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She ended well! *Echoes of testimonies, as Theresa Omolara Obu returns home in a blaze of glory

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“Theresa Omolara Obu ended well. Her life ended in prayer. At the hour of her death, she received that which all Christian men and women desire, which is, pray for me now and at the hour of our death,” were the eternal words with which Father Ehi Omoragbon of St. Francis Catholic Church, Idimu, Lagos, opened his sermons on Friday September 1.

It was indeed a testimony as well as exhortation for the sea of heads of men and women, who came from far and wide, from all over Nigeria and beyond to bid farewell to the matriarch of the Mark Obu family of Umukwata Kingdom in Ukwuani Local Government Area of Delta State, who passed on, in Lagos, on August 9, 2023 at the age of 72.

The kaleidoscope of colours inside the massive church, which was almost filled to capacity, despite being a work day, and the almost airtight situation outside the expansive compound betrayed the telltale signs of a big event that could only be captured in superlatives, which corroborated the verdict of the priest that the tentacle of the matriarch not only spread far enough but her life touched many across the globe quite positively.

How did Father Omoragbon establish his conclusion that Ma Obu ended well and is currently resting in the bosom of the heavenly hosts? Of course, he did by simply recounting how she spread love, devoted her life and times towards humanity through her work in the church as a devoted Christian and other altruistic activities through a long career as medical personnel in the channel of saving lives. With these and other acts of kindness as a businesswoman and pro-social being, she was able to uplift the less-endowed in the society, healing many wounds physically and spiritually till her last hours.

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The cleric narrated how indeed, her last days on earth were epitomised by the fountain of love that radiated around her, and how the affection which she emitted throughout her life, were returned in quantum measures by those she cared for, particularly her immediate family, who were never far from her.

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This was crowned when she received the last sacraments that led her to a peaceful transition from life on earth to eternal rest – the sacrament of Extreme Unction – anointing of the sick – the desire of every Catholic and a privilege they get at their last hours.

Hear the priest: “At the hour of her passing in this life, our dear sister was not alone. The beloved husband stood with her, the church was at her side, the priests and the believers were there. And because the priests and the believers were at the side of this Christian woman, Jesus was there, because three had gathered in his name.

“And in his presence, our friend, Theresa renewed her baptismal profession and because she believed in the forgiveness of sins, she was called and she heard. She went softly to death and resurrection of Christ. May almighty God free you from all the punishments in this life and the life of the son. And after that, our dear sister was asked to be led by God into the kingdom of peace. She was admitted and she received the body of Christ. And for this beloved wife, at the hour of her death, everything was done in faith, in freedom and in love.

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“Of love, this daughter of love, received and gave love, in good times, she was loved, she was loved in sickness. Her condition did not in any way make her any less loveable. The situation didn’t make her unwanted. Without counting costs, everything was done that this beloved daughter of God would live. The beloved husband and the children, who wanted to keep her were free and felt free to let her go and let the will of God be done in her life.

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“Because of that freedom, we Christian men and women and church, we were free to bless her, saying, May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and protect you, may He go before you to guide and stand behind you to give you strength. May He look upon you to keep you and bless you. Then that night, God said to this beloved daughter of us, come to me, you who have laboured and God gave this faithful servant rest from her dutiful labour – the labour of being a devoted wife, for whom being a wife was not a burden, the labour of raising children for which it was not a burden, but joy, the labour of helping God to give healing to the sick for which for her it was not a burden, but a deep source of consolation.

“With joy, she lived among women and men as a beloved daughter of God and through her somebody came to know the kindness of God. This beloved daughter with whom we gather this morning to worship for the last time on this side of life, trusted and worshipped God. Open-handedly, she gave with graciousness, she received forgiveness and she gave as well. And when the cross came, she picked up the cross and carried it with the strength of Christ. And I can stand here and testify that her living was not in vain.

“Now my brothers and sisters, in life, there are things that are vain and there are things that are meaningful. Today, let us set our eyes on things that last forever.  For soon, very soon, the glories of this life will pass away and all will remain is what we did for Christ. Soon, very soon, the glory of life will pass away and only what we did for Christ will last.

