The All Progressives Congress (APC) has welcomed Senator Godswill Akpabio with open arms and political analysts believe the defection could make the Senator to evade corruption trial, raising questions about President Buhari’s anti-corruption war, JESUSEGUN ALAGBE writes.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, who has a pending case before the EFCC following allegations of stealing over N100bn from the coffers of his State when he was the governor, has defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Unsurprisingly, the senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District, Godswill Akpabio, on Tuesday resigned from his position as the Senate Minority Leader. A day later, he defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress.
Maybe, a lot drama had surrounded his move to defect from the opposition PDP to the ruling APC, amid the senator’s romance with key members of the opposition party and political leaders.
Akpabio had met with Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo at the Aso Rock Villa last Thursday, accompanied by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang.
While the meeting was on, the 81st meeting of the PDP National Executive Council was holding at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
Then, on Sunday, Akpabio showed up in London to visit Buhari, who’s on a 10-day furlough.
Reacting to the Akpabio’s visit to Buhari, the People’s Democratic Party expressed shock, saying Akpabio had told members of the party’s National Working Committee he was travelling to Germany.
“The former Akwa Ibom State governor told us he was going to Germany, but if he ended up in London, maybe he had a technical stopover,” the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated.
However, by Monday, the senator was back in the country to pay a visit to Bola Tinubu.
The visit was mentioned to be a part of the last-minute consultations on his deliberate defection to the APC.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had earlier accused the APC of wooing its prime members with cash and political opportunities.
“Nigerians can now see the shameless hypocrisy of the All Progressives Congress, which is now going about, cap in hand, to beg the same individuals it taunted as corrupt and evil, seeing that it has been overrun by the tides,” Ologbondiyan had stated.
“Having failed to cow such individuals via threats, media trials, trumped-up charges and raw violence, the All Progressives Congress is now seeking to ensnare them with promises of political opportunities it no longer has control over,” he added.
Akpabio’s defection came under the heel of gale of defections of key members of the APC, including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki & Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, to the PDP.
Akpabio’s defection appeared like a relief to the leadership of the APC-led Federal Government which had apparently been apprehensive by the mass defection of its key chieftains to the PDP.
Though the former Akpabio has attributed his defection to what he referred to as President Buhari’s patriotism and integrity, media stories have linked his defection to pressure from the APC-led Federal Government over his case with the EFCC, as well as the disagreement between him and his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The anti-corruption agency is currently seeking court approval to resume its investigation of Akpabio over allegations that he stole over N100bn from the coffers of the oil-rich state while he was the governor.
Operatives of the Division of State Companies had in September 2015 stormed the Akwa Ibom State Authorities Home and reportedly confiscated arms and thousands and thousands of .
Weeks later, the EFCC began investigating Akpabio and Senator Bassey Akpan, who was the Commissioner for Finance when Akpabio was governor.
The EFCC wrote letters to Zenith Bank Plc, Keystone Bank, First City Monument Bank, Skye Bank Plc, and the United Bank for Africa demanding data on the state’s accounts amid the investigation.
The anti-graft agency additionally extended its investigation to the accountant-general, the auditor-general, the Speaker and the clerk of the state House of Assembly.
The Akwa Ibom State Government later described the EFCC’s probe as a witch-hunt, dragged the commission to court and obtained an interim injunction, restraining the EFCC and other Federal Government agencies from probing the funds of the state government, but this was temporary as the judge lifted the injunction months later, paving the way for full investigations.
The matter was taken to the Appeal Court, where it has remained for over a 12 months.
Nonetheless, political commentators believe the former Akwa Ibom State governor’s defection could possibly be attributed more to the alleged pressure from the APC-led government over his case with the EFCC.
The Reformed-APC had Sunday accused the APC-led Federal Government of wooing PDP lawmakers who’re still having cases before the EFCC, promising them a clear bill of health before the anti-graft agency.
A commentator and President of the Nigeria Youths Know, Mr. Emmanuel Olaosebikan, believed Akpabio wouldn’t have defected to the APC if he wasn’t “afraid of something.”
“I’ve been following Akpabio for a while and I feel he’s positively afraid of something. It’s possible it’s true that the APC wants to unleash the EFCC on him should he refuse to ‘cooperate’ and defect,” Olaosebikan said.
Previously, the PDP had alleged that Akpabio was being blackmailed by the APC-led Federal Government due to his case at the EFCC.
