For President Muhammadu Buhari, the second term is effectively underway. With litany of programmes listed in his Next Level campaign agenda, he clearly does not have the luxury of time. In his first term, many things were overlooked by Nigerians for some obvious reasons. For instance, coming on board in a system that had been hugely bogged down by years of fleeting governance, especially in the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many agreed that Buhari had quite a handful of issues to tackle with.
Again, he mounted the seat at time the price of oil – the country’s major source of income, had gone down drastically in the international market. That affected the tempo of governance, considerably. His failing health, equally posed much challenge to the actualisation of his dream of repositioning the country. Above all, the quality of Ministers he had in his executive council, seriously worked against his intentions.
Till the last day of his first term, Buhari carried this burden of running with an ineffective cabinet. Aside not having personal knowledge of some of them prior to their appointment, he also trusted them to make use of their judgement in carrying out their duties. But that was where he got it wrong, because apart from some of them turning out the axiomatic square pegs in round holes as in not knowing how to go about their briefs, some saw their positions as opportunity to get even with their perceived opponents at home or party level, thus engaging in avoidable controversies, most of the times. In this instance, the constant clashes between Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi with his fellow All Progressives Congress (APC) members in Rivers State and the governor, Nyesom Wike, stood out prominently. On such occasions, the President often found himself in a serious dilemma – not knowing to back or disown his hawkish aides, publicly. But at the end, he had to carry the flaks for running an administration that was seen as not delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. This accounted for APC eventually losing out in such states.
Consequently, as the journey into the second term commences, many have advised the President not to repeat the mistake of the first term in picking people of haughty disposition and fragile temperament as members of his cabinet. In their opinion, rather, Buhari should go for men and women of proven integrity and level headedness, who have also contributed to the welfare of the APC in various forms.
It is in this regard that a petition by an integrity advocacy group in Akwa Ibom, on former governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, comes handy. The group, Ibom Integrity and Servant Leadership Culture Initiative (IISLCI), had in a letter, ,dated May 24, 2019, advised the President not to consider the Senator, who currently represents Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, among his incoming ministers, accusing him of lacking the integrity for the office. It also accused the senator of mischief, treachery, flippancy and pettiness, among others. The petition was signed by the Executive Vice President of the body, Dr. Asuquo Edidem Etim.
In the petition captioned, “Ministerial Appointments: Why Appointing Akpabio May be Counter Productive” the group, IISLCI, warned that appointing him minister would be “counter-productive, a moral burden and a mockery of anti-corruption war, by a government that “prides itself as anti-graft champion.”
It further accused the Senator of being a “destabilizing agent”, attributing the poor showing of the APC in the state, in the last election, to what it described as the “destabilizing and authoritarian tendencies of Senator Akpabio, who only believes that it’s either his way or nobody’s”.
According to IISLCI, “many had thought that his (Akpabio) joining APC would bring good fortunes to the party in the state, but rather, his highhanded nature and disrespect for internal democracy in the party and the will of the people to choose their leaders, became a raging storm that uprooted the recognized structures of the party right from the grassroots, as he imposed party leaders even at the unit and wards levels”, it added. It further alleged that this overwhelming tendencies of the senator, accounted for the poor outing of the APC governorship candidate, in the state, Nsima Ekere.
Until his cross-over to the APC, Akpabio had been a high profile chieftain of the PDP, on which platform he had been a commissioner, Governor and currently a senator. While he rode on the crest of attaining these lofty positions, he was actually seen in some quarters as the godfather of Akwa Ibom State politics. And in living with the elephantine image, he effectively appropriated the entire levers of power relations in Akwa Ibom and actually determined who became what in the state’s politics. His influence was not limited to Akwa Ibom. In his South-South geo-political zone, Akpabio pranced about as the ultimate kingmaker. At the national level, his image equally loomed, to the extent of his grabbing the position of Senate Minority Leader, even without requisite legislative experiences.
When therefore, he stunned even his closest supporters with the news of leaving the PDP for APC, the effect was instant. Many suspected that the move was a clever way of escaping trial over a case of corruption instituted against him by the EFCC. Some also said it was because of his running battle with the state governor, Udom Emmanuel. But whatever was the reason, the movement created some fears in the state, south-south and PDP at all levels. To add effect to the mood of the day, Akpabio assured the APC that he was going to return all the elective positions to it in the last election. On his formal declaration for the party, the entire state was literally shut down, with the President in attendance.
At the election proper however, Akpabio turned out to be floating on a bloated image as he woefully failed to deliver Akwa Ibom to the APC. He could not even win a return to the senate. In a bid to remain relevant, he is said to reaching out to whoever that matters in the APC high command to be appointed a minister. IISLCI, alleged that he is already bragging that the appointment is his to reject, fearing that if he is eventually made one, he would not use his position for the good of the state or the party but in settling scores with his real or perceived enemies.
“For instance, he is busy throwing his weight around in the state boasting to those who care to listen that ‘Mr. President is even begging me to accept a ministerial position. That is how important I am in this country. But they know that having missed the Senate Presidency, I can only accept a super ministry. That is if I don’t get the chief of staff position’, the group alleged. This haughty attitude, IISLCI, fears, is a recipe for future crisis in the state and APC. It thus pleads with the President to save “Akwa Ibom from a potential ugly scenario, similar to that of Rivers state, between Gov. Wike and Amaechi, that has turned the state into a field of blood and destruction, fuelled by ego and avoidable rivalry”.
In place of Akpabio, the group, which obviously has positive sentiments for the APC, argued that Akwa Ibom “has several other eminent persons that could represent the state in the coming government, just as Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning, has done creditably in the past four years”. Among these, it listed Chief Umana Umana and Senator John Udoedehe, as those who had toiled to keep the party afloat over time in the state.
For Buhari who has pledged making up for the observed lapses in the first term this time around, the issues raised by the advocacy group which has professed admiration for him, should not be waved aside. For one, the members know their state. They were also the foot soldiers of the APC that bore the brunt of the former governor’s vindictive tendencies on the party at its formative stage. Ignoring their concern, would thus be akin to rewarding good deeds with bad actions.
Akpan Ndianabasi , a political affairs analyst, wrote from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.