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“When the end comes for us as it came for our sister, she was ready. When the end comes for us, let it be said as it is said of our beloved sister, she tried and did her best to love. Let it be said, church that we tried and did the best we could to feed the hungry. And when the end comes, let it be said as it is said of our beloved daughter, let it be said of us too that we tried and did our best to love and serve humanity. When the end comes, and it will come, at an hour we do not know, church, let it be said, as it is said of our sister that we tried to do our best possible duty as we ought to.

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“Our beloved sister, wife, friend, mother, grandmother, we know she was not perfect, but who is? None of us! She served and served and served again and again and again. Our friend, mother, sister a child of God was faithful. She did not deny in any way the father. She did not deny in any way even in the face of difficulty, the fidelity and the faithfulness of the Son. And at the end, I testify too that she trusted in the mercy and the forgiveness of the Holy Spirit.

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“She did not deny the father, she did not deny the son, she did not deny the Holy Spirit. She was faithful and faithful all the way to the very end. So, now, let us hear what God said to the faithful servant: ‘“Welcome home. Enter into the joy of the Father.’”

Father Omoragbon, was actually not alone. His was indeed a further echo of the floodgate of testimonies that opened up from all quarters right from the outset of the news of her passing till she was finally interred, as many, whose lives she touched right from her childhood through her days as a professional nurse and as a businesswoman and leader in the church stepped forward to give account of her good life.

Pa Obu, the patriarch himself, in his tribute, had traced the beginning from their first meeting in December 1967 during a science, sent-forth party of Fatima College, Ikire in the present Osun State and how the friendship that ensued led to the tying of the nuptial knot, eight years later.

“We got introduced to each other and became friends. I cannot forget the memory of our friendship for eight years before we got married on 4th October, 1975… We sojourned together for 56 years, first as friends for eight years and marriage for 48 years,” he recounted.

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The intensity, level and quality of love that existed were such that twice, she nearly blocked the patriarch, a first class engineer, astute businessman, philanthropist and community leader from taking well-deserved traditional titles, having kicked against the idea, on the ground, according to him, that it could lead him into taking other wives, who would come in-between them and mess up what they shared.

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Yet, to underscore the reciprocity of the mutual affection, the titles were taken without other women showing up. Thus, it was a win-win situation, especially when that of The Knight of St. Mulumba Nigeria, a Christian equivalent came in 1997.

He continued: “She was a very lovely friend and wife. She was very honest and pious. She could be quiet and cool, but she had a very strong character, such that when she took a decision on issues, she stood by it. She could be very stubborn, but she meant good on such issues and that my inputs are always needed to take a decision. We had our disagreements on many issues, but we found ways to resolve them.”

On the homefront, particularly about the children, he added: “My wife did not like travelling. Most mothers would have taken the advantage of having children abroad to leave behind their husbands, but my wife was an exception. She preferred to talk on hours on phone daily to all of them one after the other than travel. She loved her children and grandchildren that she could sacrifice all her savings to please them. She was very faithful, honest and respectful. Even in her sickness she was still struggling to play the role of a wife and mother always asking after the welfare of everyone. She will surely be missed by all the children especially our sons who were with her all the time during her illness. We are sure you are with our Lords Jesus Christ and praying for us. Rest in peace, till we meet to part no more.”

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What an emotional way of ending an epic elegy for a soulmate with whom one had shared 56 years of life, climbing the steep, slippery road, falling and pulling each other up in the trudging journey? How else could one capture such enthralling experience?

The testimonies of the children were no less revealing. From Osai Justina Ojigho, Omakolo Christiana Omotayo Ugowe, Ifeoma Gbenedio, Nwaka Obu, the daughters, to Chukwuma Tolupe Obu and Emeka Obu, the sons, through the grandchildren to the in-laws, family members, school mates, fellow workers, business partners, friends and well-wishers, who paid tributes in torrents of homage, it was clear that the words of Father Ehi Omoragbon, were in no way misplaced.

