Niger Delta Affairs Minister and former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, is currently in a seeming desperate battle to exonerate himself from the messy violence that characterized the Saturday re-run election in Essien Udim Local Government Area of the state, his home council area.
Akpabio’s Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ekong, in a swift statement claimed that the former governor should not be link with the violence going on in Essien Udim. In the statement titled Don’t Link Senator Akpabio To Any Charade In Essien Udim, Ekong said it was not fair to link the minister with any rerun election in Essien Udim.
According to Akpabio’s spokesman, “it is well known that because of higher national responsibilities as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio had withdrawn his candidature from the said election. He was replaced by the All Progressives Congress (APC) with Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo. The other candidates who were scheduled for the elections, Rt Hon Nse Ntuen and Rt. Hon Emmanuel Akpan have written to announce their withdrawal from the elections.
“And just yesterday (Friday), the State Chairman of APC Hon Ini Okopido at a widely publicised press conference announced that the APC will not participate in the rerun elections,”
Ekong declared that Akpabio was not even in Essien Udim but in Uyo, the state capital, at the time, and had no interest ‘’whatsoever in what is going on there’’ and had advised his supporters to heed the call of the state APC and boycott the elections.
Continuing, he said, “we have however gathered that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sponsored thugs were planning to carry out a sinister plot during the rerun elections and link it to Senator Akpabio. Security agencies should be on the watch out for miscreants and sponsored thugs, apprehend them and visit the full weight of the law on them.”
But, could the PDP be fighting against the electoral victories of her candidates for the state House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate rerun elections in Essien Udim?
Violence however, erupted on Saturday morning as voters set out to cast their votes in a re-run to decide who their representatives are.
APC Chairman in the state, Ini Okopido, had on Friday announced at a news conference that his party will not take part in the re-run elections.
The elections were supposed to be a mere formality and a walk over for the PDP but the reverse is the case.
A Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State capital ordered that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), should conduct a re-run in Essien Udim because the 2019 general elections in the area was marred by violence.
Akpabio, who was an APC senatorial candidate in 2019 had announced that he will not take part in the re-run against Chris Ekpeyong of the PDP.
Though APC had attempted to substitute a candidate, but INEC insisted that Akpabio is the senate candidate for the elections.
Reports from the troubled local government on Saturday morning revealed that armed thugs allegedly assisted by Policemen stormed more than 10 policing units and carted away elections material to the home of a cousin of Senator Akpabio in Ukana.
At Akpabio’s Polling Unit at Independence High School, Ukana, accredited Election Monitors and newsmen were barred from entering the school which has three polling units.
An INEC accredited Photo journalist, Godwin Sunday, and other journalists, were allegedly manhandled by thugs said to be loyal to Senator Akpabio at Independence High School, Ukana. No observer was allegedly allowed into the polling unit by the thugs.
While the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) crew allegedly denied entry, SARS operatives of the Nigeria Police allegedly aided the thugs to unleash mayhem in the area.
In Akpabio’s Ward 5 Uni 12, all election materials were said to be destroyed and the attackers headed to Ward 10 unit 1.
A video trending on Facebook tends to show some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), who confessed that they were kidnapped from their various polling units and taken to a private residence in Ukana, Akpabio’s village, where thugs were allegedly thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of the APC.
Meanwhile, in a statement titled The Leopard Never changes Its Spot, the state wing of the PDP recalled: “Yesterday (Friday), we had alerted the world that the phoney withdrawal or boycott of the election by the APC candidates led by the disgraced and rejected former governor and Senator Akpabio was a ploy to unleash mayhem on Essien Udim people and truncate the electoral process, without being held accountable for their misdeeds.”
Signed by its State Publicity Secretary, Ini Ememobong, the party said, “today (Saturday), evidence abound as to their manifest deployment of violence and electoral malpractices. At independence high school, journalists and observers have been denied entry, in order to aid the mass thumb printing and voting in favour of APC.
‘’Accredited journalists were manhandled and their gadgets smashed when they tried to capture the misdeeds that were ongoing there. It can be recalled that during the last general elections, the TVC reporter was manhandled at the same location when he witnessed election irregularities ongoing with the aid of security personnel.
“Materials and electoral personnel posted to six units in Akpautong were hijacked and taken to the residence of Ibanga Akpabio (cousin to Senator Akpabio) with the help of some policemen. Acting on intelligence, the DC Operations swung into action and led a team to the spot where the people were arrested. It can be recalled that during the last elections, materials for the whole of Ukana west and East wards were hijacked to Nsentip Akpabio’s factory before they were bursted.
“As a party, we frown at the continuous ignoble disposition crassly exhibited by Senator Godswill Akpabio, whom his people have manifestly rejected, but is seeking to foist himself upon his people. This attitude is highly condemnable and we call on the Inspector General of police to act decidedly by ordering the immediate arrest and prosecution of Ibanga Akpabio (whose EFCC case is still pending), who turned his residence to polling units and Senator Godswill Akpabio for sponsoring acts of violence and electoral malpractices.”
The statement said PDP was gathering evidence and will take steps to forward them to all relevant national and international agencies, including embassies and the Interpol. ‘’Elections must be held freely, peacefully, and without any pressure whatsoever’’, PDP said.