By Ufuot Udokang
The Ibibio nationality recently invited Nigerians to celebrate the mandate they freely gave to Chief Godswill Akpabio in May 2007 to govern Akwa Ibom State.
The historic grand reception was held at the Asan Ibibio, Uyo, the sacred rallying centre for the Ibibio race, the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria.
The Chairman of the occasion Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retired), in his speech said governor Akpaiob is â€œthe first fruit of modern Ibibio peopleâ€™s resolve to re-invent the unity that characterized the Ibibio union, the spirit of unity that bonded our forefathers into the Ibibio Union and emboldened the people of all dialectal variations that occupy this land to common heritage and destinyâ€.
Air Commodore Nkanga had recalled that when in 2007, the Ibibio nationality decided against all odds and fears occasioned by past experience to allow power shift to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District and specifically in favour of the Annang dialectal bothers, the Ibibios were making a statement for a restoration of the spirit of Ibibio Union era when leadership and even investment and projects were not restricted to one section of the community.
He further pointed out that that was the period when the Annangs were not only elected to the offices of Ibibio Union, but also held the presidency and attracted key Ibibio Union projects, such as Ibibio State College, Ikot Ekpene of which the head of the Akpabio dynasty, Dr Ibanga Udo Akpabio was first principal.
According to Nkanga, Dr. Ibanga Udo Akpabio was not only a participant builder, but was also one of the merchants of light, a committed patriot, a beneficiary and a contributor to the emergence of the â€˜golden ageâ€™ of Ibibio race which bore the seed that culminated in the birth of Akwa Ibom State.
Today governor Akpabio stands out tall as a member of the Akpabio family bearing the torch as merchant of light, apparently lighting the banner of his forebears. The governor who many refer to as a man of his words had during his inaugural speech in 2007 when he assumed office promised to work assiduously to reposition the Ibibio nationality as the fourth tribe in Nigeria and this he has kept to the later.
Acknowledging this feat, Air commodore Nkanga (retired), said â€œwe have risen as a people to celebrate you because when you emerged as a candidate and governor through the unbreakable will of our people, you caught the vision and the spirit behind our concession of the mantle of leadership.â€
â€œWith what you have done so far with the mandate, with your even spread of the projects and amenities to all sections and segments of the state and its people, we are satisfied that you are keeping your promise of re-inventing the era of Ibibio Union unity,â€ he added.
Nkanga, a prominent Ibibio son having sat on the number one seat some years ago in the state as governor said the people were witnessing what he called the birth of a new Akwa Ibom State with a new structure for justice and development.
As the chairman on the reception for the governor, he exercised the mandate given to him by the entire Ibibio people within Nigeria and in Diaspora by declaring the endorsement of Chief Akpabio for a second term in office and assuring him of working assiduously to realize his return as governor of Akwa Ibom in 2011.
â€œWhen on May 29, 2011, Chief Godswill Akpabio climbs the podium to be sworn-in as governor of Akwa Ibom State for the second tenure, it will not be a victory merely for him but it will be a victory for justice, a victory for a 5-Star performance in governance, a victory for goodwill, a victory for Ibibio nation who will undoubtedly be standing tall because of the decision of this moment, and a victory for our God and democracyâ€, he concluded.
Chief Akpabio visibly elated with the honour described as symbolic the grand reception accorded him and his wife Ekaette by the Ibibio nation. â€œIn less than three years in office you have called me out again to honour me for a job well doneâ€¦ that Ibibio people have spoken today means that God Himself has spoken that I should go back for a second term in office, with humility, I accept this clarion callâ€, he said.
According to him, his endorsement was by extension the endorsement of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party(PDP) explaining that with such gesture, President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™ Adua do not need to come to Akwa Ibom State to campaign because the entire votes meant for himÂ would be collected and delivered at Aso Rock.
Besides the historic endorsement by the Ibibios, Chief Akpabio advised that they should not only be heard in Akwa Ibom alone, but thatÂ when they speak, the nation must listen to them as the fourth largest tribe in the country and must also take their place in the comity of states in Nigeria.
