As reported on timelines upon timelines, handles upon handles of social media users, the photos from professional still cameras and the more common cell phones, videos from motion cameras, as well as comments by speakers at the event and passive ones, which is just how it was at the grand reception in honour of Governor Udom Emmanuel by Ibibio nation. Lest I forget to mention, the crowd was exciting and overwhelming.
The turnout, aside impressing positively before the visiting guests, contributed greatly to justifying a description of the event as a watershed. The idea of the reception in its entirety demonstrated the unity of Ibibio Nation within the context of the layers of a Pan Akwa Ibom.
Especially to the outsiders, the grand reception clearly pictured the enormous support and goodwill Governor udom Emmanuel enjoys not only among the Ibibios as a consisting part of a whole, but in Akwa Ibom State as the whole. This sign is an encouraging one for the unity of Ibibio Nation and by extension, the entire state.
For the sake of posterity, this show of goodwill has put an inerasable inscription on the marble- a lesson for generations unborn that indeed, Ibibio can relieve history. Let me elucidate further with a short recall, though with historical nostalgia, of some facts in record.
Sometime in 1939, the Ibibio Union had sponsored what is termed the six (6) merchants of light for studies overseas. By this time, the independence of Nigeria was still a dream, and being part of the old Cross River State, the entire Akwa Ibom structure was one under Ibibio Union. This was a time Akwa Ibom knew no ethnic boundaries.
This foundation laying gesture turned out very productive as the 6 merchants of light made good use of that opportunity to put not only themselves but Akwa Ibom (as it has come to be) in national and international limelight.
Egbert Udo Udoma (of blessed memory) became the first Nigerian, if not African to bag a PhD in law from the prestigious oxford University. While studying at Trinity College, Dublin, Udoma became the first black president of one of the most celebrated bodies in the college- The Philosophical Society.
As also recorded in his profile, he authored an evocative publication titled, “The Lion and the Oil Palm”. This publication had raised issues so profound that Lord Lugard was out looking for him. It is also instructive that before the legendary Wole Soyinka’s authored “Lion and the Jewel”, Udoma’s “lion and the Oil Palm” was already selling wide.
On his part, the late Bassey Udo Adiaha Attah made waves in the study field of agriculture by becoming the first Nigerian to hold a Masters Degree in the field, Ibanga Udo Akpabio made his marks in politics and education… and the success story goes on for the rest, but for necessity sake, I beg to cut the history.
Feeling an atmosphere engulfed by the unity of the Ibibio Nation which metamorphosed into the present day Akwa Ibom, moreso, at the very grounds that birthed the Ibibio race triggered a smooth recollection of good old memories. I am wondering how this feeling would have been with our founding fathers, were they to be alive to witness this day, if this is the case with their descendants most of whom got knowledge of this only through historical accounts, oral or written.
Well, to one who has the positive image of the state valued above political or ethnic considerations, this is worth a million thanks to the traditional stool of Ibibio Nation and entire Akwa Ibom race for showing the world that this governor, despite having originated from one political unit of the state, comes across as a symbol of unity in the state. This could be seen in his conscious efforts in ensuring the spread of infrastructures in the state. Like one of the comments at the event went, “every senatorial district in the state has a feel of his projects and appointments”.
An Ibibio adage goes, “anie ufok am’akood ufok amo ntaha, mboho asin ikang”. This in English translation means, when the owner does not value his house, the neighbours set it on fire. This justifies the million thanks to the Akwa Ibom race for placing this much value on their land.
As it was seen at the event, the visiting neighbours came to behold a land so valued. Hence, they could only add fresh paintings to the land, giving it a new look. Even the heavens could not help honouring the day for Akwa Ibom, it had to hold the weather still, the cloudy threats notwithstanding.
Perhaps the heavens also took part of the surprise that of all people, Nsikak Eduok- a former Chief of Air Staff who has been very reserved on political issues accepted not just to show his presence, but accepted to chair the event. He further endorsed the Akwa Ibom unity project in his address by appealing to all to rise up in love, cooperate and encourage the governor.
Coming to behold an excited crowd of stakeholders and the masses gathering to celebrate their mandate holder, one of the visiting governors- Rochas Okorocha of Imo State who is not only leading the All Progressives Congress in his state, but also leading other governors in the party, could not hold back his story of how much the host governor is celebrated and honoured outside the state. From his mouth, the writer first got the news of udom Emmanuel’s recent emergence as Chairman of the South East/South South Governors Forum.
On his part, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State popularly known for his agile, vibrant and outspoken disposition mounted the stage with a comment that is most trending on the social media: “when I drove in here today and saw this sea of heads, I said ‘God thank you ooo’. So, is this what the enemies wanted to wish away using the Supreme Court last year?! God forbids!
“Rochas (Okorocha), when you get back to Abuja, report to them ooo. Report to APC. Listen, report exactly what you saw here. Report the sea of Heads that you saw… tell them, tell APC, tell INEC, tell them that in 2019, if they try any nonsense in Akwa Ibom, Ekiti and all these places, whatever the hand finds in the hole of a snake, it should take it like that! Rochas, go and tell them.”
Well, as comic as that sounds, it could have been a comment from a vision. Perhaps, to him, what he saw was enough to conclude that by that event, the next gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom was won and lost.