Suddenly, a flurry of events have put Akwa Ibom State constantly in public discourse. Not a week passes without events bringing the state into the front burner. Just a few days back, the Governing Board of The Initiatives, a group of cerebral members of the House of Representatives, was inaugurated and the state again rose in all its glory!
A few months back some members of the National Assembly had visited the state for their committee work. About seven months later, when they returned, the landscape had changed, according to one of them who narrated the story later. The first flyover is in place; the pipe-jacking mechanism, the first in Africa, is on; the first e-library in West Africa is already illuminating the Uyo environment; etc.
Yes, the event organized by The Initiatives provided another opportunity for the state to be x-rayed, particularly by visitors, who had preconceived ideas apparently based on misinformation. In the end, many of them confessed they had been wrongly briefed by some mischief makers. In fact, when some members of the National Assembly along with other members of political class toured the state for on-the-spot verification, they returned with one verdict: Akpabio has rebranded Akwa Ibom State!
In deed, even his worse critics agree that Akpabio has done well. But the numerous beneficiaries of his people-focused stewardship take it further. According to them, Akpabio is not just rebranding the state, he has become a brand himself, signifying hope for his people. An ‘Emerging Tiger’, he has become a symbol of good governance; turning his state into a model for the entire nation.
According to a Lagos-based research agency, Brand Health, Akpabio’s dedicated, sincerity and selfless service have earned him more respect by his people and even outsiders. It confirmed The governor as a “promise keeper” who in three years, has fulfilled all his campaign promises. The only other person rated alongside Akpabio was Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos. However, the research based on opinion poll added that: “Akpabio’s ratings soared in the area of roads construction, free education scheme and infrastructural development”. About 72 percent of respondents, it said, indicated that Akpabio “has fulfilled his election promises through massive infrastructural development”.
The yardstick of good governance include provision of basic amenities like good roads, security, health facilities, etc. Those and more, Akpabio has delivered. Hence, according to Brand Health, while a majority of respondents saw him as the “promise keeper”, an equally large number picked him as the “man of the people”. For others, he is simply the “man with clear vision” especially about the problems facing his State.
That high rating was buttressed a few days later with an award presented by the then acting President Goodluck Jonathan to Governor Akpabio at Aso Villa. Specifically, it was in appreciation of the governor and Akwa Ibom State’s contribution to the work of God in establishing a chapel within the Federal seat of power. But significantly, it again showed the focus, dedication and depth of selflessness a man can dedicate to the service of God and his people.
That award coming from the highest political seat in the country acknowledges Akpabio’s passion to bring religious tolerance, brotherhood and Godliness into governance.
Recently, at the 24th/25th Convocation Ceremony of the University of Calabar, Jonathan had described Akpabio as one of those with “proven integrity who have made the country and Africa proud because of their love and selfless services.” He went ahead to commend the governor’s effort at repositioning his state and helping to sustain UNICAL, his alma mater. Incidentally, the national president of Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Olu Akeredolu and the Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr Sunday Makinde, are among the numerous reputable personalities who hold a similar position. Specifically, they recently said that Akpabio has justified the mandate given him by the masses in April 2007; hence merits a second term.
With due respect to the founding fathers of democracy across nations, Akpabio now occupies a reasonable space among equals in Nigeria. It’s not surprising, therefore, that since assumption of office, he has received various accolades and awards in appreciation for his invaluable contributions towards changing frustrations to joy and correcting the mistakes of the past.
According to Bessie Stanley, an American writer, in a poem published in 1905, a man can claim to have achieved success if he lived well, laughed often and loved much; gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; earned the appreciation of honest critics and endured the betrayal of false friends; filled his niche and accomplished his task; left the world better than he found it. In deed, Akpabio loves the masses much and laughs often. He has earned the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children. He has experienced the betrayal of false friends and earned the appreciation of honest critics. Yes, he has carved a niche for himself and accomplished his task as an agent of positive transformation. Therefore, today, tomorrow or whenever, Akpabio can boldly say that even halfway into his tenure, Akwa Ibom State was in a better condition than he met it on May 29, 2007!
Just like a tiger devours its meat, Akpabio has been eating up illiteracy in Akwa Ibom - through his free, qualitative and compulsory education policy. He’s been eating up poverty - through micro credit schemes to sub-groups and societies - including religious bodies. He has allowed God to use him to elongate the lives of Akwa Ibom people - through his free medicare for children, pregnant women and the elderly. And, he’s been transforming the landscape of the state with his globally acknowledged massive infrastructural renaissance. For instance, with about 280 urban roads and Federal roads worth over N180billion; with an elevated standard of living; promotion of self worth; etc, Akpabio is not just the tiger of transformation for Akwa Ibom state but for Nigeria. That explains why a critical segment of the society – the media – recently confirmed novelist James Hadley Chase’s assertion that a goldfish has no hiding place! Almost in quick succession, Akpabio had received the prestigious Man of the Year Awards from the reputable Daily Independent and the National Daily newspapers.
When Akpabio, on his inauguration on May 29, 2007, promised to take Akwa Ibom to Nigeria, many thought it was mere political boast. Today, the state is no longer discussed in negative terms of child-labour and house-maid syndromes. The people’s self worth and confidence have been restored, just by initiating the right programmes.
To many an Akwa Ibom person, Akpabio, through deliberate people-focused policies, has brought light to the land and the illumination has set many free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance, indolence and self pity.
In years gone by, life in Akwa Ibom was torture, neglect and dark!
Today, Akpabio has brought hope and actualized dreams. Truly, he has become a model for good governance.; the desirable ingredient for sustainable democracy. He has become a light which even his detractors cannot extinguish!
. Miss Edward is a journalist and teacher in Lagos