In 2005, Chris Ekpenyong made history in Nigeria: he was impeached as the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom state but was hurriedly returned to that position in less than seven days. The members of the state house of assembly reversed the impeachment after the intervention of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo, although Ekpenyong was forced to resign afterwards.
Fourteen years later, he has bounced back to secure a place at the senate, defeating Godswill Akpabio, an “uncommon senator”, in Akwa Ibom north-west senatorial district. Akpabio’s defeat was shocking to say the least: Apart from being an incumbent senator, he was a two-time governor who practically had Akwa Ibom as his chessboard.
And – you have to believe this – Ekpenyong defeated him with more than double his votes, after securing 136,373 votes as against the senator’s 67,487.
So, who is Chris Ekpenyong?
Born on September 29, 1954, Ekpenyong has a HND holder in electrical and electronic engineering. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Kensington University, Glendale, California, in America. He was the deputy governor during Victor Attah’s tenure until 2005 when he was impeached on grounds of “abuse of office, gross misconduct and disregard for constituted authority”.
HOW HE FELL OUT WITH ATTAH
Attah is believed to have masterminded Ekpenyong’s impeachment. The two fell out after his then deputy endorsed Obasanjo to become the PDP presidential candidate at the party’s presidential primary in January 2003, contrary to Attah’s wish. The former governor had instructed Akwa Ibom delegates to support Alex Ekwueme, late former vice president, who was challenging Obasanjo for the PDP ticket.
In addition to this, Attah was said to have been paving the way for Udoma Ekarika, his son-in-law, to succeed him as governor in 2007, a position Ekpenyong was eyeing as well.
He was impeached not long after the PDP presidential primary but Obasanjo quickly intervened. He sent a powerful delegation led by Tony Anenih, then-chairman of the PDP board of trustees, to resolve the issue leading to the reversal of the impeachment. Ekpenyong eventually resigned but was unable to secure the PDP nomination for the governorship election.
HOW HE FOUGHT FOR AKWA IBOM AS DEPUTY GOVERNOR
In an interview in 2017, the senator-elect spoke of his struggles as the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom state. He recalled how he pleaded with Obasanjo over the state’s allocation. The PDP candidate said he knelt down before Obasanjo, begging for the state to get its due share of the federal government allocation.
He had said: “Between the periods I was with Obong Attah, we were receiving only about N600M as our monthly allocation. I remembered vividly kneeling down for 45 minutes, begging former President Obasanjo when we were short-changed from what was accrued to the state and he approved N600 million for us. That was when I got to know the wage bill of the state at that time as the deputy governor.
“I called the accountant general of the State who told me that the wage bill of the state was N1.1 billion. Probably, that was why people said I exercised so much influence on the government of Obong Attah. I wrote to former President Obasanjo, appealing to him for increase in our allocation, while also playing the role of a mediator. Probably, at the federal level Obong Attah was misconstrued.”
KNOCKED GOODLUCK JONATHAN
Ekpenyong was also a critic of former president Goodluck Jonathan whom he once accused of “wasting” the six years of his administration. In an interview with Sun, he said this was because the former president neglected the people of the south-south region.
According to him, “I blame my political party that when we had a chance with our son from the South South for six years, we did not make good use of it. It was six years of wasted service as far as I am concerned. Yes, (it was a wasted period).
“Where is the road to even his village? Not to talk of other major roads that should have been a priority to him. Today, when people are criticising Buhari for not looking at us, I laugh. Somebody has to look at where he comes from. That is Nigerian politics for you.”
THREATENED TO EXPOSE AKPABIO
In the build up of the elections, Ekpenyong threatened to unleash Akpabio’s “secret deals”. The former governor was alleged to have said Ekpenyong deceived him into defecting from the PDP to the APC. But the former deputy governor had denied the allegation and said he would “expose” the senator if he continues to “attack” him.
“Assuming someone gave that kind of advice and agreed, it means someone can ask him to go and jump into the river and he would obey? If he continues to attack me, I will unleash his records of secret deals,” he had said.
“I am happy that generally, people know Akpabio to be an uncommon liar; he cannot continue to fool everybody all the times with his lies. I want to implore all of you to go back to your various local governments to begin your campaign for effective change in our zones.”
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