By Umo Robinson
“For over six years, you have remained a dependable, loyal and conscientious ally in the Akwa Ibom project. Together, we have re-written the Akwa Ibom story, proving in the process that government can indeed be a force for good.
Across sectors, with your active support, we have changed the narrative of development of our dear state. Today we are nationally known as ‘Nigeria’s best kept secret’. As you are being honoured by Sun Newspaper with the Life Time Achievement Award, let me on behalf of the government and good people of Akwa Ibom State celebrate you on this well-deserve recognition. Once again, congratulations.”
Running on the rubric: “To a True Definition of Loyalty and Fidelity”, the above message, personally signed by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, and published in several national newspapers to felicitate his deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo, on the Sun Newspaper Life Time Achievement Award October 16, 2021, is symbolic.
Set in the context of the Sun award, Udom’s accolades on his deputy is perhaps the ultimate legacy affirmation that anyone would long for. And according to Mr. Ekpo himself, this has been the observation from several highly placed persons in the country who have telephoned him to comment on that rare endorsement from a principal.
“In reply to such enquiries, I have pointed out that the secret is simply knowing and accepting your role, and being lucky to have an appreciative principal who says it as it is,” Ekpo explained.
There is the clux! Our roles in life are either determined by nature as is the case with our gender; or by an agreement (constitution, for instance) – as is the case with our official position. Naturally, determined roles are self-evident, but we must study our constitution and other agreements so as to decide abinitio whether to accept its conditions and yield our loyalty or reject the conditions and back off.
It therefore becomes self-evident that deputizing is all about navigating the delicate boundary between being your own self as well as the exact official duplicate of your principal – at least in words and actions, if not in subjective thought, with due margin allowed for error. This is food-for-thought which should normally set-off a domino of conversation among political theorists engaged in identifying and canonizing model temperaments for good governance.
The triad of destiny, background and worldview constitutes the core determinant of a person’s temperament, according to certain schools of personality study. For the Akwa Ibom deputy governor, these elements have been so divinely harmonized that the result could not have been anything over than the archetypal renaissance man that we have in the person of Mr. Moses Frank Ekpo.
And the name “Moses” – it speaks volumes for the man’s standing with regards to destiny. In this respect, Mr. Ekpo is obviously a modern day reenactment of the biblical “Moses”. Even so, destiny is said to be part the will of God (grace), and part self-effort (back-ground and the resultant operative philosophy which a man adopts for himself) – the question as to which of the two turns out to be the greater determinant of man’s fortune, better left to the hair-splitting pastime of philosophers.
Mr. Ekpo has done so much on the side of personal effort that Achebe’s gauge that “when a man says ‘yes’, his personal chi equally says ‘yes’, seems more suitable in evaluating him.
This excerpt from his Curricular Vitae, which reads like a mantra, bears out this view: “Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations; Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Management; Fellow, World Intellectual Property Academy; Fellow Nigerian Institute of Managers and Administrators of Nigeria; Fellow, Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria, and Fellow, Institute of Business Managers and Administrators of Nigeria. Member, Nigeria Union of Journalists; Member, British Institute of Journalists; Member, Guild of American Newspaper Editors; and then the big one: Member, Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR) conferred on him by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) in 2010 as one of the few Akwa Ibomites so honoured.
Of course, Mr. Ekpo’s trigger in these various efforts came from tuitions in Government School, Abak; Holy Family College, Oku-Abak; London Polytechnic, UK; University of Wisconson, Madison USA; Academy of World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva; and the United States Patents Academy. Whether as Moses, the son of Amram Kehot; or Moses the son of Frank Ekpo, the grace of God on the life of Moses goes back to the etymology of the name itself. According to the Torah, the name ‘Moses’ comes from the Hebrew verb meaning: “to pull or draw out of water”.
