When Senator Godswill Akpabio was planning to defect to the All Progressives Congress, not a few people waved it off as idle chatter.
Those who believed they knew the former Akwa Ibom State governor argued that the politician, known for his loud boasts and boisterous manners, would not contemplate such a move. He would not betray his antecedent as a strong Peoples Democratic Party stalwart, they argued.
Reports about Akpabio’s defection to the APC surfaced last year when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo openly invited him to defect to the ruling party during his visit to Uyo as part of his tour of the troubled Niger Delta region. It was not until last month during the endorsement of Akpabio and Governor Udom Emmanuel for a second term to the Senate and governorship, that Akpabio’s pro-APC body language began to take shape. His statement that the party platform upon which he would return to the Senate in 2019 was not important set alarm bell ringing in political circles.
Proving bookmakers wrong, the senator representing Akwa Ibom North West, met with President Muhammadu Buhari who was vacationing in London on August 7, 24 hours to his defection which was done alongside two House of Representatives and two Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly members. The former governor was received by APC leaders including the party chairman, Adam Oshiomhole and no fewer than 30 APC senators and members of the National Working Committee.
If his former party felt betrayed by the defection, it did not show it as it simply wished him luck. However, Akpabio’s belligerent tone since moving to his new political platform has been generating frowns and raising eyebrows across the country. His combative statements and war rhetorics were making many uncomfortable at a period when Nigerians were praying for violent-free elections and peaceful transition.
Giving reasons why he defected to the APC at a rally in Uyo, the senator said, “People are saying why the APC, you need to know I am a nationalist. In troubled times like this when the country is at war, all hands must be on deck to salvage the situation. This is a difficult moment for Nigeria.”
“I will like to be a conspirator who joins hands to conspire to put food on the table of Nigerians, to bring peace to Benue State, to stop the killings in our country, to ensure employment for our children, to bring about uncommon transformation for Nigerians,” he had stated.
While his aggressive tone may have resonated with his new-found political allies, majority of Nigerians believed Akpabio cannot be taken seriously with his claims of joining others “to bring about uncommon transformation for Nigerians.”
Akpabio’s statements and claims were still raising dust when he launched another tirade, threatening to unleash war on perceived opponents. Speaking at a funeral mass at Christ the King Parish Aguobu-Owa, Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, he was reported to have declared a political war against his home state come 2019. He allegedly claimed that he would replicate in Akwa Ibom in 2019, the 1939 German invasion of Warsaw, Poland.
He said, “Somebody asked what happened there (Ikot Ekpene) and I said just how it happened in Poland. When they asked Hitler’s Minister for Information how was the war in Poland, he said, ‘Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw.
“I will say that in the Ikot-Ekpene arena, when I stepped out, this is my first function after that, Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw. We can’t talk politics in the church but in 2019, Warsaw shall see war and war shall see Warsaw. The return will be victory. May God grant us all victory,” Akpabio concluded.
Observers wondered if the new APC member really knew the implication of his allusion to the Warsaw invasion or whether he was simply carried away by the sound of his own voice which apparently was bereft of sobriety. The German invasion of Poland, for those who may not know, led to the destruction of Warsaw by German troops who reached parts of the city on September 8 and 9, 1939.
During the German siege of Warsaw, the city sustained heavy damage from air attacks and artillery shelling. The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, German units, with more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defences along the border and advanced on Warsaw in a massive encirclement attack.
After heavy shelling and bombing, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27, 1939. The Polish Army surrendered nearly 140,000 troops and during the siege around 18,000 civilians of Warsaw perished. As a result of the air bombardments, 10 per cent of the city’s buildings were entirely destroyed and further 40 per cent were heavily damaged.
In October 1939, Germany directly annexed former Polish territories along German’s eastern border: West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. The remainder of German-occupied Poland, including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom, and Lublin was organised as the Generalgouvernement (General Government) under a civilian Governor-General, the Nazi Party lawyer, Hans Frank.
Nazi Germany occupied the remainder of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Poland remained under German occupation until January, 1945.
Observers described the former governor’s war-mongering as inappropriate and uncalled for, noting that his declaration and do-or-die stance was unpopular and should be condemned by all rational citizens. The analysts also decried the casual manner the new APC member referred to the Warsaw incident in which thousands of lives were lost, properties destroyed and a whole nation humiliated and subjugated by a mentally-ill military leader who was obsessed with power.
Giving an insight into Akpabio’s mind, a former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, Patrick Ekpotu, said the senator relied on instruments of power to enforce his political will.
Ekpotu, who served alongside Akpabio as commissioners under former governor Victor Attah’s administration, and later as deputy governor to Akpabio in his first term in office as governor, said his former boss was overrated.
The former deputy governor in a statement in his reaction to Akpabio’s move to APC, stressed that the odds were against the senator and his new party.
He said, “His recourse is often to rely heavily on apparatus of state security to cow people into submission and dominion. His decision to embrace the APC now, among others, is because APC is today the custodian of that state apparatus.
“And I think he is highly mistaken for misapprehending that President Buhari is cut out in the weaknesses of a former President that was recklessly used to his political peril and became the first to dump him.”
If Akpabio was nursing the idea of manipulating the 2019 elections in Akwa Ibom State, Ekpotu observed that this may not be possible with the card reader system which would be deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“Even if Buhari avails him the security apparatus, remember that Akpabio is not used to elections which is the norm today but ‘return of entire number of votes’ in INEC register to himself.
“But With INEC’s card reader system today, hardly would we have such number of votes in consideration, let alone to be “returned”. So all odds are against him and the APC,” he submitted.
Akpabio’s defection, according to his former deputy, would only “shift the theatre of totalitarianism, confusion and eventual destruction to his new abode.”
Also commenting on the development, a lawyer and human rights activist, Ikechukwu Maduike, blamed lack of ideology by the political parties and politicians for their desperation which was culminating in defections from party to party.
He lampooned Akpabio for declaring war on a state he governed for eight years, arguing that this showed that his survival and that of his cohorts depended on winning elections by hook or crook.
Maduike, who is the Executive Secretary, Basic Rights Enlightenment Foundation, noted, “The root cause of this is that our political parties don’t have ideology like in developed countries. Akpabio was a governor under PDP for eight years and from there, he became a senator. He had just defected to the APC and he is declaring war.
“It is obvious that the 2019 elections would be a do-or-die affair for these politicians. See the way the APC chairman, Adam Oshiomhole, has been speaking; it shows their lives depend on the election.”
The activist said he was not surprised by Akpabio’s utterances giving Nigerian politicians’ garrison mentality.
“I m not surprised by Akpabio’s utterance; I’m only ashamed being a Nigerian considering how the international community would be looking at us. What he said is what every other politician is thinking about the 2019 elections, especially politicians in APC. But we would vote, we are ready for them,” the lawyer stated.
Taking the senator to task over his ‘Warsaw comment,’ the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper in its editorial of August 24 cautioned that election is not war, wondering the kind of political wisdom he possessed.
The paper asked the senator to retract his statement and admonished politicians to eschew inflammatory statements ahead of the general elections.
“It is sad that at the moment, the loquacious senator has lost all his wits, leaving us with the horrendous images of the bloodiest event yet in human history. There are people who are still alive with the painful memory of that tragedy. Is this the best political slogan of the once idolised former governor to his people?,” it asked.
“Election is not war, so why singing war songs? Against who is this war? What sort of political wisdom is this? What type of political ambition expresses itself this way?
“War rhetorics should be expunged from the current campaign ahead of 2019 elections. This war rhetoric is horrible, condemnable and disappointing statements that should be retracted by Senator Akpabio,” the editorial admonished.
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