It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who observed that the world makes way for the man who knows where he is going. His Excellency, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio may have suffered privations arising from the early demise of his father, but providence directed him to where he was to go and the world made way for him. At 58, he has proven beyond doubt and eloquently that it is not how long but how well.
Born on December 9, 1962 and raised by a widow mother who foisted on his psyche the pep talk that the father left him to go to Heaven because God created him a strong boy, little Godswill became a man very early in life. At the age of ten, he travelled completely on his own to Kaduna to seek admission into Nigerian Military School located in that State. He failed to clinch the admission because fate was preparing for him another platform that he would use to galvanize change.
His admission and enrolment into Federal Government College which came unexpectedly and turned him into numero uno of the Akpabio clan to gain admission into Federal Government College established for Godswill a path of providence that he was to tread. It was therefore not a surprise that in that School, he shone like a meteor and became the General Senior Prefect because God was in toe with him. His advent into the University of Calabar where he studied Law was not different as he ascended the leadership throne of Speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament with minimal efforts.
Senator Akpabio’s foray into public life has also been intriguing with hints of divination. His career as a lawyer saw him co-founding Paul Usoro and Co. When he decided to venture into the corporate world, the rise was also meteoric signaling a man who was truly in partnership with God. His rise from executive director in EMIS TELECOMS within a short span of time to the position of managing director was a testament of a man of goodwill and recognizable administrative savvy.
While in EMIS, service to his people beckoned as he was appointed by the then administration of His Excellency, Obong Victor Attah into the State Executive Council. He served variously in three key ministries. As it is often said, it is not the office that makes the man but it is the man that makes the office. Godswill Akpabio turned the ministries he was sent to into beehives of activities. For instance at the time of arriving the ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs, the place was a dead end owing areas of salaries and looking desolate with obsolete equipment and furniture that had become eyesores. Armed with his mantra of living a place better than he met it, Akpabio turned the place around. By the time he left, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs had become a juicy ministry eagerly sought after by new appointees to the State Executive Council.
In 2007, his unbridled passion for change prodded him into the governorship race. The odds appeared stacked against him but his daring and strong will were also formidable. The courage and daring saw him trouncing 57 gladiators to emerge the standard bearer of PDP. He won that election and was sworn in as the third democratically elected governor of the State. On the day of that swearing-in, he quipped a comment that bears recollection : “This is Godswill Akpabio reporting for duty…” . Eight years later, he had a robust report card to present with pride, pomp and pageantry.
Godswill Akpabio came into governance prepared. Indeed it was an opportunity encountering a prepared man. He pursued governance with zeal and alacrity breaking the drudgery that defined government and setting new benchmarks. He was fond of describing his approach to development as being under the weight of anger necessitating the radical development paradigm shift that greeted his administration. He developed a motto that was christened uncommon transformation and imbued it with factual meaning. He changed the physical landscape of the State and the mental infrastructure of the people. He changed the narrative of Akwa Ibom people turning them from a hitherto timid lot to assertive personalities. Infact his years have been christened as the golden era leading one of his admirers to evolve a slogan, “Godswill, Iya umiss”. That nostalgia remains real almost six years after he exited as governor.
While in office, Akwa Ibom State became a well defined destination. The State became home for conferences, workshops and seminars competing with only Abuja and Lagos. Our people had a change of mental attitude and were proud to mention the name of the State anywhere, knowing that they would be accorded respect. Akwa Ibom had changed for good for ever. All these were made possible by Godswill Akpabio whom the people gladly rewarded by electing a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His patent leadership qualities led to his being elected Senate Minority Leader even as a first timer.
In 2019, a twist interjected his political journey. His bid to return to the Senate was thwarted by elite machinations with integrated colouration from local to national. Even though many blame that downturn on change of political party, reports of brazen actions against him in that election attest to the fact that he was a target of widespread conspiracy. But fate once again smiled on him as he was considered and appointed minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria amidst a plethora of baseless petitions said to have emanated from within and without . But God showed up for him and confounded his traducers.
As Senator Godswill Akpabio celebrates his 58 years on earth today, let us thank God for blessing us with this enigmatic leader and endowing him with the leadership attributes he used to galvanize us out of the doldrums. Let us offer him our prayers of good faith and let us pray God to continue to endow him for the benefit of our State and Nation.
Happy birthday Your Excellency.