By Theophilus Ilevbare
It is as reckless as it is feckless for Governor Godswill Akpabio to fritter away with zing the patrimony of Akwa Ibom State on his political associates, friends and sycophants in a showy and flamboyant manner to massage an over bloated political ego. It is the height of profligacy.
The latest gaffe of the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum has seen him enmeshed in yet another round of controversy. He confessed on camera that he manipulated the election result of the 2007 PDP senatorial primary election in the state by single-handedly replacing the winner with the name of his preferred candidate. The video has since gone viral on the internet.
This is coming on the heels of the recent wave of criticism that has greeted his financial recklessness, making more headlines than his role as chief servant of the people of Akwa Ibom State. Just when folks where torn in two minds if the spendthrift governor was doling out private or state money, at a press conference recently, he erased any doubt as he owned up that his string of father Christmas donations have been from government coffers.
“Anything connected with my donation is captured within the law of the State.” Struggling to sound convincing, “The budget is the law and there have been provisions that allow for grants for donations and for hospitality as enshrined within the budget.”
As the custodian of the state treasury, one begins to wonder what constitute donations for hospitality to Mr. Akpabio. Is it hospitality to splash N230m of state funds as donation on behalf of the PDP Governors’ Forum, for the erection of an Anglican Church in Otuoke, the home town of President Jonathan?
For him to be subsequently berated by other PDP governors who said they were not carried along before the donation was made is a pointer to where the millions were drawn. That provisions were made in the law for donations and hospitality should not be an excuse for such jamboree. The constitution certainly does not empower the governor to frivol the commonwealth of Akwa Ibom State at will.
What better use should such grants be put if roads in Akwa Ibom, like the Eket–Ibeno road leading to the venue of Tuface Idibia and Annie Macaulay’s traditional wedding ceremony, was in deplorable condition. The governor had to apologise to guests at the event that when next they come visiting the road would have been rehabilitated. It is noteworthy, that youths of Eket sometime ago protested that the road be reconstructed.
The rudderless governor scandalized many, when he gifted the couple with two Toyota Prado SUVs, though the state government later issued a statement, claiming it was one. To underscore his infamy, he made a pledge to bankroll an all expenses paid trip for 20 delegates from the state who wished to attend the nuptial of the Idibias in far away Dubai.
The reveler that he is, present at a lavish party organised in honour of the couple, again, gifted the newlywed with N3m. He has since taken financial recklessness and extravagance with the people’s resources to an obscene level.
To Mr. Akpabio’s defence was his Commissioner for Information, Aniekan Umana, spewing inanities like his spendthrift boss: “Looking carefully at the surrounding events in perspective, Mrs. Annie Idibia, nee Macaulay, is a daughter of Akwa Ibom State and the gift of a Prado SUV from her governor is only a gesture of love and goodwill.
“Her resolve to stand by her husband on this journey right from his days of youthful beginnings to stardom even in the face of challenges was commendable and a true attribute of the Akwa Ibom women.”
From Umana’s perspective, governor Akpabio might now have to donate a Prado Jeep to every Akwa Ibom daughter who decides to put up with the escapades of her boyfriend or fiancée to justify Annie’s gift. Publicity Secretary, Oscar Onwudiwe of the South-South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN) rightly queried the rationale of the Commissioner when he said, “Will such largesse be extended to every newly-wed couple in the state and will that pass as the mean test for judicious management of limited resources?”
He further warned that, “The frugal management of state resources are indispensable values necessary for the actualisation of our development plan, so we appeal to the state governors not to trifle with these essential requirements”.
The PDP will have us believe that the chairman of its Governors’ Forum is being magnanimous, which they believe is a virtue. Truly, this is the kind of virtue that has existed at all levels of the party typified in the present Nigeria with all the symptoms of a failed state.
At every event Akpabio is present, he sees a window for frivolous gifting. Last year, the profligate governor gave a cash gift of N10m for a return leg win against Mali by the national Under-17 team, the Golden Eaglets, in an African Under-17 Championship qualifier in Calabar. Just for a win.
Nollywood were not left out behind as Mr. Akpabio instituted a N50 million endowment fund to honour exceptional actors and actresses in the industry.
The ungodly display of reckless wastefulness by Akwa Ibom State spender-in-chief, took a ridiculous twist at the South-South PDP reconciliation meeting in Port Harcourt where he embarrassed six state chairmen of the party with N6m for Mr. Biggs (for lunch), after describing them as “hungry.”
“My brother (Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan) said you people (PDP South-South members) are hungry, to take care of your hunger, I’m donating the sum of N1m each to the South-South secretariat of PDP and I would want each of the chairmen to come and collect the sum at the end of my speech so that members could use that to buy (lunch) at Mr. Biggs!” Governor Akpabio said, descending from the absurd to the jejune. It was a bovine display of financial rascality. Expectedly, Uduaghan, Amaechi and other PDP chieftains walked out on him while he was still speaking.
Recently, he took delivery, of two exotic bullet-proof sprinter luxury vans from US-based Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC) customized to his specifications, at about N300 million. Why should he feel so insecure among his kinsmen contrasting a reputation he projects with numerous ads on TV and papers showcasing his “excellent performance” in office, claiming Akwa Ibomites love him to pieces. The prodigal PDP Governors’ Forum Chairman, has since joined the elite league of private jet flying governors with his top of the range, $45 million Bombardier Global Jet.
His much publicised achievement is lightweight when compared with its monthly allocation, which is more than four times what some other states get from the federal allocation. This is aside internally generated revenue. In spite of this, salaries of civil servants in the state are often owed. Same goes for pensioners. The state has one of the country’s highest rate of unemployment, the reason its indigenes are scattered across the country settling for menial jobs. Key sectors of the economy are below par with what is obtainable in states without the oil revenue Akwa Ibom attracts.
Governor Akpabio must retrace his steps. It calls for serious concern from those connected to the state. It becomes more worrisome when the state house of assembly look the other way. The EFCC can’t come within touching distance of the governor either so long as he continues to harp President Jonathan’s 2015 ambition from the roof top.
The onus is now on the people of the state to call governor Akpabio to order.