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Akpabio: A ‘Prophet’ honoured at home

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The people of Akwa Ibom State rewrote the scriptures penultimate week when they trooped out enmasse to celebrate their illustrious son, Senator Godswill Akpabio as the President of the 10th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Chairman of the National Assembly and the number three man of the country. The occasion was the civic reception in his honour by the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District.


The Holy Book says “But Jesus said unto them, a Prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” According to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno, himself a Pastor at the pre-event banquet to honour Senator Akpabio, “I wish we had a thermometer to measure the temperature of Akwa Ibom State tonight, you will understand that everyone is happy; happy because you have come home to see your people and that we can see you again in this facility that God used your hands to build many, many years ago.


“We have just held this banquet in your honour and it is a tremendous privilege for me as a person to have the honour to host the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not just any other Senate President but a man who had once governed this State and a son of the soil. It is a privilege that it is happening in my time as a Governor.”


Addressing the honouree he continued: “I want you to know that we celebrate you here at home. I think we have attempted to rewrite the scripture because today a Prophet is honoured in his own hometown. This is because everything that was written in the scripture was for our learning. We learnt from what Jesus said, and we have corrected ourselves. When we come to Abuja we come with pride and people see us that we occupy the number three position in the country and so we celebrate you all the time,” the Governor said.


The celebration of Senator Akpabio by the government and people of Akwa Ibom State was not misplaced and without basis.  Akwa Ibom State has produced many great men and women who have shaped the history, economy and politics of Nigeria.  But none of these great men and women had risen politically to the position that Senator Akpabio currently occupies.


Senator Akpabio is seen as a jinx breaker. The last time anyone from the South-South rose to the position of Senate President was Dr. Joseph Wayas in 1979. Last year he was also elected to the executive committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The last time a Nigerian was elected into the IPU was in 1964. So the excitement of the people during the civic reception of Senator Akpabio was palpable.


The people have remained nostalgic about his tenure as Governor of Akwa Ibom State (2007 – 2015) when he unleashed a development model never experienced in Nigeria which they aptly termed “Uncommon Transformation.” The state within the period witnessed unprecedented infrastructural renaissance that a once largely pedestrian and civil service State, became a destination of choice among Nigerians.


This was possible because of the impeccable infrastructural facilities that Chief Akpabio built in the State. The roads he built as Governor across the state, over 15 years ago have stood the test of times as there are no potholes in them. The airport he built has made access to the state as a destination, possible. The stadium he built, fittingly named after him as Godswill Akpabio International Stadium is presently the only FIFA approved stadium in Nigeria.


The former Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole in May 2016, was so amazed at Ibom Specialist Hospital built by Chief Akpabio when he embarked on a tour of the hospital that he declared that Nigerians had no reason to embark on medical tourism abroad with the facilities he saw at the hospital which he described as world-class.


The free and compulsory education he declared for all Nigerian children living in Akwa Ibom State was unprecedented as school enrolment in the State tripled. During his time as the Governor, there were hardly cases of out-of-school children as Education Marshalls made sure that children of school age were in school or their parents and guardians risked being arrested and charged, as provided by the Child Rights Acts. This is why the people always seize every opportunity to celebrate their hero.


It turned out to be very prophetic that many years ago during his tenure as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, the people had gathered in unison to bestow the traditional title of “Uko Akwa Ibom” (the pride of Akwa Ibom State) on Chief Godswill Akpabio. During the civic reception the people turned out massively to behold and welcome their pride, their illustrious son and to wish him well as the Chairman of the National Assembly.


It is very significant that Governor Umo Eno has been the cheerleader of Senator Akpabio and has been effusive in his celebration of the Senate President despite their differences in political affiliations. He has proven to be a different breed of politician unlike his predecessor, Mr Udom Emmanuel. Before his return for the courtesy visit to the Governor in the state executive council chambers and subsequent banquet at the state banquet hall which he built, Senator Akpabio was virtually shut out of the State by Mr. Emmanuel whom he assisted (to put it mildly) to become the Governor.


On the D-Day, the Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium venue for the civic reception was filled to capacity with the covered terraces and field area filled up with enthusiastic compatriots who had come from far and wide to witness the epoch-making event. The overflow of those who couldn’t gain access into the stadium was massive. Nobody wanted to be left out as a witness to the celebration of the hero. As he made his way into the stadium, the already charged atmosphere and supporters went hysterical.


The Deputy Senate President, Senator Jubrin Barau and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu led over 70 members of the National Assembly to grace the occasion. Most significantly, attendees at the event cut across party lines as Governor Eno led his party faithful in their various colourful attires and campaign uniforms to the event.


Speaker after Speaker extolled the virtues of Senator Akpabio as a worthy representative of the people of Akwa Ibom State. Governor Umo Eno capped it up by declaring to Senator Akpabio, “We value you at home. We appreciate what God has done in your life. We are happy with your ascension and we are thankful to God. Never again would Akwa Ibom people be divided. Never again would Akwa Ibom stand in the way of progress of an Akwa Ibom son,” he said.


The highpoint of the event was the unanimous adoption of Senator Akpabio by the people of Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District as the sole candidate who will represent the people in 2027 through a voice vote by the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources (Gas) Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo and seconded by the Member representing Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/Obot Akara Federal Constituency, Hon. Patrick Umoh and a resounding “aye” which reverberated across the stadium. For Senator Akpabio, it was a great day of honour by his people.


EKONG is Special Assitant on Media/Communication to the Senate President.


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