By: Israel Umoh
The congregation sang and danced jubilantly. And the guests joined in thanking God supposedly for His blessings and for ushering them into a new month- March. But, the birthday anniversary of a Nigerian Senator was still loading. The pastor preached and offerings and other collections were taken.
And the ambience was set for speeches. The speech by the celebrator, Akon Eyakenyi representing Akwa Ibom South in Nigerian Senate during her 60th birthday bash at Destiny International Mission, Uyo, did not cause a stir. But, Udom Emmanuel’s speech set the church aglow. The congregants might have forgotten the day’s sermon, yet they, like memory verse, recollected the governor’s speech which instantly made news, and kept the Christendom and the political class talking and thinking aloud.
Emmanuel, a deacon of United Evangelical Church (founded as Qua Iboe Church, as some say), watched the congregation steadily. As a student of politics, he soliloquized the song of his estranged political godfather: ‘what do you know, I know Aristotle, a great teacher who taught Alexander.’ The banker-turned politician knew that any platform is for a politician to preach the “gospel.” Of course, Destiny International Mission founded by Archbishop Cletus Bassey, the state chairman of Akwa Ibom Christian Assembly that threw weight behind the re-election of Udom, was fit for the speech.
The governor adjusted his gold-rimmed lens and gazed at the congregation. He talked smoothly but lifted the tone of his speech. “I don’t have the power to anoint anybody, but my prayer is, God whoever you want to succeed me reveal the person to me so that I don’t waste my time on somebody that will not be. Let God show me who to queue behind. I am a mere mortal and I think God will do that,” the governor declared. The church exploded in thunderous applause.
In September 2019, Emmanuel equally echoed that he would not impose a candidate on the state in 2023. Emmanuel said he has no plans to continue as Governor of Akwa Ibom State for a third term, using a surrogate as a successor.
While interacting with members of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, a foremost socio-cultural organisation of Ibibio youths, who paid him a visit to celebrate his victory at the Governorship Petitions Tribunal, Emmanuel said: “I hear people say I have anointed someone, who will take over from me so that I can manipulate the person to do my biddings after leaving office, I want to assure you that it is not true.
“It is only God, who knows who my successor will be. When He presents him, we will support him to also succeed…”
However, Senator Godswill Akpabio speaking with BBC correspondent in Abuja in 2018 denied he was a kingmaker: “If anyone wants to say that I am a godfather I want to disagree with them.
“The only time you could say I played a godfather-like role was in 2015. I nominated the current governor [of Akwa Ibom] and when I presented him to the people they supported him,” he told the BBC.
The use of words “I don’t have the power to anoint anybody” and “If anyone wants to say that I am a godfather I want to disagree with them” is mere semantics. Why does a man who has a knife and a tuber of yam, pretends that he is unable to slice the yam?
In earnest, who among Nigerian governors want to play second fiddle in producing persons to succeed them? Must God minister to Nigerian governors (since they are the ones bent on producing successors) in a democratic (not theocratic) dispensation of the names of their successors? Are there no other channels God must use to confirm the message to the electorate? If Akpabio played a godfather-like role in the emergence of Udom, will Udom become a siddon-look governor? Will Udomitizers or his faithful disciples not coerce him to show interest or take an active part in the person to succeed him lest the coveted position will claw into the hands of his political foe?
Already, it is rumoured that at a recent meeting between Governor Udom Emmanuel and fathers of faith in the state, the governor reportedly appealed to the clergymen to support his desire not to hand over the state to a cultist by the time he would leave office in 2023.
By this, the governor has spelt out one of the criteria of the governor-to-be. Why didn’t’ he wait for God to do his bidding? Is this not a permissive will- telling God what you want before you ask Him what to do?
Incidentally, Akwa Ibom is acknowledged as God’s own state. Let a fake pastor tell a naive woman “Thus says the Lord ‘your husband of 30 years is a wizard, leave him and marry me. Or, let us go to a stream in the night for me to bathe you for you to have a child.” She believes without telling the pastor that God is alive and will minister to her too for confirmation. Or, let the pastor tell a member of his church to surrender his only car to him. Many a man will do without questioning. It is not that God does not speak people, the issue is that fake pastors have mastered the trick and devised means to defraud some people in the name of God.