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Centuries ago, the Romans wrote on their walls – vox populi vox Dei! If indeed the voice of the people is the voice of God, it then means that Theresa Omolara Obu, now has the best of the two worlds – a very positive, eventful and remarkable life on earth and now a blissful rest in heaven. What a way to END WELL!

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Ogbonnaya Onu: Where is the justice? How APC broke his heart!

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By Sunny Igboanugo

“What is very, very important, exceptionally important, is that we must ensure that justice is upheld. Naturally, it should be somebody from the South East that will replace (President Muhammadu Buhari), and that will give the opposite South versus North and Christian versus Muslim a balance, and it will bring stability to the nation. It will strengthen Nigeria.”

These were his exact words on June 8, 2022, when it was his turn to address the crowd at Eagle Square in Abuja. Ogbonnaya Onu, PhD, first civilian governor of Abia State, had come to the convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to appeal to the conscience of his party men, and from there to Nigerians, flaunting not only his personal credentials, but those values to which all men – all good men – must be beholding – justice, equity and fair-play.

So, he went on: “The South West had eight years as president, eight years as vice president; the South South had eight years as president and vice president; where is the justice? Where is the justice?

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“I held the presidential ticket for one of the three parties then, but I had to let it go in order to solve a problem with the South West, to make sure that two Olus contested for the presidency, that head or tail, one will become the president and that brought down tension within the country. This is what would have happened if we allowed the South East at this time.”

It was a speech dripping with emotions, akin to Marc Antony’s address to the crowd in the Roman street that roused the people to action against the conspirators that planned the killing of Julius Caesar. The only difference here is that Onu, spoke to the conspirators themselves – the culprits – men and women, whose conscience had since gone the abyss.

Onu’s appeal to the APC bigwigs could be like Antony directing his speech Brutus and Cassius, the ringleaders, who led other Roman Senators to perfidious plot at the Capitol, where the Roman General and statesman, was viciously murdered, rather than the people who avenged Caesar’s murder.

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So, naturally, they discountenanced him. Justice? What justice. Is there justice in politics? Had the people not been told severally that power is not served a la carte? Did he not hear that you must snatch it, grab it and run with it? So, while Onu’s pleas, reverberated across the nation and became the main topic on the media – social and traditional, where it went viral, those he spoke to kept mute.

Not only that he must have left that arena more heartbroken than he came, the subsequent months must have shattered him completely. It is not yet known whether it was the APC that ignored him or that he decided from that moment to go into his own cocoon and live the life of a recluse.

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What is known is that he was never near any of the party gatherings subsequently. Was he not invited? Was he conveniently excluded or did he return home like the big masquerade whose powers were subdued in the market place and suffered the indignity of being decorated with sands from little children and catcalls from women? The jury is out. All that is known is that it did not end well for him.

This was the same Ogbonnaya Onu that in the 1999 presidential election was approached by then Alliance for Democracy (AD), to give up his presidential ambition, having emerged as the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party (APP). In a country where people register political parties of no more than 20 members to contest presidential election, just for the appellation – Presidential Candidate or its better elevation – His Excellency, he practically buried that ambition.

Not only that he sacrificed that ambition – a high sacrifice to say the least, he collapsed his structure with Olu Falae of the AD, meaning that whatever votes the party got from the South East in that election, must have had his imprimatur. Of course, the joint ticket did not win, no thanks to the abracadabra of the Nigerian electoral system. So, he had to bear the consequences of the loss like other people in his camp.

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But he held on, regardless. By the time the clock turned its hand, he was now the National Chairman of the party, now rechristened – All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), after the initial leaders abandoned it and ran to then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the lecherous manner of Nigerian politicians. Onu was not a lecher. So, he held on.

