By Emmanuel Ikpat
The spectacle of events at the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Uyo, which came to a head days back as Senator Godswill Akpabio took the witness box to give evidence to support his claim of having been robbed of victory by Senator Chris Ekpenyong has triggered mixed emotions and a deep sense of sadness in me for many reasons.
I personally led honest effort (in collaboration with hundreds of other young people in our LGA) to coral His Excellency, Senator Akpabio into the APC. The campaign to lure him was necessitated by the larger interest of our people, who are a minority tribe in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria, and whose interest would have been better served by the intellect and charisma of the Senator in the ruling majority party. His wealth of experience I reckoned, was a wasted asset in the four years that he remained in the opposition bench. This feeling was more compelling because I knew that President Buhari, who I support with all my life, would win the 2019 general elections, head or tail. I also knew that the APC would take majority in the National Assembly, head or tail.
In pursuit of that dream, I published articles in several blogs and platforms, urging him to “move” to APC so that our people can reap the full benefit of his presence in the Senate. When he finally heeded the call, I contributed to hiring a band, organizing boys and staging a big show in Ikot Ekpene to welcome him. The expectation was that our “final obongowo” would indeed become a unifying factor, bring all sides together, show compassion, leverage on the structures on the ground and push for the best deal for everyone.
What did he do after? He went on-board the APC platform which he desecrated and traumatized during his days as governor of Akwa Ibom, to further stoke the fire. He shoved everyone aside using the crudest of tactics; arrested, manacled and humiliated me alongside my elder brother – Samuel Ikpa (himself a staunch dyed-in-the-wool Buharist) , tried within the limits of his human capacity to break our spirits, and truncated my brother’s ambition to vie for the House of Assembly seat with bestial impunity. He handpicked candidates from his coterie of hangers-on for the different electoral contests and thoroughly upended the seams of democracy. He built a make-believe aura of invincibility around himself and refused to exploit the huge advantage that the APC had before he joined. Rather than unifying the platform, he became a polarizing agent; destabilizing a movement that was solid like a rock. He jettisoned elementary methods of soliciting for votes through campaigns, canvassing and persuasion and instead, relied on the ensemble of urchins and touts for the dirty job of snatching ballot materials, abducting polling officials and manipulating the electoral process to force victory by crooked means. The rest is history.
On that dreadful night, I told our dear senator to do a little self introspection about his inner circle. I told him that he was unable to create the right kind of friends that would step into his shoes like Tinubu has done and help him expand his sphere of influence. I told him that good leaders who desire to be like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu do not fight small fights. No! They do not see those who speak the truth as enemies. Good leaders like Tinubu identify talents around them to support, groom and project. Good leaders think more about their community and their hereafter, than they think about themselves. Good leaders keep an eye on the judgement of history than the praises of sycophants, whose stock in trade is to clap and dance for the crumbs. Good leaders listen to criticisms, learn from everyone and do justice to their consciences. According to Michelle Obama, “people who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together. People who are truly leaders show the way” .
I told him that most of the people who surround him tell him lies, destroy other people before him and mislead him into believing that some of us who truly wish him to succeed, do not mean well for him. Those people are the same set that made him take the crude action that he took against my brother. They are the same set that organized the fatal hijacking of electoral materials at Okon, Ekpenyong 1, Odoro Ikot, Ukana and Ikpe Annang that has become his Achilles Hills , and has given Chris Ekpenyong easy passage into the Senate. They are the ones that brought down our own dear Senator, from the pinnacle of a sterling political career in Abuja, into the spectacle of a dingy dock of a courtroom in a tiny corner of Uyo where he had to be “led in evidence” by small lawyers, unfit to untie the lace of his shoes. On a good day.
As the lawyer was “putting it to” our former senator days back, I could feel the embarrassment; the sheer reality of subjecting our OGA’s tender feet to the furnace of hot unusual legal scrutiny. I could perceive the sense of powerlessness; the surrender that his fall from grace represents. It is sad that our own senator had to struggle to prove that he voted for himself. Or that he scored 61,000 votes. Or 65,000 votes. Or any number of votes in-between. It was a spectacle to see him argue with facts on paper, or feign victim to INEC’s Mike Igini when indeed, his most ardent supporters were denied the right to vote by his own agents. It is tragic that the cold hands of karma, has visited a respectable loquacious senator, in the unkindest of ways, and served him a full dose of the bitter medicine that he alone had the monopoly of serving to others, all these years.
Alas, the words of Jim Rohn are true about leadership: “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.” Our senator possesses little of these attributes, hence his struggles with the truth.