Akpabio’s trajectory that factorised his political ascendancy in Akwa Ibom State having served as a Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs in the Victor Attah-led administration is woven around his name; Godswill. No one in 2007 ever contemplated that Godswill Akpabio will defeat the incumbent Governor Attah’s choice of a successor, his son-inlaw, Bob Ekarika. Attah’s government was laced with non-performance even though he tried to draw a roadmap and architecture of what the state should be in due course. Akpabio, who was Victor Attah’s appointee as a Commissioner came from the telecommunications background and saw his participation in the politics of the state, more as a value addition. In no time, he became the cynosure of all eyes, his portfolio allowing him enough access to the state’s dominant players; the youths, traditional rulers and local government employees. His innovations in that sector of the state’s economy helped in no small way to etch his name in the hearts of the people.
While Akpabio had his eyes on the Governorship of the state, Victor Attah, his principal, wanted his son-inlaw even when he was not fully prepared for leadership. The politics and conspiracies that dominated the PDP at the headquarters made it possible for Godswill Akpabio to easily defeat the Governor’s choice. It was a contest between the people and the Governor who had grown very unpopular by his standoffish posturing. By the time the keenly contested primary election was concluded, Victor Attah’s ego was heavily bruised and deflated. Just like the usual saying, the rest has since been swallowed in the bowel of history. Suffice it to make the point that whatever he sets out to pursue, he does it with equanimity of purpose without looking back. He’s not just a man who is focused on his goals in life, he’s one individual who has built a network of friends across the socio-political divide and also empowered quite a lot of his followers to make meaning out of life than the ordinary mundane indulgence of mankind. In his native Akwa Ibom State, his cult-like following has propelled his political importance post his administration. He has served as a Senator, and also as a Minister of the Niger-Delta Ministry, each position conveying on him the responsibility of deploying his experience and knowledge in statecraft. Akpabio is not your everyday ego-defensive ideologue and with unbridled arrogance, like most politicians of his status are wont to behave, he’s down to earth and easily accessible by his lieutenants and friends.
Aside from being an engaging personality, Akpabio knows how to cultivate friendship but often times, he comes face-to-face with betrayal and he’s never bugged down with that. He tells you almost effortlessly that betrayal is the second name of politics and those who have not gone through such baptism of betrayal, have really not prepared themselves for leadership. But he’s got a lot of story to tell; a rich trajectory that contains his passage through politics and governance. His stories are rich anecdotal recalls that spoke volume about his tact and diplomacy. Akpabio is likeable and essentially pro-empowerment of those who luxuriate around him. He’s funny, conversational, interactive and engaging. As he lets out his traditional smile while delivering his punches, you see the heart of Akpabio rendering his experiences in life’s bramble forest. He looks you straight in the eyes, as if to underpin your inner thoughts. He knows the ways of men and the duplicitous nature of politicians. Akpabio is at home with every category of persons and knows how to navigate his way through the knavery of men.
As a Senate President, I am visualising Akpabio and his trademark smile and laughter each time he’s fired by any interesting discourse. I am seeing him pointing at some Senators, asking them to make their contribution, no matter how unassailable the discourse could be. I am imagining Akpabio walking down from the podium to exchange banters with his colleagues on the floor of the Senate, in a gale of laughter, propping them up to embrace the challenges of lawmaking and rising up to the huge challenge of charting a roadmap that will provide the ultimate elixir for the citizenry. Akpabio’s second name is performance. His other names are “uncommon transformation” whether as a Governor or Minister. He has his eyes on the ball always and knows where to make interventions to derive value under any given situation. He loves to deliver on promise and leave imprints of his trajectory in the minds and hearts of the people. He is performance personified. And he doesn’t shy away from that. For turning Akwa Ibom State from a semi-urban town to a construction site with so many infrastructure speaks volume of the Akpabio’s ingenuity. He surely will bring this experience and attitude to bear when given the opportunity to preside over the 10th Senate this time around. He has not only acquired enough legislative experience, he is the only returning ranking senator from the South-South under the APC.
The 10th Senate must shy away from the “rubber-stamp” mentality that has been the perception of the public. A vibrant, constructive and interrogative Senate will serve the interest of the people more, than one that answers to all requests from the executive arm of government. Any result-driven Senate must be idealistic and utility-driven. It must understand the expectations of the people and help to propel the executive arm of government to be alive to its statutory responsibility. The 10th Senate which Akpabio is likely to preside is one of a mixed grill of different shades of opinions and ideologies captured in the vision of the four dominant parties of APC, PDP, LP and NNPP. Having built network of influence across board over the years, his canny ability to preside over people will come aloft with this leadership responsibility. But knowing Akpabio, he’s one man who will rather want to see himself in the same bracket with his colleagues. His conviviality and spirit of camaraderie is tellingly his strongest point. His understanding of the country is well captured in the number of those who are presently rooting for him to become the Senate President. An Akpabio as a Senate President will compliment the initiatives and drive of the executive arm to deliver democratic dividends to the people without confrontation. A symbiotic relationship that accords mutual respect is one that is required to drive the wheel of progress and not one that sees the other as superior.
Akpabio has a knack for problem solving. He also understands the dynamics of the Nigeria pluralist status. He knows the expectations of the people, especially at a time that the new government will be inheriting a lot of the excess luggage of the present administration. Surely, both the Legislature and the Executive, must rejig, retool and overhaul all processes to getting value for money, come up with a more result–oriented approach to confronting the challenges of governance. Buhari has not shown enough gravitas to set the country on the part of national cohesion. There is general apathy, the country is heavily polarised along ethnic and religious divides. A new thinking must be provoked to contend with efforts at building national cohesion and respond to agitations in a more reassuring way in the true spirit of inclusivity. The country surely needs serious dialogue and conversation to deepen our democracy and set new templates to addressing the challenges we face. Akpabio and his National Assembly leadership must take into account all the broken tongues and tribes across the country with a view to proffering solutions using the platform of the National Assembly to provoke public hearing on a number of issues. An engaging National Assembly at this time will assist the Executive to sponsor bills that will have therapeutic effects on the citizenry. Can Akpabio re-enact his achievements in Akwa Ibom, that earned him “uncommon Transformation” Governor, if he becomes the Senate President?
Abubakar writes from Kaduna and can be reached on email@example.com.