Politics as widely asserted is a game of interest. This postulation is given stronger verve in the denominator of politics as: “no permanent friend, no permanent enemy but permanent interest”. Though this does not justify the sheer lack of morality that trails politics, but politics is said not to be a game of morality. It is why it thrives in shenanigans, subterfuges, propaganda, falsehood and sometimes bare-faced lies. And shockingly, the more one is adept with these unwholesome skills, the more he/she rises in the enterprise.
During the second republic, Ajhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the theorist of “politics without bitterness” was in the forefront of the founding of Nigerian Peoples Party, (NPP). He was joined by some Igbo compatriots in the formation of the party and remained a major financier. His belief was that developed reasonable camaraderie with other founders and having demonstrated a liberal attitude in meeting most of the financial needs of the party, his ambition of being a presidential candidate of the party would be a fait accompli. But despite the much in road he had made in the South preparatory to the formalization of his ambition, the Igbos went into conspiracy against him by ganging up to bring Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to be the presidential candidate. Miffed by the development, Waziri Ibrahim left the party which he had strong entitlement in terms of investment and went and founded Great Nigerian People’s Party, (GNPP) to fly the flag of that party as a presidential candidate. In other words, he defected from his party to form another in pursuit of his ambition.
When I listened to Isantim Kenneth Okon’s interview on Akwa Ibom Mandate anchored by Sampson Akpan, my lingering depression since the defection of Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, until then Senate Minority Leader gave way to hope. The full import of the hitherto depressing incident came into broader grasp, appreciation and understanding. One began to see the need to be more liberal in analyzing the defection and less judgmental in conclusions. Before I narrow into the elucidations, let me shed some light on the personality called Isantim Kenneth Okon. He has been a two term elected chairman of Etinan Local Government Area and also served as Transition Chairman of the same local government area twice. He was a Youth Leader during His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah’s regime and is currently a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel. Okon is therefore neither naïve nor a neophyte in politics. He is also not a theorist but a pragmatist. His elevated discourse in that interview raised assurance for the governor’s second term and mitigated the ethnic embers that are already being fanned by nit wits that have little or nothing positive to contribute to the polity than acrimony.
Isantim Kenneth Okon had in that interview posited that Akpabio’s defection was borne out of his quest to be part of national politics as well as a wake-up call for Governor Emmanuel to take full charge of the State. He said that the two leaders’ current positions are not in conflict but rather would bring benefits to the state. He warned those seeking to use the incident to stoke crisis between the two leaders to desist arguing that such actions would not help the state. The Senior Special Assistant also cautioned those labouring to impute ethnic colouration to the defection of Senator Akpabio to know that Akwa Ibom is one under one heritage and one God. He advised them not to give the defection any ethnic colouration but rather see it as Akpabio’s foray to national stage. He, however, cautioned those who have hijacked him from PDP not to touch his life but return him safe and sound when they finish as he is an asset to the state.
Okon has had close relationship with Akpabio since the latter started his service to the state as Commissioner in 2002. Indeed, it is said that he was one of the 11 youths then who prevailed on the former governor to vie for that exalted office. They also worked with every fibre of their being for his emergence. Such intimate relationship affords him exhaustive knowledge of the disposition and mindset of the Distinguished Senator. He sees Akpabio as a liberal and large hearted man whose love for the state is unquantifiable. He believes that Akpabio’s departure to another party would not affect Governor Emmanuel who is also seeking re-election in Akpabio’s former party. Rather it would help the state and the governor’s cause. Perhaps he is saying this from the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of a man he knows exhaustively. Others would agree with him based on the assumption that Senator Akpabio has at different fora described Governor Emmanuel as a performing governor who came through God’s will at the right season. As a believer in God’s will and a winner in many undertakings, he will not cause a winning team to be changed. These assumptions may sound naïve but they are real and feasible
Many of us share the sentiments of Isantim Kenneth Okon and believe we should rather avoid inflicting any injury to the relationship while exploring ways of eking out gains from Akpabio’s movement. So far the conducts of the two leaders have been impressive and depictive of the sterner stuff they are both made of. Their restrain from making inflammatory comments or adopting reactive positions illustrate their mental elevation and their unbridled love for the State. Their shared vision of leapfrogging the state to enviable height should continue to guide their conducts and utterances to avoid the truncation of the big dreams they both have for the state. Anger and acrimony are deadly plagues that are capable of disrupting this and strong enough to diminish and devalue their hard earned legacies and so must be consciously eschewed. Senator Akpabio’s emotional remark that Udom is the godfather of his children should serve as a source of sustenance of the relationship. Many of us were very pleased when he publicly declared that he has no problem absolutely with the sitting governor.
It is sad that some politicians would see this as an “open sesame” for financial largesse. To achieve this, they are eager to foment and fuel crises where they do not exist. They would fabricate falsehood and outright lies and make themselves careerists, ferrying these warped items of divisiness between the leaders instead of encouraging the building of a virile bond that would help the state and the people. Theirs is a selfish approach that would line their pockets at the detriment of public good. What is expected now of any responsible Akwa Ibom son is a well conceived and creative strategy for the governor to win a second term with the ease that commensurates with his superior performance. Overheating the polity with false alarm tolls and competing in disparaging people are not workable strategies. They are usually counter-productive. This is one election that would consolidate and stabilize our polity if well managed but may put us asunder if mismanaged.
It is pertinent to reiterate on the sore point that has trailed Akpabio’s defection. It is said that people are imputing ethnic slant into Akpabio’s ambition. This is preposterous. This bigoted notion has the potential of foisting ethnic tension that can snowball into conflagration in the state. This State is ordained as one indivisible whole as noticed in linguistic affinity, shared religion and shared values. We inter-marry, do businesses and hold friendship across ethnic borders. What God has put together, let no politics put asunder.
Finally, we wish to appeal to our two leaders to be vigilant. Enemies of the state are on the prowl and may seek to use a period like this to destroy the state in the selfish pursuit of their pecuniary interest. In dealing with these wolves in sheep’s clothing, let love for the State be your watchword and remain uppermost in your minds. We are glad you are both confessed children of God. Blessed are the peacemakers is an admonition in the scripture. May peace abide with you especially in these difficult and trying times.
Joe Iniodu is a Public Affairs Analysist.