Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, and Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien have a lot in common. Both come from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Both, among 55 others, vied for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in 2007. One won and reigned for a remarkable 8 years that have been stenciled on the bowels of time; the other was one of his key supporters. Both had, at different times, the privilege of representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in the Red Chamber. Both are Akwa Ibom leaders who stir different levels of regard, honour and followership.
Even though they share these similarities, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and serving minister in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, towers far and above his comrade Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien. This public rating is not based on the fact that he was governor, but predicated largely on the impact he has made on the lives of others. According to Ajayi Abimbola in one of his imperishable works: “A life is never productive until it makes positive impact on the lives of others”. In his (Ibokessien’s) days as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, political terminologies like constituency projects and constituency briefings were not known lexical items in the Senatorial District. But when Akpabio became Senator representing the same people, the phrases became rife and common and were used in pragmatic terms at different times during the period to the amazement of many who never thought that such gestures existed.
Akpabio in public estimation can be summed up as one who has used opportunities available to him to impact lives. As Commissioner, he brought into office uncommon simplicity. He made himself accessible and exercised unparalleled generosity that was not common in Akwa Ibom State. He imbibed John Maxwell’s irrefutable laws of leadership. One of which is that a leader must give up to go up. Akpabio also embraced the principle which iterates that trust is the foundation of leadership. His style as a commissioner turned him into a public entitlement. This was the foundation of the massive support he garnered in the governorship bid that eventuated in 2007. Because compassion and love for people are inhered in his being, he continued with the streaks of giving and loving through his era as governor, Senator and till date.
But Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien is not known to possess such grace. He also does not exude that electrifying and charismatic personality like Akpabio, which could have earned him followership. His vocation as a politician can be viewed more as an extension of his foray into business than service intended for legacy. As a senator for one tenure, there was no form of constituency briefing for the
period. The only gain that representation sired is the claim of his role in the on-shore/off-shore dichotomy which remains unverifiable, but which the people are still thankful to him. His appointment as commissioner in Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission through the benevolence of the then governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was also tethered to the same fate of self and self alone. Senator Ibokessien is not known to have extended the gains of that office to any person outside his immediate family. For Ibokessien, every position is for him and his family and his business interest like the Ritman Schools, Ritman University and Ritman Press. This is the eloquent dissimilarity between Akpabio and Ibokessien. A dissimilarity which has anecdotal resemblance to that between the Sea of Galilee, which takes water from rivers and pours them out to the Mediteranean Sea; and the Dead Sea, which only takes water from the Jordan River and does not give out water. The Sea of Galilea booms with fishes, fishermen and sailors; the Dead Sea has no form of animal life because of its salinity and no fishing at all.
Away from the cobweb issues of generosity and social standing, let us examine the socio-political and economic impact of these personalities in their environment’s nay Akwa Ibom State. At the same time, it is important to review their roles as leaders especially in utterances and exemplary conduct. Leadership demands character. One cannot be a good leader unless one has character. Character is the mental and moral qualities unique to an individual. Many of our leaders are deficit of morality and character. These deficiencies serve as reasons for lack of principle. It is this lack of morality that makes supposedly well to do leaders to contribute to the ruining of a State-owned bank that served largely the interest of the down trodden. Ofcourse one of the world’s outstanding political icons, Mahatma Gandhi did not hide his abhorrence for politics not soused in principle. The lack of it is what we are witnessing today.
Happenings in the State have exposed the underbelly of our acclaimed leaders and brought them to public damnation. It has afforded many some insight into the inner workings of the hearts of some of the leaders too. We have been able to surmise those that are forgiving and those that save and nurse grudges with no foreseeable hope to forgive. Those ones carry hate like a baggage with the risk of being the vessel of hate without knowing the danger.
The recent visit of Senator Emmanuel Ibokessien to the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has rightly or wrongly drawn some flaks. Even though Senator Ibokessien has made spirited efforts to rationalize the reason for that visit and the presentation of a congratulatory souvenir to the
Honourable Minister, some questions which agitate many minds have popped up. Assuming Akpabio did not become minister, would Ibokessien and the Vice Chancellor travel the distance, crossing many rivers from Akwa Ibom to Abuja to convey this all-important invitation? Akpabio was sworn in as a minister on August 21, 2019. How long did it have to take him to congratulate the Chancellor of his university? Is the congratulation interest embedded? Has Senator Ibokessien just remembered that Senator Akpabio is his Chancellor? When he (Ibokessien) climbed the podium during one of the campaign rallies and made the sordid and unsavory comment that the Annangs (his tribe) eat humans and if Akpabio is not careful, the Annangs would kill him and eat as punishment for his political decision, did he remember that he was talking about the Chancellor of his university? If, according to him, Akpabio was killed and eaten, who would he invite today as Chancellor? That unsavory statement was made in an event covered live on several media platforms and beamed to the whole world.
As elders and indeed humans, we must be guided in our utterances. The words we utter are difficult to take back. Some utterances are so searing and scathing that healing could take eternity. What he said is equivalent to the mock coffin that was made by some known persons as the obituary of Akpabio after the machination that short-changed him in the senatorial election. As an Elder, Ibokessien should have been more circumspect. But everybody at that time spoke to impress rather than express.
But one must salute the magnanimity and liberal spirit of the Honourable Minister. It is said that forgiveness is an attribute of the strong, not the weak. Some pundits well-heeled in Christian values and clinical psychology posit that great leaders do not bear grudges, noting that it is not the place of great minds to remember injuries but to forget them. Akpabio’s inclination in matters of forgiveness is well situated in this context. The forgiving spirit puts him in the bracket of a true Christian who wishes to imbibe the attribute of God Who forgives our daily transgressions anytime we ask for His mercy. Perhaps, that is why his political career despite the many grand conspiracies has continued to be on the rise while those of his enemies float in troubling waters. It was the forgiving spirit that led him to overlook the indiscretions of Senator Ibokessien, which happened a few months ago, and extend to him a receptiveness that only people who love humanity and fear God are capable of displaying. His attitude regarding forgiveness is truly the hallmark of leadership.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst