Governor Godswill Akpabio
For the people of Akwa Ibom State, the outgoing year will go down the memory lane as very significant. First, the silver jubilee marking the state’s creation was observed with fanfare on September 23. Three months after that elaborate celebration, another historic period struck. It was the 50th birthday of the State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
In the wee hour of December 9, 1962, in a sleepy village of Ukana Ikot Ntuen, Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill was born into the family of Mr. Obot and Lucy Akpabio. As a child who did not grow up with the father, his future was somewhat uncertain. He had to battle life’s many challenges to become the governor of his state.
Akpabio completed his primary education at Methodist Primary School, Ukana, where he obtained distinction in his First School Leaving Certificate Examination. He obtained his WAEC and GCE A’ Levels from the prestigious Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
After his secondary education, he secured admission at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), in Cross River State, where he studied law. Upon completion of his degree, he went to the Nigeria Law School, Lagos and was subsequently called to the bar. Akpabio began legal practice during his National Youth Service Corps year in Lagos and has since remained in practice.
He started his career by working as a teacher in 1982 at Afaha Secondary School, Essien Udim Local Government Area. He also worked as Associate Partner with the Firm of Paul Usoro & Co, Broad Street, Lagos; director, Corporate affairs/Legal Services, EMIS Telecoms and Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive, EM IS Telecoms.
Akpabio soon ventured into politics through the instrumentality of former governor Obong Victor Attah and served as Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. He was moved from that Ministry to that of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and later as Commissioner for Lands and Housing under same administration.
Interesting, his political tendency had first manifested when he emerged general senior prefect at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt. He was speaker of Parliament, Students’ Union Government, University of Calabar.
Later on, he joined politics and became a member of the National Party of Nigeria in the course of which he became personal assistant to Senator Nsima Akpabio in 1983.
Under Attah, he emerged the most outstanding commissioner in Akwa Ibom State in 2005. And following his brilliant performance, he was persuaded to contest the 2007 governorship election in the state where he defeated 58 other aspirants during the primary to emerge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag-bearer and subsequently, governor.
Akpabio who is in his second term in office, has said at different times that his mission in governance is to steer the ship of state to its final destination where indigenes will burst forth from the shackles of tribalism, subservience, pettiness, blackmail, character assassination, inferiority complex, poverty, to a fulfilled, peaceful virile and united state.
And since coming on board in 2007, Akpabio has not left anybody in doubt as to his sincerity to fulfill his mission and vision for the state.
His achievements in the last five years have become an anthem within and outside the state. His records are pronounced in the area of security, education, health, housing and urban renewal, rural development, culture and tourism, building of Akwa Ibom International Airport, Completion of five Star Hotel, Independent Power Plant (IPP) and building of Tropicana Entertainment Park.
Of all things, the crisis generated by political opponents was about the greatest challenge Akpabio has had to contend with. But presently, he has instituted such measures to ensuring an orderly and peaceful society.
Some of such measures include formation of the joint security task force code named Thunder and the other, Quick Response Squad (QRS).
He procured over 90 Hilux patrol vehicles for the police for pre-emptive operations against violent crimes in the State; equipping of security agencies with modern gadgets; provision of Armoured Personnel Carriers and support to gun boats operation in the coastal areas.
But the greatest legacy Akpabio can be said to have bequeathed on the state is the free and compulsory education policy. Under this policy, Akwa Ibom children and other non-indigenes of school age go to school free- from primary to senior secondary school level.
In addition to free tuition, the state pays a subvention of N100 per primary school pupil and N300 per secondary school student to cater for logistics and expenses of each child.
Akpabio has ensured the provision of conducive learning environment in schools through massive rehabilitation and reconstruction of school blocks, provision of science and laboratory equipment, construction of hostels and supply of desks amongst others.
He has constructed internal roads in the University of Uyo, and the Polytechnic Ikot Osurua; constructed an e-library in the State to serve as a reference centre for researchers and set the stage for the growth of virtual education. He has also provided free text books- 200,000 each in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematic and Integrated Science.
In the health sector, Akpabio has invested enormous financial resources through the Ministry of Health to revamp and restructure the sector in order to make health care delivery not only accessible and affordable for every Akwa Ibom person but also to ensure that nobody dies from a preventable disease.
Other achievements in the sector include the construction of a world class specialist hospital at Ekim Itam called the 20th Anniversary Hospital; donation of N50 million to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and building of a paediatrics block; building of an oxygen plant at General Hospital, Ikot Ekpene, the first in the history of the state; activation and expansion of 8 anti-retroviral therapy centres, 15 prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) centres and 37 HIV counselling and testing centres- all rendering free services.
He has procured and inaugurated state-of-the-art ambulances, constructed new PHCs in the three senatorial districts of the State, procured utility vehicles for 159 doctors in the state government employ to facilitate their movement, constructed cottage hospitals in Essien Udim, Ibeno, Ukanafun, Eastern Obolo and Ika.
Housing and urban renewal sector have also received sufficient attention. Presently, Akpabio is working on 10, 000 modern and affordable houses to the Akwa Ibom populace.
Other achievements in this area the construction of a functional Governor’s Lodge complex; built 310 prime units mini estates at 10 per local government in all the local government areas mainly for local government chieftains. The project is undertaken through the State/Local Government Joint Account Committee.
He has demolished the old Federal Prison Ikot Ekpene and relocated inmates to an ultramodern prison complex; constructed Akpan Andem Market Phase II; rehabilitated Government Guest House in Uyo; constructed Police College in Essien Udim Local Government Area; constructed a new ultra modern banquet hall within the Government Lodge complex; signed the contract for the construction of a three-star hotel at the site of the old Federal Prisons, Ikot Ekpene.
It is understandable, therefore, why Akpabio’s 50th was filled with as much fanfare. He, perhaps, has redefined leadership to his people.