Udo Ekpenyong: Exit of Quintessential Politician
By Godwin Benson
On Friday, March 26, 2021, the rural community of Ikot Oku Usung in Ukanafun Local Government Area, will be agog as families, friends, colleagues and contemporaries will pay their last respect to a man whose life has been a testament of humility, loyalty and philanthropy, Obong (Hon) Udo Ekpenyong. Ekpenyong submitted to the will of the Almighty January 19, 2021.
The mourning house had opened Saturday, March 20, 2021 at his country home, Ikot Oku Usung, while visitation by friends, in-laws, groups and institutions will continue from today to Wednesday, March 24, 2021. A thanksgiving service will be conducted Sunday, March 27, 2021 at the Delightful Christian Church Int’l, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Boulevard, off Idoro Road, Uyo.
Until his death, Udo Ekpenyong had been Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Special Adviser to the Governor on Political & Legislative Affairs, Former Chairman, Ukanafun Local Government Area and one time Acting State Secretary of the PDP.
He had also served as a National Ex-officio Member and Member of the National Executive Council, NEC, of our great Party; State Ex-officio Member and had at various times served in the public service as a Teacher/Tutor and had a stint in the private sector both as Sales and production manager.
Born 64 years ago, Udo attended Northern Ukanafun Primary School, Nkek Idim, Ukanafun, and rounded off his primary education, with the acquisition of First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) in 1969, at primary school, Abat Town in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State; Nigerian Christian Secondary School, Ukpom, in Abak Local Government Area; Holy Family College, (HOFACO), Oku Abak, in the same Abak Local Government Area where he obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1976.
The quest for knowledge propelled him to enroll at the College of Education. These alongside several other courses and training programmes enhanced, built and fortified him academically and otherwise for the task ahead. After obtaining the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE), he had a stint as a tutor in his alma mater, HOFACO. He taught Biology and Chemistry.
That same year, he was called up for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and posted to Plateau state in the north central geopolitical region of the country. He spent the compulsory one year at Government College, Panshin, where he also taught Biology and Chemistry. At the end of the service year in 1980, Udo, who always hated to stay idle, joined Kings International High School, Eka Nta Obo, Abak as a Biology and Chemistry tutor. The very next year (1981), he got direct entry admission into the University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, obtaining in 1983 a Bachelor of Science (Bsc.) degree in Microbiology. Still not satisfied, he enrolled for the Master of Science (Msc.) programme(Environmental Management) at the Enugu State University of Science & Technology in Enugu in 2005. He successfully completed his Msc programme in 2007.
A man of many parts, Udo Ekpenyong was a good mixer, bridge builder, genius, legend, mentor and pathfinder. His breeds are scarce and rare, as Udo mixes freely with people of all ages. He was the toast of the youth, a pillar to the elders, breadwinner to the women, source of hope and inspiration to the widows, orphans, less privileged and downtrodden. As William Shakespeare, renowned English poet notes in one of his philosophical statements, “It is not how long a man remains on stage but how best he had played his part.”
At 64, Udo Ekpenyong was not yet there but his vision, beliefs, teachings, legacies and contributions to the socio-political development of Akwa Ibom and Nigeria are in quantum.
He carved a niche for himself in simplicity, adroitness, compassion, diligence, commitment, dedication and loyalty. You hardly sway him away from what he has confidence and belief in. A political juggernaut, Udo Ekpenyong was “Mr Fix.” There was no hard political equation that he cannot solve. He was the last man standing in politics and winning elections. The Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo describes him as an “invaluable asset to the government of Gov Udom Emmanuel whose emergence and sustenance he worked tirelessly to ensure.”
Ekpo said the departed PDP chairman displayed similar charisma in politics, in his religious life. “A member of the Delightful Christian Church International, Udo Ekpenyong’s passion was in the areas of evangelism and Church planting. It is on record that he single-handedly undertook the building of branches of the Church in Uyo and his community.
He greatly impacted his community of Ikot Oku Usung through generous contributions, enabling it to experience an upswing in infrastructure and general development,” the Deputy Governor stressed.
Udo Ekpenyong lived a moderate and model lifestyle. He was not fascinated with riches but believed in the philosophy of live-and-let-live. That is why, even in the Church, Udo was feeding the multitudes every Sunday. He created the physically-challenged wing of the PDP and made that class of persons, equal partakers of his daily benevolence.
The member for Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Unyime Idem said: “My heart still finds it hard to believe that Obong Udo Ekpenyong has left us, at a time his selfless services are needed more in Akwa Ibom.
The sad event reminds us of the transient and ephemeral nature of life and the inevitability of death being the final exit channel of all mortals. Ikot Oku Usung has lost a rare gem; a huge political vacuum has been created in Ukanafun, the PDP family has lost a father figure and advisor. The Federal Constituency and Akwa Ibom State have lost a team player, a mobiliser, major stakeholder in the Akwa Ibom project.”
Idem, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Communications said: “His demise is a personal loss to me and my family given the advisory role he played and the invaluable contributions he made in my emergence as member representing Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency at the National Assembly.” He prayed for the repose of his soul
His Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal constituency, Elder Aniekan Umanah described the deceased as a “devout Christian, family man and politician whose contributions to the growth of the party and the State cannot be overemphasized. His death is indeed a great loss to the family, the party and the State.”
