For Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, the journey to political stardom began in 2002, when he was appointed Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, by his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah.
Chief Akpabio’s diligent service in that Ministry, apparently informed his redeployment to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Aff airs, and later that of Lands and Housing, where he also demonstrated high sense of commitment to duty.
His sterling leadership qualities endeared him to many - youths and elders alike -who saw him as a bridge of unity among the people, regardless of social status, ethnic or political leaning. It was not surprising therefore, that his amiable personality, multi-tasking capabilities and sense of patriotism opened a new door to higher responsibilities in the service of the people, who saw in him, great leadership potentials.
In response to the clarion call of the people, Chief Akpabio in 2006 declared his intention to contest the governorship seat of Akwa Ibom State, under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party. However, this would not just be on a platter of gold for him. He had to pass through tough times, before clinching the PDP ticket. Chief Akpabio, alongside 57 other aspirants, was subjected to rigorous screening by the panel of the party in Port Harcourt before contesting the governorship primary.
Among the political heavyweights that contested the primaries with Chief Akpabio were Chief Don Etiebet, Engr. Chris Ekpenyong, Dr. Ime Umanah, Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, Obong Bassey Inuaeyen, Mr. Benjamin Okoko; Senator Itak Ekarika, Arch. Ezekiel Nyaetok, Mr. Inibehe Okorie, Mr. Nsima Ekere, Arch. Okon Inwang and Group Captain Sam Enwang.
At the end of the day, Chief Akpabio emerged victorious with 2,027 votes, followed by Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika, who got 1,590 votes; Mr. Larry Esin, 927; Dr. Ime Umanah 918; while Mr. Nsima Ekere, polled 864 votes.
On Saturday, 3rd February, 2007, the PDP national leadership reaffi rmed Akpabio as the standard bearer of the party, and presented him with the party’s fl ag, at the zonal rally of the party which took place in Port Harcourt, River State. This development laid to rest rumours of uncertainties about the true gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State. The flag presentation elicited jubilations among party faithful, supporters, political and interest groups in Akwa Ibom, as they rolled out drums and danced in celebration of Chief Akpabio’s candidacy.
With this, the coast was clear for Chief Akpabio to contest the governorship election confidently as the PDP candidate. To help actualize his vision, he took his campaign rallies to the nooks and crannies of the State.
In each of the three senatorial districts and 31 local government areas of the State, Chief Akpabio was received by large crowds of supporters, political stakeholders, elders, women and youths, representing different shades of opinions in society. The Christian Association of Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom Women in Politics, Ifim Ibom Ibibio; Afe Annang; Oro Think Tank; Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, and others endorsed Akpabio as their sole candidate in the election.
The others included the Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Ambassador Sam Edem; former Governor, Obong Akpan Isemin; one-time Governor of Old Cross River State, Chief Don. Etiebet and Arch. Ubokutom Nyah.
The campaign rallies were veritable platforms for the PDP standard bearer to have one-on-one interactions with the people, especially those residing in the grassroots, and to announce his plans for them, if given the mandate. Top on his agenda were quality education, effective health care service, human and capital development, as well as job creation and infrastructure renaissance.
For the people of Akwa Ibom State, the yearning and craving for uncommon political leadership became a reality when Chief Akpabio was overwhelmingly elected as the third Executive Governor on Saturday, April 14, 2007.
Expectedly, following the declaration of Chief Akpabio as Governor, there was jubilation and joy across the length and breadth of the State. Thus began the golden era of the Godswill Akpabio years in Akwa Ibom State, which has raised the bar of good governance in Nigeria and beyond.