Thursday, 28 May 2015

As Akpabio takes a bow!

As Akpabio takes a bow!

For Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, it has been a very tortuous, arduous and eventful eight years journey. Though, he came out the other day to posit that he is leaving office very satisfied judging from his development strides. Few people will dispute the fact that as governor of Akwa Ibom state these past eight years, governor Akpabio, the Ukana Ikot Ntuen born politician has not done well infrastructure wise, elevation of the state to an enviable status which has gone a long way in rebranding Akwa Ibom state and positively rousing the psyche of the ordinary Akwa Ibom person from inferiority complex to a level of uncommon confidence. 

 He has fought countless battles and weathered many storms over these eight years. He has made enemies and friends alike in equal measure. His tenure has been turbulent, almost riotous and riddled with a potpourri of clashes and confrontations from left, right and centre.  In fact, it won’t be out of place to say that Akpabio is today, the most criticised governor of the state. Try as he could to paint a picture of an Eldorado occasioned by his commitment to changing the state from a pedestrian enclave to a place of destination, his critics cast a blind and indulgent eye to all that; they never relented or tired out from finding grey areas in Akpabio’s administration. The governor, too, never gave a damn to his critics. The more he was criticised, the more projects he embarked upon. In one of his moments of whimsical bend, he said: “if you criticise me, I commission one project.’’ With unmistakable enunciations, he regularly answered his critics with some scrupulously chosen words garnished most times with comical rhetoric to navigate his ways through the knotty situations that confronted him daily.

His emergence as governor in 2007 was not all smooth as he had to be resolute and dogged to steady his feet. After emerging winner, Akpabio swung into action with frenetic immediacy. He embarked on numerous projects; for some, he got heavy knocks and for others, he received unending encomiums and platitudes. He was able to commence most of these projects and executed some in record time while others dragged on into his second tenure. But nobody would ever doubt it when Governor Akpabio makes a promise. As he carried out most of his campaign promises, he tagged himself: “the promise keeper.’’ Indeed, he kept half of the promises he made during his campaigns little wonder he won many hearts. Akpabio had one legacy that kept him going. All his projects were done with the best materials and facilities that money can buy. He had the heart for good things. Good taste was his forte. Whatever he set his eyes on; he followed it up with unwavering commitment and steadfastness that bordered on excellence. There was money, huge money.

Of all the projects he embarked on, the Ibom Tropicana project was the one that gave him serious headache and mental nausea. He was criticised intensely by the people and leading the pack was his immediate boss and former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah. Attah devoted a full page advertorial in a renowned national newspaper to express his displeasure and dissatisfaction with the project. In his reckoning, he thought the project was uncalled for and merely amounted to building castle in the air. For Attah, the Tropicana project was and remains a white elephant adventure even though governor Akapbio adduced litany of reasons to the effect that the project was in good faith and meant to bring a different aura to governance in line with his bid to massively transform Akwa Ibom state. While governor Akpabio was a bit reluctant in answering Attah in same breath as he applied restraint and refined comportment, his lieutenants and loyalists could not take that in their chin. They fired back with boisterous rage. No word was spared in attacking the Ibesikpo born architect. The attacks were vile, venomous and garbed with beastly apparel.

Whether Obong Victor Attah regretted his condemnation of the Tropicana project or not is what the people do not know. But whether governor Akpabio can thump his chest today in confidence that the Tropicana project, after all, has been a success as was envisaged and planned is a different matter in its entirety. Is governor Akpabio entirely satisfied with the level of work done at Ibom Tropicana as his eight years in the saddle runs its full course? We may never know but it’s only the one who wears the shoe that knows where it hurts. While I may not state with exactitude when and where Akpabio fell out with Attah, methinks the disagreement in this project significantly ruptured whatever relationship these men had. They surely disagreed on principles on the kind of project that Akwa Ibom needed at the time. Attah believed he had set the template and prepared the grounds and enough resources for his successor to industrialise the state which would go a long way in providing job opportunities for the teeming unemployed graduates but Akpabio thought otherwise.

He did not want to be dominated. He wanted to be his own man. He craved to do his own thing and carve a unique identity for himself. Akpabio, from day one, never hid his love for the good things of life. He had high taste and which more often than not bordered on flamboyance. With his bombastic flow and loquaciousness, he was always at daggers drawn with those who disagreed with his policies as they found most of his boastings insulting and inciting. But much as these ones tried to detract him, the more they met a brick wall. Akpabio was undaunted and unshaken. He is not one to run away from battles. In fact, he courts battle the same way a baby wouldn’t joke with candies or those things that are dear to him/her.  He squared up to anything, anybody that dared him. As governor of the state, he made good use of his powers. He assumed full control of everything, some of which most of his predecessors took for granted. Having won a contemptuous primary in his first coming, Akpabio knew the intrigues, the underneath machinations and underground manoeuvrings that produced him as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. 