The State Deputy Governor Engineer Patrick Ekpotu whose joint mandate with his boss was renewed by the Ibibios in his goodwill message said he joined his kins-men in the Ibibio land to appreciate the good works of Akpabio who he described as a man of purpose and determination.
Applauding the good leadership of the governor for keeping to his promise to the people by wiping away tears and giving hope to even generations yet unborn, Engineer Ekpotu maintained that AkpabioÂ since coming on board in 2007 as executive governor, has made himself a standard bearer for the down-trodden.
Continuing, Engineer Ekpotu pointed out that Akpabio â€œhave left indelible footprints in every sector; your Midas touch has proved the magic wand long needed to place Akwa Ibom as primus inter-pares in the comity of States.Â Like never before, our different dialectical divides and groupings have transcended parochialism and become more unitedâ€.
The Itai Afe Annang, a strong socio-cultural organization in the state said the endorsement of Governor Akpabio by the Ibibio nationality was a thing of joy to the entire Annang nation.
Speaking in Annang dialect the Paramount Ruler, Okuku Pius Effiong Eside 111 acknowledged that chief Akpabioâ€™s development stride cuts across all the three ethnic nationalities in the state, thereby bringing back, the unity of purpose which the entire state was noted for in time past.
â€œFor honouring Akpabio with the titles of Utuenikang Ibibio, you have given him a great honour.Â No one lights a lantern and covers it with a pot.Â He is a light to us and what is left today is for Akpabio to use the shining light in him and do more works for the State,â€ the traditional father said.
The former Deputy Governor of the State, Chief Etim Okpoyo in his goodwill message on behalf of the Oro nation said â€œwhat the Ibibios have done today is an eye opener that Akwa Ibom State can forge ahead together.â€
Pledging the support of the Oro nation to the leadership of Chief Akpabio beyond 2011, Chief Okpoyo a former Nigerian Ambassador to Ugada solicited the co-operation of all to enable the governor succeed.
On December 6th 2008, the entire Oro nation, another ethnic dialectal group in the state had opened up the campaign for the governor to complete the eight year tenure as the Nigerian constitution provides at the moment. They reasoned that this would enable the Oro people have their turn after wards to complete the circle in terms of political spread and in the spirit of justice. At the reception at Oron, Chief Akpabio was honoured him with the title of Ovong Uwana Oro; the light of Oro Nation.
Those who had goodwill messaged delivered to the governor describe him as a rare breed, generous and kind, a molded ICON for the transformation of Akwa Ibom. But why all these encomiums poured on the man who says the people have seen nothing yet in terms of development if one may ask?
The Paramount Ruler of Eket Local Government and Chairman Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs, His Royal Majesty Edidem Timtiniko Papa Udo Enoden said â€œ we have all watched with admiration the unprecedented policies designed and implemented within the past two years; free and compulsory primary and secondaryÂ education, construction of roads andÂ rehabilitation of industrial projectsâ€.
He added that â€œit has never happened in this state and the governor richly deserves all the encomiums being poured by different ethnic groups in Akwa Ibom State.â€
It would be recalled that on 27th September 2009 the Akwa Ibom State Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from an enlarged meeting after deliberating on issues bordering on the affairs of the nation and the state and announced their endorsement of Chief Akpabio for a second term.
The sixty members at the meeting unanimously said â€œwe are satisfied with the policies, programmes, vision and exemplary performance and accordingly passed a vote of confidence on the governor and his governmentâ€. The State House of Assembly and the members of the Senate in the State had also joined in lending their support by calling on Chief Akpabio to run for a second term.
Chief Akpabio has capitalized on this massive support to approach development with vigour and today he is popularly called the â€œDigital Governorâ€. The Commissioner for Works in the state said, the name without doubt, is anchored on governor Akpabioâ€™s informed decisions as well asÂ a firm and focused leadership as exemplified in the quality projects located in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
The hall mark of this is that Chief Akpabio as an epitome of good governance has allowed his vision to permeate all facets of human endeavour ranging from provision of water, electricity, health care delivery, quality education, good transport system, security of lives and property, man power development and above all peace and unity in the State.