Godswill Akpabio has said that before he became the governor of Akwa Ibom State there were moments in his life he used to eat from dustbins.
Mr. Akpabio’s shocking revelation is contained in an audio clip exclusively published by a blog, Think Akwa Ibom!
PREMIUM TIMES obtained permission from the owners of the blog to republish.
The governor spoke in Eket during the inauguration of a hotel, Sonak, owned by his older brother, Isong Akpabio, a former public affairs manager of Mobil Producing Nigeria.
The exact date of the event is unknown, but it is obvious from Mr. Akpabio’s remarks that it happened early in the governor’s first term in office.
“I was on the street, struggling with other people to eat, sometimes from the dustbins,” Mr. Akpabio said.
The crowd could be heard in the background, laughing and cheering on the governor. “I knew that (my brother, Isong Akpabio) having worked in Mobil for a long time and Mobil provided the food, the car and everything for him.”
The governor’s brother, Isong, was among the numerous aspirants within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State who contested alongside Godswill Akpabio for the party’s governorship ticket in 2006.
“I felt I knew the people’s problem more than him (Isong Akpabio) that was why I told him wait for me, let me go first as governor,” Mr. Akpabio said, eliciting more laughter from the crowd.
“Yes, I knew the problems of the people. One of the major problems was that even your state capital did not look like a state capital. Another problem was that people were using your children as house-boys and house-helps. The third problem was that when you mentioned your name ‘Ekaette’, people looked down on you.
“So, we worked on those three things; your state capital is now the cynosure of all eyes, your children are now enjoying free and compulsory education, and now when you say you are from Akwa Ibom, people say, ‘oh, welcome and have a seat.”
Governor Akpabio said he doubted if his brother, Isong would have ‘noticed’ the problems of the people if he were to be elected governor since he was so comfortable working in Mobil then.
He told the brother, “Now, after 2015, you can contest (as governor). They will vote for you, after seeing what you’ve done here”, apparently referring to the hotel that was being commissioned at the event.
Mr. Akpabio said that by the time he finishes his tenure as governor, the governance era in Akwa Ibom would be partitioned into two – ‘before Akpabio and after Akpabio’.
He told the people in Eket that before he leaves office, he was going to build ‘a beautiful Sheraton’ hotel at the location where Qua River Hotel used to be and that his administration was soon going to remodel the city of Eket to look like Uyo.
Mr. Akpabio has just about three months to complete his tenure in office.
He is yet to fulfil any of the promises he made at that event. Eket is yet to be remodelled and there is no ‘beautiful Sheraton’ in sight.
It is unclear how Akwa Ibom people will react to the revelation from their governor who used to eat from the dustbin while struggling on the streets, but who many Nigerians now consider one of Nigeria’s most profligate public officials.
He is reputed for spending his state funds as if they were his personal wealth.
In March 2013, the governor acquired expensive exotic bullet-proof sprinter luxury vans from US-based Texas Armoring Corporation. The vans were customized to his specifications.
That happened five days after he donated two brand new Toyota SUVs to then newly-wed Nigerian musician, Tuface Idibia and his wife.
He also bankrolled an all-expense paid trip for 29 delegates from the state to attend the white wedding of the couple in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate on March 23, 2013.
That same month, he unilaterally donated N230 million on behalf of the then newly-formed PDP Governors Forum to President Goodluck Jonathan’s hometown church. It later turned out that many of the governors did not give him their nods to make any donation on their behalf.
He took his profligacy to a new high later that month, openly donating N1million lunch money to party chairmen from states in the South-South geopolitical zone who had converged on Port Harcourt for a party reconciliation session.
Mr. Akpabio is believed to move around with huge cash.
In March 2012, three staff of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCo) attached to Arik Airlines were arrested for allegedly stealing N2million from the luggage of a Government House, Uyo, protocol staff at Ibom International Airport.
At a forum held in honour of the movie industry in Nigeria on March 3, 2013, Mr. Akpabio promised to release an unsolicited N50million for a so-called ‘Goodluck Jonathan Prize’ award for best performers in the film industry.
Although Akwa Ibom receives the highest monthly allocation from the Federation Account, sometimes as much as N27 billion a month, before the crash in oil price, the state remains one of the poorest in the country.
Governor Akpabio is widely celebrated in the local media and the Peoples Democratic Party for “governing Akwa Ibom State well”.
But residents say beyond the facade, the poverty and unemployment rate in the state remained among the highest in the country.
Local contractors are routinely ignored for multinationals in the execution of infrastructural projects, and residents complain of huge capital flights from the state.
The largest employer of labour in the state remains the civil service which is already overstaffed.
Most state-owned industries have closed shop and the state is not known to have attracted any substantial investment in spite of Governor Akpabio’s several overseas trip in search of foreign investors.
Worried by the massive poverty in the state, the Anglican Bishop of Uyo Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, on September 12, 2012, advised Mr. Akpabio to face reality and fight the widespread unemployment and poverty in the state.