It is often stated that a prophet is without honour in his homeland. But this assertion was broken penultimate week when the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, a foremost socio-cultural group, the fourth largest ethnic group, the Ibibios, rolled out the drum to celebrate the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, and the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio for his accomplishment during his tenure as the governor of the state.
The occasion was the 19th Obong Sampson Udo Etuk lecture, dinner and excellence awards ceremony held at the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio International Secretariat/Community Centre in Uyo. Obong Sampson Udo Etuk is widely regarded as the father of Nigeria’s socio-cultural development. In 1928, he and his friends got together to form Ibibio Welfare Union and was subsequently elected the first National President of the Ibibio Union. This Union was the sole propelling force for the education, economic and social emancipation and development of the Ibibio people which then comprised the present day Akwa Ibom State.
According to the President of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Akparawa Monday Etokakpan, the thrust of the programme of the Ibibio Union was to award scholarships to deserving Ibibio students to study overseas mainly in the United States of America and the British Isles to acquire skills in critical areas of human endeavours and to return to lead the emancipation drive of the Ibibio nation. The Ibibio Union under the Presidency of Obong Sampson Udo Etuk became a reference point in leadership excellence. Mboho institutes a biennial award to honour this hero of Ibibio race.
The President said the 2015 awards were in the categories of leadership, patriotism, public service, entrepreneurship, creativity and selfless service. According to him, “as in previous editions the selection process was rigorous and breathe-taking. This was due to the high number of worthy nominees in every category. And in keeping with our tradition we chose to keep the number of the awardees low deliberately to continue to make the awards a highly coveted honour. It is Mboho’s version of the Nobel Prize,” he said.
The immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON was conferred with the Obong Sampson Udo Etuk Excellence Award for Outstanding Leadership as a mark of recognition and appreciation of his eight years services in Akwa Ibom State and for his uncommon election as the Senate Minority Leader being a first timer in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President of the Mboho informed the gaily dressed uniformed crowd.
Indeed it was a great honour for Senator Akpabio to be celebrated by his people just a few months after leaving office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. On hand to receive him from the airport were leaders and members of the Ati Annang who drove with him in a motorcade to the venue of the event. At the event, Senator Akpabio had a hectic time responding to greetings from the surging crowd of Akwa Ibom people who were appreciative for the services he rendered to the state as governor.
For Senator Akpabio, the award was a statement for the unity of Akwa Ibom State. “I invite all Akwa Ibom people to share the fraternity of this moment. In giving this Award to me, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, has renewed the faith of all right thinking Akwa Ibom people in the unity of Akwa Ibom State. They have fanned the embers of the fire of our brotherhood into an inferno. Those who sought to quench that fire with the waters of ethnicity, tribalism and divisiveness should awaken to the hope of today and realize that blood is still thicker than water,” he said as he was invited to speak on behalf of the awardees.
Senator Akpabio is no stranger to awards. He had bagged several international, educational, professional and media honours including the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). But the award by Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio to him was special. “By His bountiful mercies, we won many awards and accolades from within and outside Nigeria. But this award by Mboho is special. It is special because it comes over six months after I left office. It is special because it comes from one of the most respected socio-cultural organizations in Nigeria. It is special because it comes from my brothers and sisters. It is special because it comes as a bolt of light to clear the cauldron of darkness foisted on us by mischief-makers,” he said.
Senator Akpabio praised Mboho for their patriotism. “Today the good people, as reflected in this patriotic association, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, have had their say and history has vindicated me. They have declared me the Best Governor in our dear state. Mboho has always tried to stay above the murky waters of politics, and remain the conscience of our state. Mboho has proven by its deeds and utterances to be blind to ethnicity and nepotism. That is why as the governor of Akwa Ibom State, I did all I could to give Mboho a new lease of life.
“As governor I did a lot for people and organizations. But like the one leper out of ten that Jesus healed, Mboho has come back to say thank you on behalf of Akwa Ibom State. The seed of appreciation you have sown today shall cause you to be appreciated as a group and as individuals,” he said.
Senator Akpabio took a swipe at politicians who despite his achievements which have remarkably transformed the state, claimed that he never achieved anything as governor. “Some drive on the roads we built, drive over the flyovers we constructed and tell the media that Akpabio did not do anything. Some take their children to the Tropicana Entertainment Centre, grant an interview and claim that “they cannot point to one single thing I did in office.” Some use the Ibom International Airport (which we met at site clearing level, and completed) to travel to Abuja and file petitions that I did not do anything in Akwa Ibom. Should we blame them?
“That is why they cannot see the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium which we built and which is one of the best stadia in the world. That is why they cannot see the Ibom Specialist Hospital. That is why they cannot see the Ibom E-Library. That is why they cannot notice that the drainage problem we solved in Itu and Abak LGA’s with our underground pipe-jacking drainage system.
“That is why they cannot see our free and compulsory education and the tripled enrolment it has brought. That is why they cannot see the Ibom Gas plant. That is why they cannot see the Sheraton by Four Points in Ikot Ekpene. That is why they cannot see the Akwa Ibom State University. That is why they cannot see the New Governor’s Lodge, the new Government House Banquet Hall, the new Deputy Governor’s Lodge etc. That is why they cannot see all the things we did which are too numerous to mention,” he said.
Senator Akpabio canvassed support for his successor, Mr Udom Emmanuel who presented the award to him on behalf of Mboho. “Let me say here that the events of my last few years in office which culminated in the election of His Excellency Mr Udom Emmanuel as the governor of Akwa Ibom State were miraculous and beyond my control. His performance in government justifies that his mandate is divine. We should all be proud of him. I seize this opportunity to urge all Akwa Ibom people to continue to support his administration. Let us keep him in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.
Speaker after speaker extolled Senator Akpabio for the leadership he had provided the state as governor for eight years and wished him well as the Minority Leader of the Senate.
Mr Ekong is Special Assistant (Media) to the Senate Minority Leader and wrote in from Abuja