President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio was a carefully thought out phenomena. In his characteristic style, the President started off by setting up a probe dating back to the beginning of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) so that the new team of the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs can transform the region in other to achieve the original aim for the setting up of the government agency.
It was a common belief that the NDDC was a sink hole of corruption where those appointed to man the organisation and achieve government’s objectives busily annexed it as their private estate where they greedily fed fat on what was to be a solution to the Niger Delta’s perennial degradation of land, oil spills and all what not.
The choice of Senator Akpabio the uncommon transformation super star to head the Ministry of Niger Delta was therefore not a surprise. First by joining the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the run up to the last election that brought Mr President to his second term was deliberate. Senator Akpabio is a Niger Deltan who under the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP government of Akwa Ibom transformed the state into a super state with a first class infrastructure, social and economic welfarism that has today made everyone from that state feel on top of the world.
President Buhari wanted to ensure that the Niger Delta people get the kind of social and economic transformation they definitely deserve, wipe away their tears from development strangulation and equally stop the rot that has squandered the Federal injection of funds in their billions over the years. That is why the presence of Godswill Akpabio in the region will make the difference.
Since his arrival at the Ministry, he has moved around the other states that make up the region, apart from his own Akwa Ibom which he governed for eight years. He has now completed his reconnaissance and is ready to dish out his uncommon transformation. Nigerians eagerly await what Senator Akpabio will do in the Niger Delta and no one is in doubt that he will inject his charisma and the no nonsense approach to economic development to favour the people of the area.
It will be interesting to see how Senator Godswill Akpabio will manage the N24 billion for his Ministry of Niger Delta in the 2020 budget and the influence he will muster on the NDDC board which has been reconstituted to enable them key into his vision of development in the entire Niger Delta. The NDDC has N88 billion to spend in the 2020 financial year. What appears certain for now is that with this level of allocation, Akpabio may find it difficult to execute his usually gargantuan projects. At Akwa Ibom he was used to spending around N300 billion and more, which was why he did spectacular things then.
Judging from his performance in Akwa Ibom, he normally usually prefers using leading contractors like Julius Berger to ensure lasting quality works. There is no doubt that he will bring his quality on the development needs of the new assignment to bring the region to a standard expected but the President should be able to find a way of improving the budget of the area, considering that it is the region that lays the golden eggs upon which the federation stands economically.
My admiration for Senator Akpabio centres on his workaholics nature and his love for quality development of infrastructure. I was in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital recently and saw at first hand the way he transformed a backward state to a frontline one where he also laid a blue print that his followers are following assiduously even when he had left governance to a younger version of his stylish and uncommon economic transformation. The present governor of the state, Mr Udom Emmanuel has followed the book that Akpabio followed from Governor Attah who handed to him, thus making the state economically sound, despite the sometimes political differences encountered over the past twenty years.
I look forward to touring the entire Niger Delta region at the end of his term as Minister in 2023 to see how his transformation drive has brought good news to the people. I will also heap accolades on the President, Muhammadu Buhari for picking a man who has been able to show that he is a man to depend on for quality development in Nigeria. Who knows where the political winds will direct this great man during the rest of this decade. I am looking forward to a greater future for Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, the strong man of Akwa Ibom state.
––Wakili is an engineer based in Abuja