Monday, 23 April 2018 will go down as the defining moment in the annals of the relationship between the Buhari Presidency and the Udom Emmanuel administration. Deacon Udom Emmanuel, a deacon of the Qua Iboe Church, is the governor of Akwa Ibom State.
On that date on Wellington Bassey Way in Uyo (a roadway named in memory of the first indigenous general of the Nigerian Army), faithful and supporters and well-wishers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had gathered at house number 23, a 5-storey facility, in fulfilment of their right of association guaranteed by Nigerian Constitution to inaugurate the Akwa Ibom chapter of the National Committee of Buhari’s Support Groups. It was a large, very large turnout, reflecting the growing strength of the APC in the state. A highly inspired crowd!
There was no doubt that Governor Udom Emmanuel, whose office and official residence sit on a hill at the end of the roadway, would take political notice of such a political quake happening not so far from home. But I doubt if anyone ever imagined that Mr Emmanuel would threaten Buhari with eviction from his campaign office on the allegation that the President’s campaign facility constituted a security threat to the Akwa Ibom State governor.
Precisely two days after the inauguration, on 25 April, Udom Emmanuel did just that. In a letter issued on behalf of the Akwa Ibom State Government and addressed to the owner/occupier of house no. 23 on Wellington Bassey Way in Uyo, Prince Enobong Uway, Executive Chairman of Uyo Capital City Development Authority, ordered the National Committee of the Buhari Support Groups to vacate its office in Uyo within seven days as follows: “Notice of security breach and order for relocation of political campaign office from No. 23 Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
“It has been brought to the notice of the Government of Akwa Ibom State that you have converted a quiet Hotel/Office building into into a Political Campaign Office after ignoring our several notices for formalization and re-validation of that building.
“Please be informed that the said building located at No. 23 Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo situates about 200 meters from the two-arms (sic) zone housing the Governor’s Office, the Governor’s Lodge, the Deputy Governor’s Office and Lodge and the Judiciary Headquarters, including the office of the State Chief Judge of the Akwa Ibom State Government.
“You are hereby notified that the serene and reserved one-way access way into the seat of Government is ABSOLUTELY NOT SUITABLE for a Political Campaign Office as it poses major security threat (sic) to the seat of Government particularly the Executive and the Judiciary Arms. You are by this notice ORDERED to remove the said Political Campaign Office and all insignia posted therein from the premises of No.23, Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo within SEVEN (7) Days from the date of this notice…”
This was it. All the pretences by Udom Emmanuel that he is a friend, if not a political ally of the President, had been laid bare for what they are: pretences. Rather than bearing respect and goodwill towards Buhari, Udom Emmanuel harbours ill-will, contempt and unvarnished hatred for the President.
The eviction notice by Udom Emmanuel to the Buhari Support Groups can be mined for inexhaustible talking points. One of them is, Will this poke in the eye by Mr Emmanuel be considered by the Presidency as a cut close enough to the bone to sit up and take political notice of an invidious enemy masquerading as a friend? The question is significant. For the past three years, the leadership and members of the APC in Akwa Ibom State had warned the Presidency that Udom Emmanuel is a sly fellow who is consumed by the most abiding hatred for the President but who would pretend whenever he is in the Villa for favours and in other public forums that he is a friend and wishes the President well, while in private and under disguise, he plots and schemes against the President. This was the subject of discourse in an advertorial entitled, “Udom Emmanuel: The Double-Faced Governor,” which was published in The Nation of Friday, 13 April 2018; one of many communications issued by the state chapter of the APC on the chameleonic nature of the state governor toward Buhari.
For instance, during the closing ceremonies for this year’s Nigerian Airforce Games in Uyo, Udom Emmanuel was effusive with kind words for Buhari, describing him as “father to all.” Now judge his sincerity yourself: about three weeks after, the same Udom Emmanuel is evicting this “father to all” from his campaign office in Uyo, on the grounds of non-existing security threat.
So the question becomes inevitable: Has Udom Emmanuel now cut too close to Buhari’s bone (apologies, Dr Ogaga Ifowodo) for the Presidency to continue in its blissful somnolence to the insidiousness of this mendacious, double-faced deacon?
Right from the campaign grounds in 2015 to this moment, Udom Emmanuel has aimed a steady stream of unfriendly salvo at Buhari. He qualified him with unprintable epithets then and even charged him with the accusation of “a Fulani man eyeing Akwa Ibom oil” while waiting for the Supreme Court to dismiss or confirm his election as governor. He has aides dedicated to Buhari bashing.
In spite of all of this, the Villa persisted in seeing a friend and good man in Udom Emmanuel. The Chief propaganda organ of the Federal Government, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), even found Udom worthy of an integrity award and procured Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr Boss Mustapha, to decorate him with the award on the grounds of the Villa, despite the fact that the Akwa Ibom State Governor is running the opaquest government in the history of the state and has lied about virtually everything since he became governor. Mr Emmanuel has been on the President’s entourage for several overseas trips—ostensibly as a friend of the Villa. There is no other way to look at it, given the fact that governors such as Nysom Wike of Rivers State and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, who have made their opposition to the President a black-and-white affair, are hardly in his company.
But the sly deacon wants to have the best of both worlds: enjoy the perquisites due to a friend and the flush of victory that belongs to a triumphant adversary. That is why Mr Emmanuel would talk of security breach on a piece of real estate that is open to all, simply because he wants to engage in his pastime, which is attack on Buhari.
No other reason exists for Mr Emmanuel’s action—neither legal nor historical. Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Affairs (Senate), has challenged the governor to point to any law in the state that forbids the President from having political office in that part of town. Since Senator Enang threw the challenge on 27 April, Mr Emmanuel has yet to pick it up.
And through history, many politicians in the state have opened their offices on the Wellington Bassey Way, which used to be called Barracks Road. It is on record that former president Olusegun Obasanjo had his campaign office on the same Wellington Bassey; and during the 2002/3 campaign cycle, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, former military administrator of the state, opened his gubernatorial campaign office on the same road. The tenants at the Hilltop Mansion at those times did not suffer heart attack. So why is Udom fretting? His hatred for Buhari!
I believe that Udom Emmanuel’s latest perfidy should earn appropriate response from both the APC and the Buhari Presidency. In politics no one turns the other cheek.