AKPABIO AND THE NEW AKWA IBOM
ANIETIE EKONG, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.
A LOT has been written about Chief Godswill Akpabio and his uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom since he mounted the saddle four and a half years ago as the Governor.
There is a general consensus even among political opponents and critics that he has turned a once pedestrian and largely civil service state to a destination of choice in Nigeria through world class infrastructure. But there is an aspect of the life of the Governor that has not been explored by many social commentators.
Not many people know that apart from being an accomplished administrator, Akpabio is also a great 'comedian.' Indeed in a recent interview he stunningly disclosed that he used to be a Disc Jockey in his secondary school which earned him the pet name 'Goddy A.' He also cracked jokes for the pleasure of his audience.
In his words: 'I hope in future I would retire to be a comedian.' On a good day during events, he churns out 'jokes' that would make such comedians as Ali Baba, Basket Mouth and Julius Agwu turn green with envy.
One of Akpabio's popular 'jokes' is that by the time he is through with his mandate as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2015, he would have rewritten the history and date of the state.
The governor often says that many years after he must have left the saddle and many more governors had come on board, anyone who claims to have been governor in Akwa Ibom State would be asked 'were you a Governor Before Akpabio (BA) or After Akpabio (AA)?' In other words, his performance would provide the benchmark with which his predecessors and successors would be judged.
Another 'joke' which has gained wide acclaim is that such great cities like New York, New Orleans, New Jersey etc. did not originally have the New attached to their names.
A remarkable milestone must have caused the people to rename the cities. For instance, the modern New York City's development is often traced to the economic and building boom following the great depression and World War 11.
For New Orleans, the introduction of natural gas; the building of the Pontchartrain Rail-Road, one of the earliest in the United States; and the beginning of the public school system (1840) marked radical break-through which changed the course of the City.
According to the Governor as a result of the remarkable milestones that his administration has impacted on the state, the name of the state would be changed to New Akwa Ibom in acknowledgement of the advancement in the last four and years and seven months.
Much as the delivery of these anecdotes by Governor Akpabio often elicits rib-cracking laughter, there is a general consensus by those who have visited Akwa Ibom lately that the state has been greatly transformed under the leadership of Governor Godswill Akpabio. Based on the indices on ground, these anecdotes are not mere jokes.
The story of the New Akwa Ibom is the story of a leader with a clear vision, who thinks out of the box; who assumed duties as the Governor with anger to change things and a determination that it would no longer be business as usual.
Akwa Ibom is the only state in Nigeria that I know which devotes over 80 per cent of its annual budget to capital projects. It is instructive that at a time the whole world was under trepidation about the secret information leaked about government malfeasances all over the world by Wikileaks, what was 'leaked' about the Akwa Ibom State government under Governor Akpabio was that there was infrastructural revolution going on in the state.
The story of the New Akwa Ibom is a state where things work. For instance, Akpabio has placed the state in international aviation map with the completion of the first phase of Ibom International Airport. Reputed to have one of the longest runways in Nigeria, international flights have already commenced from the airport.
But as a man of vision, the governor has moved on to complete the second phase which would have the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities to serve as aviation hub for the West African sub-region and the Gulf of Guinea.
Courtesy of Governor Akpabio, Akwa Ibom State has one of the best road networks in Nigeria. Before he assumed office, major roads in the state were in very deplorable state while others were completely impassable, thereby cutting off residents of those areas from activities of the state. However, on assumption of office, Governor Akpabio wasted no time in bringing his vision of a state that human and vehicular traffic could move from one point to another without hindrance to bear.
Four years and seven months on, he has delivered over 240 new roads and three new concentric flyovers. More roads and flyovers are being built at dizzying pace across the state. Now, even the most remote part of the state can be accessed within two hours from the state capital.
Another turnkey project that has repositioned the state is the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, a flagship project to boost tourism in the state, whose first phase comprising of Cineplex has already been commissioned.
With work going on in a dizzying pace, the Centre which promises to be a world class entertainment destination in the West African sub-region, comprises a 15-storey of about 250 bedrooms, a five star hotel, a 10,000 sitting capacity dome, a shopping mall, a theme park and a multi-storey car park.
This brand new facility complements the completed Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort to position the state as a destination of choice.