It is no longer news that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) listed Senator Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, as the All Progressives Congress (APC) senatorial candidate for Akwa Ibom Northwest in its final list of presidential and national assembly candidates for the 2023 general elections.
What is now news is the lucky senator’s resolve and efforts to ensure that his name is never removed again for any reason.
Akpabio, a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, had contested the APC presidential primary. However, he withdrew for eventual winner Bola Tinubu on the day of the exercise and returned home to Akwa Ibom to seek the senatorial ticket which he won amidst controversies.
Since then his candidature has been in question. But respite came his way when a Federal High Court in Abuja last week ordered the electoral commission to recognise him as APC flagbearer.
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In his judgment, Justice Emeka Nwite faulted INEC’s non-recognition of the former minister; maintaining that the electoral umpire “is bound by the provisions of Section 29 (3) of the Electoral Act to publish only the personal particulars of the candidate of the first plaintiff for the Akwa-Iborn North/West Senatorial District elections in the person of the second plaintiff (Akpabio) as received from the first plaintiff”.
Now, Akpabio is determined to keep his name on INEC’s roster so he can participate in the senatorial election. On the other hand, his rival is unwilling to let go. Sentry gathered that Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Udom Ekpoudom (retd.), has vowed that in spite of the court judgment, he will not relinquish the ticket to Akpabio or anyone, no matter the pressure on him.
To this end, it was gathered that the retired Police boss may be heading to the appellate court to get Akpabio’s name off the list before the election.
Not to be beaten to the game is also getting ready for the looming legal battle. “We know they will appeal the judgement and we are ready for them. These people don’t have the interest of the party in their heart. They will do anything to distract the party at this crucial time. But Akpabio is up to the task,” an aide to the former Minister said.
Sentry gathered that Akpabio and his camp are already assembling a team of legal luminaries to prosecute the planned appeal. Don’t forget that INEC made it clear that Akpabio’s inclusion on the list is as a result of the court order.
It remains to be seen if Ekpoudom’s appeal will make or mar Akpabio’s quest to return to the hallowed chamber of the National Assembly in 2023.