Chief Paulinus Akpeki, former member, Federal House of Representatives, former Chief of Staff, Government House, Commissioner of various potfolios in Delta State cabinet and ersthwhile frontline member and Director General of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Campaign Organization in Delta State, has finally dumped the PDP and joined the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The decamping of Chief Akpeki to the APC, which had been widely speculated since after May 29, when the Okowa administration assumed office, was finally accomplished on Saturday October 3, 2015, when he led an impressive high calibre team of former commissioners, government officials and politicians, out of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and into the waiting arms of APC in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
Notable names that joined Chief Akpeki in decamping to the APC include Barr. Misan Ukubeyinje, a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly and Commissioner for Agriculture, Ebifa Ijomah, former Commissioner for Youths, both under the immediate past Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan administration and Hon. Jaro Egbo, one of the major co-ordinators of the Tony Obuh for Governor campaign organization.
They were also joined by Dr. John Ogheneovo Akwara, another PDP chieftain, who said he came to the venue of the press briefing as a mark of solidarity with Akpeki, because he shared the view that “things can’t continue as they are; but we must follow the wind of change blowing across the nation.”
In a colourful ceremony, heralded by the generous waving of brooms, the APC symbol, Chief Akpeki, popularly known as Ugo (white Eagle), explained that with the APC in charge of the federal government, it was proper for him to pitch tent with the ruling party at the centre instead of being in the opposition which, he insisted, would not do the state any good.
According to him, his decision to switch camps was borne out of a personal conviction that there was the dire need to be freed from the iron grip of the emerging PDP structure, which was threatening to turn the state to a ‘personal fiefdom’.
He told his new party faithful, that his association with the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, which dated back to Bendel State where he had already been pencilled down on the governorship ticket as his running mate in 1991, before the separation of the states into Edo and Delta States by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, had also been a major motivation for his decision to join the APC.
Akpeki and the other decampees, who were received warmly by APC chieftains in the state including the state chairman, Prophet Jones Erue, Chief Ayiri Emami, and a host of others, said that he did not want the situation that befell former two-time governor of erstwhile Bendel State, Dr. Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, whom he described as his hero, and who had lamented that his greatest regret was not quitting the party at the right time, to fall upon him, and that was why he would rather leave the PDP now instead of waiting until it was too late, adding that there was no longer any reason to remain in a place where they were no longer wanted nor appreciated.
Akpeki, who described the event as, “merely a harbinger of the unstoppable gale of mass defection from PDP to APC, which will be witnessed in Delta State very soon,” said that what he called “a harvest of political heavyweights” by the APC in Delta State would crystalize soon with a major political rally billed for his home base of Sapele.
In his welcome address, the state party chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prophet Jones Ode Erue, said the party will stop at nothing until it displaces the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the dominant party in the state just as it happened at the centre.
Prophet Erue who waxed biblical while receiving the new defectors, said that on the speculated defection of former Governor Uduaghan to the APC, the party believed that since the biblical John the Baptist could not initially identify who “The Christ” was, he too could not tell who the expected “political Christ” bound for the APC platform was until he appears on the scene.
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Ayiri Emami, an Itsekiri chief who holds the traditional title of Akulagba of Warri Kingdom, noted that the task to build APC into a powerful political structure was no mean one, said that Delta State was too important to be allowed to belong to the opposition camp.
He said numerous PDP leaders across the 25 local government areas of the state were warming to dump the party for the APC but were only bidding their time until the expected time to go public with the mass defection plans.
The highpoint of the event was the presentation of the symbolic broom of the APC to Akpeki on behalf of all the defecting PDP leaders even as Erue assured that individual brooms would be given to all the new members during the expected rally of the party to receive them.
Deltans would recall that Chief Paulinus Akpeki’s name had featured with some frequency as a possible governorship aspirant in the run up to the 2014 PDP Governorship primaries, at a time when near restive uncertainty had clouded the choice of who exactly the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan would eventually throw his weight behind as his successor.
Chief Akpeki, who had been a very vocal advocate of the argument for the emergence of a competent and acceptable PDP governorship candidate, as against the alternative agenda that strongly favoured the zoning of the governorship to an Anioma candidate in fulfillment of equity and balance in the power equation in the state, had been mentioned alongside big names like Prof. Amos Utuama, former deputy governor and others, as aspirants from Delta Central, until a dramatic and orchestrated straw poll had eventually selected a relatively unknown David Edevbie, in the very last days before the primaries, as the choice of the Urhobos in the PDP.
Akpeki’s position on the zoning of the governorship to Anioma had been given further credibility with the emergence of over half a dozen very serious and capable aspirants from Delta North, who not only refused to step down for a consensus candidate or embrace an arrangement for a mock selection process, but equally rejected the short list contrived by a socio/political pressure group and proceded to rubbish that selection process, when several other divergent lists emerged.
