Akpabio: Builder of Men @61 – By OLA AWONIYI

American business executive and one time Chairman and CEO of General Electric, John Francis Welch Jr. popularly called Jack Welch, once said: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Going by those words, Godswill Obot Akpabio, the President of the Nigerian Senate, is a leader. Having attained personal success early in life, he has long devoted himself to growing others.

The Akwa Ibom-born lawyer and politician has every reason to thank God as he marks his first birthday in office as Nigeria’s number three citizen.

Godswill Akpabio, in his public and private life, has touched many lives and led many, by personal example, to become leaders themselves. He has been a builder of men and a destiny helper.

Akpabio has turned boys into men. He has built an army of well-wishers through indiscriminate philanthropic activities that have put smile on countless faces

Children at Explicit Home of Favour Initiative, a charity organisation, are examples of the beneficiaries of Akpabio’s compassionate heart and philanthropy. These orphans and indigent children were brought under the same roof and put through formal education by the founders of the Home, Mr David Abraham and his wife.

They sustain themselves through exhibition of choreographic dances. Their dexterity in the art has brought them fame within and outside Nigeria. Videos of the group, popularly called Xplicit Dancers, have been trending for years.

As Governor of Akwa Ibom State (2007-2015), Akpabio first met the group at an event at Eko Hotel in Lagos and was impressed by its brilliant performance. Listening later to the personal stories of the members, Akpabio, himself a man of humble beginning who lost his father at a tender age, was literally moved to tears. He immediately invited the group to visit Akwa Ibom.

According to the founder of the charity outfit, Mr Abraham, that uncommon encounter was a game changer for the charity Home because “he blessed us so mightily.”

Akpabio, who the group now relates to as a father, has since sustained that benevolent relationship with Xplicit Dancers.

The group was in Abuja on 1st October this year and had another opportunity to thrill Akpabio, their father, with its excellent repertoire of choreographic dances.

For Mr Abraham, knowing Akpabio has been a life changing experience for his ministry, which has turned out more than a hundred university graduates, many of whom now have their own families.

That is to mention just one instance of how Akpabio’s large heart has touched lives.

At a recent gathering, Akpabio acknowledged the uncommon show of love he receives everywhere he goes, which drew him to the spiritual conclusion that “when God has a covenant with you, nobody can break it.”

Akpabio, however remarked, that the widespread goodwill he enjoys does not spare him of attack when he makes a mistake, particularly in the social media.

He cited a recent occasion when the Senate intervened to halt a plan by the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to hike eletricity tariffs by 44 percent. An additional prayer in the substantive motion considered by the Senate in plenary – Let the Poor Breathe – was taken out of context.

This led to the whole intention of the intervention being twisted and misinterpreted in the media. Akpabio, as the Presiding Officer, bore the brunt of the attacks. He was accused of mocking the poor!

“I said why me? Why are they doing this to me? And I remember that the same people who show me love, they are the ones bashing me. Based on that, I said, I must forgive them. They are all forgiven,” he told his audience.

Akpabio shares the exhortation by African-American educator and author, Booker T. Washington, that “if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

Akpabio’s journey to becoming Nigeria’s number three citizen is fascinating and reflects the Will of God in his life.

He has grown himself all his life. His teachers at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt identified something unique in the young Godswill when they made him Senior Prefect in his final year in the school. In the same vein, the students of University of Calabar, Cross River State also spotted his potentials when they elected him Speaker of their Parliament.

At the start of his public service life in 2002, Akpabio was appointed commissioner by his mentor, Governor Obong Victor Attah. Within four years, he was moved around three key ministries. That experience later became important in his grooming for the governorship of the state.

When he entered the race for the ticket of his party, his campaign slogan was “Let God’s will be done.” This slogan was like an invocation. God established His will as Akpabio defeated 57 other aspirants to emerge as the candidate of his party then, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He won the general election in 2007 to become Governor. His performance in the office brought him into stardom. His tenure became a reference point for its “uncommon transformation” of Akwa Ibom State. His footprints dot the state through the massive development of the state’s infrastructure by his administration.

In 2015, after his second term as Akwa Ibom Governor, Akpabio, a first timer in the Senate, was elected minority leader. He later became a minister and is now back in the National Assembly as Senate President.

Akpabio’s bid for the Senate Presidency ecountered a formidable opposition.  But, as usual in his life, the Will of God came to pass.

The Will of God for Renewed Hope and prosperity in Nigeria shall also come to pass.

This is wishing Uko Akwa Ibom, Godswill Obot Akpabio, President of the 10th Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, who turns 61 on 9th December, 2023, more manifestations of the good will of God in his life.