A senator’s wolf cry

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Until he addressed a press conference alleging that the governor of his state wanted him dead on account of political schism, not much was known about him.  Perhaps his constituency knew him;  may be his colleagues in the National Assembly were familiar with him.  But to the larger public,  Senator Aloysius  Etok was an unfamiliar name and face.

He was one of the people you could bump into on the streets without a name or face recognition.  Even though a  sitting two-term senator, he has made no great mark or reputation in the Senate unlike his more famous colleagues who make the Senate tick  by their contributions in the plenary, on the floor of the Senate. But not anymore.  Thanks to his current spat with his more charismatic, more popular and  performing kinsman,  Chief Godswill Akpabio, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Etok’s face now graces the newspapers, magazines and the electronic media.

Lucky man. What he couldn’t achieve in his two-term stint, he now enjoys courtesy of a fight with Akpabio.  Who says a political fight does not have its use? Distinguished Senator Etok shot into the limelight when he  made an undistinguished allegation against Gov. Akpabio.  He claimed that the latter wanted him dead over the senatorial seat which he currently occupies.  Akpabio  has indicated his interest to run for the Ikot Ekpene North-West Senatorial  district election in 2015.  Etok  claims that the governor’s proxies had been sending him text messages advising him to bury his third term senatorial ambition or be buried with it.

The governor, he also claimed, had mandated his ‘hit squad’ to take on the senator if he remained adamant to the admonition to quit the forthcoming race. Said Etok at the press conference:  “I want the governor to tell Nigerians and the international community if there is anything wrong in any man aspiring to contest for an office…Not only that,  the governor has now loosed (sic) his hit squad, including what I have on this phone, some text messages,  that if I don’t retract the statement that I will contest election, after seven days,  I will see what they will do.

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I will either be dead to stop me or alive to retract the statement.” To demonstrate the seriousness with which he took the alleged threat to his life,  Etok forwarded the text of his widely publicised press conference, to the presidency, leadership of the National Assembly and various security agencies, including the State Security Service,  SSS, the police, among others. Coming from a whole federal  lawmaker and given the often volatile nature of the politics played in this clime, the security agencies soon swung to action to unravel the veracity or otherwise of Senator Etok’s weighty claims.  In no time, the security agencies found out that Etok’s allegations were unfounded.

Nobody wanted him dead.  Not Gov. Akpabio.  Not anyone.  The senator had been crying wolf when none existed. Parading a young man, Adeola Olaore, a.k.a. General Africa,  before the media,  what was uncovered was the smart, but devious moves to fleece the senator by selling a dummy of an alleged assassination plot to him.  The criminally minded young man had simply fooled Senator Etok.  How could he have fallen for such cheap trick?  If someone as high up as Akpabio wanted him dead, would the young man not be better paid than a senator?

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Why would he not carry out the assignment and be better  remunerated? The confession of Gen. Africa simply put paid to the lies concocted by the senator to elicit sympathy from the public, of a powerless man being oppressed and arm-twisted  by a powerful, ruthless governor who is hell-bent on snatching his senatorial seat. Now that it has emerged that no one was plotting to snuff life out of him, the senator has simply clammed up.  Not a word.  Not an apology to all of us, ordinary Nigerians,  who had been led to almost believing that there had actually being an attempt to silence him. There are two major reasons I have decided to comment on the Akpabio/Etok  altercation.

First, an issue of threat to life is a serious one which should concern all, given the orgy of bloodletting which has enveloped our nation.  Secondly, as 2015 gravy train is on the fast lane, issues like this will crop up: allegations of assassination by opposing politicians.  What should be condemned  is the frivolous ploy of mischievous politicians seeking to garner mileage by making their seemingly more powerful opponents look like blood-thirsty  killers.  Politics of blackmail and wolf-crying should never have a place in our political atmosphere. Back to the Akpabio/Etok issue.

The point must be made clear that both men have  legitimate rights to contest the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district election.  It is not the exclusive preserve of Etok,  that because he had been a two-time senator, he should be given automatic third term ticket. That decision lies with the electorate.  And because he had  been a two-term governor does not preclude Akpabio from the race or give him a free ride to the Senate.  He, too, still has the duty of convincing the electorate that he would give a more quality representation in the Senate than the man he virtually went on his knees, pleading passionately with the party leaders to allow a second term in 2011.

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Politics is a game of persuasion.  You persuade the electorate to give you their trust and mandate.  You tell them why you are the better candidate;  how you will impart their lives when elected.  In over six years in the saddle, Akpabio is generally acknowledged to have transformed  Akwa Ibom State.  It is not unexpected that a senatorial election would be a piece of cake for him.  Etok had thought that Akpabio would not be vying for the Senate after his second term as governor.  With Akpabio  firmly in the race, it is natural for  Etok to have  sleepless night.

But calling someone a killer just because your seat is threatened is giving politics a reputation far worse than it has been in our land.  Let the battle for the 2015 race begin.  But decently.  That is all we ask, and that can’t be too much expectation.

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