In 2014, at the formation of the APC, it was Onu as the ANPP leader that collapsed the party into the new arrangement in the same way Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who had since left office as Governor of Lagos State Government, led the AD, which had then metamorphosed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the same Muhammadu Buhari led his Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), the same way Rotimi Amaechi, then Governor of Rivers State and Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State, led the New PDP or N-PDP members into the party before Rochas Okorocha, as Imo State Governor, completed the formation with a faction of his then All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

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But that might be where the heartache that must have culminated into the heartbreak must have started. For no sooner did the APC emerge as a political party than Onu and his Igbo brothers, must have been shocked at what they were handed – the very short and blunt end of the stick.

In all the positions that were shared, the highest position the entire South East got was Organising Secretary – the man saddled with the responsibility of hiring venues, canopies, sound systems and other items used during party functions. Gratuitous insult?! You could say that again!

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Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu

Yet, Onu stayed! Was it patience, resilience of naivety? Have your pick. Then the party won power. You would have thought that he would have his reward. But whosai! Nada! Everyone was sure that the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) was there for his picking. Again, whosai? What did he get in the end – Minister of Science and Technology. Figure out what that Ministry in the scheme of things and order of importance.

In the end, even after boasting that with him in the saddle, Nigeria would now be able to produce pencils – one of his hugest task – laughable as it appeared, was not met. Who knows why? Perhaps, he was not even given the necessary assistance to achieve the feat, for reasons including those that appeared quite obvious.

But the hardest hit was to come. Who knows what he must have been promised? Everything he said in that convention of June 8, was spot on and fitted into the argument. Pray! Who could have presented a better logic? The North was just about to finish its tenure through Buhari. The South West had first taken through Olusegun Obasanjo – 1999-2007. Even the South South, had also taken through Goodluck Jonathan.

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So, when he cried out – where is the justice – those eternal words clearly captured the pains, as he saw the humiliation of not only himself, but his Igbo people – the unarguable third leg of the Nigerian Tripod. It was like the stab of Brutus at Caesar’s heart that made him cry out – et tu Brutus – you too Brutus. Just like that blow from Brutus epitomised the betrayal of his trusted friends and led Caesar’s eventual death, the APC final dagger-blow would have been too much for him to bear.

And he died! Good night, Ikeoha Uburu!

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Garlands, as Umeoji, ‘Ijele’ of Nigerian banking steps out

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By Sunny Igboanugo

Ijele is the greatest masquerade in Igboland in every material particular. It is the largest, most beautiful, most feared, most adorned and most adored. So, naturally, it is rarely seen. Its appearance, is only to mark the biggest events. At such events, it is the last to perform. Why? It does not share space with others. After its performance the event closes and everyone is supposed to disperse, for there is nothing more to expect and nothing more to see. What other spectacle or performance would near or equal that of the Ijele?

That is exactly the message Zenith Bank seems to be passing when it announced the appointment of Dame Adaora Umeoji, as the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer (MD-CEO), on Tuesday, March 20, 2024. It was a momentous break from its 34-year-old history, as she became the first female to occupy that position.

Though the late Maria Sokenu, the first Managing Director of the now defunct Peoples Bank of Nigeria (PBN), is the first in history to emerge as a CEO of a bank in the country, that piece of history pales into insignificance in the context of the emerging scenario, as it was not only part of the military adventure in Nigeria, due to its peculiarity. The PBN, was a government institution established to provide special needs and cater for a segmented interest.

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What comes more closely to women playing key leadership roles in the banking sector began when First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), in 2015, appointed Ibikunle Awosika as Chairman, the first in history. This was followed by Access Bank which went for Mosunmola Belo-Olusoga and Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) going for Osaretin Demuren, all in the same year and in the same capacity.

In the last decades or so, the sector has however upped the ante with the emerging trends, particularly Deposit Monetary Banks (DMBs). The appointments of female MD-CEOs, a fad, consistent with global thinking of equality where women share the space in virtually all human activities, particularly those hitherto depicted as exclusive preserves of the men, has now taken a pride of place.

That was how Miriam Olusanya, a pharmacist, financial and accounting guru, became the first female Managing Director of Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank), in July 2021, and still holds the position to this day, the same year Yemisi Edun emerged in the same position for the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), armed with a chemistry degree from the University of Ife and a master’s in international accounting and finance from the University of Liverpool, England.

