By Damian Idongiset
Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari nominated former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio as a minister, a few voices have been singing discordant tunes.
Their murmurings are of no consequence since the President solely chose Akpabio in his wisdom and not the judgment of naysayers.
However, one can consider the minority opinion as an exercise of the right to free speech as enshrined in the 1999 constitution. Instead of dismissing the position of this misinformed few, it presents an opportunity to further educate them once again, on the reasons Akpabio fits the bill.
This exercise is mainly to cast the minds of these agents to an era when a trailblazer governed a state in Nigeria and left indelible footprints. Till date, the feat achieved in that period remains unrivaled.
Once upon a time, an ambitious and visionary young man emerged as a commissioner in Akwa Ibom State and justified reasons for his appointment. Ever since that stint, there has been no going back as he had been a successful governor, senator and now a minister-designate. This ascendancy is not just a reward for politicking but a confirmation that Akpabio is one of the few politicians, who understand the true meaning of public office.
It is instructive to note that Akpabio’s transition from a respectable state governor to the national stage was made possible by his selfless desire to serve.
Now, consider these: The emergence of Akpabio as Governor in 2007 was phenomenal. It was the first time a candidate emerged through the popular will of the people, defeating a record 57 persons.
The people had waited for five days under very harsh conditions to participate in the primary because they desired a change that would positively impact their living standard. He came into government with the desire to make a difference and change people’s perception about government. Indeed, he achieved the objectives.
One noticeable feature in Akwa Ibom State when Akpabio assumed the mantle of leadership in 2007 was the fact that the state was littered with failed or abandoned projects. In most cases, huge sums of money had been paid to contractors who collected the money, cleared the site and vanish into thin air. For instance, there was no debate on the desirability of an airport for the state.
Residents of the state had to endure long, grueling journeys through pothole-ridden roads to travel by air in neighbouring states. The administration before his had engaged a contractor, mobilised with huge sum of money but what Akpabio met as Ibom airport project was a mass land with just the site cleared.
Typical of him, he wasted no time in salvaging the project and completing it on schedule. Ibom (now Victor Attah) International Airport is reputed to have one of the longest runways in Nigeria. But as a man of vision, Akpabio moved on to complete the second phase which has the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facilities to serve the West African sub-region.
With the MRO facility, airlines could do some basic checks of their fleet of aircraft in Akwa Ibom State and save the nation capital flight. One of the major problems that had confronted successive administrations in Akwa Ibom state was the flooding of the state capital, Uyo. Living in some parts of Uyo during the rainy season was always a nightmare. From the Idoro area through Itam Road to Ikot Ekpene Road, it is always a pool of water after rainfall. It was so bad that many houses in the flood-prone areas were submerged.
In the last dispensation, residents of these areas, out of frustration, named the pool of water after the reigning Governor at the time. Year in, year out, huge budgetary provisions running into billions of naira were made to curb the problem of flooding and erosion in Uyo, but the problem simply defied every solution. On assumption of office, Akpabio decided to take the bull by the horns and confronted the problem of flooding in Uyo once and for all.
And for this, a giant construction company was engaged to deploy the “pipe jacking” or “micro-tunneling” technology to put an end to the menace that had become a yearly horrific experience for the people of the city. Apart from saving the structures in the areas from being submerged, he maintained that flood would make nonsense of the huge sums of money that had been sunk into road construction and the flyover projects in the Itam area if the issue of flooding was not addressed.
Under the pipe jacking method, water is channeled into well-lubricated huge pipelines buried 40 metres under the ground, passing through the discharge drain at Ekim Itam-Ikot Oku road, Uyo. But now like a magical trick, after the rain stops, the water just disappears within a few moments.
During a visit to the state, Former President Goodluck Jonathan was so amazed at the project that he said: “One of the projects that is quite interesting to me is the drainage system. I think this is the first time I have seen that kind of drainage system and I believe it must be one of the firsts in the whole continent of Africa,” he said.
So much has been written about Akpabio’s transformation of Akwa Ibom State through aggressive road construction projects. As at the last check, the administration constructed hundreds of roads.
This in itself is phenomenal. But as an icing on the cake, one cannot fail to notice the flyovers in different parts of the state which ease vehicular movement and enhance scenic aesthetics across the state. Remarkably, building flyovers is one projects that not many states can afford but the Akpabio administration constructed many.
Also, an elated ex-President Jonathan, at the time he visited the state to commission some of the flyovers, said: “One thing I have seen today is that the projects I have seen are not just projects, but with very high quality.
And I’m quite pleased with that because the Governor is not just playing politics with projects. It is so glaring that he is committed to changing things,” the President said. That is a celebration of uncommon transformation. Akwa Ibom State also boasts of the first-in-West Africa e-library.
The project is a component of the free and compulsory education policy of the administration, which impact has been phenomenal. Apart from the five-floor edifice which is an architectural masterpiece in itself, it is the only library in Nigeria with a multi-media conference hall with a capacity for 200 guests.
It also has facilities for teleconferencing from any part of the globe. The sheer quantum of the book resources of about 70 million downloadable e-books and 30 million books in print with an in-built alarm system to prevent pilfering; and access by users to the best libraries in the world makes this achievement uncommon. A world-class hospital and football stadium were also built by the governor to the admiration of Nigerians.
These are just but a few out of the uncommon feats of the uncommon leader. On the national scene, his presence in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has given a boost to the fortune of the party in the South-south where it hitherto had no presence.
Today, the APC is not just a promising party in the region but a party of choice. In the light of these, there is no doubt that Akpabio would be a blessing to any ministry he supervises.