Here’s how politics generally works. A seat is up for grabs. Different candidates contest that seat. This process involves campaigning, lobbying, media appearances, endorsements, promises, and, of course, money. A political campaign, be it for newbies or career politicians, involves telling people about your past achievements and why it’d make a fine precursor for the goodies you have for them should they elect you to office. Naturally, not everyone will buy your story—you’re in a contest, after all. 

Here’s how politics works if you’re Godswill Akpabio. You’re a lawyer and former two-term governor of one of Nigeria’s oil-rich states, Akwa Ibom. Despite raising controversy by decamping from the party that brought you into politics, you’ve done well for yourself and are now a serving senator. But you’re not content with just that. You want to be Senate President, and now you find yourself in a stiff contest as other politicians are eyeing that juicy position. So what do you do?

You get endorsements from former colleagues

While Akpabio hasn’t officially declared for the seat yet, the Cable reported earlier in May that Akpabio received endorsements for Senate President from 72 ex-senators. The outgoing governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, also said it was a settled matter. His words:

“The senate president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will come from the south-south, and it is no other person than the former governor of Akwa Ibom. The uncommon governor is the uncommon minister who will be the uncommon president of the Senate. So we have resolved that.

I am giving you assurance. We are waiting for the D-Day that he will be the senate president of Nigeria.”

If you’re Akpabio, that should be job done then, right? Not quite. Akpabio, more than anyone, knows how slippery Nigerian politics is. He was in the Senate when Bukola Saraki engineered an audacious coup that saw him emerge, against all expectations, as the eighth Senate President. Besides, he won’t be swayed by the assurance of Ganduje, who boasted about winning Kano State for Bola Ahmed Tinubu only to fall flat on his face.



Lobby from outside your party

Akpabio has reached out across party lines to get support for his Senate Presidency ambition. On May 18, Vanguard reported that Akpabio held meetings with the leadership of the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). The LP has eight senators, while the NNPP has two. The PDP, which he decamped from, has the second-highest number of senators, with 36.

Overall, the Nigerian Senate has 109 senators. Out of that number, the APC has 59 senators. To win, you need to earn the highest number of votes. However, because Akpabio faces competition from within his party, he can’t rely on just his party’s votes. This explains his intense lobbying.

Ask Nigerians to forgive and forget your recent past 

Akpabio’s most recent gig was his appointment as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs between 2019 and 2022, when he resigned in his failed bid to run for president. Akpabio, however, doesn’t have fond memories of his time as minister. He wants Nigerians not to judge him based on his performance there. His words:

“I do know that I have not changed in any way. God has given me the opportunity to be an uncommon transformer wherever I go. I will not like to be judged by ministerial appointment for Niger Delta, which everybody knows is a problematic place. But I would like to be judged by my record as a lawyer of 36 years, commissioner of six years and a governor of eight years.”

Who will tell Akpabio that that’s not how politics works? And why do Nigerian politicians think they can wave a wand and expect us to forget their misdeeds? It’s giving Buhari, who wants Nigerians to remember him fondly while turning a blind eye to his failures in governance, security, and the economy

In July 2020, Akpabio appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta in a forensic audit hearing of ₦‎81.5bn spent by his ministry. He was accused of misappropriating the funds. Akpabio, in his defence, said most of the people who benefitted from contracts from his ministry were National Assembly members. As soon as that revelation was made, a committee member interjected and told Akpabio on live TV to “off your mic.”

This is Nigeria anyway, so there’s no prize for guessing how that has played out. Ultimately, it’s in the public interest to know about the person who might become the number three man in Nigeria. And against the recommendation of Nigerian politicians, we won’t “off our mic” just like that on Akpabio’s past.


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