The 2019 general elections have come and gone but issues surrounding the exercise will not fade away easily, as some of the issues will remain reference points for students of politics and others.
One major highlight of the elections in Akwa Ibom State is the defeat suffered by the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and erstwhile Senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, who was a one-time governor of the state for eight years.
The story of Akwa Ibom politics in recent past will not be complete without a mention of Godswill Akpabio, the ‘uncommon transformer’, who became popular for his giant strides during his reign as governor. He initiated and completed a lot of infrastructural projects, a development which earned him the nickname of “Uncommon Governor”.
Akpabio, a trained lawyer, became the governor of Akwa Ibom in 2007, against all odds. The then outgoing governor of the state, Obong Victor Attah had a different plan despite the fact that Akpabio was a cabinet member in the former’s government.
He was not Attah’s candidate in 2007. However, he won the governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democraticm Party (PDP).
At a point, he was chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and a poster boy of the former Goodluck Jonathan administration between 2010 and 2015.
He single-handedly installed his successor and incumbent governor of the state, Udom Emmanuel, in 2015 and their open relationship was cordial until last year.
As the outgoing governor in 2015, Akpabio clinched the party’s senatorial ticket and he won the election as a Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West senatorial district. He eventually became a principal officer of the Senate as the PDP Minority Leader even without cognate legislative experience as was the norm.
Sometime in 2018, Akpabio surprisingly defected from the PDP to ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and consequently relinquished his position as the Minority Leader of the Senate.
Although, not a few saw his defection to APC as political suicide, he eventually lost his comeback bid at the 2019 general elections to the candidate of the PDP, Chris Ekpeyong, a former deputy governor n the state.
The electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Ekpeyong winner after he polled 118,215 votes ahead of Akpabio who secured 83,158 votes.
Given his current political travails, it is apparent that it could be for a short time as Akpabio has shown the tendency to bounce back at the right time.
Like the incumbent Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who has carried on as if nothing happened having lost his re-election bid to represent Kwara Central in the Senate, Akpabio too has toed the same line even though the election is currently a subject of litigation at the tribunal.
Reacting to his electoral loss, Akpabio described the outcome of the senatorial election as a temporary setback for him.
“I won, I won, it is a temporary setback, that is why there are processes,” he said.
He continued, “If for instance, you feel you were cheated or there was wrong collation, you resort to the court. For me I did not fail, I can’t fail. I believe strongly that there must have been some wrong collation somewhere, so those things will be corrected.
“We have processes in the election; it is from one stage now, we have registration, you have to vote, you have to collate and if there are mistakes anywhere, you go to court and get back your mandate.
“My mandate is solid and waiting for me. You know that I cannot fail election, I cannot fail. Do you expect me to fail? Won’t you love me to be your senator? I can’t fail,” Akpabio said.
As the Senate Minority Leader, there was no dull moment for the PDP in the Red Chamber. Ironically, he protested against some earlier defections to APC by PDP Senators for violating extant laws. He left the PDP on the same premise he once fought against.
One can easily remember him as one of the few ex-governor-Senators that are active in the Senate. He is an uncommon Senator.
Analysts are of the opinion that APC may have performed badly in Akwa Ibom state in the last elections, Akpabio has however given the people an alternative political party in the state and one can only keep his or her fingers crossed as to its ability to bounce back within the shortest time possible.
Despite his defeat and that of his annointed candidates at the elections, the preponderance of views still remain that Akpabio tried his best in various capacities for the state and he will be rememered for good as Father of morden Akwa Ibom.