By Abdulaziz Umar
Within the next two weeks or thereabouts, the foundational processes leading to the 2023 general election will be concluded across different political parties, with aspirants who have picked nomination/expression of interest forms expected to participate in party primaries that will produce standard-bearers for different elective positions in the country.
Therefore, there is no better time for Nigerians to shift their focus to the ultimate prize in the forthcoming democratic contest—the presidency. This becomes imperative, going by the plethora of challenges facing the nation in the security and economic sectors.
More than ever before, the nation appears to be in an economic situation that demands quick, articulate and well-thought-out solutions. These solutions must not only target repositioning the macro economy of the Nigerian state but also positively impact the micro economy and purchasing power of individual Nigerians.
Similarly, the security architecture of the country has become troubled by different factors, ranging from civil wars in neighbouring African countries, which allowed small firearms gain unchecked entry into the country, to the effect of the economic challenges across the states of the country, which have made crimes become beholden to many youths.
Today, stories of murder, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and all sorts of criminality fill the media space, casting a huge blight on the many beautiful developmental programmes and efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
But beyond the economic challenges and the insecurity across the land (most of them politically motivated), there is a certain challenge that towers high among the difficulties facing the Nigerian state at this moment in history, disunity. This monster of disunity has become the albatross of the nation, threatening the very core of its existence and preventing the realisation of the aspirations in the first and second stanza of the nation’s National Anthem: “The labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain, to serve with heart and might, one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity…Great lofty heights attain, to build a nation, where peace and justice reign.”
Standing in this sorrowful labyrinth, the Nigerian state appears to be on the edge of a precipice and needing a captain who can navigate the ship deftly through the stormy waters.
Certainly, the change of guard in the country, which the 2023 general election will make happen, is one that must be managed carefully and with full awareness of the dire consequences that the mismanagement of the process could bring to bear on Nigeria and Nigerians.
With the presidential election coming first in the line-up of elections and given the all-important nature of the presidency to the survival of the country, it becomes imperative for Nigerians to set forth at dawn, borrowing a leaf from the pages of a literary piece by the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Nigerians, from all walks of life, must pay more than a passing attention to who takes the baton from President Muhammadu Buhari, as the individual who becomes the next President of the country at this critical time will determine whether the Nigerian ship will sink after Buhari’s administration or sail to its fair haven.
With the country at such a crossroads and the jostle for the presidential ticket in the leading political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), gradually becoming a circus, where all manner of individuals are expressing their interest to govern Nigeria, it behoves on Nigerians to put their feet down and go for an individual with strong character and pedigree in leadership. This is where His Excellency, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, comes into the picture.
As a leading presidential aspirant on the platform of the ruling APC, Akpabio comes into the mix as a certified administrator and proven manager of financial and human resources with the needed acumen to steer the ship of the Nigerian state away from trouble.
With an Akpabio presidency, Nigerians can look forward to competent resolution of the crisis rocking the nation’s security sector and a solution to the economic puzzle.
In Akpabio, the APC has a golden opportunity to entrust the leadership of the country in the hands of an individual who has not only garnered experience across different strata of leadership in the country but has also demonstrated the will to make positive changes happen.
Through his three-pronged approach on security, economy and a united Nigeria, Akpabio, who served as commissioner in Akwa Ibom for years before becoming the governor of the state for eight years, senator (Minority Leader, as a first-timer) representing Akwa Ibom North-West for four years and later Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, will bring to bear his wealth of experience and exposure in moving Nigeria forward from where Buhari anchors in 2023.
For those conversant with Akpabio and his style of politics, his disposition portrays a man on a mission; this mission, Akpabio reckons, did not finish with his governorship of Akwa Ibom but transcends that oil-rich Niger Delta state. In fact, the former governor’s love for Nigeria and his passionate commitment to the oneness and unity of the nation have always stood tall, across different periods. One is, therefore, not surprised that a former Military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, recently declared that Akpabio was one Nigerian he could vouch for to lead the country as its President post-2023.
