By Jackson Udom
Everyone has a story but not every story can touch hearts and move men. Mr. Obot’s story, however, is a different kernel; his story touches the hearts and arouses strong passion. He was a local boy but he did not remain so, he weathered life’s storms to become a city man—nay a city builder. His father died when he was an infant, he was fatherless but put all the struggles that come with that behind him to become a father-nay a father of many.
Obot was born on this day, though 50 years ago but he has birthed many dreams and aspirations that surpass that number. You know who is Obot, don’t you? He is the governor of Akwa Abasi Ibom State, His Excellency Chief Godswill Akpabio to us but to the late Chief Obot Akpabio and Madam Lucy Akpabio of Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, he was God’s will. And by and large, his life has proven his name; Obot is God’s will being done in the lives of many and the entire Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.
Though the plot of the golden story started decades ago, with little Godswill’s attendance of the Methodist Primary School, Ukana and Federal Government College, Port Harcourt for his primary and secondary education, it started getting thicker and intriguing with his early fulfillment of his name, Godwill. The Yoruba people of the South-west would say that a child that would be great would show the inkling of greatness at a tender age, this young Akpabio did when he was appointed General Senior Prefect in secondary school and later Speaker of the Students’ Parliament in his days at the University of Port Harcourt where he read Law.
The plot got thicker when as the Chief Executive Officer of EMIS Telecoms Limited; he was appointed a commissioner in Akwa Ibom State in 2002. As a Commissioner for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Akpabio showed flashes of his efficient leadership and excellent administrative capability but those were just flashes that would have him deployed to new ministries. Like an insightful apprentice, he had to learn what has today stand him out of the 36 state governors in the country, he was deployed to the Ministries of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Land and Housing.
Don’t forget the name of our character, Godswill, the fulfillment to that name manifested again when the dynamic commissioner of three ministries in five years learnt his lines and unlike many, had the stage to perform his act. In 2007, Akpabio became the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and later went ahead to win the gubernatorial election on April 14, 2007. That was the beginning of a new version of history for Akwa Ibom State and for Godswill Akpabio who was living up to his name; he is God’s will to the world in many regards.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you as my chosen instrument, and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you…,” seemed to be the words of God meant for Akpabio, though they were directed at Jeremiah in the Bible. Governor Akpabio became God’s battle axe like Jeremiah, to break down the walls of illiteracy, servitude, backwardness and underdevelopment which had become synonymous with the state. And in five years, the governor has carved a niche for himself among the past leaders of the state as the most outstanding and unforgettable but that is not where the story ends—it is not doubtable that he would rank second to none if the performances of all the governors in the country were to be compared.
Without the fear of immodesty, Chief Akpabio’s story in leadership is one of daring to be different; it is a story of compassion and service; a story of visionary and exemplary leadership; and a story of transformation—in fact, the latter is the whole essence of Akpabio’s leadership in Akwa Ibom and he has done so much to live up to that billing, so more so he is called a Transformation Governor and a Promise Keeper. These, more than anything, are the reasons his story is different—it is a golden story better told today, his golden jubilee on earth. It’s 50 years of Godswill but he has scored way beyond 50 in performance.
In five years, the governor has demonstrated foresight by taking care of the future of thousands of children and families through his free compulsory education from primary to secondary schools; he also showed foresight in building the first underground erosion control system, long before the floods which ravaged many states in the country came. As a former actor in the telecoms world, Governor Akpabio was digital-aware, he saw far into the future on how soft and virtual books are taking over in the world of information and education and to demonstrate that, he built a first-of-its-kind digital library in Uyo. Time may not permit the attempt to chronicle the innumerable projects which he has completed to demonstrate his visionary leadership in the state. As an agent of change a game-changer, Akpabio turned Akwa Ibom to a new land where infrastructural development took the centre stage, when other governors were foot-dragging over federal projects such as roads, Akpabio took over and his people are the best for that decision. From the Ibom International Airport to the Ibom Tropicana, different stories of transformation have been etched on the sands of time.
Unlike the earliest school of thought in development, which placed premium on physical infrastructure, Governor Akpabio’s approach to the development of Akwa Ibom State has been a robust mix of physical and human development, with the latter receiving significant attention through women and youth empowerment programmes. The Integrated Farmers Scheme where farmers, especially youths are encouraged through loan systems and the Women Agro-Enterpreneurship Programme (WAEDEP) which has trained and empowered thousands of women are proofs of Akpabio’s human development efforts. Of a truth, the story cannot finish, for the man has not stopped the good works in Akwa Ibom which rubbished mathematical understanding, making five greater than 20, as Akpabio’s five years have trashed the first 20 years of Akwa Ibom in terms of achievement. But today, the story reaches another high point, the man in the centre reaches the landmark age of 50, making a golden story of performance more glamorous. Today, as the leader of the Transformation Team and Architect of New Akwa Ibom clocks 50, countless people have had a reason to smile because of his life. His performance and lifestyle are no doubt deserving of gold, he truly is a golden governor and today cannot be less-important because a golden fish cannot have a hiding place.
• Udom is Special Assistant, Media to AkwaIbom State Governor Akpabio.