From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Mrs. Rachael Akpabio is the South-South Zonal Women’s Leader of the ruling, All Progressives Congress. In this interview, she speaks on the crisis rocking the Akwa-Ibom chapter of the APC and what can be done to restore peace.
Why are you suddenly speaking out on happenings in Akwa-Ibom APC?
I kept mute all the while, believing the problems we have to be internal issues which can be handled without those of us concerned going public. But since things are getting out of hand, I think it’s time for me to speak out. There are problems within Akwa-Ibom state APC, undoubtedly, a number of people are aggrieved. And for me, we as members of the national executive from the state should intervene, we should not take sides. We are supposed to be umpires, when there are issues, our job is to bring about solutions to whatever problems we have in states. If national officers decide to wade into state issues and take sides, it will not augur well for us. I have had calls from everywhere with people asking,’madam what are you doing about this or that?’ I went to all the leaders of the party to tell them there are problems in Akwa Ibom state and we need to step in. When there was a problem in Delta, I was one of the committee members sent there. We went to Delta state with a view of solving the problems and we were able to get the feelings of the people and we made recommendations to the party hierarchy to take decision on given areas. But in the case of Akwa Ibom, nobody cares to understand that the party is being torn into pieces, they are not trying to let the party take root.
What are the remote and immediate causes of the crisis brewing in your party?
I will go back to 2015, when we had a party that was growing, then Senator John Akpanudoedehe was a member of the merger committee, that saw to the creation of APC. After the party came into being, he returned to our state to build it’s structure. There was a Congress that produced executives of the party in the state. He (Senator) was able to were people, Senator supported. Definitely it is not going to be very easy for any newcomer. There is no way, you announce a person who came in within two weeks as winner of governorship primaries and people wouldn’t react.This is the basis of the problems we have now.
What has been the role of your national officials in resolving the issues you have raised?
As national officers, we didn’t do the right thing on time. We allowed things to fester and invariably allowed the crisis to drift to this point, where appointments have been made. If I had left my phone on, you would have witnessed how calls would be coming in with complaints about appointments. When Umana came into the party, he was well received because we needed more people. He came with some people from PDP and we received them well, I was at the stadium where we welcomed them. He came in, contested for the governorship ticket, put in some money for the election and it was his name that was sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If we go down memory lane, I will tell you that no primary was held because what happened cannot be said to be a party primary. I later heard Sen. Akpanudoedehe said that he was invited by a panel set -up afterwards, which told him, they only called to inform him that it was Umana’s name they sent to INEC. The panel then offered that a number of appointments would be ceded to the Senator as compensation. But he said he rejected the offer , saying that it was difficult for him to go into an agreement with his enemies. I asked him why, he said those were the people that wanted to kill him in 2011, accusing him of murder, arson and of burning about 200 cars without engines.
Would you then say the feeling that only those who decamped from PDP have been given federal appointments is the major reason for the anger within the Akwa-Ibom APC?
Well, till today appointments have been lopsided and this is deepening the divisions within the party. Umana contested and lost the governorship election, he was given appointment in the oil and gas sector. His running mate was given appointment as a Commissioner in National Population Commission, Umana’s personal assistant was given appointment in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as Commissioner for Akwa-Ibom state. If they had come in to discuss these issues earlier, maybe people would have been liberal in saying, let’s just work together, rather than flexing muscles and insisting, they will get whatever they want. All the PDP decampees have been getting the appointments in my state and this is the case in the South-South region. Then how do you expect those who brought the party to the state and region, and who nurtured it to the level that people saw it is a veritable platform to advance their political carriers, to feel with all these happening around them? What has been given to even one of them? Nothing.