By Aniekan Umanah
The stage is set again. This time, the lighting is cast in national colours. The role too, has changed from the combatant he last played at the Kaduna scene where he was honoured by the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA to that of a commander. For his heroic role in interpreting development scripts even beyond acting, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, Governor of Akwa Ibom State is to be honoured with the prestigious but meritorious Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON award.
In 1964, two years after Governor Akpabio was born, the National Honours were instituted by Act No. 5 during the first republic to honour Nigerians from all walks of life, who have rendered outstanding services in their various callings, to the benefit and progress of the nation.
Today, the governor has made the list of Nigeria's roll call of honour, introducing human interest angle into leadership that is so uncommon that Nigeria stands up to decorate him in green, white and green, the colours of patriotism and unity. He is the first Nigerian serving governor to be honoured by the NDA and the first governor of Akwa Ibom State to receive the CON award.With this CON award, Commander Akpabio will be joining the likes of his fellow compatriots such as Hon. Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, Professor Jerry Gana, Mr Kanu Agabi, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion among others. But very significantly, Major General Chris Abutu Garuba, a retired army commander.The joy of this honour on Akpabio could be reminisce of that which greeted the awards of the high-status Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR that Former President Shehu Shagari, during his administration gave to Late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
This took place in September, 1981. Six years later, Former President Ibrahim Babangida created Akwa Ibom, the state Akpabio has used to show Nigeria, and indeed the world, how governance should look like, in terms of accelerated transformation.Of the truth, Governor Akpabio is a commander to watch, development wise. He has dealt with poverty, disease, hunger, underdevelopment, unemployment, ethnicity, illiteracy, insecurity and other enemies of development in a way that has made Akwa Ibom, a model for other parts of Nigeria.
Commander Akpabio's development strategies could easily pass for the civilian version of ECOMOG Commander General Joshua Dogonyaro's success when he replaced an over-powered General Thomas Acquino in a war-turned Liberia. Both commanders freed people; one from the hands of rebels, the other from the hands of underdevelopment.In Akwa Ibom State today, the Akpabio administration is aggressively pursuing its industrialization programme for the state. Already, government has put in place the policy framework.
Apart from the Ibom Industrial City that will have the deepest seaport in Nigeria, another key component of the industrialization programme is the proposal to establish at least one industry in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.
Meanwhile, work is going on in a dizzying pace at the site of the 20th Anniversary Specialist Hospital and the Tropicana Entertainment Centre, the one stop tourism centre complete with 5- star hotel, about 250 rooms, an international conference centre, Cineplex, shopping malls, dry park, just as work will soon kick off at the new Olympic-sized stadium in Uyo.Already, an international airport with maintenance, repair and overhaul, MRO services is beehive of activities for local and international flight services.
The Akpabio administration has also built over 211 new roads including federal roads and three concentric flyovers; constructed a brand new governor's lodge, West Africa's first digital library, 3.7 kilometre underground drainage and five new general hospitals.It has also completed 191 megawatts Ibom Power Plant project in addition to a comprehensive rural electrification of over 85% rural electricity coverage.
And the free healthcare policy for the aged, pregnant women and children under five and free and compulsory education policy for children up to senior secondary school level remain potent strategies the commander has used to dislodge backwardness in Akwa Ibom State.
Governor Akpabio is tirelessly pulling Akwa Ibom State out of the throes of economic strangulation, fronting concrete contributions to even the development of Nigeria at large.
That is why it is safe to say that the national honour is coming at a very appropriate time. The federal government has come to do the icing on the cake that has been jointly baked by development-driven people from within and outside Nigeria, cutting across diverse ethnic groups, different professional bodies and associations and nationalities. Truly, Akpabio's cup of honour is filled with avalanche of awards.
Inside Governor Akpabio's cup of honour, there seems to be a drop of honey from everywhere. From the international scene, a man of the world Akpabio holds a congregational certificate of recognition of the United States of America Congress; Exam Ethic Marshall 2009 by Exam Ethic International, Ghana; Best Governor, Infrastructure Development 2009, EN TV, London and the Gold Humanitarian Services Award of the Republic of Niger.
The one time teacher also has a number of awards and honours from the academic world. From the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Calabar, Calabar and the University of Uyo, Akpabio has been honoured with three different Doctors of Law, Honouris Causa.Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Kazaure Polytecnic and College of Education, Bichi were not left out. They gave honour to the man of honour.There were also sweet drops of honey in the governor's cup of honour from the media constituency. Reputable Nigerian newspapers including Nigerian Tribune, Thisday, Daily Independent and even the entire Nigerian journalists under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ feathered his cap.
The God's will governor was equally given the Nehemiah Award by the African Church of Nigeria.
Akpabio is not a prophet that lacks honour in his home; his own charity beautifully begun at home. The entire Akwa Ibom had honoured him with Uko Akwa Ibom followed by those that come from other local government areas, senatorial districts and dialectical divides within the state. They are proud of their beloved son.
And just recently, the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA put their own thick drop of honey in the honours cup when they honoured Governor Akpabio with an Honourary Degree of Doctor of Management Science which earned him the nickname, 'combatant'.
Today, the big league is commenced. A golden Nigeria has bought the Gold product from Akwa Ibom whose golden age is barely thirteen months from today.
Now that the federal government of Nigeria has come to fill the cup (but not necessarily closing entry), it is worthy to note that the likes of Governor Akpabio are the people Nigeria needs at this stage of its existence.
This recipient of the Commander of the Order of the Niger award has done a lot for Nigeria. First, he went beyond the federalness of the University of Uyo to provide learning infrastructures and a lifeline that aided the university to regain its lost programmes from the National Universities Commission.
Again, most of the roads Governor Akpabio has constructed are federal roads, as well as the Ikot Ekpene federal prisons he built and handed over recently.
On the other hand, the gas plant at Esit Eket is supplying gas used for production by the Aluminum Smelter Company, ALSCON, Ikot Abasi, just as the propped Ibom Industrial City with a deep seaport will serve beyond a state interest. There is no way anybody can be more federal than this. Indeed, Governor Akpabio is a patriot. He has made history again and again.Governor Akpabio is Nigeria's development story. His good works for Akwa Ibom has filled an entire library. Such is only deserving of accolades; and he has earned them in different sizes and colours; t he brightest of the colours being green, white and green; the colours of hard work, selflessness, dedication, unity and patriotism. All of which are sparkling on Governor Akpabio's CON award.
This CON award symbolizes a trophy won by an exceptional sprinter. It is a right handshake to a worthy hero; a blessing to a generation. Of the truth, Nigeria is extra blessed with this caliber of a leader. He is a parcel from above.
What else is there to say? Nothing except to put a clarion call on Nigerians to "Arise, 'O Compatriots, and let us cheer our man as he marches with gusto to the stage for a golden medal well deserved. And so, let the curtain be raised for long till the prince of honour takes back his seat. The drums shall continue to echo till 2015 and beyond! This versatile actor is a hero. Many happy returns to you, our development commander, the bride of Nigeria's modern leadership! Congratulations!!