By Inyang Akpan
The postulation by Robert Frost has played out well with Sir Etekamba Udo Umoren, Knight of John Westley when he said “If a man works faithfully eight hours a day, he may eventually get to be the boss and work twelve hours a day”.
For the first time in the history of the appointment of Resident Electoral Commissioners in Akwa Ibom State, the appointment of Sir Etekamba Udo Umoren has received general acceptability by the people of the state at home and in the diaspora. The people, across the board, said he is a square peg in a square hole, therefore the appointment is the right step in the right direction. Secondly, the people have voiced out that the era of electoral reforms has actually come as a gentleman indeed has come to salvage the situation. Finally, Akwa Ibom people who are united by a common culture, heritage and historical background welcome and hold that both the state and the country stand to benefit and be liberated electorally.
The words from 1st Peter 6:5 “He who humbles himself shall be exalted” has manifested in Sir Umoren, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Akwa Ibom State. Perhaps that’s why when the news of his appointment was broken joy filtered into the air, thumps went up, palm fronds were lifted shoulder-high, cassava leaves were waved while balloons were released into the air. Champagne was popped while the masses chanted a hallelujah song announcing the unique and well-deserved appointment. They see him coming to right the wrongs in the electoral process in the state.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbours, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door”. This is very true of this Knight of John Westley as his diligent services wherever he found himself have sought him out.
Born the year Nigeria, the giant of Africa was relieved from British colonialism and obtained independence, Etekamba’s arrival announced the termination of the Union Jack from flying in Nigeria. Although he arrived on a day tagged celebrated as fool’s Day (April 1), his parents Mr. & Mrs. Udo Umoren Akpan of Ukana Ikot Ide in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, were not fooled.
Etekamba obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1973 on completion of his primary education at Government School Uruk Uso – Ikot Ekpene and proceeded to Federal Government College Ilorin, Kwara State where he obtained his West African School Certificate in 1978. Two years after he obtained a Higher School Certificate from the same college. 1981 saw him at the University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State. Four years later, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science B.Sc. Hon degree in Geography and thereafter served in the National Youth Service Scheme in Warri, Delta State.
Sir Etekamba Umoren started his Civil Service career with the Cross River State Government as an Assistant Secretary II in 1987 and was promoted Personnel Officer 1 in 1990 and Senior Personnel Officer 1993 while serving in the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning. He started functioning as a Foreign Exchange Officer in the Ministry of Finance Incorporated and in 1997 he was posted to the Directorate of Protocol, Office of the Military Administrator as a Protocol Officer. He was Head of Protocol/Principal Personnel Officer Akwa Ibom State Liason Office, Abuja and was the Acting Liason Officer.
Etekamba was promoted to Chief Administrative Officer in 1999 and resumed Office as Chief of Protocol to the Deputy Governor. He was promoted to Deputy Director of Administration in 2006 and appointed Permanent Secretary in the service of the Akwa Ibom State Government in 2007.
As Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist, puts it “A man in a suit of armour does not need to be brave. Sir Etekamba Umoren at that time could not have been said to be” “a man in a suit of armour” having been born in a lowly village to parents who could not exactly fit the appellation of affluent, but as a result of hard work, genuine employment of his talents and continually keeping his eyes on his goals, he could be said to have acquired “a suit of armour.”
Soon after his voluntary retirement from the service of Akwa Ibom State Government as Permanent Secretary in 2014, providence beckoned on him and he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. In 2015 Sir Umoren was appointed Secretary to the State Government. In all the offices held Umoren served diligently, satisfactorily and to the admiration of his bosses and those who came across him.
His appointment therefore gingers high expectations as the people are looking forward to something new that could further invigorate their faith in the election process at home in the Akwa Ibom pursuit.
From the days of Noah, whom God instructed to construct a boat to contain creatures male and female chosen by Him when He intended to destroy the world using flood water, to the days of Moses when He decided to deliver the Israelites from the captivities of the Egyptians to the days of Joshua who actually safe-landed the Israelites at Cannan, the promised land, to the days of Solomon whom God inspired to build a temple of worship in Jerusalem for Him, God uses one person per time and season to showcase Himself.
Today in Akwa Ibom State God has chosen to use Sir Umoren to redirect the electoral system in the state. Umoren is a man very well known today for his forthright and unwavering stance in matters of public concern, richly endowed with an exceptional knack to drastically turn things around for good wherever providence beckons on him to hold the reins of authority. He is a result-oriented personality, his ‘yes’ is yes and ‘no’ is no and if he gives you his words, you don’t only take it to the bank but also go to sleep with your two eyes closed. Perhaps that’s why on his voluntary retirement from the Akwa Ibom State Civil Service, on his way out he was called upon and appointed Chief of Staff to the Governor.