The speaker of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Aniekan Bassey captures the person of Udo Ekpenyong this way: “The late Obong Udo Ekpenyong was a dogged, strong, diligent, dedicated, committed and an accomplished party man, who held numerous positions and appointments that culminated in his rising to the pinnacle of the PDP in the state, the State chairman.”
He continued: “Apart from being a strategist and a quintessential politician, our late party leader was a strong indefatigable community leader, a consummate bridge builder, as well as a devout Christian, who dedicated his life to the service of God, humanity, community and Akwa Ibom.”
On her part, the member for Ukanafun State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Dr Charity Ido, said Udo Ekpenyong’s leadership and visionary approach to politics have ineradicably marked the pages of history as an exemplary figure of peace building,” adding that the departed state chairman was not only a “tireless worker for the security of our dear State but also a dependable compatriot, who positively refined politics and himself as a Northern star in the galaxy of stars.”
According to Obong Eno Akpan, former member of the House of Representatives and the political leader of Ukanafun Local Government Area (the late Udo Ekpenyong’s local government area), “Obong Udo Ekpenyong was a great man from youth. Even as a secondary school student through the University, he had showed independency in his mental attitude, maturity when he comes to leading the less mature; he was a man who believed that through hard work, one will always succeed.” Akpan, who went memory lane, said in 1986 when Udo was the chairman of Ukanafun Local Government Area, he was able to mobilise the youths to show interest in politics as well as redefine politics that it was not a game for the dropouts but that the educated can participate in politics. “He believed in politics without bitterness and will always give in for peace to reign. And, he was a complete party man. In fact, Obong Udo Ekpenyong was a unique politician, humble, proactive, knowledgeable and always ready to sacrifice his all for victory,” the former commissioner for lands and town planning in Akwa Ibom said.
To Chief Michael Afangide, the political leader of Essien Udim Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom, Obong Udo Ekpenyong was a great attraction who related and mixed easily with people. Afangide said: “His contributions as state Party chairman (PDP) are something to be remembered; he never cut corners and remained a man of truth in all his dealings. He was a distinguished gentleman and a conscientious statesman who always stood on the side of honesty and integrity. He will be remembered for his comportment and cerebral approach to issues. He was a very disciplined and organised man, who was not given to fruitless ventures.”
A chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, (APC), Chief Don Etiebet, noted that “Udo Ekpenyong was a hard and consistent worker right from youth. He was an embodiment of committed and selfless service; trusted, obedient, loyal and result-oriented performer wherever he found himself. No wonder, he was a great and successful teacher, astute business manager and versatile politician.”
An accomplished man, Obong Udo Ekpenyong’s interest in education has paid off tremendously as he parades academic Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers and many other professionals to bid him farewell. His first son, Dr Frank Ekpenyong paid tributes to his father: “I am super blessed and mightily favoured by God to be your son. My life has been greatly shaped by your teachings, conversations, admonitions, your love and dealings with people, experiences of the turbulent times and the great times. I do not take these for granted and I continually thank God for these great blessings. Daddy, your life was a mandate from God to add meaning and value to lives and this, you did excellently. I am so glad you did not neglect the great salvation through Christ for you had a personal relationship with Christ Jesus and this is the greatest honour ever.”
The wife, Elizabeth has this to say: “My dear husband and friend, I must confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the over 43 years we have been together. Oh, there were dark and tough days and yes there were great and bright days but we were never tired of each other rather we saw each other as a source of strength, comfort, pride and celebration. I will always cherish our days together. I will continue to thank God for giving me you and for making you be always so reliable and there for me. I still thank God for the stuff you were made of, I admire your wisdom, intelligence, humanity and benevolent spirit, hard work, strength and vision. I am fully persuaded that your death is God’s will and in His plans for the great comfort and strength the children and I have received from God is testimony to this fact.”
For Engineer Ekpenyong Udo Ekpenyong, so many images come his mind when I think of the father, not just a father to me but to thousands that he came across. Ekpenyong described him as his mentor, teacher, father, best grandpa to his children and most of all “the man that believed in me! Your light shone so bright wherever you were found, and you gave yourself and your resources to help those who ever came in contact with you. Yours was a life of giving. You live the practical live of a Christian as we were often left speechless in your bid to be Christlike, loving all.”
A lawyer and nephew to the deceased party chairman, Samuel Udoko was very emotional when he talked with this writer: “My heart bleeds knowing that I have lost my precious Dad. Indeed, you were a special Dad, one of the most gentle and thoughtful men that ever lived. A friend, big brother, confidant and adviser. You taught and showed me the ways of life. You picked, raised and above all assisted me climb the ladder of life. Today, I am a man…”
In fact, the toll has rung for a great father, husband, bridge-builder, mobiliser par excellence, devout Christian and politician with a difference but we align with the paraphrased consolation from Helen Steiner Rice: that tender memories will soften our grief; fond recollection will bring us relief; And may we find comfort and peace in the thought of the joy that knowing our loved one brought… Adieu! Obong Udo (Loyalty) Ekpenyong.