By Substance Nature
“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” – Czeslaw Milozs, a Lithuanian author
To possibly tame some sprouting wild assumptions, it is protective I begin this piece with an aside that my intention is not to incite feelings, impeach motives, or pre-empt the powers. After all, I am not from the same village or local government with Obong Attah; I rather know him more by his undeniable statesmanly imprints than any classified enviable affinity. The tenor here therefore is largely to stimulate and invoke reason upon a downtrodden necessity.
Former Governor Akpabio, incumbent Senate Minority Leader, has scored many firsts. For things like this, people look and reach conclusions about him from different spectra: Some for his befuddling political strategy and mesmerizing formulae; some for his near pathetic and bewitching magnanimity, his carriage and intriguing magniloquence; some for his pathological exuberance or what in Nigerian patois is called ‘swagger’; but I love the stylish, ostentatious Akwa Ibom strongman for his ingenuous proactiveness, inexorable drive, contagious innovation and sure-footed dare. No matter what you say or how you feel, Sen. Akpabio does his things his way, his style, provided he was convinced by what he believes or targets. Analysts speculated that these qualities may have coalesced superfluously in the introspection or providence that laid the foundation for the naming of the Akwa Ibom new stadium, the Nest of Champions, after Godswill Akpabio. On a broad-brush approach, the apocryphal version is that although it looked as if the House of Assembly was solely responsible for the idea, it is Akpabio who holds the copyright for the initiative. Yet, against the reservations on the choice and haste in that unruffled endorsement, only an incurable dying ingrate would argue that Akpabio does not merit being so recognized.
It is a mark of gratitude and great honour when edifices or roads are named after prominent figures, gone or alive, who have impacted positively on the society. Ideally, doing so should not be a matter of politics but a justifiable recognition of one’s selfless accomplishments. Indeed, it is perhaps the best way to perpetuate worthy memories. Incidentally, by benefit of unaffected observation, it must be worrisome to notice that, till this moment, upon all his great and indelible contributions to Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria, Obong Victor Attah, two-time former governor of Akwa Ibom State, has nothing strategic in the state named after him by any previous or successive administrations. This is a most despicable oversight that leaves much to question. Without attempting an analogy or stoking the fledgling flames in a boneless debate, even as I do not begrudge or query the honour done Akpabio, I have refused to wastefully agree that the Senator did more or less than Attah had done for Akwa Ibom people. In their peculiarities, they both are great men of outstanding feats! But there are millions who are wont to see Attah as the better of the two. This they hinge on the strength that Akpabio was but a fortunate inheritor of his predecessor’s legacies and bequeathal from the infamous Resource Control, as well as his unquenchable voice in the agitation for the creation of Akwa Ibom State.
Here now lies a propensity for confusion or endless polemics on what should qualify someone for honour with a timeless edifice. But to minimize the controversies and eliminate idiosyncratic seasonings, the responsibility descends straight on the shoulders of the House of Assembly, or any other body it may designate, to develop a customized template to that effect. But this must not necessarily always over-rule occasional palatial discretion. Indeed, time has arrived when neither manipulative politics nor sheer genealogy should decide who amongst our heroes and high fliers deserves to be honoured. In all fairness, beyond Attah and Akpabio, I would have suggested that, to dignify selflessness in perpetuating history, as a sacrosanct rule, something very outstanding be named after all past and serving governors (and even their deputies). This way, some great names will not wither in contrived obscurity or pampered oblivion.
By the inspiration of this titivating awareness, and because dead or alive is no denominator here, I also feel that people in the distinguished public service or career category of Phillip Effiong, the last man standing in the Nigerian Civil War when Ojukwu fled to Cote De’voire; Don Etiebet and his late elder brother former senator-governor of Old Cross River; Jimmy Ntuen, first Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly; Edidem Robert Obot, assassinated Oku Ibom Ibibio the 3rd; in that order, to mention a few, deserve monumental mention for their services to the growth of Akwa Ibom and Nigeria. Who said women too do not deserve historical pointers to their times? It is perhaps because the past and present do not seem to favour this consciousness that most Akwa Ibom indigenes would look helplessly sheepish or argue to their mockery at the mention of an amazon like Emma Brown, mother of late Sir. Udo Udoma, and others like her who, for her staunch posture in the famous Ikot Abasi Women Riot over taxation, was shot dead in 1929 at the orders of a blood-thirsty colonial master. There are also Mma Harison Attah; Obonganwan Imoh Isemin, Affiong Abasi Attai, a famous education commissioner; Grace Ekong and Rita Akpan, both former Secretaries to the State Government; Helen Esuene, senator-wife of late Udoakaha Jacob Esuene, first indigenous military Governor of old Cross River State; Grace Anwana, late Head of the Civil Service; Mrs. Ekaette Uloma Akpabio; Akon Inyanenyi, Minister for Housing in shp-wrecked Jontahn administration; and Prof. Comfort Ekpo, immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, arguably the first woman from the whole of South/South to have held that position in her own state. There are more…
We can only imagine what volume of questions would have been raised by both the curious and gullible had names and places like Nyong Essien Roundabout, Idongesit Nkagna Secretariat; Nsikak Eduok Road; IBB Avenue; Edet Akpan Avenue; and Wellington Bassey Way had not been engraved for today and tomorrow. Incidentally, apart from the first in the preceding row, it was in Obong Attah’s era that most of these ones, dead or alive, were deliberately recognized. Yet, as divine grey-hair would advise, Attah, with all the power a contemporary Nigerian governor could boast of, discreetly avoided the temptation of arrogation while he was in office. Nor did he make insinuations to such wishes to his groomed battalions of succeeding leaders. It is nonetheless on record that Obong Victor Attah, Chief Obasanjo’s Resource Control albatross, is reputed to have named more streets and edifices after Akwa Ibom legends than any other governor in the history of the state, so far. Why then should he be a burning candle?
Granted, so many persons deserve a place in this subject; but Obong Victor Adiaha Attah the renowned architect, the second democratically elected civilian Governor of Akwa Ibom State, deserves it most being the only neglected living former governor; and especially in a freestyle democratic era where insolent politics and opportunism can slap respected elders across the face with indulgent impertinence. Immortalizing our heroes may not really mean a thing; but it means so much. For when History shall weep for neglect, the present may be inexcusably culpable! If therefore I were part of the argument on if it were really necessary and what most fittingly should be named after Obong Attah pronto, I quickly would say yes and point at the Akwa Ibom State International Airport and the University of Science and Technology (AKSU) as competitive options. However, for Obong Attah’s detribalized, inclusive, people-oriented, coolheaded, enigmatic and provident leadership, the present Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Office, the glamourous Hilltop Mansion, would be of more commiserating and distinctive honour to a great Akwa Ibom son who today can secure a permanent seat at any worthy comity of icons, home and abroad. His landmarks are too obvious to be obscure! Lest we forget…
By Substance Nature