INTERVIEW: Akpabio’s failure as a senator led to his defeat – Senator-Elect Ekpenyong
Dr. Chris Ekpenyong served as deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State in the period between 1999 and 2005. He had since his exit from office laid low albeit politically. That was until late last year when he emerged as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Dr. Ekpenyong proceeded to win the election in which he was pitched against the immediate former governor of the state and immediate past Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio. He speaks on the feat and expectations of the PDP ahead of this weekend’s polls.
How did you defeat Senator Akpabio?
I saw a story on the front page of Vanguard the other day captioned “How the Mighty fell in the South-South.” That shows that one cannot christen himself God. We are all God’s creation. So how it happened is that the people of Ikot Ekpene senatorial district rejected Godswill Akpabio as the senator representing them because for the past three and half years he has not represented them well.
This is the time to pay you back with our votes, Timber dealers tell Ugwuanyi We have not heard of any motion that he moved with any relevance on the lives of the people of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. We have not seen any bill that he has actually producef that will better lots of the people, or change their circumstances. When you heard about Nigeria as being the number one nation in the world with the poorest people, and you look at the place he represents, the interior of Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo, Oruk Anam, Abak and even interior of Essien Udim where he is from, there are no roads. If you go to interior of Ikono there is no road. If you go to Ini, it is sorrowful. And again when you look at three and half years he has been in the Senate and then you add it to the eight years he was a governor of the state with bumper resources at his disposal, he could not leave any sustainable, economic project that will make the people remember that there was a time they had a governor, and a senator.
That made the people to say well it is better to make a change. So they resolved to vote for me who had been on sabbatical leave for more than twelve years. When he said he won the governorship election in 2007 I never went to the Tribunal to challenge him thinking that he will understand the modus operandi as to what made me to ensure that there was a power shift from the Ibibio of the Uyo senatorial district. I left him, and never went to Tribunal.
Instead I gave him all the backing but I found he was a government of his own stomach, government of his family- his wife, children, brothers and kinsmen. If you look whatever came to this area by way of projects are situated just within the enclave he comes from. I name them from the Federal Polytechnic Ukana, the police college he put there, the cottage hospital he put there, and even the mobile police base he also put there. Then he used both the print and electronic media to publicise himself that he is uncommon transformer. Then he built a Government House as if all the children of Akwa Ibom State will be sleeping and waking up at there. Is that what a governor is supposed to do? He never knew that people were watching him. So it is a revolution.
I defeated him with a total difference of 35,000 and 50,000 votes. You could see it is a classical desire of the people to make a change. I defeated him and he should go home and sleep. But Akpabio is claiming that he actually won the election and he has insisted on challenging it in Court? Let him go. The electoral act has made available medium where you can challenge but for now I have defeated him and the defeat is permanent. What are chances of the PDP in the Saturday governorship and State Assembly polls? We will still win. We won the presidential and National Assembly polls in spite of all the militarization of the state. They brought army from Port-Harcourt, Uyo and they were unable to subvert the course of justice. The Police were compromised, still they were unable to subvert the will of the people. So for the governorship and State Assembly election we are going to coast home with victory. Udom Emmanuel will remain the governor of Akwa Ibom state till 2023. That is obvious. No matter the Army they are going to import PDP will win. (Name withheld) who is a brother to Godswill Akpabio was using amoured car picking up people at will, carting away electoral materials as well as the card readers and result sheets. But by the grace of God we had an Electoral Commissioner who stood his ground and has integrity.
So for me we are waiting for them at the poll. And I want to implore and plead with Mr. President to tell the Army to maintain neutrality in the election process. Some claim that the military intimidated voters in the South-South. Is it true and in what way did it affect your performance? Oh yes. I was a witness. When I got down to Essien Udim Brigadier General (name withheld) led well over 600 army to Essien Udim and condoned off the whole place. Senator Godswill Akpabio was in the room, Emem Akpabio was in the room, Mr. Godwin Afangide, Nse Ntuen, Emmanuel Inyaetok, were all there in the room. As they were doing that to us I said, General are you being fair?, that Mr. President said nobody should rig this election, that we should vote the people of our choice and according to our conscience. Why are you doing this to us in PDP and allowing only the APC led by Akpabio to cart away the materials. During the period of my interaction with them the international observers arrived and to my greatest chagrin too they disallowed the international observers from gaining access into the local government collation centre before they proceeded to the Senatorial district collation centre. And as they were doing that God in his infinite mercy descended upon them.
I don’t know who actually came and evacuated the EO from their hand and brought him to a central place in Ikot Ekpene to come and collate his result. In other areas the people were able to defend their voters. And there was voter apathy. People did not come out because of intimidation of army, police and other ancillary security that they brought. When they carted away electoral materials and we reported to the police, the police refused to touch them. I don’t know who gave them the instructions that the APC should not be touched.
So it was absolutely the hand of God to win the election. Even though PDP won all the seats in the National Assembly polls the scores recorded in the state seemed below the expectation of many people? Yes we have 2.1million voters registered in Akwa Ibom State and in my Senatorial district we have about 748,000 voters. One would have expected that at least over 80 percent of that figure would have come out, but because of the circumstances we found ourselves, people were intimidated with armoured cars. I told you earlier that (name withheld) segmented the whole of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, he segmented the Abak axis, he apportioned the police, army to Ikot Ekpene, Ikono, Ini. They went to one ward in Ikono carted away all the electoral materials and put them in the armoured cars and ran away.
They used security forces to scare away voters. On March 9 no matter the militarization, PDP will still win. APC has no followership in Akwa Ibom State. Akwa Ibom is deeply rooted in PDP. And of course this is a challenge that no one man has the right to say he has the power to put and to remove. Akpabio said he is ‘God’ and the wife said there is no God in politics. So my emergence as Senator should have told the wife that there is God. And also this election that we are going for on Saturday they are going to see that there is God. Udom Emmanuel will be re-elected as governor of Akwa Ibom State and also all PDP candidates for the state House of Assembly will be elected. Vanguard