"If your actions inpire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader" - John Adams.
Vintage Muhammad Ali had none else than Chief Godswill Akpabio in mind when he said, "service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth". True to it, Akpabio's fame derives its root from such rents- having budded from obscurity to limelight, through his undying penchant for service, which has handed him a space on the global wall of fame, as one of Africa's finest leaders.
Through life's rungs, he advanced through numerous attainments, with such brilliance noted to belong to the "seven-up model", swimming against the tides of circumstances around him; defying age-long myths and belief to re-write the story of his life and that of his people in such enviable ink that has guaranteed the acclaim of a hitherto less known clime.
With him, there has never been a doubt to cast when patriotism is the issue in consideration, as he has overtime proven himself a lesson and an authority in patriotism, putting everything on the line to ensure his people gets a commensurate bargain for their concerns. He has graciously condemned himself to a life of service, making remarkable and incomprehensible sacrifices.
The Nigerian space may be inundated with tales of his tremendous goodwill and commitment to mandate delivery, but this is in no way a thing he learnt as an adult, as available testimonies to his uncompromising charitable disposition dates back to December 9, 1962, when the heavens smiled on the little village of Ukana-Ikot Ntuen, in Essien Udim LGA, to announce the birth of a boy-child, who would grow to enlist himself a legionnaire of the Mother Elizabeth order.
His name Godswill finds expression in fulfilled promises. How more can one explain the quantum leap Akwa Ibom attained under him? Being a man who held God's promise of salvaging the people from the claws of underdevelopment, pettiness and divisiveness, it did not take long before everybody's eyes were opened to what he intended for the people. When the glory manifested, the vilest of his accusers could not stop Godswill for Akwa Ibom State.
Years after, testimonies abound of what gains the state has recorded through the covenant of uncommon transformation he entered with the people, a covenant that changed the entire state within months into a huge project site, so visible that the World could appreciate Akwa Ibom as a work in progress.
A compendium of the eight years tedious job of massively developing the state is so visible that we got heralded as a first world state in a third world nation, with accolades and honours from home and abroad to show for, even from places that had in times past written us off.
This reminds one of the once fledging servitude industry the state held for the rest of the nation, and how Akpabio upon assumption of office pursued development with anger; the anger that drove away servitude, mediocrity, divisiveness, and parochialism, to prepare for us a state that was ready to receive the rest of the world in a partnership that has turned out our best bargain.
An attempt to enumerate the physical infrastructures he achieved for the state could be so cumbersome, but these are the very facilities his detractors make use of in their bid to distract and rubbish his achievements, regardless of the giant successes he had recorded...even where others failed.
How more can one explain that in plotting his downfall; they come through the airport he built, drive on the roads he constructed, sleep in the serenity he created, enjoy the security he worked for, and if they are ill; would visit the hospitals he built? God being Omnipotent, Harman has always been in the adventure of hanging on his gallows; little then wonder the fruitless attempts to bring Akpabio's image of towering goodwill to disrepute.
It is to Godswill Akpabio's credit that Akwa Ibom became venue for international, national and regional conferences and seminars, so far, any organization that has not visited the state, is as good as never existing. The trend continues unabated, as his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel keeps working round the clock to sustain the state on the map of choice destinations in Africa.
Will we ever forget that the free and compulsory education policy he institutionalized was the vehicle that drove our capacity to rise to the occasion of the widespread acclaim he brought the state? Through his education template, the dichotomy between children of the well-to- do and the poor was bridged, as everyone could afford education, which was enough to actively participate in the window of purposeful governance he brought to bear in the state.
I can still recall with precision, the pride of place Godswill Akpabio brought Akwa Ibomites beyond the shores of the state. A case in point was in 2009, in University of Calabar, where he was honoured with a Doctor of Law Degree. At the event, tales of how an ex-Malabite held the nation spellbound with good governance in Akwa Ibom became the order of major discourse.
The aura of this unprecedented achievements dealt us an alluring scent of purposeful leadership, which in no time saw Akwa Ibom students attain several position of leadership, to the chagrin of our Cross River hosts. At the risk of sounding immodest, it was top-of-the-class distinction in quality leadership, wherever an Akwa Ibom student held sway in leadership, an attribute that rubbed off from Godswill Akpabio.
Thankfully, the many battles he stood with the people to conquer, just as rose flower also left an enduring scent on his hands; this has formed the very beckon of his rise to stardom and the wing that aided his flight. Of the truth, he could not have projected the people to heights of reckoning and not himself be a champion, making the statement by Isaac Newton, "if I have seen further, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants" a truism.
The story of his exploits in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has overtime formed the foundation upon which some opinions have emerged. True to type, the entire country knew a trailblazer was in the Red chambers; a reassurance that better days for fledging legislative engagements were here.
Notwithstanding his first time assignment to the National Assembly, his voice was heard and his visibility felt in the Nigerian political space, this explains how he landed himself the position of the Minority Leader, an exclusive preserve of returning legislators.
Conventions guiding choice of principal officers for the National Assembly was thought to have been breached when Senator Godswill Akpabio emerged a principal officer, until people came to realize that the essence for the convention was for experience, which he already had in large deposits, having spent all his life in public service giving humanity a voice.
Representing the constituency called humanity; it was needful to suspend conventions and protocol to allow the senate a human face which leadership in the country was in dire need of.
In the face of events as they have unfolded, there is need to bring Nigerians to the point of realizing the huge debt of gratitude they owe Akwa Ibom State and Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, for graciously donating Chief Godswill Akpabio to brighten the horizon of leadership in the country, like he did in Akwa Ibom.
At 54, Senator Godswill Akpabio has fulfilled the thinking of Jack Lew who said, "I think there is no higher calling in terms of a career than public service, which is a chance to make a difference in peoples' lives and improve the world". To the admiration of the world and divinity, he has prepared a warm and accomplishing future for the next generation.
His work is far from finished, but we just cannot wait until he is done to express our gratitude, since that will be in the long future, where we may be mistaken for an ungrateful lot.
I recall Albert Schweitzer who said, "at times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us". Just then, I find sufficient conviction to appreciate a man whom generations to come will not cease to appreciate in reading, tales and writing.
Like millions of other grateful hearts the world over, I join to say, Happy Birthday, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, may your light neither go dim nor your greatness grow old.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak Local Government Area.