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Idongesit Nkanga: A Look Back At Unforgettable Moments

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Idongesit Nkanga: A Look Back At Unforgettable Moments

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Sam Akpe

The coffin was draped in national colours. As expected, it was wheeled and later carried by uniformed officers of the Nigeria Air Force. He belonged there. He served his country through the force. He flew jets carrying top military leaders, fighting equipment and war cargoes. While on ground, he not only commanded troops and trained his successors; he was the Commandant of the Presidential Air Fleet. When the time came, he retired with full honours as a one-star general—Air Commodore.

Otuekong Idongesit Okon Nkanga was a gentleman without boundaries. As we watched his coffin being lowered into the grave on Saturday, amidst streams of tears, some personal memories of my encounters with him flooded back. Last year—I can’t recall the exact month—I was in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. That was before the global lockdown, caused by Covid-19. At the Victor Attah Airport on my way back, as I walked into Ibom Air aircraft, I met him. We greeted warmly. Once again, I felt guilty of being in the state without at least, calling him. I apologised.

As we touched down in Abuja and I stepped out of the aircraft, there he was, waiting. We chatted as we moved on. I always admired his big smiles. As usual, he enquired about my family. Then he asked if I had a car waiting for me. Negative! I told him I would take an airport taxi. “Okay” he replied. We kept talking as I walked him to his car, rolling my box and laughing over his jokes. After the driver had put his luggage in the car that came for him, he demanded that my box be carried in as well. I told him where I was going was miles away from his destination. He responded, “Is it because I want to come and eat atama soup in your house today that you don’t want to ride with me?” We laughed, as I obliged.

On the way, I reminded him that 2023 would be an opportunity for his senatorial district to produce the next governor of Akwa Ibom. Was he interested? “No” he replied emphatically. “I won’t want to subject myself to that at my age. I have been there before; and I have helped enthrone two governors. I would rather continue to remain a king maker and give the young people opportunity to step forward.”

We talked about other things including his involvement in the Niger Delta politics. About half an hour later, we were at my gate. I felt privileged to be so honoured by him with a ride from the airport. That was the last time I saw him. I still remember his promise to return for lunch. Unfortunately, he won’t!

Retired Air Commodore Nkanga is a well known name in Akwa Ibom State. I got to know him through my friend and classmate, Soni Daniel. I can’t really recall the circumstances, but as time went on, I became relatively close to him. I recall an incident that has refused to leave my memory. It was in 1997. Soni and I were doing a book on Air Marshall Nsikak Eduok and decided it would be appropriate to interview Air Commodore Nkanga. We went to Abuja to meet him.
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On arriving his office, we realised he was just about leaving for the airport on his way to Akwa Ibom State. He received us joyfully and asked if we were going to stay until his return or we could fly back to Uyo with him and have the interview there. Of course, we refused to miss the free ride in the Air Force plane. I later confessed to him that I didn’t like the tiny aircraft. It felt as though one was flying on a banana leaf. Meanwhile, he was having fun opening up conversations with us; and I was more concerned about when the aircraft would reach Mobil Airstrip in Eket.

On retirement from service, Nkanga became deeply involved in Akwa Ibom politics. Before then, he had served as military governor of the state—for less than a year. He left indelible footprints. He was the peoples’ hero on strategic development. At a time revenue to the state was counted in a few millions of naira, he commissioned and built a modern secretariat complex; which was later named after him. Until his death, anytime he appeared at a public event, an unplanned applause would erupt, to the envy of others.

When the news broke some weeks ago that Nkanga was dead of complications arising from Covid-19, the entire state burst into tears. For once, ethnic division and political enmity were put aside as the state rose in unison to mourn one of its shining stars. Many of us were aware of his hospitalisation. We kept praying and hoping that he comes out with his trademark smile. As each day passed, we expected to hear the news of his discharge. We were hoping against hope. At the end, he took the last flight without a return ticket.

I recall that in 1998, Nkanga was billed to grace my wedding as the guest of honour. He wasn’t sure of catching up because he had a function to attend in Calabar. But something more interesting happened. On my return to Uyo after the traditional marriage, I was informed by a friend in the secret service that I would be arrested on my wedding day on the orders of the military administrator, the late Group Captain Joseph Adeusi, who was quoted as saying that I embarrassed him with “a distasteful story” in the state newspaper.

My informant disclosed that the service was in possession of my wedding programme; and that the only way I could escape arrest was to include in the programme, names of top military officers above the rank of colonels. He went ahead to give me details of the names in the programme that was yet to be printed. I almost collapsed. Based on his advice, one of the names I quickly inserted in the revised programme when he left was that of Air Commodore Nkanga, who at that time was Commandant of the Presidential Air Fleet. Others were two serving major generals.

About 48 hours later, I met with the secret service friend, along a bush track, as agreed. He came on a motorcycle; and simply repeated: “action stood down, action stood down” and told the bike rider to move on. Adeusi had backed out when he was informed that three generals were billed to attend the wedding. When I told Nkanga about this later, he laughed nonstop. He actually tried to catch up with the wedding, rushing in from Calabar. But he was a bit behind time.

Suddenly, the laughter has ended. The big smile has ceased. Death has taken him away from us. The last flight has soared into the skies. It is a one way flight. We will surely miss his company. But he would never be forgotten.

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Ogun State Launches Initiative To Sell 100 Truckloads Of Rice At Affordable Prices

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L-R: Representative of the Awujale of Ijebuland and Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo, Oba Lawrence Adebajo; the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle; the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Micheal Adedotun Gbadebo with the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun during a stakeholders' engagement on palliatives distribution at the June 12 Cultural Center, Kuto, Abeokuta

The Poor,Elderly, Vulnerable To Get Free Allocation

Ogun State has purchased 100 truckloads  of rice to be sold at cheap rates to residents of the state to cushion the effect of the rise in the prices of goods in the country.