Akwa Ibom like the US is baited by the use of God as a political stunt. In both, Christianity triggers sentiments and evokes quick emotional attachment. For instance, in the thick of party conflict in 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a private letter, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” This was the empathy enabler and attention seeker. In every election in the state, all manner of voters from Evangelicals, Pentecostals to Charismatics to flood the political space because of God’s factor. The same interest is replicated in Akwa Ibom because of its nexus to God.
With this, some politicians can use the hoax to outwit some gullible in the name of God. They do not fear God but see Him as a merciful Father who does not quickly kill sinners including liars. Some politicians know that some voters are carried away by the façade: ‘God says.’ Where these tactics fail, they devise another. A story is told of how a politician of note in the 60s packed electricity poles and tonnes of sharp sand to a community to woo electorate to vote for him. As soon as the election was over and he won, he dispatched some hirelings who packed and returned the items to him. He was the main beneficiary. Nothing is new. Some politicians have a penchant for seeing white but telling you that it is black or seeing black and telling you that it is white. In short, they tell the electorate what they feel they should hear and not what they believe.
In fact, Udom is no longer learning the rope of politics but has a mastery of it. He understands the chemistry of Akwa Ibom people. Akwa Ibom State is basically a Faith-based state and Christianity is a predominant religion. So, he tacitly rebrands his campaign strategy after God. In the 2019 governorship election, he used Only God as a catchphrase and most people fell prey. Having succeeded in round one, he is busily telling the people (those who believe) that God will tell him his successor. Many a person believes him. This is round two. Emmanuel’s political philosophy- his unique selling point in Akwa Ibom politics- is God-centric. Na God dey win!
Despite the stunning revelation by Mike Igini, the state commissioner for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that votes were allocated to governors in the 2015 and 2019 general elections, yet some people are still cowed to believe that the elections were credible, free and fair.
As Ubong Etetor wrote in a blog “Akwa Ibom deserves a leader who fears God, serves Him and clothes himself with no other god but the one and only God who made Heaven and earth; the one that Governor Emmanuel has reverenced with unflinching devotion since coming onboard as governor of the state.” The message as pedantic as it is has many clicks, likes together with huge followership.
Udom’s strength lies in the fact that he has taken time to study and understand the people who are worth and can pull out N1 billion during an election. He knows the principled and flexing politicians. Play makossa song and sing ama otuk eyen PDP, nkpo ayanam (If you touch PDP son, you will be hurt), the flexing or floor (?) members (who are in majority) will occupy every available space. He knows when to pull out money and when to keep it for an appropriate time. He knows when to give directive and the message is expressly carried out by his cronies. So, he is not afraid of Ebola-like politics.
Though some governors’ plan is to hand over power to the persons they trust and who can shield or cover up their misdeeds while in the office, succession deprives citizens the right to elect governors of their choice, instills political rivalry between the political godfathers and the godsons thus stifling meaningful development and engenders infighting and bitterness between the political gladiators and the ruled.
As Akwa Ibom proverb goes, it is not a difficult thing for the lame to eat enough food but how he will be able to strut to defecate it is the main problem. Governors enthroning their successors is not a problem, but them contending with the dire consequences of such action is the main headache.
Ask Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki of Edo; Orji Uzo Kalu and Theodore Orji of Abia; Godswill Akpabio and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; Abdullahi Ganduje and Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano as well as Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki and the late father, Abubakar Olusola Saraki of Kwara, among others. The relationships and experiences between the godfather and godson are scary.
Unfortunately, politics everywhere is bereft of moralities. If a politician tells you that it is 9 a.m, you have to look at your wristwatch to ascertain the veracity of the word. It is difficult to take the words of some politicians to the bank knowing that is is a dud cheque. In April 2020 (all things being equal), the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Akwa Ibom, will carry out primary to elect executive officers to man the machinery of the party. Will the governor allow God to speak to him to support some aspirants for the state exco mainly the chairman and other key positions at the party?
Not that God does not have a hand in installing kings- rulers, but Isaiah 42:8 says I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Let a man be a liar but God, the true one. Let the name of God not be used in vain. Let politicians draw a line between intrigues to achieve a determined goal and Godliness. Let nobody play god. Let participatory democracy be given pride of place rather than foisting the governor-to-be on the masses through manipulation of the electoral process to ensuring the emergence of a credible and acceptable person in the 2023 Akwa Ibom governorship elections.