A top source in the party had additionally told Saturday PUNCH last Friday that Akpabio was contemplating leaving the PDP as a result of the ruling party was threatening to use the EFCC against him if he didn’t defect.
“What is occurring is that the APC has threatened to take care of him, utilizing the EFCC and he doesn’t need that in any respect.
“Though we’re all pleading with him to not go away the PDP, however he’s afraid. He doesn’t need to be within the EFCC’s web in any respect. He’s actually underneath stress however we hope that he would hearken to us,” the supply had mentioned.
Nonetheless, Akpabio on Wednesday in Ikot Ekpene claimed that the “younger man” who wrote petition towards him to the EFCC couldn’t show his case, including that this was why the EFCC was unable to cost him to court docket.
However the EFCC, in its response to media enquiries, on Thursday mentioned the senator nonetheless had a case earlier than it.
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Contemplating the Federal Authorities’s previous, an Uyo-based political analyst, Mr. Joseph Akpan, instructed our correspondent through phone that it wasn’t inconceivable that Akpabio was coerced by the APC to hitch the occasion, amongst different causes.
He mentioned, “Right here in Akwa Ibom State, it’s stunning that Akpabio would ever contemplate dumping the PDP for the APC. It’s not that it’s completely unusual as a result of no state of affairs is everlasting in life, however contemplating his affect within the occasion right here, it’s shocking he would need to go away a celebration he has a grip of for the APC.
“It could possibly be true that the APC needed him by all means, by providing him sure ‘items.’ He has been accused of mismanaging the state funds to the tune of N108bn.
“Making an allowance for that the APC has all the time thought to be ‘saints’ these with corruption circumstances that be a part of the occasion, Akpabio is probably not an exception. His ‘sins’ could quickly be forgotten as he has joined the APC.
“His defection will surely alter quite a bit within the political panorama right here. Little question about it, he has a giant following within the state. He virtually single-handedly put in the present state governor, Udom Emmanuel, and made the PDP to win nearly all of the legislative seats within the state Home of Meeting.”
An Abuja-based improvement economist and political commentator, Dr. Juliana Ogunyinka, opined that if President Buhari was main a real anti-corruption warfare, he wouldn’t have been permitting politicians with pending circumstances earlier than the anti-corruption company to defect to his occasion.
She cited the instance of a former Minister of Defence, Senator Musliu Obanikoro, who was allegedly concerned within the diversion of N4.7bn from the imprest account of the Workplace of the Nationwide Safety Adviser in 2014.
Obanikoro defected to the APC in November 2017 and nothing has since been heard of his corruption case with the EFCC anymore.
Nonetheless, Ogunyinka famous that as quickly because the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, defected from the APC to the PDP, the EFCC “rapidly” resumed investigation into allegations of corruption towards him.
Barely 5 days after his defection from the ruling occasion, the EFCC mentioned the governor was being investigated of a N22bn fraud.
“One then wonders what the fuss concerning the anti-corruption warfare is all about,” Ogunyinka mentioned.
“It’s not an anti-corruption warfare that this authorities is preventing; why is it that whenever you be a part of the APC, your corruption circumstances are swept underneath the carpet, however if you find yourself within the opposition, you’re haunted.
“Have a look at the Ortom situation, the place was the EFCC all of the whereas the governor was within the APC? Why didn’t we hear something about his case? However as quickly as he defected, the EFCC then remembered the governor had a case to reply concerning his safety vote.
“Whereas I’m not saying the anti-graft company shouldn’t examine any governor or senator, particularly as we all know that lots of them are certainly corrupt, what I’m canvassing is that it shouldn’t be a selective anti-corruption warfare, which is why I liked Ortom’s response to the EFCC.”
After the anti-graft company mentioned it was investigating the governor for alleged N22bn fraud, he had urged it to start the probe of President Buhari’s safety vote.
Ortom had requested a collection of questions, “Why am I being investigated by the EFCC? My information are there. However thus far, I’m the one governor in Nigeria whose safety vote is being investigated by the EFCC.
“How will you single me out of 36 (governors) for investigation? It (safety vote) shouldn’t be one thing that any authorities will start to reveal. Why ought to Benue’s case be totally different if not persecution? If the EFCC needed a real investigation of safety vote spending, they need to have began from the Presidency and throughout the 36 states.”