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Before them was Halima Buba, who was appointed MD-CEO of SunTrust Bank, in January 2021, spirted from her desk as Deputy General Manager of Ecobank. With Bachelor of Science in Business Management and MBA from the University of Maiduguri, and Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, who became the MD-CEO of Citibank Nigeria, with Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University and an MBA from the University of Bradford, in September 2020.

Three months after, in December 2020, Fidelity Bank (FB) announced Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, a lawyer, as the MD-CEO, the first in the history of the bank, which was established in 1988, who fully assumed her role in January 2021., six years after Tomi Somefun became the MD-CEO of Unity Bank, in August 2015. A graduate from the prestigious Harvard Business School and Columbia University, Somefun, who took a degree in English Language from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), has been playing that role since then.

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There is also Kafilat Araoye, who was appointed MD-CEO of Lotus Bank in May, 2021. The pioneer boss of the bank, one of the latest entrants in the Nigerian financial sector, with a degree in History and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, is said to have come into the bank with over 30 years of banking experience.

Then there is Bukola Smith, who was a month earlier, appointed as the MD-CEO of FSDH Merchant Bank. Armed with B.Sc. in Economics and an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, in the UK, has remained in that position since April 2021.

The emerging trend also saw the appointment of Yetunde Bolanle Oni as the MD-CEO of Union Bank, a significant part of the history of one of Nigeria’s oldest banks. She is said to hold degrees in Economics and Business Administration, including executive training at Oxford University.

The entrance of Umeoji, seems to be the icing on the cake. It is akin to the popular saying of saving the best for last. That the entire Nigerian media space has been awash with the news of the appointment, since it was posted on the bank’s website on Tuesday morning, is indicative of the significance of the development.

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The statement read: “Zenith Bank Plc has announced the appointment of Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, as Group Managing Director/Chief Executive with effect from June 1, 2024, subject to approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

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“She takes over from Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, whose five-year term expires on May 31, 2024, after a very successful tenure. Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji is the first female GMD/CEO since the inception of the bank, and her appointment is consistent with the bank’s executive transition tradition, succession plan, and strategy of grooming leaders from within.

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“Prior to this appointment, Dr. Umeoji has been the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to thirty (30) years cognate banking experience of which twenty-six (26) years has been with Zenith Bank.

“She is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a First-Class honors in Law from Baze University, Abuja.

“She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA. She holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA. She also attended the executive program in Strategic Management, and has a Certificate in Leading Global Business all from Harvard Business School, USA.

“She is a fellow of notable professional bodies including the Chartered Banker Institute, UK, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Credit Administration, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria among others.

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“In 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria honored Dr. Umeoji with Officer of the Order of the Niger, as a recognition of her contributions to nation building. She is a Peace Advocate of the United Nations (UN-POLAC).

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“She has impacted many lives through her philanthropic and humanitarian activities through her NGOs; Pink Breathe Cancer Foundation and the Adorable Foundation that educates, caters for Cancer patients and indigent children education especially the Girl-Child. Her contribution to humanity was recognized by the Sun Newspaper which recently bestowed on her the Humanitarian Service Icon Award for 2023.

“As a result of her passion for promoting professionalism in the banking industry and improving the well-being of the less privileged, Dr. Adaora Umeoji, OON founded the Catholic Bankers Association of Nigeria (CBAN), a platform she uses to promote ethical banking and service to humanity. She is a Lady of the Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI), and was awarded a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester by His Holiness Pope Francis.”

The import of this historic appointment is not farfetched. It is not only captured in the tall credentials Umeoji is putting on the table or in her exquisite personality, but also her track record both in the bank itself, and the Nigerian financial sector in general, where she has played a progressive role in the last three decades.

Just as Zenith Bank, which began operation in July, 1990, two months after it was registered in May of the same year, about 34 years ago, is considered arguably the biggest bank in Nigeria, Umeoji, who is a key contributor to that enviable status, is reputed to be the biggest female player in the Nigerian banking industry today.