The infant Moses in Scripture was given this name by Pharaoh’s daughter after recuing him from the Nile. And you wonder why the fishes in the Nile did not attack this fugitive baby? It is fair hazard to say that they saw Moses as a special fish – some sort of goldfish!
Our own Moses has posted no known history of such an aquatic retreat. But wait for this: Mr. Ekpo started as a proof-reader and reporter with Daily and Sunday Express in the early 60s. He was senior reporter, West African Pilot; news editor, Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service, and then country correspondent for the BBC and VOA. He was editor, Nigerian Chronicle, following which he became the sole administrator of Cross River State Newspaper Corporation.
In-between, he held several other important positions before becoming honourable commissioner of information in 1988 when Akwa Ibom State was created. He had thereafter served in other influential capacities such as director general, Nigerian Copyright Council, and even had to be withdrawn from another appointment as Commissioner at the National Population Commission for availability as deputy governor nominee, in 2015.
Running through that profile and not spotting the gene of the goldfish in the man is like looking in the skies at high noon and not seeing the sun, and therefore not seeing the varied parity of fate which our Moses shares with his ancient name-sake! Another mark of this parity of fate between Moses Amram and Moses Ekpo is in their initial rejection by their respective peoples in spite of their extraordinariness. Moses Amram was once asked, “who made you a ruler and judge over us …?” Moses Ekpo once sought to represent his people as senator, flaunting all the laurels considered here as open-sesame for acceptance. But symbolically his people asked him the same question, prompting in the man a withdrawal from the scene.
But the goldfish has no hiding place. It could not hide from Pharoah’s daughter; it was not able to hide from the Peoples Democratic Party who paired Moses with Emmanuel for the 2015 gubernatorial election in Akwa Ibom State.
After putting him on stilts through a well-publicized goodwill message during his Sun Newspaper Life Time Achievement Award in October, 2021, Governor Udom Emmanuel returned two months later at Mr. Ekpo’s 80th birthday anniversary mass not only with alliterative rhapsodies of praise for his deputy, but the express wish to work with him as his deputy again and again and again, if it was possible to be governor again and again and again.
“Moses” again and again! The cadence here is familiar: It reminds one of “Moses! Moses!! Moses!!! – that divine call to duty in the “burning bush” as recorded in the biblical book of Genesis. Today, coming from Emmanuel (God with us) and coinciding with the deputy governor’s 80th birthday, it is supper symbolic: remember that at 80 God sent Moses to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7). In 2021, Mr. Ekpo divinely rolled into the serendipity of clinching the Sun Newspaper Life-time Achievement Award as a fitting herald to his 80th birthday anniversary celebration.
Fortuitously, the 80th birthday came at a time when there was “God with us” not only as governor, but Mr Ekpo’s direct Principal, to administer the pertaining “burning bush” rites of sending Moses to Pharaoh at 80: “he is the best deputy governor in the country,” Governor Emmanuel had said at the birthday thanksgiving mass at the “holy ground” of St. John’s Pro Cathedral, Abak. In this, the governor introduced a sacred octave to his long-held view that Mr. Ekpo is the quintessential good-governance material whose mass production in the public service as well as our political life would see to the deliverance of our country from the many Pharaohs hindering its destiny.
2021 therefore represented a harvest of ultimate legacy affirmations for “Uncle Mo”, the affirmations peaking as the birthday anniversary drew closer, with such supporting recognitions as an Excellence Award from the Nigerian Society of Physiotherapy, another from Akwa Ibom Community in Abuja and the home-front award of Obong Adat Usung Annangconferred on him during the 59th Year of Royal Services and 98th birthday anniversary celebration of Obong Cosmas OkonAkpan, paramount ruler of Essien Udim Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom State. This last recognition was proof conclusive that our prophet is not without respect among his people.
As one of the many protégés of Mr. Ekpo, I accentuate the continuing ululations marking our deputy governor’s 80th birthday anniversary, and wish him many more years of service to God and humanity in sound and robust health.