The Senate is currently screening the 41 ambassadorial nominees presented to the Red Chamber by President Muhammadu Buhari but the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the ruling APC has disowned the nominee from the state on the ground that he is not a member of the party, among other allegations, BODE GBADEBO reports.
For the second time within days, the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has vehemently rejected alternate persons nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as non-career ambassadors representing the state. The President had on July 1, 2020 forwarded to the Senate, a total of 41 names, seeking their confirmation as non-career Ambassadors.
Among the nominees was Mr. Oboro Effiong Akpabio, who was nominated to fill the Akwa Ibom State’s slot. But the name described as unknown by the state chapter of the party was later dropped at the instance of a petition written by the Akwa Ibom state APC chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido, to the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, rejecting the nominee.
The letter dated July 4, 2020, titled, ‘Petition against worrisome appointment from Akwa Ibom State,’ said Mr. Akpabio was not known remotely, and is not in any way connected to the party; “his name is alien to our party leaders, the political class and members of the public,” Okopido had stated. The party complained of questionable appointments of strangers which it noted negated Article 22 of the APC Constitution (October 2014 as amended) and going further lamented that the exercise questions the essence of service, loyalty and commitment to the cause and interest of our party, APC.
In what appeared to be a swift response to the petition, President Buhari on July 8, 2020 sent the name of John Usanga as replacement to Akpabio to the Senate as the new Akwa Ibom nominee along with one other from Niger state. “In accordance to Section 171(1) (2)(c) and subsection (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, I have the honour to forward for confirmation by the Senate, the appointment of Mr. John J. Usanga and Air Commodore Peter Anda Bakiya Gana (rtd) from Akwa-Ibom and Niger State respectively, as non-career Ambassadorsdesignate,” Buhari’s letter to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, read.
Party stakeholders in Akwa Ibom and beyond opine that if the feeling in government was to pacify party chieftains and redress the earlier wrong nomination/appointment, the replacement, more than anything, has bruise the party in Akwa Ibom. This time, unlike the first nominee, Akpabio, whose track could not be traced to the party, the replacement, Usanga, on his part is an ardent critic of the APC, President Buhari and his government. In its reaction to Usanga’s nomination, the Akwa Ibom APC in a statement issued in Uyo on July 9, 2020, drew President Buhari’s attention to the personality and character of the new nominee, stating that “the new replacement would have been highly applauded and joyously celebrated if he were not an outright antagonist of APC as a party and ardent critic of the same government he is now being recruited to serve. “Besides, he is neither a member nor a well-wisher of our party.
On that note, APC Akwa Ibom State chapter rejects and opposes his appointment as ambassadorial nominee,” APC state publicity secretary, Nkereuwem Enongekere, said in the statement. To buttress its point, the party attached Usanga’s Facebook posts where he fiercely criticised the Buhari government and the party previously. A particular instance was the October 30, 2019 post after the Supreme Court victory of President Buhari against Alh. Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the post, the nominee mocked the APC and Buhari asking “why are Nigerians not jubilating over the dismissal of Atiku’s petition by the Supreme Buhari Lawan Court?”
Another instance was his post of September 4, 2019. This time, the nominee took a swipe at the government saying: “Finally, after dozens of causalities of Nigerian extraction in South Africa, this ‘clueless’ government has woken up from its slumber…!” According to a member of the party in Akwa Ibom, Iniobong Bassey, he said from political to policy matters, Usanga enjoyed rubbishing the same government he is now poised to serve in a very sensitive position – ambassadorial capacity – and the party in the state wonders what kind of ambassadorial representation would Usanga exhibit about President Buhari and his government in any foreign country should the Senate accede to confirming his nomination against other suitably qualified, loyal and hardworking party faithful that believe and labour assiduously to keep the APC’s flag flying in Akwa Ibom state.
“In fairness and good conscience, will John Usanga with all the vituperations against Buhari, his government and the APC still have the honour to wear the ambassadorial garland and proceed abroad to serve the same President he despises and scorned? One wonders what diplomatic depiction the unrestrained critic whose thirst to attack Buhari and this government would give on the foreign scene to favour Nigeria and a new boss he would be serving albeit reluctantly,” Bassey queried. He added that Usanga’s outbursts against the government did not even spare one of Buhari’s cherished policy drives – the anti-corruption fight.
Bassey pointed out that Usanga had once emphatically written about Buhari: “he said he was coming to fight corruption. Now corruption has gone completely haywire. Most of his men have corruption cases hanging over their heads and yet he is very comfortable working with them. How are we blind to see where we’re headed?” In another instance, Usanga wrote: “Tax, Tax, Tax everywhere. Is this the Next Level or you people are simply clueless?” And that’s not all, on March 20, shortly after the 2019 presidential election, the now ambassadorial nominee took to his Facebook wall to disrespect Vice President Yemi Osinbajo by saying:
“So H.E. PYO suspended his vote buying (Trader Moni) spree because they won. Dia ris God o!” These, among many other posts were gleaned by the APC and its members from the Facebook account of the man warming up to face the APC-dominated Nigerian Senate for screening in anticipation of coming out unscratched. “What sort of a man with integrity intact accepts such offer, even if given on the platter of gold?,” asked Ime Isong, another staunch supporter of President Buhari in the state. Given that Nigeria operates a civil government typified by freedom to vent democratic views, should one not be miffed that a man of Usanga’s antecedents, buoyed with his political and democratic conviction should rather stay glued to his persuasions than join the same government and party he so much detest and vilifies. Isong continued, saying as Usanga prepares to face the Senate, he must be reminded that the world awaits to see how he intends to stave off the moral weight and how he would decontaminate his roughened integrity against those irretrievable anti-Buhari posts that reflect his convinced perception about President Buhari and the APC government.
“Or would he bury whatever is left of his honour to serve in the government where he would be understood more as a mole, or better still, a broke and self-serving noisy critic whose attraction was seeking attention to hijack a space to reap where he actually did not sow anything? Since he will be asked to represent this country as an ambassador whose duty is to represent his country in exclusive admittance of everything it stands to mean, following in the policy direction midwifed by the government of the day which he passionately criticises, would Usanga in all honesty be taking up this assignment representing even himself as ambassador to his own conscience?,” Isong queried again.
Attempts to reach Mr. Usanga for reaction to the allegations against him by the Akwa Ibom APC proved abortive as he could not be reached on telephone at press time. Apparently, the Akwa Ibom APC is silently groaning under alleged imposition of strangers emerging from the blues to represent the state in federal appointments, such that the state party chairman, Okopido, had to lament that “we have continued to witness and watch in silence even as we bear the brunt of a worrisome trend of inappropriate federal appointees who do not represent President Buhari’s government mantra or APC policies as representatives of the people of Akwa Ibom State.”
The Senate which possesses the confirmation powers may have little or nothing to do with the nominations before it. Pundits, however, believe that it is incumbent on the APC-led Federal Government to redress these concerns of the party in the Akwa Ibom state or any other place with a bid to reward party loyalty and keep the APC in Akwa Ibom united by appointing persons who believe in the policy direction of Mr. President and the APC government into sensitive positions in order to ensure party cohesion and loyalty among members. Will the president change his mind again? Only time shall tell