From his benevolent acts beyond Akwa Ibom State to his unfettered contributions to national development and peace-building across the nation, in his time as governor, senator and, lately, minister; Akpabio has always demonstrated the readiness of a man that would go on to do greater things for the Nigerian nation.
He had once declared: “I wish to serve notice that I would remain undaunted and focused in serving humanity.”
These words appear to have been a prophesy ahead of the present times, when all indications now point to the need for a leader with strong will and an impassioned commitment to building a greater Nigeria, a leader in the form of Senator Akpabio.
Undoubtedly, Nigerians have become divided across ethnic, religious and political lines more than ever before, with palpable tension that has become worrisome and continues to threaten the peaceful co-existence of ethnic nationalities in the country. Undoubtedly, too, the 2023 elections are strategic and the individual that will occupy the number one position in the land is quite central to the unity of the country.
All Nigerians across political, religious and ethnic divides know this for a fact, but they must watch the presidential race with keenness and decide on the individual that fits the bill and has the prerequisite knowledge to foster unity. That individual is Godswill Akpabio!
Though a Christian, he has friends across all states and has reached out to states and people of all religions in moments of need. He is a highly detribalised Nigerian. His ADC, CSO, orderly and other personal aides were from the northern part of the country when he was a governor. He is the only Christian governor to date who sent over 5,000, Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca during his eight-year tenure.
He was elected Governor and Senator on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform and left an indelible mark on the party, even serving as the pioneer Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, before becoming a strong pillar in the ruling APC.
He is from an ethnic minority and would be generally acceptable to all ethnic groups. Certainly, an Akpabio candidature is one that matches the Nigerian aspiration. The ruling APC must seize the opportunity of the wide connections and nationalistic tendencies of the Uncommon Transformer to entrench itself in the Nigerian Presidency.
Of course, it is not unfounded to come across different presidential aspirants mouthing grandiose plans and articulating textbook points as solutions to the challenges facing Nigeria.
But with Akpabio, words that build a Nation and an action plan that is simple and time-tested are quite important at this period. Akpabio put these words and actions to test in Akwa Ibom State for eight years, solving the insecurity challenges that faced the oil-rich state, with programmes that aptly addressed youth restiveness he inherited.
By solving the insecurity challenge, he was able to build an Akwa Ibom with a solid economy, transformed infrastructure and turned the civil service state into a destination for international and national conferences and events.
As Minister of Niger Delta, Akpabio, demonstrated the same courage to avert security and economic troubles that would have threatened the peace of the country further. In a move that appeared to have killed two birds with one stone, Akpabio had risked his life, treading where even Angels feared to tread, when he went to the creeks to meet with Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, to resolve what would have become another major face-off between militants and the Federal Government.
Interestingly, Tompolo had threatened to unleash what he called the rage of the Niger Delta and it was instructive that Akpabio was able to prevent that rage, showing the characters needed in the next Nigerian President. One is quite sure that the APC-led Federal Government must have noticed the peace and stability being enjoyed in the Niger Delta and must also have listed courage and bravery as parts of the criteria for choosing its standard bearer.
Indeed, it became clear from Akpabio’s fearless visit to the creeks, that if the Nigerian State wants a peaceful Niger Delta and by extension a steady and productive oil output from the region, which will in turn stabilise the economy of the country, Akpabio is the best answer to the national puzzle.
If Nigeria desires a president who can reach across the Niger for a handshake of friendship and peace, that individual, no doubt, is Akpabio. And if certainly, the country wants a more secure Nigeria, where lives and property are safe and well-protected, Nigerians only need to entrust the country in the hands of Senator Akpabio, a man with a tested and proven template of development, a template that has at its centre the gainful and productive engagement of women and youths.
• Umar, is a Kaduna based Public Affairs Analyst