Monday, 9 November 2009
Peace At Last?
Peace seems to have returned to Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as principal actors in the crisis agree to forgive one another
By Charles Effiong
For two years, animosity, antipathy, hostility and rancour has characterised the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Former governor of the state, Chief Victor Attah and his successor, Governor Godswill Akpabio engaged one another in a fierce battle over the control of the party's structure. Akpabio, until he declared interest to contest the state's governorship election in 2007, was a commissioner in Attah's government. Attah did not however support his candidature as he prefered his son in-law to succeed him.
The rift in their relationship became pronounced on February 28, 2008 during the state congress of the party at Ibom Hall in Uyo, the state capital. The congress was to elect the members of the party executive in the state. The chairmanship of the party was zoned to Uyo, Attah's senatorial zone. The former governor wanted the position to be conceded to him as was the case in 2005 when Otu Ita Otoyo became the state party chairman in reverence to the wish of former secretary to the government of the federation, SGF, Obong Ufot Ekaette. Attah had preferred Tony Umenyi but the PDP hierarchy conceded to Ekaette's demand since Otoyo is from his senatorial district. But at the state congress of the party in 2008, all members of the Uwem Ita Etuk led party executive were returned unopposed. This did not go down well with Attah who was absent at the congress because there were other contestants to the positions. A source told this magazine that the former governor does not care if Governor Akpabio produces every other exco member but not the state chairman. The former governor believes that as a member of the PDP board of trustees, BoT, the governor ought to have acceded to his request more so since there was precedence. Although the state deputy governor, Patrick Ekpotu is Attah's candidate, a source revealed that the deputy governor's loyalty tilts more to the governor than his benefactor.
Several attempts made to calm the frayed nerves have not yielded any positive result. It later became a media war as both sides bought pages in the papers to castigate the other. At a point, the Ita Etuk led PDP state executive announced the suspension of the former governor from the party because he was not attending the meetings of the party.
After two unsuccessful attempts to reconcile the feuding factions by the party's national leadership, the third reconciliation committee led by Ike Nwachukwu, a former senator visited the state on October 20. This time, the mediation seemed to have had some effect. Based on the recommendation of the committee, Governor Akpabio and the 23-member state executive of the party went to the former governor's country home to apologise to him. Akpabio who pleaded for forgiveness of his predecessor “for what I have done and what I have failed to do and, on behalf of the entire party, plead for your forgiveness,” said he accepted the verdict of the reconciliation committee and promised to make amends. The state chairman of PDP, Ita Etuk, also asked for Attah's forgiveness as he recited the Lord's Prayer. Other members from the state executive also knelt down for minutes pleading for the former governor's forgiveness. Senator Nwachukwu condemned the action of the party executive for attempting to suspend a board of trustee member thereby attempting to bring the name of the party to “public odium.” Attah however, said he has forgiven everyone who has offended him but would still want the chairmanship position to be conceded to him. He said he was suspended for not attending the party meetings whereas no invitation was extended to him. The former governor who addressed his supporters later told them the accord he entered with the reconciliation in Abuja was that Ita Etuk should resign as the party chairman because the manner he was elected was defective. “I have no problem with my governor. But PDP has a charter. Whether by consensus or election, Uwem Ita Etuk should have been elected properly. Most of the stakeholders from Uyo senatorial district were not present when he was made the chairman. John Udoedeghe, who was at that time a serving minister was not there nor Rita Akpan and General Edet Akpan (rtd)”, Attah stated.
Other members of the Nwachukwu reconciliatory committee include Governor Dajuma Goje of Gombe State, Professor Jerry Gana, and James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State.