By Assam Assam, SAN
I tried to avoid being the proponent of this toast but the members of the organizing committee of this event gave me no choice. They think of all of us I know him the best. That is not correct. I am certain we are all familiar with the story of the elephant and the 8 blind Indians who upon touching a part of the elephant identified the elephant differently. Metaphorically I would look at us all as the 8 blind Indians and Udom as the elephant. So in proposing a toast to Udom you have to recall that part of him you touched or which touched you.
I have had the privilege of touching Udom Inoyo. Before him I touched his father, Elder Uko Inoyo. When I touched the part of him that I did, I could feel the aroma of his father’s discipline, his adherence to detail, his penchant for privacy, his ability to have and keep his friends and yet distance them from his work, his devotion to his family and most of all, his love, faith and trust in God.
Yet sometimes society may never know you for who you are, but for whom they think you are. Perception, that is the word. Our world view point is 90% perception. That is the story of the elephant and the blind men.
Udom, this toast is a tribute to you. I have seen you grow into man and watched from the pew as you took a wife. You remind me of the quote of King Henry the sixth (in disguise), which your father had on his wall in the old house in the Housing Estate in Calabar, an Estate he built and managed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Corporation. Your father was one of the most successful Public Servants of his time, a very conservative and uncompromising disciplinarian, a meticulous bureaucrat and most of all a core Christian. But listen to his life’s viewpoint, which you have literarily adopted as your mantra:
“My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called contentment, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.”
I have known you as a student activist in your undergraduate days, graduating at the top of your class but seeking a career as a soldier. You opted, after your National Service, to join the Nigerian Army because you believed in that institution as a means through which the rot in our society could be cured. Thank God you did not make it to the Army. Who knows how you would have ended. Because looking at your antecedents, you have consistently exhibited the character of one who abhors dishonesty and mediocrity and continually taken sides with the truth, and merit. You are endowed with great intellect yet you are not vain-glorious. You are a caring, compassionate person, a fearless fighter for what you believe in and an unrepentant apostle for the downtrodden. You abhor corruption and extravagance and live a simple life.
I recall when we, as a people, were engaged in the fight for resource control. You were then the leader of the Akwa Ibom professionals in Lagos, a group vehemently opposed to the Supreme Court judgment that deprived Akwa Ibom state from benefiting from the 13% derivation payments. You anchored the compilation of the literature which in no small measure whipped the conscience of the country to adopt the political solution. Those who were privy to your invaluable contribution are Senator Anietie Okon, who was the General Counsellor of the exercise and Uko Udom SAN, who, with me, served as advisers to the late General Philip Effiong, (Akangkang of Ibibio nation), our representative on the Political Solution Committee headed by Chief Anthony Anennih. The legislation which I personally drafted for presentation to parliament by Senator Udoma Udoma, and which increased our revenue to this day, was a culmination of that effort and your leadership.
I recall your consistent plea which convinced Obong Victor Attah to fashion a development program for the Oil bearing communities. With Dr. Ebebe Ukpong (then Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Development), Ambassador (Mrs.) Nkoyo Ita Toyo (a development expert and social advocate) and a Mr. Nsudoh S. Nsudoh (now a Permanent Secretary in AKS) you worked tirelessly to produce a document whose content has the panacea to resolve most of the feuding issues in the oil bearing communities. That document has not been utilized to this day perhaps because you were vehemently opposed to having any politician in the team that was to be set up to manage the funds. No wonder the initiative was abandoned. Someday soon, I hope, someone will do something about it.
Quite a number of people may take your amiable disposition as a weakness but they needed to be in a House of Representatives, when you led a delegation of Mobil to a Committee hearing on the Niger Delta Development Commission. You pointedly questioned the lack of proper utilization of MPN’s share of contributions to NDDC. With the hot and bitter exchange that followed, we thank God the NDDC representative was sitting on the other side of the isle. How his jaw may have looked thereafter is still a matter of conjecture. You bravely questioned the accountability of the members and I am certain you must have been utterly disappointed when no one, even from your state, came to your rescue, except one Honorable Bethel Amadi. You were undeterred, and I know you will do it again if the same situation presents itself.
Udom this is personal to me. The Eket-Ibeno road, a distance of 15 or so kilometers used to take hours with attendant safety issues. I was the Attorney General of this state at the time and privy to how you convinced the management of MOBIL and the Government to take over the road project from NDDC. They did. You got Mobil to contribute a whopping N8B towards the construction of the road which was completed by another Udom this time the Udom of Emmanuel. That road is now dualized and pleasure to drive on.
There is so much that will be said about you. Individuals will tell their stories of your intervention for contractors from the community with NAPIMS and NNPC, your devotion to celebrating excellence, yet to convince you to accept that this reception be held for you was a task.
We, indeed this state, owe you a duty to celebrate you Udom. The Inoyo Toro Foundation today serves as a shining template for everyone seeking to uplift society and make a difference. Udom, you and Ntekpe the wife of your youth, set up that platform, with like- minded Nigerians, to enable successful Akwa Ibom and other Nigerian professionals intervene in public secondary schools in Akwa Ibom through rewarding teachers who have excelled in the teaching of science and other selected subjects. The Foundation also provides a platform to mentor students and model leadership behaviors in our youths. The impact of the intervention is unbelievable. The enrichment and deepening of the education sector of our State, apart, the level of confidence it has imbued in our teachers and the opportunities it has created for them is phenomenal.
Please permit us therefore to celebrate you and your lovely wife, as I invite all of us, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to rise and lustily drink to the health, happiness, long and prosperous life of Udom Inoyo.
Ambassador Assam E. Assam, SAN
APRIL 29, 2018