Early on Monday, August 31, 2015, former governor of Akwa Ibom State and Minority Leader of the Nigerian Senate, Godswill Obot Akpabio, escaped death after his car got involved in an accident along the Airport Road in Abuja. The accident occurred near the Bolingo Junction close to the Ship House, Abuja. Media sources have it that Mr. Akpabio was moving in a convoy of vehicles towards the city gate when his vehicle ran into another car belonging to the American embassy.
It is gratifying that he survived the accident. As part of humanity, we shouldn't be celebrating the misfortune of others. We owe it a responsibility to exude solidarity with our fellow men when they are faced with the vicissitudes and vulgarities of life. It is on this note that I sincerely wish Mr. Akpabio God's grace as he recuperates from the effect of the accident.
However, beyond the sympathies, we should not allow the unfortunate incident to obscure our sense of objectivity and judgment. It is ethically and morally imperative for us to dispassionately examine the character of the man named Godswill Akpabio, in relation to the accident and generally. This may offer us an insight on why Nigeria as a country needs to promote a system that abhors lawlessness and impunity as exemplified by Godswill Akpabio; a system that thrives on the rule of law and justice.
If several reports in the media are anything to go by, then Godswill Akpabio had violated traffic regulations. An eyewitness who spoke with online medium, Premium Times, stated as follows:
“My wife and I were coming from the NNPC Mega Station and we stopped at the traffic light by Bolingo Hotel Junction. When the green light showed and we made to move, there was this siren blaring Mercedes Benz jeep that came from the town and almost crashed onto my car. I don’t know how we dodged but another that was behind the jeep hit the car behind me and tumbled on its side. I and my wife rushed out of our vehicle and helped the driver bring out his boss. When we brought him out, we found that it was former governor Godswill Akpabio. At the time we brought him out, the siren was still blaring. We put him in the other vehicle and he was rushed to the National Hospital.”
This raises several questions which should be answered by Akpabio and the Nigerian law enforcement institutions:
1. Is it a criminal offence under our road traffic laws to disobey the traffic light and if answered in the affirmative is Akpabio liable to criminal prosecution?
2. Is Akpabio one of the public office holders entitled to the use of sirens and if answered in the negative is he liable to criminal prosecution?
3. Will refusal by the law enforcement agencies to subject Akpabio to criminal prosecution not amount to the encouragement of the culture of lawlessness and Impunity in the country?
Reports have it that Akpabio was on his way to travel out of the country to see his family. For a long time now, his once powerful wife, Mrs. Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, hitherto mischievously referred to by sycophants as "The Mother Theresa of Akwa Ibom State," has neither been seen nor heard in public. This had fuelled suspicion that Akpabio may have relocated his family abroad. But why are they running? I thought Akpabio had "uncommonly transformed" Akwa Ibom State to another London or Dubai?.
It is good that Akpabio has been discharged from the National Hospital, Abuja, where he was rushed to. I hope he will not travel oversea for further medical checkup—if there is need for that, he should not hesitate to visit the "20th anniversary hospital" he built in Akwa Ibom State, equipped with "state of the art facilities," the "first of its kind in Africa."
The days of reckoning are here.
Throughout his eight years reign as the executive governor of Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio openly and arrogantly portrayed himself as a demigod not subject to the dictates of the law or the sensibilities of the public. For Akpabio, laws are made for lesser beings among whom he does not belong. Nothing matters to Akpabio unless it suits his insatiable whim and capricious desires. This is a man whose over bloated ego and vicious proclivities has brought tears, sorrows and discomfort to countless individuals and families.
Akpabio believes that no individual or authority in Nigeria can bring him to justice. For him, all that matters is money and what money cannot do more money can do. That is why he can afford to ignore an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is as if Nigeria will cease to exist if there is a serious attempt to hold him accountable for the hundreds of billions he received in allocations while in office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. If you listen to Akpabio speak, you would think he is an exemplar for good governance. For him, lying is a virtue.
Beyond the fact that the accident is another evidence of his lawless lifestyle, it has equally demystified Akpabio. Hitherto, some of his supporters, especially in Akwa Ibom State, were misled into believing that Akpabio is indestructible and above harm. For eight years, the "uncommon transformer" was perceived by some as an immortal being that should be venerated and worshipped by all. Churches decorated their buildings, reserved special seats and sang special hymns whenever Akpabio stopped by to have a handshake with those political pastors who used the pulpit to idolize him and propagate his false and deceptive message of "uncommon transformation.”
Under Akpabio's watch, Akwa Ibom State witnessed so much politically motivated killings, attacks and violence. The situation was so precarious that the streets of Akwa Ibom State were literally littered with the blood of innocent citizens, political opponents and critics of his regime.
Because Nigeria is a country where anything goes, instead of moving from the Government House to the dock to answer for his actions while in office, Akpabio conveniently retired to the Senate where he used the uncommon resources he accumulated while in office to buy the position of Minority Leader in the hope that his new position will save him from possible criminal prosecution. Akpabio really believes that he is still entitled to the protection of the immunity clause provision under Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
That is why he does not give a damn about traffic laws and restrictions on the use of siren.
I believe that we are in a different era; the era of change. Therefore, this is a test case for the president Muhammadu Buhari administration. If Akpabio gets away with this obvious case of violation of the laws of our country, then a dangerous precedent would have been set; that even under president Buhari, it is still business as usual.
The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Nigeria Police Force should do the needful. If Akpabio violates traffic laws with impunity then let no other Nigerian be arrested or prosecuted for doing the same.
That will be very bad for the image of this administration. There has to be equality before the law. So let the law it its full course and the time to act is now.
Inibehe Effiong is the Convener, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD). He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org