By Livingstone Akpan
In the twilight hours of his life, His Royal Majesty Obong E.C.D. Abia has become a victim of his ethnicity. Born 87 years ago, he began his working career as a Court Clerk in the Eastern Region Government. After a while, he took a bow and went to the Ibadan campus of the College Hospital London and obtained a certificate in Medical Technology. His restless spirit did not find an anchor in medical technology, so he moved on to law and obtained an intermediate LL.B. Not still done, he moved on again to study Economics and Accounting in the University of Dublin and obtained a Bachelor’s degree (Second Class Upper). In 1965, he became a chartered accountant and in the same year, the current Oku Ibom Ibibio, His Royal Majesty Ntenyin Solomon Etuk, marked his seventh birthday.
Abia had finally found his fort, and went into cruise control. He was the ideas man when South Eastern State (later Cross River State) was created with Brig U.J. Esuene as the military governor. As the Accountant General, and later as a Permanent Secretary, (but importantly as Esuene’s Man Friday), Abia led the efforts to rebuild the state after the civil war. He was instrumental in the setting up of Mercantile Bank, Manilla Insurance, Investment Trust and a host of other viable government concerns.
A shining star, Abia wrote his name into the folklores of the state. He moved on to the business world, got the franchise for Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, and set up the plant in Eket Local Government Area. It was a master stroke and for the first time the Coca Cola brand was challenged in the Nigerian market. He would move on and set up other lucrative businesses like Grandi Lovori, an engineering firm; Masibob; and several other businesses. He was the toast of the 80’s and 90’s in the business world.
A man who enjoys the love of his people, he currently sits in sweet and deserved retirement as the Paramount Ruler of Eket Local Government Area. He is accomplished, knowledgeable, widely connected, widely travelled and dignified. He is a global citizen and a treasure to Akwa Ibom State. But that, unfortunately, is where we draw the curtain on his life. Why? Because he has a problem which, like a terminal disease, he can do nothing about.
What is the problem? He is from Eket. In Akwa Ibom State, as it stands now, it is major problem for you not to be Ibibio. So Abia, in spite of being first among equals can never be the President General of the Supreme Council of Ibom Traditional Rulers. Even if Angel Michael were to be an Eket man or an Annang man or an Oron man, he would not be qualified to sit on that ethicized throne. That throne has been reserved by an obnoxious, apartheid law only for the Ibibios ad infinitum.
The current Ibibio person who sits in that throne was born when Abia was 32 years old. He is 65 years old, and he is Ntenyin Solomon Etuk. Etuk obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in 2007 at the age of 49. At this time, Abia had already retired after a meritorious service to humanity, and was actively serving his community. In 2010, Etuk obtained an MBA from the same university. Then he went on to study for a law degree in the National Open University. Compared to what Abia has achieved, Etuk has not achieved anything in life worthy of the faintest note. His only qualification to the said office is that he is an Ibibio man. He lords over Abia, though Abia is old enough to be his father and intelligent enough to be his teacher.
Abia is, clearly, in a dilemma. He is in the twilight of his life. He is obviously tired and spent. The river has run its course and is now meandering around marshes and dirt it could have swept aside when its current was stronger. At 87, he is too old to wage a “war.” He would have hoped for the Government to respect his grey hairs, acknowledge his worth, and act in the best interest of the entire state. Abia is done and dusted. So, he sits humbly at the feet of Etuk, his head bowed. Etuk belongs to the master ethnic group, and Abia does not belong not. It is not Abia’s fault, neither is it God’s fault. God chose where to Abia should come from, but Abia is now a victim of God’s choice.
Abia’s dilemma is a living metaphor of everything that is wrong with the controversial, so-called Supreme Council of Ibom Traditional Rulers Law. An apartheid law which was recently passed by the “misrepresentatives” of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and assented to by Governor Umo Eno. A law that has brought shame to a once peaceful, United States.
- Akpan sent this from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State