Has Akpabio reached the end of the road on his dream of returning to the senate in 2023 or will he, in his usual character, fight back and secure the ticket of the APC to contest for the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district in the National Assembly?
In 2019, Akpabio was roundly defeated by the PDP candidate, Chris Ekpenyong. It was an uncommon and painful defeat for the former governor who, many saw as an unconquerable politician.
In fact, at a campaign ground in the state, where he announced his defection from the PDP to the APC, her had acted a comic drama, like a musician, when he danced to a freshly released political album, mocking the PDP and the governor, Udom Emmanuel.
Dancing to the reggae tunes with the lyrics interpreted to mean that people were crying in PDP as Akpabio pulls out, making Udom to cry profusely. But in the end, it was Akpabio himself that ended up crying when he was defeated graciously.
His APC could not win any of the elections conducted by INEC in 2019. But he was consoled with an appointment as minister of Niger Delta Affairs, a position he willingly left, to pursue his dream of becoming president.
But on the day of the APC primary, he withdrew for Bola Tinubu. However, a few days after, he pulled the rug off everybody’s feet and was to emerge candidate of the APC for the senate election, a development that INEC has now decided was an impossibility, as the commission did not monitor to primary election that produced him as candidate.
INEC’s spokesman, Mr Festus Okoye confirmed to TNN in a whatsapp chat, that the commission could not accept Akpabio as candidate. The commission urged him to approach the court for redress.
Since then, Akpabio has not responded to the latest position of INEC, which appears to have sealed his fate and ended the celebration by his supporters in the last few weeks.
In the press statement which Okoye admitted emanated from him, INEC said “the attention of the commission has been drawn to speculations circulating online on the outcome of some of the recent primaries conducted by political parties and related issues. In particular, allegations intended to impugn the integrity of the Commission have been made in respect of the Akwa Ibom North West and Yobe North Senatorial Districts.
“To set the record straight, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandates the Commission to monitor the organization and operation of political parties, including their finances, conventions, congresses and party primaries.
“In line with its constitutional and legal obligations, the Commission deployed monitors to the various constituencies and received reports of such exercises. In relation to the primaries for the Akwa Ibom North West, and Yobe North Senatorial Districts, the Commission stands by the monitoring reports received from our State offices.
“For this reason, the Commission did not publish the personal particulars of any candidate for the two constituencies at variance with the State reports. Right now, the Commission is funtus officio in the two cases. Aggrieved parties are at liberty to approach the Federal High Court and seek redress as provided in section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and sections 29(5) and 85(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
This is coming even as Senator Ita Enang has said that the decision by INEC and its commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, was in order. He said in an interview on national television monitored by INEC, that “INEC is right in what it is doing. Igini is right in his position because the elections are to be conducted under the Electoral Act.INEC is set up under the constitution to obey the law.
“We should not blame INEC, I made my letter to the national chairman, to His Excellency Mr. President, vice president, the secretary to government, the speaker, the senate president, and all the leaders of the party and the national chairman of INEC to intervene, to pressurize upon the national chairman and the leadership of the party, that they should forward the rightful nominated candidates of the party in the senatorial, House of Representatives and the house of assembly to INEC.
“The position I hold is that INEC is not our problem, it is our lawlessness, it is the APC members and now the thing has left the scene. I still plead with the chairman of the party and the national officers of the party, that look, there is result that has been forwarded, that was monitored by INEC, and it is there with INEC in their portal, in there record, and if you do not send, but INEC has sent the ones that are not there and it is not the business of INEC to bring up the ones that they know were validly elected in the primaries and put as your candidate, it is the law that where there are valid candidate, nominated in an election, and you refuse to send, it means that you have abandoned and withdrawn from that election and we are saying that please, the APC leadership, don’t do this to Akwa Ibom.”