A DAY after it turned down a request by the local chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the use Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, the State government has reversed itself.
It approved the use of the 30,000-capacity facility for the opposition party yesterday.
The approval came barely hours after the APC rejected Uyo Township Stadium as alternative for the kick-off of President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign in the Southsouth on Friday.
The APC insisted on the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium as venue for the kick-off of its presidential campaign.
The government turned down the party’s request to use the stadium for the commencement of Buhari’s campaign, scheduled for December 28.
APC state chairman Iniobong Okopido had applied to the government for the use of the facility for the campaign launch, but the state, through the Youths & Sports Commissioner, Monday Uko, turned the application down and instead offered the small capacity Uyo Township Stadium.
According to Uko, the stadium managers, Messrs. Julius Berger, now on vacation in Germany, had locked the stadium and would resume on January 7, 2019.
Besides, the commissioner explained that the decision became necessary to safeguard the pitch for the state team, Akwa United to play their home games as the National Professional Football League (NPFL) kicks-off on January 13.
But the APC rejected the commissioners’ explanation yesterday.
Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang told a news conference that the reasons given by the government were untenable.
Senator Enang, who doubles as the Director-General of Nsima Ekere Governorship Campaign Council, counselled the government against over-stretching it’s diplomacy in its continued plea for the use of facility.
Enang said: “We will continue to use diplomacy for the request, but if the diplomacy fails, we will still use the stadium. When higher immunity meets the state immunity, it would succumb. We will not allow Udom to blackmail Akwa Ibom.”
He said the government’s action was pre-meditated and political, recalling that “the governorship primary that Udom was declared the winner in 2014, was done in that same stadium”.
Accusing the government of double standard, Enang said that the senator representing Akwa Ibom Northeast, Bassey Albert, did his empowerment and constituency briefing at the same stadium.
He said: “Udom should know that it was his predecessor Godswill Akpabio that built the stadium with funds allocated to the state by the Federal Government led by President Buhari and denying Akwa Ibom people the use of that facility is a collective insult on the people of the state.”
He explained that the choice of Akwa Ibom for the Southsouth campaign launch became necessary following widespread acceptability of the APC in the state and in the region.
However, the government acceded to the opposition party’s request last night.
In a statement issued by Youth and Sports Commissioner Monday Ebong Uko, the government gave conditional approval for the stadium to be used for the presidential campaign rally.
The approval came barely few hours after the senior special adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang threatened that the APC may force its way into the 30,000-capacity stadium should the government refused to reconsider its request.