By Amos Etuk
He was heralded as a once in a life time generational leader who bestrode the political space like a colossus; well revered, highly influential and seen as a leader who could lead his people to new heights of greater prominence.
He curried power and cherished the affluence and influence that made him larger than life. He laid down a philosophy in which the people believed in him and stood by him in his leadership to give a better meaning to development. He was called the Great Teacher. He laid down set templates in governance and was perceived at that time to be a team player who would stand firmly by his decisions to stand by his people.
The story of Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio whose walk up the political ladder is a lesson in our political history of the gains in leadership and above all the lessons of betrayal with the agony, pains of defeat and utmost rejection.
Godswill Akpabio came into the political limelight in 2002 when he was appointed Honorable Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources by the then Governor, His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah in Akwa Ibom State. Between 2002 and 2006 he served as Commissioner in three key ministries, Petroleum and Natural Resources , Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs/ Lands and Housing.
He used his Office as Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs to build a strong political structure across the 31 Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State which positioned him in pole position to contest the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2006
The power rotation arrangement which had ceded the political leadership to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District had clearly favoured him and even though Governor Victor Attah had kept faith in having his son in-law, Dr. Udoma Ekarika as his successor, Godswill Akpabio shrugged off a stiff contest that lasted several days with a change of venue and about 57 aspirants to emerge as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the governorship elections in Akwa Ibom State.
He went ahead to win the elections in the 2007 general elections and became the third civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom State. He served under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. His tenure witnessed revolutionary strides of development in Akwa Ibom State especially with the increased allocation to the state due to the high price of Crude Oil in the international market. His tenure as Governor in Akwa Ibom State was termed ‘’ The Uncommon Transformation Years ‘’ which won him political accolades and a new horizon which many political pundits severally described him as ‘’ The Emerging Tiger’’.
His political fame and power saw him being elected by his colleagues as the pioneer Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors forum in 2013. It was a breakaway faction of the Governors Forum.
In 2011, Godswill Obot Akpabio was re-elected for a second term in office and upon the end of his tenure in 2015, he contested and won the Senate seat for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District (Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District) to represent the area in the Eighth Senate.
Fate smiled on him as a first timer at the Senate and was nominated by his colleagues to emerge as the Senate Minority Leader on July 28, 2015.
His rise on the political ladder was described as legendary and he was expected to speak as a voice that will protect the interest of his Senatorial District, Akwa Ibom State and the South South region, the home base which gave him the platform for national prominence.
Power, it has always been said is intoxicating and absolute power intoxicates absolutely and with the aura of political influence along the corridors of power, Godswill Akpabio walked the terrain with the might of ‘’ Goliath’’ as the only influence on any political decision for his people.
The first tell-tale signs of the fall of his political kingdom which he ignored was the loss of confidence by his colleagues in the Senate who felt that as the Minority Leader, he had failed to be vocal in presenting issues of national interest for the opposition at the Legislature.
For the record, Godswill Akpabio had a no love lost relationship with his predecessor Obong Victor Attah even till date and once again, played into the hands of the negative side of history with his over bearing influence on the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel his successor, which was rejected.
The defection of Godswill Obot Akpabio on August 8, 2018 to the All Progressive Congress (APC) signalled his rapid descent down the ladder of his political career as his defection rally which was meant to widen the support base of the party in Akwa Ibom State failed to attract any prominent politician to join him on his new journey into political suicide and wilderness.
There were speculations that Godswill Akpabio hurriedly jumped ship due to overbearing threats by agencies of the Federal Government to investigate his tenure and seize the alleged billions of Naira he had stashed away.
That defection cost Godswill Akpabio his political future. He failed to consult his close allies on his decision. He failed to tell the people of Akwa Ibom State why he had suddenly jumped ship of his political ideologies. He failed to consult the people who he had over many years imbibed the rejection of the ‘’Broom Party’’ describing the party members as slaves and prayed to God that the people of Akwa Ibom State can never go back to identify with such a party.
This same Godswill Akpabio told a bewildered nation on national television network how in 2015, he betrayed his erstwhile party the PDP and former President Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential elections of 2015 where he declared that ‘’ his heart was with President Buhari’’, yet he was among the key figures of the Jonathan administration.
He resigned as Senate Minority Leader and boasted at campaign grounds that the Presidential elections in Akwa Ibom State will be concluded within three hours. He was given the task to deliver the South-south region to the All Progressive Congress .
His threats to use federal might to harass prominent Akwa Ibom politicians was condemned. He was fingered as the power behind the crisis which erupted at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in November 2018 which was roundly rejected and defended by the people and began playing a larger than life status as the kingmaker in Akwa Ibom State where his voice will hold sway.
Godswill Akpabio under rated his challenger to the Senatorial seat His Excellency, Obong Christopher Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party describing him as a ‘’walkover’’, he under rated the political voice and strength of his people with expectations that his people will bow to his wishes. He forgot that the people of Abak Five who felt deprived from having the Senate seat over the years would revolt. He forgot that the people of Ini and Ikono Local government Areas would not tow his inglorious path. He forgot that the people of Obot Akara Local Government Area had resolved to keep faith with their son, Obong Christopher Ekpenyong. He forgot that his hometown Essien Udim Local Government had since turned their back against him for betraying them and defecting. He failed to see the signs that the glory of God had departed from him. He failed to see the determination of his people to oust him.
Drowning within the tide of the waves against his political future, he tried to play god once again. He used coercion. He depended on the security agencies to intimidate his own constituents. He barked, nobody moved. He yelled, the people stood firm. He threatened, the people remained resolute to defend their votes.
The election of February 23 will remain his albatross, by the end of the day; the news had begun to spread across the country of the eclipse of the Uncommon Transformer. An election he boasted will last three hours lasted three days. God stood firmly with the people. They kept faith till the results were formally declared late Tuesday afternoon.
The international observers who addressed the media on Tuesday told the world how they were harassed and assaulted by security agents on the orders of Godswill Akpabio but they still made their reports. Godswill Akpabio polled 83,158 votes for his All Progressive Congress party while Christopher Ekpenyong polled 118, 215 votes for the Peoples Democratic Party.
Godswill Akpabio also failed to deliver Akwa Ibom State to the All Progressive Congress and further failed to deliver the South-suth region as his political strength waned across the region.
He tried to undermine the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel, he mocked the people. He told everyone who cared to listen to his several boasts that he was in charge in Akwa Ibom State. H saw in his political strides, the lone voice but failed to understand that God gives power to the people. God appoints leaders and God can also do away with leaders who walk the path of pride.
Like Pharaoh of Egypt, God hardened his heart and Akpabio saw himself as the man who had it all-money, power and fame but forgot the God factor. The fall of the Uncommon Leader is a clear testimony that the people count, their votes count, never take them for granted.
No man can play God, no man can change the destiny of a people. It is a lesson well learnt and a defeat that has ended an era as a new dawn has come upon the land.
For Godswill Akpabio, this is the day after, the pains, the lessons, the trauma, the challenges, the fall from the ladder of grace, the once upon a time leader, the end of an era.