Ini Okopido, the real problem of A’Ibom APC
By UbongAbasi Ise
The APC faithful all over the state were like strangers in their own land on Wednesday May 29, 2019, when Mr. Udom Emmanuel was sworn-in for the second time as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. To some, Godswill Akpabio International Stadium was just a ‘no-go’ area.
The party sympathizers in the state were mere onlookers or simply overlooking the whole event, not without pang of envy or regrets. They could have been the ones celebrating a governor sworn in from their own political stock, after all, they had all the indicators of victory that were going positive for them, ranging from massive support base, cerebral politicians, sophisticated elites, resources, and so-called federal might. Besides, there was a nonperforming incumbent government that was selling campaign points to the opposition.
All that was lacking within the APC was the right leadership that could have mobilized its members to defend their votes at all the levels of collation. At the end, the party helplessly missed out in the pomp and glamour of the swearing-in ceremony. All the APC supporters could now do is to be redirecting their hopes to the tribunals, wishing the final rulings would undo all the nightmares. No thanks Mr. Ini Okopido, the state party chairman, for this setback.
Yours truly was a witness when Mr. Ini Okopido was swearing-in the state executive council of the APC at Sheergrace Arena in Uyo on 20th May, 2018. It was a drizzling night; Okopido stated categorically that his most important mission as a new party chairman was to produce an APC governor at the Hilltop Mansion.
He was hinting that he had assured the then national party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun that Akwa Ibom would be snatched from the clutches of PDP by 2019. With all fairness, Ini Okopido was speaking with all the enthusiasm and fibre of a true radical progressive who wouldn’t want to be continuing in the regurgitations of old ideas and practices.
The tinge of pragmatism he showed, and confidence he exuded, seemed to flash a ray of hope for the change-oriented citizens that sought a break from the stagnated status quo. Ironically, as event unfolded towards the general elections, the sharp radical edge of a typical opposition party became gradually blunted under the watch of Ini Okopido, and thereafter all roads lead to the tribunal.
A handful of things need to be carefully said here. Yes! Okopido had vowed to deliver Akwa Ibom for the APC. But after the promise, what happened? What abracadabra did Ini Okopido really enacted in a bid to conquer the Hilltop Mansion for APC when he practically uses his office to cannibalize all other positions in the state exco, starving the officials of funds and necessary resources that could have helped them perform their oversight functions? Where would the elected staff of the party derive their morale from, when their Chairman leaves them unpaid for over eight months despite cash flowing into the party in the heat of the campaigns?
Under okopido’s administration, for instance, the publicity secretariat is allegedly left with a paltry N150,000 as imprest for over a year as at May 2019, whereas during Dr. Amadu Attai’s era, the same secretariat is said to have been enjoying the monthly imprest of N400,000, supported with press staff and radio retainership programme allowances with total amounting to about N700,000. During the electioneering season, the APC media wing would have failed woefully if not for some individuals that were passionate for progressive change and total liberation of Akwa Ibom State from the chains of official propaganda. Okopido was alleged to have discreetly managing his own ineffective media wing, cornering millions of naira in this regards, while bulk of the publicity job was taking care of itself and was none of Okopido’s own business.
Again, Okopido has not noticed that the gap he excavated to demarcate his exalted office from the reach of the common followers seems too wide. Or has he forgotten that people are the raw material of politics? And how could a chairman of the party that wants to win the state carry on with the habit of barring people from having access to him? Is this how to win by playing ostrich? How could the followers keep faith in a cause when their leader is not communicating hope and motivation to them? Some APC faithful who did not want to be mentioned were alleging that why the support for the APC in the state is losing steam is simply because of the imperious attitude of Ini Okopido.
He should have known that autocratic leadership style is no longer fashionable in a public space, especially in the political party where a leaders needs to be feeding the led with energizing ideologies. Recently, a group of party ward chairmen were said to be paying Okopido a visit after several attempt to see him in the office failed. They wanted to see him and to discuss a way of resolving the schismatic tension and reviving the soul of the party. As was alleged, Okopido barred them. Similar thing happened to The Sensor Newspaper team led by its Managing Editor.
After the appointment was fixed with the APC state chairman as facilitated by one of his aides, Okopido unceremoniously dismissed the media team at his residence, after they had waited for about five hours for him. He could have used the opportunity to enliven the hopes of the teeming supporters as the day of the swearing in ceremony then, was around the corner. He could have used the chance to react to most of the allegations of certain infractions levied against him, which altogether pointed to the fact that he was the reason the APC and its candidates in the state are miserably entrapped in the present predicament. It was later confirmed by undisclosed source in the party that it is the usual habit of Okopido to treat members of the press with disdain, unless there is something he has to gain from meeting them. How bad!
The way a political party conducts its internal affairs is the exact way it will run governance when given a chance. With Ini Okopido, the party seems very concerned about the future of the party if given a chance to take over the state. There was a time the State Working Committee of the party was allegedly reprimanding Ini Okopido, and he promised to turn a new leaf. He was reminded that the APC has no tolerance for opaque and underhand practices. But the chairman remained impervious and it became clear that a tiger cannot change its own dots. One point to note is that a party that wants to effect positive change should not, in the first place, sit back and watch itself being contaminated in the hands of an administrator that has no single regard for accountability, transparency and openness.
Upon all the pressures, Okopido has not given account on how the party is run since he assumed leadership of the party in May 2018 according to undisclosed source in the party. But why is the party that promises a new way of governance condones all these impunities perpetrated by one man? If the APC does not want to lose its direction, it is time for the ward executives to come together and revive the soul of the party, even if it takes to rid the system of Okopido, because the party’s aspiration is bigger than an individual. The party may not make any progress in any given elections if it does not solve its fundamental problem forthwith, and that is to unsaddle Ini Okopido with his present responsibility at the party. Period.
Today, Akwa Ibom APC supporters are like orphans. The PDP-led state government has been discriminating against them in their own land, and Ini Okopido’s leadership on the other hand has not communicated any hope to them. They seem to lose all they had won in the just concluded elections. Now all their hopes lie at the distance, when will they ever reach them?
UbongAbasi Ise is with the Sensor newspaper and can be reached via 08189914609 or [email protected]