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For 26 years of the 30 she has spent in the industry, she is believed to have buried herself in work and more work, which has contributed quite significantly in the great fortunes of the bank and the outcome is the symbiotic relationship, where the bank is posting the hugest profits, while she is reputed to be the highest paid female banker in Nigeria today, both in dividends as a director and personal wages.

As the counting begins for the full takeover of affairs at 83 Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, home of the Zenith Heights, on June 1, it is salute to the amazon from Ezinifite, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. It is salute to the Ijele of Nigerian banking. Nigeria, nay, the world stands still!

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Who says Akpabio should shut up?

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First, let me tell you how much I know about Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. One Sunday afternoons, during one of my regular visits in the 1980s, my elder brothers, who were actually among the big boys, decided to give me a special treat in town.

Back then, it was a one street town, with the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road, to show as the best and only major road to give it a semblance of a city.

The Honda CD-195, today’s equivalent of a top-notch Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), which my brothers owned then was demonstrable evidence of this affluence for the middle class where young men of their ilk belonged. Mind you these were ordinary artisans. Their major business was constructing of aluminum water tanks. But because of the thriving economy then across Nigeria, what they made as incomes were enough to make them paint the town red.

They actually started off in Calabar, the Cross River State capital with the workshop at Wapi Junction by Highway, but had to split for business reasons when Akwa Ibom was created, one moving to Uyo and the other retaining the Calabar business.

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You know the treat? I’ll tell you shortly. But let me first tell you that when the Akwa Ibom or Cross River man tells you that they own the franchise for the best culinary ability in Nigeria, don’t even argue. No one else comes close.

For instance, I never knew that unripe plantain was such a good delicacy until I ate it in Uyo. I hardly accepted it from my father, the only one that relished it in my family back then. Whenever I did, it was, like other children, with squeezed face. Of course, he’s was prepared roast, with the popular ukpaka, fresh pepper and red oil to go with.

Never mind that I now throw glances and salivate like Pavlov dogs whenever I pass through the streets and see local women preparing the same recipe. But try the Akwa Ibom variant with bush meat and scent leaves mixed with vegetables. That was how I fell inseparably in love.

Come to think of it, was it the white soup at that popular joint in Calabar that I couldn’t recall the name or the ekpang nkukwo or the afang or edikang-ikong that I didn’t fall in love with? Or the fisherman soup?

So, the treat! Atop our ride, we soon arrived at the spot and a table was quickly arranged for the three of us. It was obvious that my brothers were quite popular with the owner of the joint who saw them as prized customers, hence the special treatment. It was also obvious that he knew their purpose and specialty.

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We were actually in our third bottle of ukot, the brown-coloured variant of palm wine, quite different from what I used to know, when it arrived.

You would have thought, like I used to think that ishi-ewu was the best thing on earth after rice and banga stew until you have tasted a steaming hot head of J5 the euphemism for the delicacy, surrounded with periwinkles as I did that day.

Those and many other escapades, were the experiences that drew me to Uyo like a bee to the nectar. Not anything else and certainly, not the attraction of a city! There was actually no part of the town that I didn’t traverse in search of the good life in the company of those my brothers. That was how I got to know every nook and cranny of it.

But go to Uyo today. I have on many occasions. I could testify to the sharp contrast. The grand transformation is clearly not contemplatable. Who could imagine that the nondescript enclave, no more than a vintage Nigerian village, or at best the local government town, it actually was, would transit into the modern town that it is today?

Who could contemplate the exquisite edifices that have now replaced those weather-beaten structures that hitherto dotted the town or the glittering streets that practically bring it close to some of the celebrated cities of the world in terms of beauty?

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Who would have thought that after Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, the next city on the cards today in Nigeria is Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital? That is why I enjoin anyone that sees Godswill Obot Akpabio to greet him. Hail him wherever he is sighted. His good deeds are certainly more than his sins. He is the one that did the magic.

I actually told the story above to underscore that I met Uyo at its virgin state and now its present status as a mega city. As an undergraduate in the 80s and a journalist two decades later I wasn’t only deeply into this town, but witnessed the instant revolution in a matter of few years.

