It was Ernest Agyemang Yeboah, Author of “Distinctive Footprints of Life” who said that, “notable people do notable things for they take notice of the unnoticed. They think beyond our thinking. They look beyond what we all look. They try, fail, and try again. They dare unrelentingly and at the end, come out victorious.”
Thomas Carlyle was right, when he declared; “permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: this in all things, distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”
The above quotes find aptness in the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, a Five Star political model who has successfully weathered the storm, and left indelible footprints in the sands of time.
The victory story of Senator Godswill Akpabio began when he lost his father (Chief Obot Akpabio), to death at a frail age and was raised by his Mother (Madam Lucy Obot Akpabio) who single-handedly bred him in the values of discipline and hard work. His grooming and early struggles from birth had thoroughly prepared him for the great task ahead.
As a man of stoic character, consistent and Godly, Senator Akpabio is well schooled, having initialised his educational pursuit at Methodist Primary School, Ukana, Essien Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom State, where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate. He proceeded to the prestigious Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he earned his West African Certificate and the University of Calabar, Cross River State , where he obtained a Degree in Law and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1988.
Suffice it to say that while at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Senator Akpabio, out of his dints of hard work and tenacity of purpose, was appointed the General Senior Prefect and at the University of Calabar, his unwavering doggedness for excellence saw to his election as Speaker of the Students’ Parliament. These were the platforms which nurtured the young Godswill Akpabio for exploits.
He cut his professional teeth as an Associate Partner at Paul Usoro and Co. and EMIS Telecoms Limited, (a pioneer fixed Wireless Telecommunications company in Lagos, Nigeria). He also served as the National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Telecommunication Companies in Nigeria, (ATCOM).
Like a golden fish who has no hiding place, Akpabio was in 2002, identified by the then Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Arch. Obong Victor Attah who appointed him Honourable Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. This singular appointment heralded Akpabio’s journey in Akwa Ibom politics. Being unperturbed and resolved in mind, he served as a Commissioner in three other key Ministries: Petroleum and Natural Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, as well as Lands and Housing, between 2002 and 2006.
Like the biblical Nehemiah, who was sent by God, to rebuild the broken wall of Jerusalem, Senator Godswill Akpabio, hided the clarion and wholeheartedly embarked on a rescue mission to Akwa Ibom State, when he emerged Governor in 2007.
His emergence as Governor of Akwa Ibom State was not without challenges. Again, like the Biblical David, Godswill Akpabio fought many Goliaths, owing to the fact that he had to contend with numerous aspirants including a Deputy Governor he had served under and a Son-inlaw to then Governor Victor Attah, who (already), had been “anointed” by the father-in-law (Governor Attah) as his successor.
But they all, were not “God’s will” for Akwa Ibom State, as Godswill Akpabio, with his campaign mantra, “Let Godswill be Done”, defeated 57 other aspirants in a superheated primary election, to emerge flag bearer of the largest political party in Africa, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and subsequently as Governor, under the same party.
Akpabio’s journey to Akwa Ibom as Governor was one that will remain green in the minds of every Akwa Ibom citizen and a story for generations yet unborn. With his widely accepted “UNCOMMON TRANSFORMATION” slogan, his primary assignment was to transform a once forgotten and unknown destination, a State barely heard about (positively), to a state that is today, the blue print of Nigeria and Africa.
Under Akpabio’s watch,the State Government, constructed the 29th Anniversary Hospital, and in partnership with John Hopkins University Hospital, U.S.A., trained about 150 doctors from Akwa Ibom for the running of the hi-tech Hospital capable of undertaking major transplants and surgery. Today, the Hospital has the best trained doctors and like the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium (The Nest of Champions), it has ten years maintenance contract attached to it. As we speak, the Hospital is today, one of the best in Africa has so far reduced medical tourism among wealthy Nigerians.
Before his emergence as Governor, the State was littered with abandoned and uncompleted projects by the previous administration, but those projects, through the ingenuity and sagacity of Governor Akpabio were completed in no time and put to full utilisation within the shortest time.
Akpabio took over the construction of Ibom Power Plant at a 65 percent level of completion and saw to its full completion. Today, the project is working and generates 191 megawatts.
How about the Ibom International Airport which he met at site-clearing level. The first phase of airport construction began in 2006 and was completed in 2009. Akwa Ibom Airport opened on September 23, 2009, and the first scheduled passenger service commenced on December 2, 2009, when Arik Air began offering flights to Abuja and Lagos . The second construction phase began in 2012, and included the completion of a maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility, the construction of an international terminal, and additional taxiways.
The construction and commissioning of the Ibom E-Library, a state-of-the-art facility with capacity for multifarious internet utilization and over 60 million eBooks and the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium (The Nest of Champions) was greeted with great enthusiasm and for the commissioning of the Nest of Champions, it was a big buzz in the South-South region of Nigeria as the then President Goodluck Jonathan led some Heads of Governments from across the West African sub-continent, including Ghanaian leader, Dr. John Dramani Mahama and Ivorian Head of State, Dr. Alassane Ouattara for the elaborate inauguration of one of the most magnificent sporting infrastructure in Africa – The Nest of Champions.
