“Of the two camps, which do you belong”? I quickly informed my interrogator who was also guest at the apartment where I stayed, that I belonged to the camp loyal to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and I hoped he could assist to further our cause.

My guest, a lanky Lawyer cum academic from Katsina State was introduced to me by a high-ranking government official from Niger State. My Niger State benefactor had earlier promised to set up the meeting between us. My guest at the time was a member of a critical adhoc committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC). We reasoned that this guest could assist with inroads to resolve the APC leadership tussle in Akwa Ibom State at the time, so practically, I was at the mercy of my guest, since I didn’t know what his disposition would be.

Introductions over so we got talking and he started taking notes. Midway, as if tired of my lengthy story, my guest dropped his pen and told me pointedly; “if what you want has to do with Akpabio and you’re serious that you’re on his side, then forget it. I will do everything; I will talk to other people on his behalf on this issue”. While I was still processing his words, he reached into his breast pocket, brought out an ornamented card holder, picked out two different cards bearing same name and handed over to me. One had; “Head of Department of Public Law” inscribed on it while the other had “Head” of a Law firm both in Abuja. “Show those cards to him whenever you see him. Tell him you met his son from Katsina State. He may remember me”.

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How does a core adult northerner claim Godswill Akpabio is his son? I wondered as the surprisingly brief meeting drew to a close.

Before my guest left me that night, he told me a story. He told me how after the demise of President Yar’Adua, he was distraught and had nowhere to go. He was young, barely-literate and at the verge of losing his job. He says Governor Godswill Akpabio picked him up and sent him to school. He was not alone. They were many in that category from the North. For him, he ended up with a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in Law all from the United Kingdom courtesy of Governor Akpabio’s magnanimity. He said during the period, his wife also performed the Hajj rites in the holy land courtesy of the benevolence of a man he and his family barely knew!

For all his magnanimity to him and his family, he would do anything Senator Godswill Akpabio desired without asking questions.The complimentary cards in my possession were testaments to Governor Akpabio’s kind spirit. There was and still is an uncommon touch to who and where he comes in contact with.

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It is not news that while he held sway as Governor, his ADC was a Muslim. Several of the security personnel who worked with him were Muslims too. In addition, it is also on record that as Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 – 2015, Governor Akpabio sponsored over 5000 muslims to the holy land for Hajj; that record remains unbroken till date.

What more can a committed Christian do for his Muslim brother that is greater than assisting him fulfill a religious obligation as important as one of the five pillars in Islam?

Indeed Senator Akpabio’s message has been one of ethnic and religious tolerance as a panacea for national unity. As a product of Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Senator Akpabio had an early opportunity to appreciate Nigeria’s ethno-religious diversity. This understanding has punctuated his world view in all positions he’s been privileged to occupy.

In the light of the above, calls by a few persons seeking to portray Senator Akpabio in bad light will fade in the face of these glaring facts.

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Senator Godswill Akpabio’s emergence as Senate President in the 10th Senate will not only engender balance and promote religious tolerance, but it will also usher a wave of uncommon leadership that the nation desperately desires from the Red Chamber.

Barr. Imo E. Akpan writes from Ikono.

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