On Thursday, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State rose in stout defence of his controversial wedding gifts to hip-pop musician, Tuface Idibia, saying the gesture was "to reward the musician's wife for standing by her husband in the face of difficulties".
The governor had come under heavy criticism after he, Friday last week, announced a gift of two brand new Toyota Prado SUVs to Tuface and his wife. He also reportedly promised to bankroll an all-expense paid trip for 29 delegates from the state to attend the white wedding of the couple fixed for Dubai, the United Arab Emirate on March 23.
Besides, he also hosted a lavish state dinner in honour of the couples and promised to rehabilitate the Eket-Ibeno Road ahead of the child dedication of Tuface and Annie.
Don't miss related articles:
But in a statement by his commissioner for information, Aniekan Umana, on Wednesday, Mr. Akpabio said he only approved a car, and not two, for the couple. He also said he only promised to sponsor 20, and not 29, wedding guests to Dubai for the couple's white wedding.
The statement reads, "Following spurious and false speculations in the social media concerning the wedding gift by Governor Godswill Akpabio to Mrs. Annie Innocent Idibia, née Macaulay, I wish to state as follows:
"That the Governor of Akwa Ibom State Chief Godswill Akpabio, donated ONE Prado jeep to Mrs. Annie Innocent Idibia, nee Macaulay, a daughter of Akwa Ibom State and renowned artist during her traditional marriage at Eket.
"That the State Governor as a token of support for the couple promised to fund the travelin expenses (economy return tickets) for ONLY TWENTY relatives of Mrs. Annie Idibia Macaulay to Dubai, where the couple have chosen to wed.
"That looking carefully at the surrounding events in perspective, Mrs. Annie Idibia, nee Macaulay, is a daughter of Akwa Ibom State, and the gift of a Prado SUV from her governor is only a gesture of love and goodwill. Her resolve to stand by her husband on his journey right from his days of youthful beginnings to stardom even in the face of challenges was commendable and a true attribute of the Akwa Ibom women.
"That It is, however, unbecoming that mischief-makers and enemies of progress have decided to inflame the social media with incongruous reports that the State Government is sponsoring an entourage of party supporters to the wedding in Dubai, when, in fact, the Government is only sponsoring the travel expenses of twenty of her family members at an estimated cost of roughly Three Million Naira (N3,000,000.00) only.
"I wish to therefore urge members of the public to discountenance the misrepresentations made out of a well-intentioned act of the governor."
A 'self-serving ego trip'
The governor had come under a hailstone of condemnation after the donations, and it is unclear whether anyone is impressed by his explanation.
In the earlier story on this matter, many Nigerians believe the gifts were ridiculous.
"This is absolute rubbish", an apparently angry Mary Udom said. "These [Tuface and wife] are no poor people. I don't see why Akpabio is doing such a thing. If it were an ordinary man's wedding, he [Akpabio] won't even send a gift, talkless of giving cars."
For Obo Effanga, Governance Manager, Action Aid Nigeria, the governor's action is embarrassing, as it defeats the purpose for good governance, particularly in the allocation of resources.
"This is very embarrassing indeed! If governance is about being in a position to take decisions in the interest of the people of the state, when a governor allocates public resources to individuals because of their closeness to him, how does this enhance that purpose and the interest of the ordinary citizens in the state, on whose behalf the governor claimed he was making the donation?" Mr Effanga said.
"This amount could have been enough to do something more useful to the society. It could buy several volumes of books for University of Uyo that has been crying of funding challenges. That amount could sponsor a lot drugs that could be dispensed to citizens free," he added.
Spokesman for the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, said it is such profligate and reckless spending of available resources at their disposal by governors from the Niger Delta region that has made the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to suffer a long delay at the National Assembly till today.
According to Mr. Fashakin, if it were his personal resources, Mr. Akpabio would not do what he did, but having realised that Akwa Ibom earns a lot, based on 13 percent derivation, he could afford to spend on anything that catches his fancies.
He said, "This type of financial recklessness from governors of oil rich states is another reason militating against the passage of the PIB. The 10 per cent being proposed for the host communities is seen as superfluous if this type of unimaginable imprudence becomes second nature for some of these governors. This type of anti-people expenditure is only symptomatic of a leader that emerged through the subversion of the people's will and desire."
For Tope Fasua, an Abuja-based public affairs commentator, such behaviours are clearly as a result of lack of vision by our leaders.
"The Bible says the people perish for lack of vision and knowledge. Akpabio lacks vision, because he is on an ego trip. He thinks he has arrived. But, the truth is that despite the huge oil money that goes to the state every month, the rate of poverty still affects 80 per cent of the population.
"Nobody is thinking about the fact that the price of oil could crash. That is what economists call the tragic choice in Akpabio's behaviour. All that would unravel soon."
For Mr. Effanga, a donation of the funds to the University of Uyo would have gone a long way in relieving the university l of its funding constraint, which Vice Chancellor Comfort Ekpo, told the visiting Senate Committee on Education last week is affecting the development of the institution.
"If the amount to be spent on the ego trip to Dubai were to be invested in the provision of books to school libraries, medical facilities in hospitals or boreholes to communities in the state, including the musician's new wife's village, many citizens would derive more utilitarian value from the expenditure," the activist noted.