Akwa Ibom people may be akin to the Jews. The Jews were blessed with Jesus Christ from their tribe. Records have it that wherever He went, He was doing good. Other tribes sought effusively for Him. People trooped to wherever they heard He was. But His people thought differently. They accused Him of breaching the laws of the land. And so rather than take advantage of the highly valuable and priced possession among them, they chorused in cacophony “crucify Him”.
Well, one would have thought that the revealing circumstance of Christ Jesus; the pathetic story of the Jews which saw them unwittingly killing one of their own, the Saviour of mankind; the dark patch of sordid history that has since then defined them as a people; the negative historical reference that has become their inescapable burden; would all coalesce and aggregate into strong moral instructions for mankind. But far from it as such thought is still far-fetched.
Rather, the heart of man which the scripture asserts to be desperately wicked has continued to sire and replicate equivalent actions in various human societies. They dispense with their best and thereafter begin to grope in want leading to missed opportunities and impeded progress. Very sadly, Akwa Ibom, the land of promise with a mammoth Christian faithful and the only state in the country that is named after God has serially replicated this complex of persecuting its own.
In Akwa Ibom, it is an exhilarating enterprise to work for the downfall of a brother. It is a job the people relish and would engage in it gladly without any desire for recompense. Curiously too, the downfall of the brother even when it would not add any value to the prosecutor; is still a past time that must not be allowed to pass by.
How we have managed to fashion a co-existence between this unwholesome anomaly and deep religious inclination is a subject of intensive and elaborate research. Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 to 2015 is a victim of the fate of “crucify him” by his very people.
When he ascended the leadership saddle of the state in 2007, he stated in his usual hilarious manner, “If I would not achieve anything as governor, at least, I would successfully confuse you with development”. At other fora, he is reported to have stated that he would force development even on those that are reluctant for it. Eight years later, he did not only exceed expectations; he set a benchmark for governance not only in the state but the entire nation. As a governor, he was immersed in the work with passion. He was also compassionate and empathizing, lifting people and restoring in them dignity and hope.
It was a case of wherever he went, he was doing good. Akpabio did not only subject the state to infrastructural revolution, he also through his works and politics remoulded the psyche of Akwa Ibom and gave them a place in the national matrix. But what has Akpabio gotten as a thank you? “Crucify him”. Today if we go by the number of petitions, some of them outrightly frivolous to EFCC, ICPC and other agencies against him, we can afford to describe him as the most persecuted governor since the creation of the state and in Nigeria. Interestingly, he also remains the most performing governor since the creation of Akwa Ibom some 28 years ago but with the paradox of being the most fulminated.
Our actions does not only cast us as ungrateful people, it has the potentiality to impinge on the performance of succeeding governors who are likely to see the job as thankless and therefore not worthy of excessive sacrifices and exertions. This is the danger that this our attitude portends. Today the Godswill Akpabio we are fulminating at home is being honoured abroad. A first-timer in the senate comprising many ranking senators, he shone like a meteor and was made the minority leader.
Fellow Senators saw capacity in him; they saw his passion for Nigeria; his nationalistic ardour; his leadership acumen and decided to suspend some of its conventions to accommodate a man who has acquitted himself creditably as a two term governor and an active player in mainstream national politics.
The Senators in their wisdom agree that it would not be in the best interest of the red chamber to relegate such an enterprising and eloquent politician on the basis of mere conventions that are not constitutional provisos. Senator Akpabio also had providence on his side in the bid for minority leadership. Apart from his sterling records which made way for him, the God factor was also there for him as always.
Just as he came as a minion in 2007 to trounce gladiators numbering about 57, his shot at the elevated office of minority leader saw ranking Senators deferring to him not out of intimidation but an honest acknowledgment that indeed a leader of leaders was on hand. Where there would have been conflict of interest, amicable solutions were easily proffered through logical and technical considerations with everyone satisfied with the submission. And since nothing is an accident onto God, He had since perfected His plans for Akpabio’s emergence even before the senate was inaugurated.
Leadership as we know, is a process, not an event and God gives it to whoever He wishes. The misfortune that has come upon our state is that we assail our leaders and seek desperately their destructions. In doing this, we forget that we need people to stand in the gap for us be it spiritually, politically, socially and economically. Leaders don’t just happen, they come from God. Just as the scripture has admonished us not to touch the Lord’s anointed, it has duly advised us to respect all constituted authorities. Akpabio has worked hard to become a national item. It is our place to celebrate him and encourage him to do what the scripture says, “occupy till I come”.
Let us learn to celebrate our leaders as that it is the only way to build leadership. The Yorubas celebrated Awolowo, turned him into an icon and canonized him when he died. Today his rich legacies are still being flaunted as tools of socio-political mobilization. In Akwa Ibom, we are still groping for a leader that would earn public respect and acclaim.
It is not that we are not blessed with them; it is that we suppress their emergence with our attitude. There is the didactic joke that we are all like periwinkles adorned with the same hat. No society can advance the course of human progress with such morally weak philosophy. They are leaders that God has ordained to steer the course for others and for them, there is no hiding place. It is why the Akpabio we have refused to acknowledge at home is soaring abroad. Let us sincerely revisit our Christian ethos to discern when the God factor is at work
-GUEST COLUMNIST JOE INIODU