There were indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in serious talks with the Minority Leader in the Senate, ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio; a move that has unsettled the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
Akpabio might defect to the APC any moment from now once the “terms” are wrapped up, THE NATION learnt yesterday.
The APC is upbeat about the prospect, which analysts believe will be a major political mileage for President Muhammadu Buhari in the South-South.
A PDP top notch said last night that the party has been appealing to the ex-governor not to defect “but we cannot please him and then displease the governor of the state, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, who is the PDP leader in the state.”
There is no love lost between Akpabio and Emmanuel. Emmanuel was practically made governor by Akpabio in 2015.
It was learnt that Akpabio had made up his mind to defect on July 24 but was not recognised the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who got wind of his move, to make his intention public.
Notwithstanding, Akpabio showed signs of his departure from the PDP on Thursday when he boycotted the special meeting of the National Executive Committee of the PDP held to welcome defectors including Saraki and governors Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Samuel Ortom of Benue state, among others.
A top APC source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “The APC and some of our leaders are in serious talks with Akpabio, who is rated as a matchmaker in the South-South.
“The talks border on more deals for the South-South, especially increase in derivation formula; enhanced infrastructure for oil producing areas; how to sustain the ongoing reforms by President Muhammadu Buhari; and arresting the developmental slide in Akwa Ibom State.
“The former governor said his likely defection to APC is informed more by patriotism than selfish interest.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The terms are still being worked out, but APC is favourably disposed to Akpabio’s defection.
“The ex-governor has an open mind, he has no airs and he does not pretend in asking for a better nation which he thinks Buhari can offer.
“In fact, it was part of the talks that made him visit Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday when the PDP national EXCO was meeting in Abuja.
“We will no doubt accept him into APC. This is a major development from the South-South.”
Findings, however, confirmed that top PDP leaders, including the National Working Committee of the opposition party, has been jittery in the past few weeks.
A member of the National Executive Committee of PDP said: “I think Akpabio has irreconcilable differences with Governor Udom Emmanuel and our leaders stepped into the matter and initiated reconciliation.
“If at the end he is defecting, we are suspecting that he wants to join the APC to settle scores with Emmanuel in 2019. The two leaders have been managing themselves, but Akpabio seems unhappy with the governor.
“We felt that defection is not an ideal option for Akpabio. Maybe he has another agenda.”
A member of the NWC said: “By the policy of our party, Governor Emmanuel cannot be denied the right of first refusal for the PDP gubernatorial ticket in 2019. We cannot abandon him to please Akpabio.
“You can see that as soon as Governor Samuel Ortom defected, he was automatically made the leader of PDP in Benue State.
“The power equation in PDP at present in Akwa Ibom State does not favour Akpabio. He is bound to be embittered.
“Some of our leaders have been comparing notes and there is this suspicion that Akpabio might defect because of multiple cases he has with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The sad aspect is that the Senate Minority Leader does not share his position with anyone.
“At one of our meetings during the week, we all noticed that Akpabio was not vibrant and articulate in his speech. He spoke like a despondent leader who is fed up with PDP.
“Our fears were confirmed when he boycotted the NEC meeting on Thursday. He said he was travelling abroad, only for us to see him at the Villa with VP Osinbajo.
“Earlier, we learnt that he had wanted to defect to APC on the floor of the Senate on July 24, but the President of the Senate, Dr. Saraki, who got intelligence report, did not allow him to have his way. “
Saraki also did not read the letters of defection of some PDP Senators to APC before he adjourned the sitting to September; a development APC senators saw as a clear abuse of his position as Senate President.