David Jeremiah, an American cleric, author and founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries, wrote: “When you follow God’s will for your life, you can see how yesterday’s events prepared you for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities.” As the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch in El Cajon, California, United States, Jeremiah may have spoken these words to his congregation out of personal experience. But at that inspirational moment, he revealed an unassailable truth – every human being is a unique creature on a special assignment on earth.
Like a computer, each man was designed with a programme divinely encrypted to achieve a goal. In society, the ultimate goal of the programme is for one to pass through specific routes that prepares one for specific tasks that would enable one influence one’s society positively. It therefore means that at every point, you must press the right buttons and enter the right codes for you to transit to the next stage successfully.
One man whose life journey appears to have followed this divine programme is Dr Godswill Obot Akpabio, the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly in Nigeria. Akpabio was born on December 9, 1962 into the family of Chief Obot Akpabio and Madam Lucy Obot Akpabio (née Inyangetor) of Ukana, Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom state. The young Akpabio lost his father early in life and was raised by his mother, who inculcated in him the values of hard work, discipline and honesty.
He attended Methodist Primary School, Ukana, Essien Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom state; Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Rivers state; and the University of Calabar, Cross River state, where he obtained a degree in law. While at the Federal Government College, he was appointed the senior prefect. Similarly, at the University of Calabar, his charismatic personality endeared him to his fellow students who elected him the speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament. These were the early signs that he had leadership in his DNA which needed to be groomed and nurtured to maturity.
Akpabio had a stint as a school teacher and associate partner with Paul Usoro and Co., a leading law firm in Nigeria. He also worked at EMIS Telecoms Limited, a pioneer telecommunications company in Lagos. In 2002, he became the managing director/chief executive officer of the company. He helped in shaping the future of the then emerging telecoms industry. Earlier, he was the national publicity secretary, Association of Telecommunication Companies in Nigeria (ATCOM).
These little beginnings may have prepared him for a brilliant career in political leadership. In 2002, he was appointed commissioner for petroleum and natural resources in Akwa Ibom state. Subsequently, he held three other cabinet positions in the same administration. In 2006, he made the big move which brought him to national limelight. He clinched the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom state. In spite of all the obstacles on his path, his novel campaign slogan, “Let God’s Will Be Done” received mass support and was elected governor in 2007.
In appreciation of his superlative performance in his first term, he got re-elected for a second term as governor of Akwa Ibom state in 2011. By the time he completed his second and final term as governor, he had become the poster boy of the PDP and was rewarded with the ticket to represent the good people of Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) senatorial district in the National Assembly.
Like a gold fish, he had no hiding place in the red chamber and became the senate minority leader, a quantum leap for a freshman in parliament. In August 2018, Akpabio announced his defection from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and resigned as senate minority leader. The decisions were as uncommon as the man who took them but they were well thought out moves that portrayed Akpabio as a visionary and strategist going by the latter day events in his political trajectory.
One year into his sojourn in the APC, he was appointed minister of Niger Delta Affairs. In June 2022, Akpabio resigned his as minister to contest in the presidential primaries of the APC, but stepped down for Bola Tinubu, who eventually won the 2023 presidential election. In tandem with the principle of reciprocity and maintenance of political equilibrium, Akpabio sought and reclaimed the senatorial ticket for Akwa Ibom North West from where he was elected senate president and number three in the political hierarchy of the country.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Apkabio is not just an uncommon personality but among the rare breed of Nigerians whose political journeys sound like a fairy tale. From the beginning, he was destined for the top and has so far demonstrated that a lot could be achieved in a space of six decades. As he clocks 61 years of age, his family, friends, political associates, mentors and mentees would gather in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, to celebrate him for his wonderful achievements.
It is a moment for young Nigerians to reflect on the story of the uncommon transformer who got to the top by dint of hard work, humility, self-confidence and belief in divine providence. Here is a man who has fought tough battles, still wearing a broad smile. Like he would always say/sing while looking up to heaven in moments of triumph and praise, he didn’t know the Lord would honour him this way. Although, he marked his diamond jubilee last year without fanfare, the walk through the Diamond Avenue would be activated and continue to reverberate even until the Platinum years.
Paulson writes from Abuja.