Many refer to him as man of the people. Others believe he is versed with vast people skills. People skills are said to be patterns of behavioural interaction. One of the British dictionaries describes it as the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way. Apart from possessing the skill for oratorical flourish, the affable former governor communicates with lavish warmth that exudes empathy. Like Akpabio or hate him, you can not take away the fact that he is a people’s person, any time, any day.
His arrival at the venue of the funeral service of one time Chief of Air Staff and former minister, Air Marshal Nsikak Essien Eduok followed same pattern. As his convoy rolled into the venue with subdued quiet in deference to the mood of the event, eagle eyed members of the crowd identified his vehicle and went wild in jubilation. Like an infectious bug, others who heard the muffled commotion heralding his arrival joined and the crowd went ecstatic. When he stepped out of his vehicle and the people caught a glimpse of him, there was a spontaneous expression of joy that was bipartisan, inter – ethnic and across generation and gender. The excitement was palpable and genuine. The man of the people had arrived and their joy knew no bounds.
Very few people command such cult followership. Researchers attribute it to the quantum of influence of the leader. A famous author of books on leadership, John Maxwell corroborated this view when he said ” the true measure of leadership is influence- nothing more, nothing less”. Leadership develops daily, not in a day. Akpabio’s leadership skill which has sired enormous influence and cultivated robust goodwill has a historical trajectory of various epochs. From being a senior prefect in a Federal Government College to being a Speaker of Students’ Union Parliament in a Federal university to being a managing director of of a blue chip company to commissioner in the State Executive Council to governor to Senate Minority Leader and to Minister, it has been many top flight positions to practicalize leadership. These are epochal stations of service which he has maximised to the benefit of people. There is no station he has occupied that has not recorded a beneficiary who would give positive testimony about him unsolicited. Others who have not benefitted from him directly have heard testimonies of his goodness and always join to celebrate him as encouragement to others . This is the reason for the loud applause that heralds him into any occasion or event.
Akpabio’s philosophy of leaving any position God has trusted one with better than one met it has been the adrenalin that has catalysed his sense of service delivery. In Akwa Ibom as governor from 2007-2015, the imprimatur of his occupation of that office abound in excess. As minister of Niger Delta Affairs, he has made appreciable strides and even broken the glass ceiling in the resumption of East – West Road and the completion of the almost jinxed NDDC Headquarters building. These applaudable legacies turn him to a toast at any event especially when he is placed in juxtaposition with other leaders.
Another secret which has created sublime admiration for Akpabio is the humility of connecting with his old friends without the arrogance of his present status in life. Armed with a keen memory , Akpabio would remember a friend he has not seen in decades and call him or her by name. Such action naturally etches a soothing memory and stamps a mark of personal touch on that relationship. And such friends would be willing to go any hug for him even without immediate personal benefits. The personal touch he foists on the relationship through such recognitions gives those friends a sense of entitlement and creates sustainable alliance which he (Akpabio) can depend upon.
In a clime where leaders with character and sense of duty are progressively varnishing or sucked in by the wave of serving self and only self, the likes of Akpabio should be encouraged to replicate more of his kind. It is why the celebration of him at any occasion by the ordinary folks always catches my honest attention and emboldens me to continue to examine his leadership trajectory . The society needs more of his types to undergo the kind of transformation that would put us on contemporary orbit. Recently a political support group that is poised to take up the task of sanitising the polity and encouraging dependable leadership appointed him their GRAND LEADER. The group named and addressed as Akwa Ibom Democratic Forum ( ADF ) has vibrant, tested and trusted politicians as members. Their choice of Akpabio as their GRAND LEADER is a testimony to the vision of the organization which is to change things for the better. I salute the leadership of the group and urge the members to remain unwavering in the task they have assigned themselves.
For Senator Akpabio, I dare to wager that many have come to trust his leadership as typified in the views of these ordinary folks who become spontaneously jubilant whenever and wherever they sight him. Without any fear of equivocation, I dare to say that these views are across national boundaries. I enjoin him to continue to enthrone the honest leadership which he is known for and continue to serve the people with diligence and devotion with the assurance that his people shall remain his people even in increased number