When the current political dispensation started in 1999, nobody had the fore knowledge that a young man with the name Godswill Obot Akpabio would be among the stars that would later dominate the political firmament of the nation.
Even when Akpabio made his entry into Akwa Ibom State government courtesy of Obong Victor Attah who brought him into his administration, everything appeared normal as he gradually learnt the rope of government business. Having seen it all as a participant observer, Akpabio felt the state could fare better with somebody with the right acumen and political sagacity at the helm of affairs. Against the wish of the powers – that be at the time, he took up the gauntlet and embarked on what some saw as daring the lion in its den and won convincingly despite the fact that Obong Attah had a preferred candidate.
Akpabio would, no doubt, be thanking his stars today for taking that long, tortuous road to take his people to where they truly belong.
Though the state was founded by the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, on September 23, 1987, it only came to national and international consciousness, under the Akpabio administration whose government is credited with “uncommon transformation.”
The “uncommon transformation” tag is not for nothing as Akpabio completely changed the narrative in a state which was in dire need of a leader to tap its human and material resources for the good of its people.
This was because before the coming of his administration, illiteracy and poverty stared the people in the face, such that many of her indigenes took up menial jobs, especially cooks in such big cities as Lagos and Abuja.
The future also appeared rather bleak for children in the state, many of whom were either in the farms assisting their parents or on the streets hawking during school hours.
The coming of Akpabio, however, changed the story as he took the bull by the horn by coming up with strategic policies to confront the problem.
Not only did he make education free and compulsory, he ensured training and re-training and better package for teachers for improved productivity.
He equally joined forces with the State House of Assembly by enacting a law that forbade children from trading during school hours, even as there were stiff penalties for parents of children who flouted the law.
This strategy was to have multiplier effects never envisaged by Akpabio as private schools in the state bore the brunt with increased enrolment in public schools.
Even Akwa Ibom exports outside the state who worked as cooks came back home to enjoy the unprecedented lease of life in the education sector.
Unlike those days, when public schools were associated with ramshackle structures, Akwa Ibom schools became a beauty to behold as structures comparable to what obtains in other climes surfaced across the state.
The story was the same across all critical sectors, as the state, attracted global applause for making giant strides in infrastructural development within a very short period.
Indeed, Akwa Ibom under Akpabio’s leadership became the poster state for his then party as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reaped political capital from the advancements made by the state.
For effect, Akpabio went for the best human and material resources, no matter where they were in his bid to develop the state.
Curiously, the administration was the 9th in the row of administrations that had governed the state, earning the appellation “miracle of the South-South”.
One of the biggest lessons that Nigeria can indeed learn from Akpabio is the capacity to use tourism to attract investments, as no first time visitor to Akwa Ibom would not jump at the opportunity to visit the state a second time in view of her tourist attractions. How would anyone not marvel at the beautiful network of roads and bridges dotting the state’s landscape especially Uyo, the state capital?
Akwa Ibom is one of the few states that can boast of an anti flooding strategic plans which no doubt helps the state in battling climatic challenges. My recent visit to Katowice, Poland for a UN convention on climate change shows Akpabio as a man who saw tomorrow in view of the giant steps taking to tackled climatic conditions of the state.
Uyo, the state capital, today boasts of N13.8bn underground drainage channel to stem challenges posed by flood and erosion.
The Akpabio magic is replicated in other critical sectors including health, agriculture, transportation, housing and more. For a man who has done so much for his people, it is little wonder that he holds the ace as far the politics of the state is concerned.
In fact, in Akwa Ibom the politician’s mood determines the political temperature of the state. It was, therefore, unsurprising that the PDP in the state went into disarray immediately Akpabio moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC) a few months ago. The simple truth is that Akpabio was PDP and PDP was Akpabio, so when he left the party, the gnashing of teeth that followed was expected.
The initial bravado from the state government has since subsided with the mass resignation that followed Akpabio’s movement to APC. With the kick-off of political campaigns, it is doubtful if any serious politician will be left in the PDP in the days ahead.
This is because Akpabio has never failed to prove his mettle wherever he finds himself. Those who initially said he lacked the experience to lead the PDP as former minority leader later saw the political sagacity he displayed as the mouth piece of the opposition. Within the period he has represented the people in the red chamber, Akpabio has scored another first. It is on record that he has attracted projects worth over N20bn to the senatorial district, which is unprecedented in the history of the state.
This has brought to the fore, the fact that the senator is not a man who occupies public office for personal aggrandisement.
As he marks his 56th birthday tomorrow, I join millions of his admirers across the world in saying happy birthday.
– Umohinyang, a social commentator, wrote in from Katowice, Poland