….Don Etiebet, party youth leaders, ors take sides
Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio’s alarm on the two trillion naira debt profile and inability of the NDDC to get a permanent Secretariat after many years of it’s establishment despite the huge resources pumped into the Commission with obvious accusing fingers pointing to the immediate past MD of the Agency Obong Nsima Ekere, has upset the sensibilities of some APC members who are die hard supporters of the former Deputy Governor, ABASIFREKE OBOT reports.
A former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and now Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Godswill Akpabio penultimate week revived unsettled controversy when he raised the alarm on the State of financial rascality that have bedeviled the Niger Delta Development Commission ever since its creation.
The Niger Delta Affairs Minister who spared no punches when he unraveled what many has since come to describe as one of the biggest revelation of financial dishonesty spoke in a press statement thereby throwing many members of his party, the APC into doubts of his sustained friendship with his erstwhile Deputy Obong Nsima Ekere.
Many are of the opinion that since Akpabio was in the forefront of Ekere’s failed 2019 Guber ambition, that he has no reasons what so ever to pour cold water on the Agency Ekere presided over in a prelude to that governorship ambition.
This revelation by the Minister has not been swallowed by a pinch of salt by both supporters and admirers of Nsima Ekere. Even though their media handlers have refused to come out public to wash their linens, THE INK can report matters of fact that there have been a strong pile up of dissenting voices in the groups which their supporters belong even as the former Deputy Governor is said to have reached out to the Minister by himself and through proxies to state his stance on such grave allegations.
Although Chief Godswill Akpabio did not mention Nsima Ekere’s name while hosting a meeting with the management team of the NDDC, many are of the belief that Akpabio knows too well that the debt profile of the NDDC shot up during Ekere’s time. The Ikot Abasi born politician had embarked on massive reconstruction, rehabilitation and construction of certain infrastructures ranging from roads, and provision of desks and other reading materials.
Akpabio’s choice of the phrase real and imagined contracts are really what is annoying the former MD and members of his team especially as there have been lots of accusation on the former Deputy Governor that he was just issuing contract papers without actual contracts.
Recall that the PDP in one of her missiles against the APC gubernatorial Candidate had directed him to stop issuing white papers in the name of contracts. The ruling Party in Akwa Ibom State was too direct during one of her media parleys with journalists when they advised Ekere who was then MD of the Commission to stop misleading, deceiving and playing on the intelligence of Akwa Ibom and her people by issuing fake contract papers.
The Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs is said to have been armed with this information and then proceed to hit Ekere his former Man Friday below the belt.
But on why the former Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District Senator will choose to laugh such onslaught in style against his former Deputy, sources say, reasons may not be unconnected with Ekere’s stance when the new board of the NDDC was to be compiled.
THE INK learnt from those working with and for Godswill Akpabio that while the Ex Governor rooted for Victor Antai as the State Commissioner and Otobong Ndem as the Executive Director, Projects, that Nsima Ekere lobbied for his younger brother to be made the Executive Director Projects. It was not clear whether Ekere was also not disinterested in the office of the State Commissioner.
One of Akpabio’s men who spoke to us narrated an incidence that took place after a meeting at Godswill Akpabio’s House. Our source said, after the meeting where Nsima Ekere presented and spoke vociferously in support of his brother to be made the Executive Director Projects, some persons who have the eyes and ears of Akpabio like Ibanga Akpabio, Nse Ntuen, Emmanuel Ekon had whispered to Akpabio to jettison Nsima Ekere’s brother saying that the Ex Deputy Governor had his chance and threw it away.
While Akpabio is said to have been considering that, Ekere’s brother is said to have met Otobong Ndem outside Akpabio’s residence where he poured all manner of words on Ndem to a point of betting him and swearing that Ndem cannot be made an Executive Director in the NDDC.
Many sources say, the younger Ekere had relied on the financial powers of his Elder brother to land the job.
Meanwhile, those who watched the drama of Ekere and Ndem’s exchanges hurriedly took sides especially as they were already sympathetic to the Ex Mkpat Enin lawmaker and gossiped to Akpabio that the Ekeres cannot be trusted with such position in the prevailing and coming circumstances.
The Niger Delta Affairs Minister did not waste time in making his choice of picking Otobong Ndem ahead of the younger Ekere. This decision by Akpabio is said to have irked and embarrassed the Ekeres. Not wanting to take chances, former Governor Akpabio who isn’t new to political horsetrading is said to have quickly recoiled into a string of what pundits say is a sting operation using the media to try Ekere.
In a spare of two weeks, Akpabio and his men threw the first two punches blaming Ekere in part on the lack of a Secretariat, permanent one in the State Capital for the NDDC and exposing the Debt profile of the Commission.
Akpabio is said to have mentioned to his trusted allies that under Ekere, the debt profile of the Agency rose to an embarrassing height. Those who are in support of Ekere are however of the belief that Akpabio wants to put their principal in the defensive so that the former Deputy Governor will not be focused to challenge his Governorship appeal at the Tribunal.