He was not originally the choice of his predecessor until it became obvious that no manipulation could stop him. Bob Ekarika was projected but that did not materialise hence the mantle fell on Akpabio’s path.  He grabbed it with both hands with tightly knit fists. On winning at the polls and subsequently assuming the reins of power, Akpabio learnt the robes of governance with the speed of light. In no time, he carved a niche for himself. He became a governor that people knew for talking too much.  He batted no eyelid. Any project he embarked on and executed, he did not only allow the people to savour his magic; he went all out to trumpet the goings on in his administration to anybody who cared to pay attention. 

His was a matter of ‘if you like listen, if you don’t, go hug the nearby transformer.’ He went on the rooftops, now and again to holler on top of his voice about the quality of projects he has either commenced, completed or inaugurated. He loved rhetoric and savoured it with passionate relish. This, more than often, enraged his opponents and critics alike but Akpabio was unperturbed. He carried own with more swagger and ├ęclat. His words were piercing, hurtful, flowery and at the same time inviting. He was many things rolled into one. A comedian, an entertainer, an orator, a clown, a fighter, highly opinionated, rugged, dogged...Akpabio was/has been just everything one could look for in a 21st century leader. This is not praise-singing but real fact. Take it or leave it.

His time as governor was not a cake work. It was riddled with barricades, pitfalls, bulwarks and all what not. In all, he remained firm and unmoved. He wriggled his way through all of that much to the consternation of his critics. Sensing that carrying on the same way his predecessor sat atop the number one seat in the state will be dangerous, Akpabio went on empowering spree. He was lavish in spending, extravagant in dipping his hand in the public till and strategic but highly felicitous in those he empowered. He knew that for you to keep your seat very secure, you need to have people that love you genuinely not sycophants who will betray you at the snap of the fingers. He knew quite well that there’s power in money. 

He knew that apart from God, no other thing on earth can move a man more than the lure of having money and escaping the harsh and biting but leprous heat of poverty and lack. He immediately capitalised on that and, as was expected, he won the hearts of many. The rank and file of his followers and supporters alike increased exponentially. Akpabio built a strong rampart for himself so much that all attacks on his person and administration were easily repelled even without him raising a finger. He had played his cards well. His supporters became unrepentantly loyal. Who wouldn’t? When you have a man that is willing to spend so much to get what he desires, you have no choice than to jump to the opportunity with the sprinting tenacity and ingenuity of Chioma Ajunwa or Blessing Okagbere.

In all, Akpabio has had many projects that will forever remain a legacy for his administration while he may not have been able to do all he set out to do, he can bow out today with his head held high. Even though he used the 31-industry sermon during his second term campaign as bait to lure us, not a few of his followers doubted that he would as usual keep to his promise but then, he failed to keep to his words. It was only a political statement after all. It was designed to win and it worked for him. But four years after, Akapbio is not leaving any industry behind. Today, he has changed gear by telling the people that he only cleared the ground for the next administration to take off the industrial revolution in the state. But this is in sharp contrast to what he said in 2011. But then, one cannot but doff his hat for him for telling us such a costly lie yet very few people doubted him. That is one of his attributes; he makes a lie appear like a truth which only takes a discerning mind to know that some of his promises are just political gimmicks.

In the history of Akwa Ibom state, no governor has been able to install his successor but Akpabio was determined to break that jinx by all means. He went all out to ensure that he put his own man in office. Having seduced President Goodluck Jonathan with sugar coated words, taking up his battles as his personal war, naming of roads and Flyovers after him, Akpabio got the full backing of the presidency. As such, he got the license to do his wish in the state. He had his way—manipulated every structure in favour of his preferred candidate and paid no heed to all hue and cries and at the end of the day, against all odds, Udom Emmanuel, the man after Akpabio’s heart emerged governor. Akpabio had won leaving his critics to grind their teeth in shame. Against all permutations, he is today, Senator-elect for Ikot Ekpene. Say what you want, he is moving on with dainty steps and already calling himself a great senator even before he steps onto the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. While his opponents are at the tribunal fighting to reclaim a mandate they feel was stolen, Akpabio is not giving a hoot. He believes he will have his way as has always been the case. He wins all the time. He never loses. 

Many people will miss Akpabio for different reasons—some for good reasons and others for the bad reasons. For his lovers, he is a man with a large heart, a giver, a philanthropist, a workaholic, a strongman etc yet for his critics, Akpabio is an emperor, a despot, an ungrateful gold digger etc. But in all, posterity will not forget this man in a hurry. As he steps out of the Hilltop Mansion, I don’t know what is running in his mind but as he said during the Interdenominational church service held in his honour the other day that he is leaving office happy and satisfied, I hope that satisfaction endures even as APC takes over the centre and majority of the states in the country. Your Excellency, iyaumiss! 

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