Nigeria Decides 2023: Garlands for quintessential Ukana-born politician @ 60
By Jackson Udom
The name Godswill Obot Akpabio CON, without being immodest, is a household name in present day Nigeria – both in the homeland and in the Diaspora. At 60 years, it can be rightly said that he came, saw and he’s conquering.
Today, that ‘little boy’ from Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, despite his humble background and not knowing what the future had in stock for him, has weathered the storms of life to create a niche for himself.
Senator Akpabio is a clear demonstration of God’s benevolence on a mortal man. He rose from grass to grace to become the quintessential personality now being sort after by the low and the mighty in the society.
Despite his very challenging beginning wherein getting as low as N10.00 to offset his school fees was very difficult to come by, the support and sacrifice of his late mother, Madam Lucy Obot Akpabio, ensured he graduated from the University of Calabar as a lawyer.
Subsequently, he became one of the Directors at EMIs Communication – a company that introduced wireless telephony that metamorphosed into the GSM we now enjoy.
His foray into politics can be said to be divinely inspired. As a successful lawyer and business man who making waves in Lagos State, a call was made through to him from his home state; Akwa Ibom to take up appointment as a member of the State Executive Council headed by former Governor, Architect Victor Attah.
He accepted the offer because he saw it as an opportunity for him to contribute his quota to the development of his home state. During his over six years membership of the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council (SEC), he headed three very important ministries and outstandingly made his marks in each of those ministries.
His membership of the SEC no doubt provided him with ample opportunities to acquire leadership experiences while having first hand information about the needs and yearnings of the people. Being thus armed, he decided to throw his hat into the ring for governorship when it was time to do so.
He emerged the candidate of his political party after a hotly contested primary, defeating over 40 other aspirants for the governorship ticket. He also went ahead to win the governorship election with a landslide.
Obong Godswill Akpabio assumed the office of the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State after taking the oath of office on May 29th 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. His eight years tenure could be described as the golden era of the state. He was highly motivated and zealous for the speedy development of Akwa Ibom State. In fact, in one of his public comments, he had said, “I am approaching the development of our dear state with anger”.
Akpabio came into office determined to leave Akwa Ibom State better than he met it. Before he left office in 2015, Akwa Ibom was already a positive reference point in the comity of states. He built the best stadium in West Africa. That stadium was later christened the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium by the State House of Assembly in recognition of his uncommon achievements.
Among many other outstanding achievements during his eight years as governor, was the establishment of the e-Library, Pipe Jarking Flood control system, he constructed and commissioned the first concentric flyover in the state, thousands of kilometres of roads and introduction of free, compulsory and qualitative education for all school age children resident in Akwa Ibom while also ensuring free medical care for pregnant women, children and the aged.
He ensured that the Victor Attah International Airport, which he met at site clearing level, became fully functional. Having installed the internationally required landing and lighting system, that airport has one of the longest runways available in Nigeria’s aviation industry, he also witnessed the first landing and take-off of local and international flights before he left office in 2015.
Akwa Ibom State under Akpabio, was a massive construction site because of his many development initiatives and policies. Not only so, he turned numerous “boys to men” and “girls to women” through multifaceted empowerment and human capital development programmes, having destroyed the house boy/girl syndrome that held sway before his tenure as governor.
The unprecedented development of the State in his eight years as governor earned him the appellation “The Uncommon Transformer.”
In recognition of his scintillating and landmark performance, his people in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District (aka Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District), unanimously agreed to send him to the Nigeria Senate as their representative. His election was in appreciation of his years of selfless services that transformed Akwa Ibom from a mere pedestrian to a destination State in Nigeria.
Despite being a rookie Senator in 2015 and because of his outstanding leadership qualities, some rules and protocols of the Red Chamber were automatically suspended to enable his election as the Minority Leader of the Senate and Leader of Opposition. Shortly after that election, those rules and protocols were restored with a declaration that such should never be allowed to happen again.
At the Senate, he quickly put on the apparel of a nationalist, standing on the side of the people even against the wish of his political party. As leader of the opposition, partisans expected him to stand against anything good or bad brought to the floor of the Senate by the ruling party. But, he became the statesman stabiliser of power-play in the red chamber, even when there were moves to discredit and bring down the Muhammadu Buhari -led administration.
In August 2018, Akpabio decided to quit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his revered position as leader of the opposition in order to team up with President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He, Akpabio, became significantly instrumental to the end of defections by many APC senators to the PDP.
These and many more achievements by Senator Akpabio during his public service career shine brightly as a tribute to his 60 years of God’s grace and purpose driven life.
Akpabio, as a public officer, is highly detribalised. He pays little or no attention to the State of origin of anyone who crosses his path. It is on record that as Governor, Senator and Minister of the Federal Republic, many of his personal aides come from outside his local government area and State.
In 2019, Akpabio was appointed as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) by President Muhammadu Buhari. Many positives have accrued to both the MNDA and by extension, the Niger Delta Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
First on his work plan was to ensure that the region remained peaceful while stakeholders were frequently engaged in ways to develop the region.
As supervising Minister over the Commission, Akpabio made sure that the yet to be inaugurated Board of the NDDC meets the yearnings and aspirations of the people for effective dispensation of services. The forensic audit of activities of the Commission aimed at putting the Commission in good stead was initiated and completed under his leadership. The forensic report has since been submitted to the Federal Government and currently, some of its recommendations are being implemented.
As Minister of Niger Delta Ministry, Akpabio bequeathed to the region a 13 storey and an eight storey buildings at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.. Fifty two projects in the nine Niger Delta states were completed and commissioned, including the Police SPU quarters in Port Harcourt, the over-1000 bed-space Hostel by the Commission at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State while the electrification project in Ilaje Ese-Odo, Ondo State, was at the verge of completion and inauguration before he voluntarily resigned his position as member of the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) in pursuit of a higher national calling.
Other completed projects under Akpabio’s headship of the Ministry, are the Skill Acquisition Centre (SAC) comprising 38 buildings at Agadagba in Ondo State, cassava processing plant at Usugbene Irrua, Edo State; health centre at Amauzari community in Isiala Mbano local government area, Imo State; health centre at Odi in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area of Bayelsa State; land reclamation/erosion control works at Nsit Attai local government area in Akwa Ibom State; health care centre at Eworkpe, Emede in Isoko South local government area of Delta State; Umudike-Umueze-Umuoyere road project (phase 1) in Rivers State; mini water works at Ikot Effiong in Akasoko Clan (Idundu/Anyanganse Ward), Akpabuyo local government area in Cross River State; boreholes and reticulation in Ndulu-Amaoba, Oboro Water Project at Ikwuano local government area in Abia State, among numerous others.
In May 2022, Senator Akpabio voluntarily resigned his ministerial appointment to vie for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of his party; the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Just like he sacrificed his revered office of the Senate Minority Leader for national unity and peace, Senator Akpabio once again, did an uncommon thing – he voluntarily stepped down from the presidential race and called on all his delegates across the country to cast their votes for Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom he described as the man with the requisite mission and vission to succeed the incumbent president and continue from where he would anchor in 2023.
That selfless decision of the former Minister no doubt triggered further support for the eventual winner with the mass withdrawal of other aspirants for Tinubu.
Here is wishing the Uko Akwa Ibom, a happy 60th birthday and many more fruitful years in good health to do more for his people particularly in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a nation.
•Udom is Chief Press Secretary to Senator Godswill Akpabio