Like a lone star in the sky which cannot be shielded from the eyes of its admirers, Umoren is a goldfish which has no hiding place. His appointment as Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government attests to this. His appointment as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was a gateway to his present office. He believes in doing what is right at all times and abiding by the rules and regulations of life. He sees himself as a servant and not a master, a personality whose sterling qualities are exceptional. He is one person who grows steadily through hard work, discipline, prudence, fear of God, honesty and can be best described as a bastion of hope, courage and an epitome of humility. He is a born Christian who practices Christ’s commandments like ‘love one another as you love yourself.’
Sir Etekamba Umoren loves giving and demonstrates this freely as he has unparalleled concern for mankind. A detribalised personality whose humanitarian services are guided by his sense of humanity, integrity and credibility. His love and fear of God interpret why he does not take what does not belong to him but strongly believes in building bridges of friendship. His open-door policy and transparency are acknowledged by his people, colleagues, friends and associates from whom he derives his strength. His determination to accomplish his mission is demonstrated through his selfless calls that service is about creating relationships, putting two ears of corn where only one existed or two blades of grass where only one grew, creating wealth in the midst of poverty and being accountable to the people.
Umoren is a member, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (MCIPM) and a Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management (FNIM). He is a Rotorian and a recipient of the Special Award of the Rotary Club of Trans Amadi District 9140, Nigeria. His contributions to the well-being of man and the growth of the Church are immeasurable.
As a Methodist who sincerely loves his God and man, Etekamba’s mission is to consistently win souls for Christ, develop spiritually fulfilled members and remain very active in serving humanity. It is only better to say; that God gave Akwa Ibom more men like Sir Etekamba Umoren who possess opinion and a will: men of candor, content and honour.
As for Sir Etekamba Udo Umoren, he should see the postulation by Heifetz and M. Linsky in the Harvard Business Review that “while leadership is often depicted as
an existing and glamorous endeavour, one in which you, inspire others to follow you through good times and bad, such a portrayal ignores leadership’s dark side; the inevitable attempts to take you out of the game.
It is obvious that, the scripture Proverbs 29:2 which says, “When the righteous are on the throne, people rejoice” will manifest in Akwa Ibom electoral system.
Sincerely, it is hoped Etekamba Umoren’s tenure as Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner will be a period of outstanding innovative leadership initiative marked by groundbreaking and pace-setting endeavour. May he demonstrate genuine commitments and measured capacity to provide functional leadership services that will enhance the realization of the core mandate of INEC in Akwa Ibom State as we pray he remains focused, proactive and pragmatic while discharging his duties.
It is believed that when the history of the activities of the Resident Electoral Commissioners in Akwa Ibom State is reviewed, Sir Etekamba Umoren’s name will not only have a distinctive mention but will stand tall and pull the highest number of paragraphs. If his scorecard will be presented to the public orally the applause it would receive shall last throughout the period of the presentation while cheers will filter into the air amidst thunderous jubilation.
It would be a show of ingratitude if this piece ends without a special commendation to His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate Senate for honouring excellence by recommending Sir Umoren for the exalted office. It could be recalled that while serving the state as Governor, the Senate President redefined governance in Akwa Ibom State to meet with the 21st Century Standard. As Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, he left a footprint for generations yet unborn by completing a secretariat for the ministry, therefore, taking the rent load which ran into billions of naira off the ministry and paid the backlog of debts owed contractors. As Senate president, he is stabilising the Senate and enacting good laws for the good governance of the country.
The mature feather of an eagle always remains pure and clean, May the appointment showcase Umoren’s decency to the outside world so that when the history of INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners in the State is written his name will have a distinctive mention and stand tall among his contemporaries. This will spur him to nod his head, beat his chest, stamp his foot and say like Joseph Haydn: “I know that God has bestowed a talent upon me and I thank him for it. I have done my duty and been of use …… let others do the same.”
We do not know what the future holds for Sir Etekamba Udo Umoren, what we know is his future is brighter as more of God’s benevolence awaits him in the days ahead. Congratulations the Knight of John Westley. May you live long, Strong and healthy.
- Inyang Akpan, a commentator on contemporary affairs, lives in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State