Governor Amaechi’s Rising National Profile and Akpabio’s Dwindling Fortunes
Ordinarily, this outcome ought to make the governors themselves proud in the sense that those who supported Amaechi and those who were opposed to his re-election freely cast their votes in a secret ballot and produced a result that is clearly a reflection of the wishes of the majority. However, the response of a handful of them led by
Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio is not only disappointing, but disgraceful. First, the disgruntled governors participated in the election. Second, they fielded a candidate to counter Amaechi. Third, they witnessed the tallying of the ballot and the announcement of the results. Unfortunately, because the outcome did not favour their candidate, the unhappy governors are playing up the existence of some pieces of paper conveying the intention of some governors, and signed before the election, as a more legitimate indication of their electoral choice at the expense of a ballot they themselves designed and participated in. To worsen matters, these renegade governors have continued with their impunity and dis-ingenuity to hold a meeting yesterday affirming Jang as the NGF Chair in a rear guard plot designed to divide and kill the NGF much like the Biblical story of two women claiming one child. One of them, like the Akpabio-led Governors, wanted the child cut into two if she would not have him. — This Day Editorial
This is a wise and thoughtful and responsible editorial from This Day Newspaper. I believe they have expressed the sentiments of the majority of Nigerians and have corroborated comments expressed by some of us on the subject since yesterday.
For governors who profess to be democrats and who would want the rest of us to believe that they imbibe and live by the democratic tenets that they so profusely profess at every turn, it is disgraceful, if not revealing of what we already know about this bunch; that these are no democrats at all when some of them led by Governor Akpabio, chose to reject the outcome of an election by 35 people adjudged by all to have been transparent, free and fair by all accounts. To further attempt to set up a splinter/disgruntled group of the NGF with a purported chairperson and vice in a desperate attempt to scuttle the re-election of Amaechi, is not only unfortunate, sad and an exercise in extremely poor judgement, but a confirmation of this bunch as the despots and tyrants that they are said to be. Given to always having their way especially in their respective states where they use all instruments and apparatuses of governance and power to scuttle the democratic process; where they are lords of the manor; where as tyrants and despots they hold sway, it becomes a very bitter pill for them to swallow and their overblown ego of self importance dealt a severe blow to realize that probably outside of their states, they are truly powerless.
This train wreck started months ago with the formation of the PDP Governors’ Forum; a contraption hurriedly put together to fight and undermine Amaechi, the chairperson of the NGF. Whoever’s “bright” idea at the time it was to set up this renegade group, was hailed by rabid supporters of Governor Akpabio to be a master stroke, a masterful political manoeuvring by the governor who was seen as a genius who would use his new position as the chairperson of this renegade group to launch his fast rising national profile and by extension, the rising profile of Akwa Ibom state in national politics. Many sober minds saw this as nothing more than an ill-advised, self-centred ego trip by one man whose sudden love for President Jonathan couldn’t be masked or overshadowed by his unconcealed attempts to derail the rightful and constitutional succession process of Jonathan to the presidency following the death of President Yaradua. But politics they say, make strange bedfellows. It is no secret that in this arrangement to clip Amaechi’s feathers and destroy him politically, both President Jonathan and Governor Akpabio, found something to gain personally from working with each other. It didn’t matter that each harbor strong suspicions of the other. For the president, Amaechi had become a thorn in his political flesh and had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Akpabio, always looking to exploit every opportunity to advance his ambitious plan at the national level, offered himself as a willing tool to be used to do the dirty bidding of the president. Mutual suspicions for now were relegated to the background. And so the PDP Governors’ Forum was born.
Whoever thought that you could build something worthwhile out of fractionalization is as naive as they come. The first statements by Governor Akpabio upon his “emergence” as the leader of the PDP Governors’ Forum, was to further drive wedges within his own very group by calling some members of the group Judases that he was determined to drive out of the party. Such crude and arrogant, tough talk; such divide and rule tactics may have worked in a kingdom known as Akwa Ibom State, where he is the emperor and the despot; where he is in control of every and all machinery of government to bring to ignominious fruition every ridiculous pronouncement. Not so at the national level.
For someone who clearly is aspiring to play a leading role at the national level, Governor Akpabio’s actions and reactions following the defeat handed down to him and his group, throw him up as spoilt, immature, irresponsible, intolerant, and certainly not a leader. For a nation in dire need of true leaders who must bring groups together to work for the common good, Governor Akpabio’s actions are quite the opposite.