Of course, while not denying credit to Obong Victor Attah, his predecessor, who started the process of moving the state away from the inglorious era the late Vice President, Alex Ekwueme described as the years of the locusts, with some ambitious projects, the trophy belongs to Akpabio. He breathed life into the state. Visiting the two at their own times, I knew when the wine fermented into its rich taste.

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He was the one who took the gown to town not only in physical development, but doing the work of the salesman. He virtually sold it not only to Nigerians, but the world.

You may have heard about the legacy projects – the Ibom Tropicana Resort, a five-star hotel, which boasts of Nigeria’s best golf course and other facilities that makes the city the attraction for billionaires and playground for tourists both locally and foreign or the Uyo Township Stadium, which during Akpabio’s time became the home-ground to the Super Eagles of Nigeria and other top football and sporting events.

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You may have heard about the first-grade roads across communities in and outside the state capital and the highways that crisscross the state. In fact, in one of the occasions I was in the state, the campaign and focus of his government, was operation zero potholes in the whole of Uyo.

Yes! You would certainly must have heard about the multi-purpose Akwa Ibom Ecumenical Centre – that grand edifice that was supposed to cater for religious activities, conferences and other local and international events.

But what about the little details of that government? Did you know that Uyo, was never ever supposed to be flooded in Akpabio’s visionary thinking? He took care of that. In one of my trips, I saw the huge underground pipe jacking drainage facility that was meant to collect storm water in the state capital. I learnt the project, then under construction by Julius Berger slashed the purse of the state by a whopping N13.6billion. It was the epitomic demonstration of Yo shinai, Yo kangai, the popular Toyota advert in the 90s, meaning Good thinking, Good product.

There are so many similar projects like that gives impetus to those, inclusive of yours truly, who see Akpabio as a man of vision and mission, regardless of the other side of his political story.

So, when I hear Pat Utomi, Nigeria’s most respected political economist, asking Akpabio to shut up the other day and Reuben Abati, prolific journalist following suit, by injuncting him to speak less, and after taking a cursory look at the entire park of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of President Bola Tinubu, the abiding question I ask myself is who else is qualified to speak from there outside Akpabio?

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In my view, Akpabio is the most highly rated official in that government with tangible things to show in his political years. I have provided the basis for my assessment. In fact, save for the uncanny penchant for reversal of roles in Nigeria, where the tail wags the dog rather than the reverse, what is the explanation for Tinubu being the President with Akpabio as the Senate President?

But Nigeria is already what it is. Is it not evident that Akpabio is the real visioner in that APC house of commotion? For one, he is an orator extraordinaire. On the many occasions I had encountered him, then as a governor, I never saw him read a prepared speech.

Yet, he would speak for two hours, still making sense and presenting figures. It was that immense gift of the garb and general carriage that made him practically sell Akwa Ibom to the world. It was like the recreation of Michael Iheonukara (MI) Okpara of Eastern Nigeria.

Indeed, has anyone wondered the sudden dim surrounding that state since Akpabio left as governor? Who is still remembering that state now? Why is Akwa Ibom no longer in the national spotlight as it used to be? Does it mean the state is getting less money than it used to, since many people seemed to suggest that the sudden high profile it attained was as a result of the high revenue accruing to it? Isn’t it obvious that it has to do with that extra shine, the debonair air around him, which his successors have failed to replicate or sustain?

The major snag, if not the only one, is that he has found himself in bad company. APC is a bad product, in fact and in deed. Since Nigerians bought into it through former President Muhammadu Buhari, who should not have risen beyond the Emir of Daura, it has continued to decay.

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With Tinubu’s listlessness, the rot and degeneration have since worsened. How does anyone defend this President and his underwhelming performance and still come out smelling roses? This is Akpabio’s dilemma and not the inability to say the right thing. As long as he remains in that crowd, nobody is qualified more than him to speak. So, speak, Akpabio must!

My name is Sunny Igboanugo and I’m The Tiny Voice!  

 

 

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