This development in the camp of Ekere has not only rattled them, but has created fresh brawl in the APC, Akwa Ibom State Chapter as party faithful have taken sides with blames and counter blames cum accusations.
Apart from the internal war of words ongoing on the relevant media platforms like WhatsApp involving supporters of both men, others are also unhappy that Akpabio will close to embarrass Ekere with the snap of his fingers.
For instance, a former Petroleum Minister in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Otuekong Don Etiebet who is an unapologetic fan of Nsima Ekere is said to have expressed reservations about Akpabio’s comment. He is said to have sent emissaries to the former Governor asking him to trade with utmost caution as the Party needs both Akpabio and Ekere especially as the Party remains in quagmire over her last 2019 elections which she lost all offices it contested for.
Don Etiebet, it is said had frowned at Akpabio’s comment and had passively mentioned that the garrulousness and talkative nature of Akpabio may consume the party in the State even before the court delivers her final ruling on the governorship election.
Some youth leaders in the All Progressive Congress are said to have viewed Akpabio’s position as a direct indictment of her governorship candidate and would wish the former Senator never made a statement like that.
Some of the youth leaders in the APC who are not happy with Akpabio for ditching Ekere in his trying times and making such harsh remarks on the position of NDDC especially during the times of Nsima Ekere include: the State Youth Leader of the Party Stephen Ntukekpo, Nsima Ekere youth Cordinator Mr. Iniobong John popularly known as Ini Emu, Senior Assistant to the former NDDC MD on Special Duties, Mr. Uyio Nathaniel, a former PDP Uyo Chapter Chairman Mr. Joshua popularly known as Atiku.
Ekerette Ekpenyong, Anietie Johnny Ufot, AJU are also some of the youth leaders who are not comfortable over Akpabio’s attack on Nsima Ekere. They have all promised to fight back in order to show to the Ex Governor that he should learn to respect the services rendered by others.
One of the youth leaders who spoke to this reporter observed that “Considering the fact that God’s will Akpabio is one of the major beneficiaries of Nsima Ekere’s MDship of NDDC, that he lacks the moral standing to make sarcastic remarks against the former MD of the NDDC. The Youth leader who hails from Mkpat Enin mentioned that when Godswill Akpabio decamped to the APC, that Nsima Ekere practically transferred all transactions to the former Governor with a view to making him explore his contacts and work towards making Ekere a successor to Udom Emmanuel. He stated emphatically that apart from Uyio Nathaniel, Akpabio and Inibehe Okorie where the highest beneficiaries of the NDDC. He maintained that the former Governor had a say on who is who, who should be awarded a contract, who should be awarded what. And therefore Akpabio should use his tongue to count his teeth as what he is currently embarking upon us nothing but a senseless witch hunting that will indirectly consume his men. He mentioned that Ekere had awarded contracts to cronies of Akpabio who later turn around to betray Ekere because of ethnic and selfish considerations.
But Akpabio’s men fight back querying the rationale and sources behind the outrageous expenditure that greeted the former Deputy Governor’s 2019 guber election. Nse Ntuen speaking to a supporter in a location in Uyo was linked to have said that obviously Ekere’s expenditure would not have come from his consultancy services and his Estate and property businesses.
Apart from youth groups, some Elders in the Party have expressed their thoughts on the debacle. While some stay on the path of Akpabio, others stay on the path of Nsima while others especially those who are of Udoedehe’s extraction say they don’t want to be dragged into the drama.
Udoedehe’s men described the situation as a fallout of two impostors who invaded the party and stole her right. “They must pay for the betrayal and blood that were shed for their contemptuous tickets”. One of Udoedehe’s man who is a Chapter officer of the APC summarized.
For Inibehe Okorie, he said the best thing to do in this case is to ignore Akpabio who he is said to have described as a serial liar and man whose character is not deep. A major and frontline supporter of the ex Senatorial Candidate mentioned to our newsdesk that when Akpabio’s comment on matters of the NDDC was featured on the media that he had called Okorie’s attention to it. He said, my master, apparently referring to Inibehe Okorie only said, it is better to ignore Akpabio since this is the only way he can start fighting Nsima who made him a leader of the APC. God will judge him, Okorie said through his political ally.
The APC in Akwa Ibom State have decided to allow the matter between both men to enjoy the appeal of the masses as the Party is not in anyway thinking of calling the duo to order.
One of the major stakeholders of the Party in an interactive session with our reporter described the looming crisis as good for the Party saying it will afford both men the opportunity to bring goodies to the party whom they have abandoned after the election. He said, “let them fight, we in the Party will settle them. It is our duty to settle quarrels within the Party from members of the Party”.
Spokesman of the Party Nkereuwem Enyongekere in a discussion said, he has not been advised by the Party leadership to issue any statement calling both parties to order and until that is done, he will just sit and watch the melodrama being exhibited by men who should know better what to do at all times.