These have been the hallmark of his governorship in Akwa Ibom. These are attributes that we’ve always known about him in Akwa Ibom. In so many ways, it is wonderful that his long cultivated, coveted image as this magical, promising, transformational leader with thousands of awards nationally and internationally to boot, is being dealt a severe blow and the real Akpabio is being seen for who he truly is on the national stage. From one disaster to the other; from one careless and irresponsible comment to the other; from one useless action of irrepressive extravagance and unaccountability to the other; from actions and admissions of rule breakings and criminal conduct to the other, Nigerians are seeing for the first time, beyond the carefully managed and choreographed media blitz and coverage of uncommonality, the real Governor Akpabio.
It is important that we compare the reactions of both Governor Amaechi and Governor Akpabio following the outcome of the NGF elections to further demonstrate the wide gulf that exist between these two aspiring “leaders”. For Amaechi the victor, who has suffered and has been persecuted needlessly at the hands of the president and Governor Akpabio, he could have very easily decided to gloat; to stick it to his detractors in his moment of triumph. But these are some of the comments reported by newspapers about his reaction and comments following his victory:
“Amaechi has affirmed the NGF’s commitment towards supporting President Jonathan to fight insecurity and reduce tension and uncertainty in the country. He assured the President of the backing of the forum to work alongside the president to improve the living standards of Nigerians through transparent and accountable stewardship. He expressed gratitude to his colleagues for their tenacity and determination to ensure the UNITY of the forum and the nation in general.
“Today, our democracy was tested and proven. Democracy is about participation. The aim of democratic governance is for everyone to partake in winning. To him there were no victors or vanquished. Democracy won and he extended an olive branch to his colleagues who did not vote for him to join forces with him to realize the dreams of Nigerians”.
That is how a leader talks. On the other side, the unfortunate, sad and intemperate reaction of the losers was swift. Led by their leader Governor Akpabio, the group behaving true to type, slammed the election as a sham foisting some incongruous if not comical reasons to justify their claim. They went a step further toward the cliff by purportedly forming a rival and illegitimate group with its chairperson and vice. And these are supposed to be leaders who profess to embrace democratic tenets.
A true leader who understands that defeats are part and parcel of the democratic process would have shown political maturity and wisdom by gracefully conceeding defeat, and pledging to work with the winner this time around to advance the overall cause of the people they represent.
This should have been the time for Governor Akpabio, President Jonathan and their group to engage in self introspection with a view to fixing the problems and fractures within the party, healing wounds and assuming a sober and humble disposition; not flailing all over the place and behaving as unrepentant, out of touch, bullies who must always have their way no matter what. If we must advance and deepen our democracy, our professed leaders must use every opportunity offered them to deepen that process. A conciliatory speech from Akpabio and his camp and a call to national unity from him following a bitter contest, would have not only elevated his political profile profoundly, but it would have served to cement even further our democracy with the opposition legitimizing election results, especially one that was as transparent, free and fair as this one and in emphasizing to all and sundry that the days of do or die politics are becoming a thing of the past. Somehow, this fundamental truth is lost to Akpabio and his camp that playing the game and respecting the rules of the game are far more important than winning or losing a particular contest.
For true leaders whose personal political aspirations and egos must take back seat during election losses, conceding defeat graciously signifies maturity and the true realization that some things (the democratic process and institutions) are by far greater and profoundly more important than personal ambitions and egos. A graceful concession speech by Governor Akpabio would have earned him much political capital for the future. It would have portrayed him as seasoned, patient, mature, sound, unselfish, and patriotic, among others. He would have reaped the dividends of these attributes if he so chooses at a later date.
He could have used this occasion to truly propell himself by translating this electoral defeat into a narrative of triumph by reinforcing popular sovereignty and democratic if not constitutional order. He should have seized the occasion to renew his party’s faith in the electoral process; its maturity to accept defeat graciously with a commitment toward future victory occasioned by deep self reflection and getting back to being in touch with the people. True leaders on both sides of the political divide, after occasions such as this, seek to restore each other through graciousness and face saving platitudes. They seek to reunify and renew commitments to values that transcend continued rivalry. By Akpabio spearheading the setting up of a rival group to further undermine Amaechi whose maturity and dexterity as a future national leader is rising by the day, is to further dim his own political fortunes, at least on the national stage. If his aspirations consist of only representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District in the Senate in perpetuity, he is probably doing a very fine job and he need not change his current political gamesmanship.
At some point, however, we would hope that our politicians will grow up and know that with their positions come responsibility; responsibility that transcends personal ambitions and ego; that they will weigh their actions and realize that whatever they do and decisions they reach cannot be about them but the general good and the values we hold as a people; that they will screen their actions with the reflexive of wisdom and circumspection; with an awareness of the overall benefits and drawbacks that their actions will have on the people they govern; that they will not allow matters of vital importance to the people and the country, to become mere games driven by selfishness and avenues to settle political differences or score political points. These must be opportunities to advance our country’s democracy and contribute to the social well-being of our people.
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