The Akwa Ibom State that CAF wants to play the finals of the Confederation Cup at its world class stadium, with an airport rated as one of the best in West Africa and roads good enough for the testing of driverless cars, was never such a developed wonderland. The state’s trajectory of development changed in 2007 when the people of the state spotted a man who could truly transform their state into the ‘promised land’. The incumbent governor had chosen his son in law to succeed him. Party delegates based on popular demand defied his choice and went for Godswill Akpabio. Challenged by the passion of the people for development, Akpabio went to work. In no time, he earned the epithet of Uncommon Transformer.
On Tuesday, national delegates of the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) have the rare opportunity Akwa Ibom people had in 2007. They can elect Akpabio as the party flag bearer and change the development trajectory of Nigeria.
Since the uncommon transformation that Akpabio wrought on Akwa Ibom state happened between 15 and 7 years ago, it may serve some purpose to bring it up. Akwa Ibom State, though richly endowed was a backwater of development. Despite being the highest oil producing state, it was getting nothing from its resources until Akpabio’s predecessor, Obong Victor Attah, fought for the abrogation of the onshore/offshore dichotomy in the application of derivation in revenue sharing.
The story is told of how Stella Obasanjo, then first lady, left the state in the middle of the night for Calabar because the ceiling in the government guest house she was staying collapsed and fell on the bed. It had no airport so the only air route to the state was through Calabar, an hour drive away. Even then, the part of the road that took you to Uyo, the state capital was hardly passable. At that time, the East West road from Port Harcourt was under construction. The roads from Aba and the one from Umuahia were more of dance tracks than vehicular highways.
By the time Akpabio was through, Uyo the state capital became a modern city. There was an airport to fly to Uyo. The roads were done. VIP visitors to Akwa Ibom State were so carried away they found every excuse to extend their stay. Akwa Ibom had one of the best stadia in sub Saharan African, it could boast of a government house complex and the most sophisticated hospital in Nigeria.
What Akpabio did for his people was beyond the physical infrastructure people can see. He signed the Child Rights Act and introduced free and compulsory education. This pulled our children away from menial jobs in households and hawking on the street. He put our children in school and gave them a future. No longer were we seen as the downtrodden of the earth, only good at providing houseboys and housegirls to others.
The combination of his charisma, daring politics and visible uncommon transformation of infrastructure imbued the Akwa Ibom man, woman and child with a new sense of confidence. Akpabio emboldened Akwa Ibom people to stand erect and speak like men whose testicles have not been cut by the oppressive fundamentals of a dysfunctional Nigerian nation.
Perhaps the best tribute to pay to him comes from the Akwa Ibom man who was at Uyo airport when someone called. He was asked: ‘where are you?’. His answer: ‘I am at Uyo airport. I am going to Nigeria’. Akpabio had so transformed Uyo that it no longer looked like a place in Nigeria.
If APC delegates see the light and elect Akpabio, the narrative of this country will change. He is running on a three point agenda to unify the country, solve the security problem and develop the economy. He proved in Akwa that he has what it takes to change the destiny of a people. The APC delegates have the fate of Nigeria in their hands. With Akpabio, Nigeria will be a different place.
(c) Moffat Ekoriko