Until when Akpabio mounted the saddle as Governor, Akwa Ibomites were treated more like commoners by the bigger entities in the country. Times were, when if you heard the name “Akwa Ibom”, the image that immediately came to the mind would be the proverbial house boy/girl or ‘okada’ rider. To be an indigene of Akwa Ibom then, was indeed like coming from a slave state. The wider perception was that Akwa Ibomites then, were best suited for menial employment as domestic servants, house boys, house girls and personal drivers, but not so anymore.
Energised by the God, Akpabio fought tirelessly within eight years, and succeeded in rewriting the Akwa Ibom Story and repositioned her to be at the centre of national reawakening. Now, Akwa Ibomites, including those residing outside the State, cannot, but feel tall and proud of being from Akwa Ibom State.
In the sincere words of Magnus Eze, “like or hate him, the truth is that the eight years of Governor Akpabio was purposeful and wiped away shame from the face of every Akwa Ibomite. The house girls and house boys (the Akpans and Ekaetes) from Akwa Ibom are no longer in private homes in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and other major towns and cities. They had since embraced schools in Akwa Ibom State, courtesy of the Free and Compulsory Education Programme of the Akpabio’s administration, formulated to produce a very vibrant, literate and well-focused population in the next few years.”
As a worker friendly Governor, he introduced several welfare packages for the workers. One of such, was the the payment of a thirteenth month bonus salary every December, called “Akpabiomber” to workers in the state. Unarguably, he was the first Governor in Nigeria to have paid the N18,000 minimum wage. The least paid worker in the state, during his reign received over N21,000 monthly, a feat which reportedly stirred the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to proclaim him the most Labour-friendly Governor in the country.
The achievements of the Akpabio’s administration remains unprecedented. Over 4,000 life-touching projects were spread across the 31 Local Government Areas of the state, especially in areas of rural electrification, where over 1600 communities in the state had been linked to the national grid, raising electricity coverage in the State to not less than 85 per cent, and provision of boreholes,
On several occasions, Akpabio said, “I used to hide and attend lectures in a nearby secondary school without registering. That continued until the day the school guards chased me out of the school and I fell down and injured my leg in the shrubs.” Maybe, that informed the free and compulsory education, from Primary to Senior Secondary Schools in Akwa Ibom State, including non indigenes. His administration eliminated all fees in public schools, constructed and renovated public Primary and Secondary Schools, supplied textbooks and other materials and paid examination fees for all pupils and students, to boost the free and compulsory education programme.
His eight year reign as Governor was never without obstacles. Detractors and political jobbers were up against him. There were litigations, sponsored attacks, blackmails and attention-seeking petitions against him.
But as Roy T. Bennett noted in his book, “The Light in the Heart”, “when you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way. But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve”, the focused Governor Akpabio was never distracted, and in the end, he surmounted all odds and came out victorious.
One notable feature in Akpabio’s life is that he has never lost out in any political or legal battle, maybe, due to the Victory Syndrome.
On Friday, Match 27th, 2015, The Supreme Court brought to a close, a four-year legal tussle to unseat Godswill Akpabio when it declared him as the validly-elected Governor of Akwa Ibom State. In that a unanimous decision, the apex Court ruled that Mr. Akpabio was the suitable candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, a claim that had for years been challenged by Frank Okon, who also contested the party’s ticket in April 2011.
Similarly, on December, 11, 2015, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, affirmed that, Godswill Akpabio, was the validly elected to represent Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District in the Senate, dismissing the appeal that lodged against Akpabio by candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the Senatorial District, Chief Inibehe Okori.
In 2015, when the time was nigh for him to handover the mantle of leadership, Governor Akpabio, spurred by divine direction and his desire to consolidate on the gains of his eight year reign, spotted and supported Governor Udom Emmanuel, a top-notch financial cognoscente cum political connoisseur, who has, within a short while, transformed the State into a pedestal, in not only Nigeria, but Africa.
For Senior Akpabio at 54, he is an accomplished man in all ramifications and unmatched achievements speak volumes. At 54, he has bagged a National honour from the Nigerian Nation (Commander of the Order of the Niger); Honorary Doctoral Degree from over 10 Universities, including the Nigerian Defence Academy; Fellowships from several Polytechnics, Colleges of Education; Special recognition by the American Congress; honours from the Church, media, socio-cultural institutions, among others.
Everything that can be written or said about Senator Godswill Akpabio can be summed up to the fact that he belongs to a rare class of politician who have diligently blended individual success with service. He remains an irrepressible patriot, a disciplinarian, a good father and an unstoppable Democrat who sees to the success of anything to which he does.
This is why on his birthday, we should rise in unison and celebrate a pacesetter, a nationalist, a pedigreed, consummate, worthy, loyal, and modernised statesman, making recourse to the biblical quote in Proverbs 22:29, “seeth thou a man diligent in his work? he shall stand before kings and not obscure men.”
Happy Birthday Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON. May your days be long.
-Uwakmfon Dan, a young Nigerian writer, writes from the lucrative village of Ukanafun Edem Inyang, in Ukanafun L.G.A