Former governor of Akwa Ibom State and current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has pulled out of the planned Akwa Ibom North East senatorial re-run election.
In a letter addressed to the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and dated 2nd of December, 2019, Akpabio said as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, a huge responsibility had been placed on him.
He said he couldn’t abandon a critical assignment placed on him by President Muhammadu Buhari in pursuit of a re-run election.
He urged the party to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in line with Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010, and submit a replacement to run in his place.
Meanwhile, Newsflash247 had earlier reported that the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Tuesday, December 10, has perfected plans to substitute Obong Ekperikpe Ekpo for Senator Godswill Akpabio as their candidate in the court ordered rerun for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District Seat.
This is coming about a month since the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, Cross Rivers state cancelled the elections in Essien Udim Local Government Area on grounds of the prevalence of violence in the Local Government Area during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
Senator Christopher Ekpenyong of the PDP had defeated Senator Akpabio of the APC at the February 23, 2019 at the polls to claim the seat at the National Assembly.
Our source gathered that the Akpabio delegation was at the INEC headquarters in Abuja yesterday to execute the planned substitution.
The decision by the APC to substitute Obong Ekperikpe Ekpo as their candidate in the election is occasioned by Senator Akpabio’s uncertainty about the outcome of the rerun and his indisposition to resign from his office as the minister of Niger Delta.
Close sources to Senator Akpabio informed that the minister sees the election as “a most uncertain adventure”. Chief Akpabio who spoke on Tuesday at an event to mark his 57th anniversary confirmed this when he stated that he cannot throw away a gold in hand to seek for a bird in the woods, in his words:
“I thank God today that against the thoughts of some people, I am alive, my wife is alive and we are not retired politicians, but rather God has taken us many steps higher…I return all thanks to God and I cannot fail him by abandoning the golden opportunity I have to better the lots of my people as the minister, Niger Delta for any reason whatsoever…”
A legal practitioner ( names withheld) who is a member is the legal team of APC in the state told our correspondent that the decision by the APC to substitute Obong Ekpo for Senator Akpabio was sound in law and had a valid precedent in the case of Yahaya Bello of Kogi state who was substituted in a rerun for Late Prince Abubakar Audu, the main candidate of the APC in the 2015 Kogi gubernatorial elections who died before the conclusion of the elections. He said that Obong Ekpo can inherit the votes of Chief Akpabio just as Yahaya Bello inherited the votes of Prince Audu.
Another APC Chieftain stated in an interview with our correspondent that Akpabio is afraid that if he resigns as a minister to contest in the rerun, a defeat would mean a certain end of his political career and political relevance.
He further added that Chief Akpabio would have contested in the rerun if the presidency had given him the consent and extra backing to contest, while still serving as a minister.
He maintained that substitution was the only way out for the APC in the state to have a candidate in the race as he was certain that a smart and egoistic Akpabio would never resign as a minister to seek rerun for a seat at the senate against Senator Ekpenyong and the PDP who have maintained a record of victory in Akwa Ibom State for the past 20 years.
Efforts by our correspondents to reach Senator Godswill Akpabio or the APC Chairman, Akwa Ibom State, Ini Okopido had been fruitless at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, a foremost socio- political group, Akwa Ibom Liberation Movement, AILM, ha raised alarm over a plot by the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the All Progressives Congress, in Akwa Ibom to substitute his name for another candidate ahead of the re- run election in Essien Udim Local Government Area.
The group made this known during a press briefing on Tuesday 10th December, held at its secretariat in, Uyo.
The group’s Secretary General, Solomon Abasiekong Esq said the APC is hurriedly planning to use the court to substitute Senator Akpabio for Obong Luke Ekperikpe Ekpo, a former member of the House of Representatives.
Ekpo represented Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika federal constituency and was an aspirant for the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial ticket on the platform of the APC in 2018.
“Following recent announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that it will conduct court-ordered re-run elections including the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial district election in Essien Udim on January 25, 2020, the the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and chieftains of All Progressives Congress, APC are planning to substitute his name for another ahead of the re- run election in Essien Udim Local Government Area”.
“We have been reliably informed that Akpabio and some APC chieftains were at INEC headquarters yesterday, ( Monday, December 9, 2019) where they held closed door meetings with some top officials of the commission to substitute his name with that of Honourable Ekperikpe Ekpo during the re-run election in Essien Udim Local Governent Area.”
The group’s secretary said there is no known precedence in law to back this uncreative contraption that Akpabio and his cohorts are planning to throw at INEC and the judiciary.
The group says that the minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio is afriad to lose the re-run election in his own local government.
It is common knowledge in Akwa Ibom state that Akpabio has a mortal fearfor free and fair elections.
From available records, he either uses brute force to intimidate electorate and electoral officials to rig for him or bribes his way through.
The results of the last election in the senatorial district clearly shiow that the people are tired of his antics and are ready to resist any attempt to alter the will of the people.”
“The obnoxious move by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is the height of impunity, abuse of office and blatant lawlessness for which INEC should distance itself from.
Akpabio was the candidate fielded by the APC and he must stand for the court ordered re- run election. It is illegal to substitute a candidate’s name from an election after such a candidate had stood for an election and was roundly defeated.
The group calls on INEC to resist the antics by the APC.