The disastrous and monumental collapse of the Uduaghan sponsored Tony Obuh for Governor project, from game-changer to game-abandoned, coupled with Uduaghan’s own ill-fated attempt to wrest the Delta South Senatorial ticket from incumbent Senator James Manager, in a contest that acrimoniously heated up the polity dangerously, eventually contributed considerably to the hard earned but well deserved victory of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa at the PDP primaries in December 2014, which in turn led to a re-appraisal of the political affiliations in the PDP.
Chief Akpeki himself, would affirm in a widely reported interview in January 2015, before the general elections, that he had no intention of decamping from the PDP as being speculated by some persons in Sapele Local Government Area of the state, descrbing the speculations as “the hand work of disgruntled persons with the aim of tarnishing my reputation in the state.”
According to him, it was Chief Felix Anirah, a former PDP Chairman in the Council, who contested the PDP primaries with the majority leader of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Monday Igbuya that had decamped to the APC to pick their House of Assembly ticket and run against Igbuya in the April 11 State House of Assembly elections.
Chief Akpeki had then fingered Hon. Monday Igbuya, in that interview, as the source of the rumours and disclosed that it was regrettable that Igbuya and his cohorts, out of fear of losing the election, had gone to town with such mis-information and started fabricating stories with his name.
“I will never decamp to APC or any other party. I must deliver Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the governorship candidate of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan in the forth coming elections. I can never decamp from the PDP,” the Ugo had stated emphatically.
However, with the comprehensive victory of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa at the April 11, 2015 governorship elections and the continuation of the PDP as the ruling party in the state, a clear and definitive pattern has emerged, with the systematic and deliberate recognition, elevation and repositioning of the old guard of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP structure in the state, by the Okowa administration, which appears quite intriguingly, to have reflected a seeming streamlining of a majority of the Uduaghan faithful into some kind of administrative limbo and political irrelevance in the emerging landscape in the state.
The precarious nature of the political dilemma confronting Chief Akpeki and some other key Uduaghan loyalists, is further compounded by the emergence of General Buhari of the APC as the President, which has automatically closed the door to Abuja as an alternative political haven and things came to a head for Chief Akpeki in particular, when he recently became embroiled in a media war with Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, who had eventually emerged as the Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly after the general elections.
In a no holds barred interview granted to selected newsmen recently and titled ‘Why Okowa paid N400m for Sapele Market’, Chief Akpeki had gone to great lengths to explain the role of the Uduaghan administration and himself in particular had played in the saga that had bedevilled the Sapele modern market and had in the process made very telling and caustic remarks about the less than complimentary role of Hon. Monday Igbuya in the process, casting aspersions on what has been interpreted by those who read the interview as the Speaker’s loyalty to the Okowa administration.
See Interview. “WHY OKOWA PAID N400M FOR SAPELE MARKET—Akpeki” http://www.flashpointnews.wordpress.com
But Rt. Hon Monday Igbuya had promptly and swiftly responded to the attacks on his personality and motives, in a press statement issued on his behalf by his media aide, Mr. Henry Ebireri, where he not only described Chief Akpeki variously, as “a fool, a political prostitute, foreigner and a highly irresponsible person, but also a curse to the state, particularly Sapele Local Government, whose only notable achievement was to appoint married and unmarried women with big arse from across the Niger as personal assistants and special assistants, when he was in government”.
Rt. Hon Monday Igbuya had also stated categorically that Chief Akpeki was decamping to the All Progressives Congressives and his decamping was a good riddance to bad rubbish, especially to the good people of Sapele who would only be too glad to see the back of him as member of the PDP.
See Press Statement. “AKPEKI IS A CURSE TO DELTA STATE – Igbuya” http://www.flashpointnews.wordpress.com
Less than three weeks after the battle line was drawn between the two men, Chief Paulinus Akpeki finally decamped to the APC thus laying to rest, the speculations surrounding his political future, at least in this present dispensation.
It is also instructive to note that those who decamped with him were seen to be very dyed-in-the-wool loyalists of former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the speculation on the streets of Delta is that there will be a gradual shifting to the APC by stalwarts of the immediate past administration and very soon more names will join as fore runners to prepare the ground for the ultimate defection of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in the not too distant future.
Delta political watchers have drawn strong parellels between what is happening in the PDP in Delta State to what happened to the PDP at the national level, when party chieftains loyal to the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, gradually moved into the same All Progressives Congress, APC, until the nPDP emerged as a splinter group that subsequently merged with the other groups in the APC and eventually toppled the PDP from power at the national level after 16 years on March 28, 2015 and took control of the Presidency, on May 29, 2015.