By Joe Iniodu
When Matthew Arnold, an English poet and critic made the postulation that: “Greatness is a spiritual condition worthy to excite love, interest, and admiration; and the outward proof of possessing greatness is that we excite love, interest, and admiration “, the clairvoyance that instructed the aforestated truth may have had the likes of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the serving Minister in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in mind. Akpabio certainly has a spiritual condition which excites love, interest and admiration.
Akpabio was not born great owing to early privations occasioned by the loss of his father but he was born into a great family. He then personally used opportunities available to him to work to achieve greatness. And because GRACE is always with him, greatness became and remains his spiritual condition. How this has come to be remains the mystery that is difficult to unravel. But pragmatic proofs that he is a man with a spiritual condition for greatness have continued to pervade his life occasioning rousing reception wherever he is sighted, love and admiration from unexpected quarters, appointments, honours and awards.
The latest manifestation of Akpabio’s spiritual condition for greatness is his nomination for PLATINUM AWARD AS PATRON OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT by a paper that was founded 70 years ago, many years before Akpabio was born. Nigerian Tribune is the oldest surviving newspaper in Nigeria with a befitting reputation. The paper which was founded by the astute sage and nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, has not been known to waver in its avowed duty of defending the truth and the people and serving only those ends that improve the human condition. Identifying Akpabio as PATRON OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT falls into its calling of painstaking and diligent evaluation of the activities of public officers across time, geography, religion, tribe but within the national space of Nigeria.
The letter conveying the nomination of Akpabio as a worthy recipient of the TRIBUNE PLATINUM ANNIVERSARY AWARD even though constrained by space, is lavish with details of why he is the right man for the AWARD. The letter stated: “The Board and Management of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) PLC, publishers of the Tribune titles, after careful deliberations have decided, as part of the momentous event, to honour Nigerians who have invested their time and resources in the Nigerian Project and continued to demonstrate the true Nigerian spirit of dedicated service to the country and humanity”. ANN, publishers of Tribune titles have seen these rare and sterling qualities in some Nigerians even though in depleting numbers. But as an Akwa Ibom son, it is hearty to note that Akpabio is one of the few still standing and acknowledged as deserving of the Award by the oldest paper in Nigeria operating outside our primordial shores.
The Award letter again stated: “With great pride and honour, we wish to inform you that the Board and Management of our great company have considered you a worthy recipient of the rare Nigerian Tribune’s Epochal 70th Anniversary/PLATINUM Award as PATRON OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT”. Justifying the above, the letter said: “As Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, you set the record in infrastructure development. You also launched the State on a glorious path by opening up the space for business and investment”. The letter also made reference to the commendable intervention the Akpabio Administration made in Sports, Agriculture as well as Education and Tourism sectors including the massive construction of facilities, noting that those sound achievements have continued to speak volumes of his capacity as an administrator of men and resources. The letter argued that the outstanding performance may be the reason why President Muhammadu Buhari deemed him worthy and assigned him the management of the affairs of the Niger Delta.
The assertions of Nigerian Tribune can hardly be controverted. The paper is not a toddler in public assessment. With 70 years of existence, Tribune cannot lack candid parameters for such assessment. Its letter to Akpabio is therefore befitting and a true reflection of the fact that some could achieve greatness through achievements. For a paper that has conducted ethical reportage for 70 years, its assertions cannot be faulted.
The helmsman of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, His Excellency Senator Godswill Akpabio has accepted the Award. In a letter conveying the acceptance, the Minister thanked the Nigerian Tribune, which he described as a nationally acclaimed newspaper. “It is therefore with utmost pride that I wholeheartedly accept this rare Nigerian Tribune epochal 70th Anniversary Award as PATRON OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT”, the letter stated. The letter further noted that tenacity, dint of hard-work, details for quality and unbiased reportage of the affairs of the country have put the Nigerian Tribune on an enviable height and made it possible for it to survive 70 years and still standing. Akpabio congratulated African Newspapers of Nigeria, Publisher of the Tribune titles on its 70th Anniversary and wish them more profitable and stable years ahead.
The honouring of Akpabio by a paper founded by one of Nigeria’s most revered nationalist may appear a mere happenstance but it finds some confluence in historical and divine dynamics. Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Premier of Western Nigeria introduced Free and Compulsory Education in Western Nigeria. Senator Godswill Akpabio while governor of Akwa Ibom State also introduced for the first time in this part of the clime, Free and Compulsory Education. Chief Awolowo was a courageous and highly innovative leader. By 1959, he had founded a television station ahead of many countries in Europe like France, Italy and others. America had television in 1953 and Britain in 1957. This is the worthy development pace that Awolowo placed Western Nigeria. Akpabio, on his own part built the E-Library, the stadium and they are both standing as the prides of Africa. Awolowo built durable infrastructure in Western Nigeria and Akpabio unleashed same in Akwa Ibom State. Awolowo was an inspiring leader with fanatical followership. Akpabio enjoys the same experience. Awolowo was a leader of the progressive hue and Akpabio holds the same ideological persuasion.
The above isolations and many more point to the fact that things do not just happen. It is the height of absurdity to maintain that the power which planned this world was haphazard. Awolowo and Akpabio can be viewed as men with spiritual condition for greatness. This may be the underlying reason why a paper founded by the great sage is bestowing one of its highest honours to a great Nigerian like Akpabio as an encouragement to other Nigerian leaders to see the people as the central measure of value. The Award event which is scheduled to hold on Tuesday, 10th December, 2019 by 4pm at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos would again interrogate our leaders and stir in them a service orientation that would redefine leadership in our Nation. Congratulations to His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON and other Awardees.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst.