Genealogy is man’s inevitable captor. Everybody longs to know his roots, his lineage, family tree all the way down to paternity. Those who fail to find theirs hold memories of frustration and anger. Failure to get it is failure to find identity and the lack puts one on the spot as an outcast or nondescript.
The importance of genealogy was found in the slew of reviews Alex Haley’s novel, ‘Root’ published in 1976 received. For about 22 weeks, Root remained number one on the New York Times Best Sellers’ list. It also won the National Book Award in America and a Special Pulitzer Prize. It attracted all these accolades because many saw the ten and half years’ efforts of Alex Haley which also involved travelling across oceans to trace a genealogy that spanned about six generations as a worthy cause.
But Governor Udom’s return to his roots, even though unfitting in similarity to that of Kunta Kinte in Alex Haley’s Root, shares the compatibility of importance and the essence people confer on one’s roots. Roots, they say, account for a lot of things especially if the offshoot of the root has brought pride to its root.
August 6, 2016 was an historic paradigm as the International Secretariat of Mboho on Udo Udoma Avenue played host to such multitudes that filled the hall with four times the size of the crowd inside still milling outside as a result of lack of space in the hall. Inside the hall, the entire seats provided were occupied with the gallery equally filled to capacity. The number of people without seats even inside was enormous and yours truly belonged to that bourgeoning cast of standing committee.
The event was the well organized induction ceremony of Governor Udom as member, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio which also coincided with the 29th Anniversary of the body. The two diverse events found a confluence in the meaningful celebration of the resilience of the influential socio-cultural group and that of an accomplished son who had returned from exploits to be reintegrated into his roots. The arena of the event including the road had to struggle with both human and vehicular traffic as the pulsating atmosphere emitted excitement that tore through the huge crowd that had filled every available space of the event arena.
The Chairman of the event, Mr. Udom Inoyo, an executive director with Exxon Mobil Nigeria Unlimited in his speech entitled, “The Monetization of Values”, gave a compelling moral route humanity must travel to give fulfillment to existence and creation. The speech which was couched in moral suasion predicated its anchors on three critical questions, viz: what do we really want? Why is MMI honouring Udom? So how can MMI change our narrative? In his diligent probing for answers, the Chairman of the occasion exposed the vanity of life cautioning people against losing their sense of purpose on earth as a result of selfishness and relentless pursuit of wealth at all cost at the expense of what should really matter in life.
The other question Mr. Inoyo asked in his treatise was, “Why is MMI honouring Udom?” According to him, men of power and influence, are sometimes accorded unmerited honour but stated that Governor Udom he has known for well over two decades has demonstrated attributes of hard-work and humility which have endeared many including his humble self to him pointing out that if these qualities are what have made Udom deserving of the Award by MMI, then the best tribute of the day’s event will be for MMI to internalize and propagate these values. On how MMI can change our narrative, he charged the socio-cultural group to always clearly articulate what they stand for and for leadership to often communicate her expectations to members. Hear him: “The world is very dynamic and issues would always come up necessitating an adjustment of position. Whatever the situation, do not leave room for doubts on where you stand”. Mr. Inoyo congratulated the inductee, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel but advised him to remain committed to programs that will energize the economy and put money in the hands of many, not a few.
The International President of MMI, Akparawa (Elder) Monday Etokakpan stated that the Grand Reception was a fitting honour for a worthy son, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. The President noted that the 29-year old organization’s core purpose is the protection and preservation of Ibibio heritage. He said that the Association has a membership strength of 20,000 with 52 chapters. Akparawa Etokakpan observed that Ibibio views the governor’s presence at the event as a meeting of partners for the overall development of the state. He said MMI does not only have the population but also has very talented people in all spheres of life. The organization pledged its total support for the governor saying that having done one year with outstanding record of performance, they are ready to stand by him in the remaining seven years. The 9th President of MMI reminisced about Obong Sampson Udo Etuk describing him as the unsung hero. He extolled him for lighting the touch of development of the present Akwa Ibom State through a scholarship scheme that carefully selected six persons for community scholarship, the first ever in Nigeria. He called on government to immortalise Obong Udo Etuk whom he said symbolized self help and selflessness. The President concluded that in doing this, the State would be celebrating service and commitment to public good.
Messages of goodwill came from Ntisong Ibibio, Obong (Dr.) Essien Udo Ekidem, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, the State Chapter of the Party represented by Barrister Iniobong Ememobong and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godwsill Akpabio. Obong Ekidem, in his goodwill message charged MMI to continue to do things that would benefit the group as well as Akwa Ibom State.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke in his very instructive goodwill message acknowledged the place of Ibibio as the first son going by demographic configuration but warned them against using its position to suppress other ethnic groups. In an approach that was tactful and rich in subtlety, he cautioned the governor against taking anything for granted. He rendered an instructive song to accompany his message and the crowd responded with uncontrollable enthusiasm.
Barrister Iniobong Ememobong, who spoke on behalf of the State Chairman of the party who was according to him unavoidably absent said, MMI is replicating what people do when they name their children, “Ediong Se Enyene”, loosely translated as ‘praise what you have’, noting that the organization is celebrating one of its own that has done them proud. Ememobong who is the Publicity Secretary of the Party noted that since Ibibio has initiated the governor’s eight years’ project, it would simply be adopted by the Party.
Former governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio in his goodwill message which received intermittent rousing applause said that his emergence was like a meteor and that when he descended on the political firmament, the people rejoiced. The former governor said that MMI is waxing strong because of inclusiveness noting that Mboho is an amalgam of development minded people. He informed the incumbent Governor of the attribute of consistency ingrained in MMI noting that the pledge of support they have made to him would be sustained as they do not engage in double speak. He advised the governor to discountenance fabrications hurled into public space against him and his administration reminding him of his experiences which he said are still yet to abet.
Senator Akpabio also used the opportunity to put to rest the machinations of evil minded people that spread the rumour that the wife, Her Excellency, Unoma Akpabio was late, stating that he spoke with the wife that morning before coming for the event. He thanked the Governor and the wife whom he said visited the wife while in hospital. The Senate Minority Leader delivered a message from the wife and rounded it off with a pulsating chorus that was quickly picked up by the exciting crowd. Senator Akpabio was inducted into MMI while serving as governor of the state.
The Commissioner for Works in a vote of thanks expressed gratitude to Governor Emmanuel for obliging MMI with his presence and accepting to be a member. He charged MMI to sustain the spirit of inclusiveness to continue to put the organization on an enviable pedestal.
Governor Udom Emmanuel in his speech remarked that it is unity of purpose that has given Mboho the mileage it has enjoyed. He commended the organization for its iconic strides in our socio-cultural advancement noting that it is proof that MMI has a foundation. Governor Udom said that what his administration is doing today is a paradigm shift noting that we cannot continue to do things the same way we used to do them since they have not worked. He said that he was elected to fit the vision of industrialization of the state which is to take advantage of the massive infrastructure built by the previous administration. Drawing an analogy to suit his extrapolation, Governor Udom said that you cannot do a foundation for a skyscraper and proceed to go for a quack to handle the building pointing out that he would go and put a bungalow on that foundation.
Throwing light on his strategy of empowerment, Governor Udom stated that his policy goes beyond paltry sums in people’s pockets to include the general wellbeing of the people. He pleaded with the people to be steadfast and patient as his administration works at overcoming these challenges. He called on the people to remain united maintaining that it is the source of strength. He assured the youths that AKEES would provide more jobs. The governor described MMI as the unity umbrella of the State.
Governor Udom radiating confidence said that he is not perturbed by what is happening at the centre, assuring the people that the Akwa Ibom economy would be recreated for the benefit of the people. For PDP, the Governor said that the Party remains strong, maintaining that PDP is the only party that can return economic boom to the Nation, States, Villages and hamlets.
Governor Udom who attended the event with his dear wife, Her Excellency, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel beamed with wide smile as he received the various items that conferred on him the right and appurtenances of an Ibibio Son. The golden fish which has no hiding place has thus returned to his roots.
* Joe Iniodu is a Public Affairs Analyst