Godswill Akpabio, Senate President.
“There was need for me to ensure that my people join me, with the other leaders of South/South, to go to the centre. So, it was a personal decision, a generational decision, a futuristic decision” – Sen. Akpabio, interview on “Roadmap 2019”, Channels Television, on why he defected to the APC.
By Substance Udo-Nature
When the news erupted that Tuesday, 13th June, 2023 that Senator Godswill Akpabio has done it again emerging Senate President of the 10th Assembly, there was earthquake of jubilation across Akwa Ibom State, in particular, as if Nigeria has just won a World Cup trophy and the scorer of the decisive goal in the dying minute of extra time was an Akwa Ibom son.
Even if temporarily, the jubilant crowds forgot their political parties, tribes, and festering grudges and saw Akapbio as a coveted trophy of national pride. It was reported how some declared free-for-all in restaurants, hotels, and roadside ‘mamaput’ umbrellas. “Akpabio’s victory is Akwa Ibom’s victory; minorities’ triumph”, someone said.
The scenes instantly brought into focus people’s undying love for Sen. Akpabio who must accept that he had since become a cult hero on account of his personality, track record, tenacity, sagacity, and the enduring charisma he has sustained on the masses over the years, in spite of vain efforts by tribal jingoists and political demons to create artificial valleys across gullible minds. One local tabloid in Uyo, Daily Newswire, that Wednesday ran an apocalyptic headline: “Akpabio Makes History”. It was apt.
Nigeria’s new Senate President is not a character who underestimates himself or his capacities even when the odds were squarely against him. He is not someone who enjoys the reserve bench in the crucial game of statecraft. No. He always wants to be on the pitch, shooting from and to all directions, to score fantastic rare goals. Would you call that megalomania? Or passionate exploration of one’s ambition in the circuit dance of life? Whatever.
Akpabio’s political omnibus presents him as a diehard goal-getter. He doesn’t look like a Moses you take to the top of the mountain only for a glimpse of the beauties of the Promise Land and then give reasons he must not enter it. Even if it meant fighting with the gods to enter, the Akpabio we know would, for history.
One of the things Akpabio’s emergence as the SP of the National Assembly and third most powerful Nigerian by official ranking has done is the empirical confirmation of Adolf Hitler’s statement that “Politics is history in the making”. Adolf Hitler, the bad boy and provocateur of the Second World War is reported to have dictated those words to his friend, Max Amann, back in 1928 to form part of a book that would be published posthumously on his ashes by Amann in 1961 entitled, “Hitler’s Secret Book”, 16 years after Hitler’s unceremonious demise on 30th April, 1945.
No arguments. Sen. Godswill Akpabio has made history. This is no hyperbole or praise singing. I have searched every corner of history I possibly could reach to be bold enough to say without any fear of contradiction or any disregards to best efforts made by political players in Akwa Ibom State that, this is the farthest and highest any bonafide Akwa Ibom person in remote and contemporary history has ever reached, whether in the defunct Eastern Region, South Eastern State, or Cross River State.
Granted, for the sake of reference and reverence, it can only be remembered that in the 50’s, Akpabio’s late uncle, Sir. Ibanga Udo Akpabio, a one-time Minister of Education, was in the galaxy of pioneers of Akwa Ibom ancestry through the instrumentality of a trailblazing Ibibio State Union, who had adventurous tentacles in National politics of their days, but he was shy of the succulent nipples of the mountain top that his prodigious nephew, Godswill Akpabio, now has reached. Meaning in effect that the senior Akpabio only performed his sacrifices outside the periphery of the temple and never entered the inner courtyard of the “holy of holies” of politics nigeriana.
Akpabios’ second mission to the Red Chambers and consequent Senate Presidency provide further proof that there is no crime in having big eyes and dreaming big dreams even beyond the elastic borders of unseen possibilities. But his present ascension to mid-heaven can be predicated largely on three clairvoyant passes he laid to Aso Rock at different times and settings.
One was his remote defection to the APC in August 2018. The second was his counterpoise to Sokoto’s Tamwuwal in the melodrama of the 2023 Presidential primaries when he surrendered to the Jagaban. And the third, his audacity to join the senate presidency race, in the face of threats and mud-raking of a past he nearly had cause to fear.
Most memorably, by stepping down for whom he saw as a better contestant, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the presidential primaries, Akpabio, true son of his mother, brought to bear his rustic knowledge of Annang cosmology that when a small masquerade – no matter how possessed, wild, well costumed or cheered – comes in contact with the mother of masquerades, “Abeg-make-I-come was no surrender but a course of wisdom and respect.
It almost naturally follows that when you see Akpabio backpedal in any hot race, look twice at the extenuating circumstances. They must be something he had seen that others were yet to. Now, all the circumspect steps Akpabio had taken in the past and recent times have expectedly yielded cumulative and commensurate dividends, thus crowning him as a cost analyst and risk-taker in political investments.
To many who knew Akpabio, his emergence as Senate President of was therefore a surefire. They said the brinksmanship and gerrymandering that characterized the initial momentum was a fait accompli, mere side attractions that were to form endnotes to that history. Even Ekpoudom Ekpoudom, his arch rival in the senatorial district, must by now have come to see why he needed to concentrate on the management of his intellectual empire, Tower of Ivory Schools, than find fancy in a scuffle with a man with a PhD in the art and craft of Nigerian politics, who must have stolen some survival tactics and muscles from Napoleon’s and Machiavelli’s archives.
Of course, Akpabio’s freedom from Ekpoudom’s stranglehold and magical victory over him in the battle of courts remain a study in Machiavellianism.
It must be said that Akpabio is returning to the Senate as a stubborn victim of a temporary slip, like a heavyweight boxer rising from an uppercut to fight to the end and eventually win. It now has become more obvious how much Akpabio loves history and always want to give it a fresh touch. He does not pretend about his targets or gamble with chances.
If not for what many appear to think it was, which to me may not be, I like the fact that the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno, was not only among the first in high stations to personally congratulate Akpabio but also followed it up with his physical attendance at the reception. That’s sportsmanship in theory and praxis. By so doing, Eno paid due tribute to the godfather of his godfather and confirmed Akpabio as a grand-godfather. By that, Akpabio also has become a recovery therapy for the politically disgruntled and a avuncular uncle to those in Akwa Ibom jittery over their political future.
But the Senate President must be wary of certain things as we move forward. On his present high stool, he must always look before he leaps because of the proverbial banana peels along the corridors of the Red Chamber. He must be careful not to be a scapegrace of his charisma and characteristic benevolence.
By chronological ascendancy, Sen. Akpabio is the 16th President of the Senate counting from 1960. Of these, only David Mark (12th and 13th) had served and completed two complete terms without boomerangs. This writer know, in Nigeria’s political ecosystem, Sen. Akpabio is like an owl to a forest and appears to know all the cryptic codes of survivalism thereof. He loves writing his own history with unique peculiarity. But like Thomas Monsoon would observe, “The surest and best test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect”.
Will Senator Godswill Akpabio be uncommon on his new seat and break the generational stereotype that hitherto cosigned the Akwa Ibom person to second fiddle roles in our national politics and perception? History beckons.