Wed. Apr 24th, 2019

Conversation with my Muslim friends By Edidiong Udobia

As-salāmu ʿalaykum!
Yaya dai, ‘yan’uwa?
Ko Allah a yabe!

My brothers, it was with great solemnity that we, Christians, received the news from the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, when he urged Muslims to start looking out for the new moon of Rajab ahead of Ramadan. Beyond the ostensible differences, Islam and Christianity share in common, very strong fundamental principles, such as love, law of repercussion and so on.

Incidentally, about the same time Muslims are watching out for the new moon, many Christians are also counting the dates on the calendar to know when Easter – the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, will be. These amazing similarities between both religions are not only intriguing, but further underscore the need for unity, love, understanding and tolerance amongst us, and most importantly, regards for each other’s religion. So, I’d like you to know that this conversation is a mark of my respect for you and your religion.

You see? In the name of politics, the church and Christians in my state had elevated a mere mortal to the status of a god, which is in utter disobedience to the commandment of our God. In His Holy book, He commands us, thus; “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, and further instructs, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”.

In our ignorance, we took this commandment lightly when we made a human god for ourselves. Of course, God visited our iniquities on us. We lived to see our once darling man turn to a plague upon us, and neither the church, religious leaders nor the Christian body was spared. Clergymen and their families were victims of kidnapping. Christian worshippers were maimed within church premises. Anybody who dared question the sovereignty of the god was damned. The church was too frightened and divided to come together and speak against the evil. But individually and in small groups, Christians still found courage to pray for the state, and in His infinite mercies, God turned again our captivity. Our year of Jubilee finally came.

Why am I telling you this? Stay with me.

I am sure you are all familiar with the name, Senator Godswill Akpabio; the loquacious former governor of Akwa Ibom state? I am also sure that some of you are fascinated, some grossly offended, while others are just indifferent on Godswill Akpabio’s recent fondness for President Muhammadu Buhari, his party, and very surprisingly, his religion, Islam. But before you all draw your conclusion on Godswill Akpabio, I’ll like us to validate the man in retrospect and juxtapose that with who he is posing to be today. And, may be, just may be, you can rightly predict the kind of Godswill Akpabio that will be revealed tomorrow.

In the build up to the 2015 general elections, Akpabio was one of the leading and very vocal voices against the then opposition party and her presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. In his bid to disparage Buhari before the electorate, Akpabio called him (Buhari) so many demeaning names during the PDP presidential campaign rallies across the country. The narrative that Buhari was coming to ‘Islamize’ Nigeria may not have come straight out of Akpabio’s loins, but he reverberated it again and again through proxies. As the governor of Akwa Ibom, Akpabio did everything within his powers to sabotage every of Buhari’s visit to the state especially during the 2015 campaigns.

Litany of memoirs on the 2015 general elections brought to limelight, some of Godswill Akpabio’s backstage efforts to reverse former President Goodluck Jonathan’s “phone call” concession. Bolaji Abdullahi in a new book, In his book, ‘On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, Bolaji Abdullahi narrates how former PDP national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu blasted Akpabio for advising PDP to gainstand the election as defeat was looking likely for the party.

“Godswill Akpabio marshaled all the arguments he could muster, but Mu’azu would not budge. It was also an opportunity for the party chairman to vent some of his grievances. ‘Look, Akpabio,’ he said, ‘I am not a bastard. I have honour to protect. The man who contested the election had conceded defeat. I should now be the one to say that the party would not accept defeat? When the candidate was picking his phone to congratulate the winner, did he consult with the party?’

“And in case anyone was thinking of blaming him for the president’s defeat, such person should think again. After all, didn’t he warn against the use of religion and ethnicity by the President’s wife and some of his other supporters like Ayo Fayose and Fani-Kayode? Didn’t he also warn that the personal attacks on Buhari would backfire, especially in the North? If no one listened to him then and allowed things to go pear-shaped, how could they now turn around and ask him to fall on his sword for sins committed by others?

“He insisted that asking him to issue a statement that would most likely throw the country into turmoil was tantamount to asking him to commit suicide – if not literally, then certainly politically. If Akpabio liked, he could sign the statement himself. After all, he was the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. A few days after this encounter, Adamu Mu’azu left the country for Singapore. Some said on medical grounds. Some said for security reasons. Others said both.”

There is no doubt about the fact that the outcome of the 2015 presidential election was a shocker to Akpabio. But perhaps, his only consolation was his partial grip of power as a Senator. With that leverage lost following his failure to secure a second term in 2019, the former governor has literally been a drowning man who got stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. He had to choose between seeking the forgiveness of his own people (whom he desperately sought to destroy) or clinging to the apron strings of the same Buhari he once maligned with reckless abandon. Clearly, he has chosen the latter and of course, is doing everything possible to worm his way into the president’s heart.

For the time being, Akpabio turning from Buhari’s archenemy of 2015 to Buhari’s adherent disciple in 2019, may seem like a win-win. However, there is a hurricane howling behind this cosmetic transfiguration of Godswill Akpabio. The same destructive storm that once blew across Akwa Ibom, is now building around President Buhari and everything he holds dear; his government, party, ‘reputation’, even his family and religion. I’ll wager that to get to the vantage position in the nation’s seat of power, which he is craving, Akpabio will definitely not fail to allow his desperation have the best of him.

As a man not given to playing second fiddle, Akpabio will not be a bootlicker in the APC for too long. He’ll be aiming for a plum position like breaking into the famous ‘cabal’ in the presidency. This will not come easy but Akpabio will die trying. Secret and open wars will be waged at the detriment of the party, and the administration. And like his many other political battles, he will rope in religion and ethnicity. As you must have noticed already, he has been displaying very unusual love for your religion, making regular visits to Mosques. Don’t be carried away with the prospect of an ‘uncommon’ new convert. It’s a charade.

Akpabio’s sudden love for Islam has a treacherous undertone. He knows that Buhari’s faith is his Achilles heel and a sure route to the president’s heart, so his professed love for your religion is all shades of deception. Akpabio is a factotum of religion – a Christian by birth, but an Atheist in nature, who is temporarily masquerading as a Muslim to achieve some ulterior motives. This Islam-loving man will not hesitate to pitch Imams against each other, or set Muslim brothers against one another, if that is what it takes to achieve his goal. As an infidel, he will dare to infiltrate your Mosques with false preachings; invoking the spirit of rebellion in your youths. He did it to us, his own people, and like they say, a leopard never changes its spot.

Believe me, this camaraderie that Akpabio is indulging in now with everything he once stood against, will definitely end in catastrophe. It is then you will know that while his body was with President Buhari, the APC and Islam, his heart was elsewhere. Brothers, I had to have this conversation with you as a forewarning; a privilege we, his own people, never had.

Edidiong Udobia writes from Uyo.

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