The Evangelist News edition, Saturday September 23, 2023. By Joe Iniodu
As Nigeria gathers today, September 22, 2023 at Four Points By Sheraton in the raffia city of Ikot Ekpene , precisely at the location where the colonial masters built a massive prison that could house 300 inmates but now replaced by a state-of-the-art hospitality facility, many things come to mind concerning Senator Godswill Akpabio’s political journey.
The first in the rubric of that consideration is his vision for the construction of the Four Points By Sheraton which came under the wave of his uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom State which was the standard during Akpabio’s two terms rule as governor of the State. The well conceived project which was almost 100% completed at the time of his departure in 2015 was, however, abandoned for reasons Akwa Ibom people are still yet to fathom. Today the edifice which stands as a symbol of intentional development with its alluring ambience buoys the pride of the State as the Vice President, His Excellency, Kashim Shettima, as special guest of honour declares open a retreat for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.
During his campaign for for second term as governor of Akwa Ibom State in 2011, Akpabio promised to relocate the prison which was in the centre of Ikot Ekpene town and replace it with a hospitality facility. He kept both promises by relocating the prison to a suburb within Ikot Ekpene and constructing the Four Points By Sheraton which is the venue of the epochal retreat adjudged to be the first in legislative history.
Conceiving and building the hotel facility remains a study in foresight. With its exquisite ambience and state- of -the -art facilities, the hotel is arguably a huge source of revenue for the State and a boost to the local economy. It is an added value to the tourism potential of the State.
The two days retreat would give fillip to the informal economy and provide a boost to areas like hotel accommodation, restaurants, fruit sellers , makers of artefact, transporters etc would enjoy some economic boom through transactions with people that are in town for the event.
The vision of expanding development to other areas outside the State capital is a function of a development minded leader who views the State as a constituency to which he is fully committed. Such is the development conviction of Senator Akpabio which he demonstrated in the way he spread developments across the State between 2007-2015 and is doing the same thing till date.
Another thing that rears to mind is what Akpabio said when he moved to APC. He said that his plan was to take Akwa Ibom to Nigeria. It is a truism that the State has for years been like a fringe State, deprived of federal presence, engagement of its human resource capital and other things that could signify a federal presence to compensate for being the largest contributor to the national coffers through the oil exploited from its land . But recently the Tinubu Administration is reversing the ugly trend through the political dexterity of Senator Akpabio. His quest to take Akwa Ibom to Nigeria has proven not to be a ruse but something that is achievable through a political player of great equity . Akpabio possesses the political net-worth and is maximizing it to full effect.
Today symbolizes the national integration that Akpabio envisioned when he boasted he would take Akwa Ibom to Nigeria. The experimental local government of Ikot Ekpene hosted eminent players of the Nigeria’s political space including the vice president, His Excellency, Senator Kashim Shettima, the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas, the Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon Ben Kalu, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, now Chief of Staff to the President, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamilla, former Senate Presidents and former Speakers of the House of Representatives and a host of other prominent political players within the Nation’s political space as a confirmation of that promise.
Senator Akpabio, the first Akwa Ibom person to ascend to the position of Senate President, has continued to steer the affairs of the Senate with deft and dexterity again earning the sobriquet of uncommon Senate President. His representation has leveraged not only the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District but the State and placed them on the orbit of national recognition.
Bringing these prominent Nigerians to the State reminds us once again of the surfeit of events that inundated the State in Akpabio’s days as governor. One can easily recall the 10th anniversary of PDP which took place in the State. The Nigerian Navy had a superlative outing in the State, Christian and Muslim had a retreat in the State followed by other major events, leading to the description of Akwa Ibom as the Gilgal of Nigeria; an equivalence of the command that the children of Israel gather at Gilgal to renew their covenant with the Lord. Akwa Ibom is again returning to be the Gilgal of Nigeria.
* Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst