 2021, on the heels of the controversial Local Government Congresses of the APC, Chief Isong again cried out and totally distanced himself from the exercise.
His words: Power tussle of this magnitude is very
unhealthy to a political party. We are killing
the party. I wasn’t expecting it this way. I
thought that we had learnt our lessons and
also had improved. The focus would have
been to build a strong and formidable party,
capable of grabbing power in the State come
2023 before even thinking of individual
interests. What is happening now did not
even happen before the last general election,
what was the outcome of our outing? Before
2019, Obong Nsima Ekere was there. He
funded the party and ensured every interest
was carried along. lf such good gesture was
not enough to give us victory, we must start
now to imagine the disaster that awaits us
with this our terrible way of handling our
There’s a proverb that says “if you don’t restrain your neighbour from eating dangerous insects during the day, his coughing fits would not allow you sleep peacefully at night.”
In this case, attempt by Chief Isong and others to restrain the APC from savouring a dangerous diet was made but such attempt was rebuffed. Now, sleepless nights triggered by the dangerous diet of past months and years are torturous.
With the 2023 general elections barely five months away, Akwa Ibom APC remains lost in the woods. The party is starkly divided from top to bottom, its leaders at daggers drawn, two factional state chairmen are locked in a very stiff supremacy battle even as party faithful in respective Local Government Areas and Wards are as disorganized, demoralized and disoriented as ever. Things have fallen apart so much that, at the moment, the party has no candidates in some state constituencies, Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District and a Governorship Candidate recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Court cases further underline the rot in the party.
Take for instance the case of Senator Ita Enang versus Mr Akanimo Udofia, and Mr Austin Dominic Utuk versus same Akanimo Udofia. Enang and Utuk are challenging Udofia’s purpoted victory as governorship candidate. Although INEC hasn’t recognized Udofia on grounds that it did not monitor the primary which produced him, Enang and Utuk are in court, pleading, among other prayers, to be declared as winner of the exercise. That ill-fated primary had a k-leg from the onset. Electoral materials and party officials from Abuja were stuck on the road for hours as different factions battled to divert materials to their respective venues. When night fell, the Department of State Security (DSS) intervened.
The secret police reportedly announced to those concerned that the exercise cannot hold in the dead of the night due to security reasons. Enang, Utuk, and Udoedehe (now the governorship candidate of NNPP) retired to their respective homes and slept off, only for the agency to release materials to the Udofia faction.
The exercise which later took place is now felt as a clear case of disenfranchisement of party faithful.
Except a court of law wades into the matter in the eleventh hour by compelling INEC to act otherwise, Akwa Ibom APC will not be on the ballot for the governorship race. Not only that, there is mass defection from the party on daily basis. Even if the party is finally smuggled into the ballot, can they win election as a divided house? I believe the answer is ‘no.’
This fate was long foreseen but only a few took heed.
The demon selfishly birthed and nurtured has matured into a Frankenstein’s monster.
But what should be done at the moment?
Simple: party leaders and faithful must sheath their warring swords, as suggested by Chief Windy Isong.
Recall that his contributions to the party politics cannot be understated. A former Chairman of Urueoffong-Oruko Local Government Council and grassroot mobilizer, Chief Isong has always been at the forefront of political mobilization. He was a member of
Obasanjo/Atiku Campaign Organization, a
member of Venue Committee during PDP
national convention of 2003 during the
regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He founded and use his Good Governance International group to mobilize support for Chief Godswill Akpabio’s election and reelection as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
In APC, he was a member of the Buhari Campaign Organization. His group, Owo Nsima Ekere (ONE) with membership in the 31 LGAs of the state was used to campaign for Obong Nsima Ekere in 2019.
People like him are very experienced are like seers that must be listened to. This holocaust may have been halted before now.
At the moment, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State sees an infant party, Young Progressives Party (YPP), as the number one opponent, not APC. It is a reality that should startle the APC.
From being so close to winning the governorship race in past years, it has now been leapfrogged as the leading opposition party in the state.
The retrogression is the end result of a dangerous experiment carried out in the APC political laboratory. The party is on the fast-lane to infamy. This is worse than a rat-race. And it seems the worst is yet to resurface, as the bigwigs keep thumbing chests and vowing to totally sink the party instead of working for its success. They are all dancing naked. These wild characters have no business in leadership.
Now, the outcome is very predictable – if APC is finally smuggled into the race, the party would not win the polls as a divided house.