The state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun stated this on Wednesday while speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting in Abeokuta, the state capital.

Prince Abiodun disclosed that the rice would be subsidized and made available at the rate it was before the recent astronomical rise in the prices of the commodities.

He, however, said the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable would enjoy free allocation.

“We have decided to give our people foodstuffs like rice, garri, beans. I have ordered almost 100 trailers of rice, they will start offloading them tomorrow (today).

“We have decided that the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable will be given the rice free of charge, while others will have to buy the rice at the price we formally bought it before the dollar rose very high so that it won’t be a one-off and we can continue till the issue of the dollar is settled,” he said.

Governor Abiodun assured the people of Ogun State that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is fully in charge and knows what he is doing.

According to him, the President is on top of the situation, adding that Nigerians will soon start seeing the manifestation of the several policies put in place to curtail the rising inflation

He added that the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Yemi Cardoso, at a meeting he had with him, has assured that the dollar would soon fall.

“Everything we are experiencing at the moment is very transient, it will soon pass away. Let me assure you, the meeting we had yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) after I left that meeting this evening, I am convinced that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is fully in charge. He knows what he is doing.

“With the plan that he has begun to implement, you will soon begin to see the change. We must remain very hopeful.

“The last meeting I had was with the CBN Governor. He said I should quote him and tell you that, very soon, the dollar will crash,” he said.

Abiodun noted that his administration in realization of the present hardship facing the country took some steps to cushion the effect, even as he recalled that an intervention worth more than N5 billion was announced by his administration last week.

Tertiary students of Ogun State origin across the country will receive N50,000 each, the governor said.

The secondary and primary school category with about 800,000 students, Prince Abiodun noted, will be done in phases, with the first phase, comprising 100,000 students getting N10,000 each.

Those not captured now would get five exercise books while waiting for the next phase.

The governor said women and the elderly would benefit from free medical care with insurance cards worth N18,000.

Abiodun further noted that his administration would set aside about N500 million monthly to offset the payment of deductions for civil servants in the state public service.

Governor Abiodun urged Nigerians, especially the youths not to allow themselves to be used by unscrupulous elements to disrupt the peace of the country.

“It is now so bad that they have planned to use our youths, give them money to disrupt the peace of the country by staging protests.

“What we  are going through isn’t what other countries around the world haven’t also experienced. But they were very patriotic, calm because they know the solution is on the way,” he said.

 

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Eghagha Urges Peace, Understanding Over Relocation Of Delta University Faculty

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Prof. Hope Eghagha

A Delta State Education Consultant, Prof. Hope Eghagha, on Thursday called for peace and understanding over the relocation of the Faculty of Management Sciences of the Delta State University, Ozoro.

In a statement, Eghagha said as part of the Delta State government’s determination to spread campuses of tertiary institutions to all parts of the state, the Governing Council of Delta State University Ozoro recently announced that the Faculty of Management Sciences will be moved to Orerokpe.

He described this as a welcome development which the people of Orerokpe have received with expectation and happiness.

But according to Eghagha, while some people received the information with joy and appreciation of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori’s broad vision, a few persons from Ozoro took to the streets to protest  against the decision.

He said: “This is a call for understanding. Multiple campuses as a way of achieving balance is not a new phenomenon in Delta State and indeed in Nigeria. It was because of this culture that the Delta State government sited the Faculties of Law and Engineering in Oleh, while Agriculture and Management Sciences were sited in Anwai, Asaba. All other stakeholders showed understanding and the rest as they say has become history. Put explicitly, the good people of Abraka did not go up in arms. On this score, we commend the leadership of the Isoko apex body Isoko Development Union (IDU) led by Professor Chris Akpotu on their recent congratulatory visit to the governor.

“The decision to move one out of six faculties ought not to generate the kind of tension which was seen in the last three odd days. Apart from having a full-fledged university, it should be noted that three other faculties – Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Pharmacy, & Health Sciences- which are yet to take off have been approved by the NUC for Ozoro. Delta State government is committed to fully developing the university at Ozoro. The movement of Management Sciences Faculty to Orerokpe should be seen as a way of bringing development to the ancient town of Orerokpe, a town which serves as the ancestral home of the Okpe people. All stakeholders should also remember the ancestral link between the people of Orerokpe and the Isoko nation.

“We therefore call for understanding, peace, and patience on the part of all stakeholders. In no distant time the picture will be clearer and both the people of Ozoro and Orerokpe will appreciate the development strides of the Oborevwori administration.”

 

 

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BRACED Tourism Promotion And Development Initiative Gets Interim Executive Council Members

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Mrs. Ifiokobong Anthony Akan

The Board of Trustees of BRACED Tourism Promotion and Development Initiative (BTPDI) has approved the constitution of an interim Executive Council to run the affairs of the body for the next one year, following a recent virtual board meeting presided over by the Chairman of the BOT, Dr Kiyaramo Piriye. Piriye  is  the immediate past Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Tourism to Bayelsa State Governor, Duoy Diri.

BRACED is a forum dedicated to the development and promotion of tourism in the South South region of Nigeria. Its members are tourism operators and experts across board in the private and public sectors who are committed to working in partnership with the state governments and different stakeholders in the region to make the region a foremost tourist destination in the country.

Members of the body cut across the six South South states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, and Delta (BRACED). It is a voluntary organsiation that is open to people of the region who are committed to the economic prosperity of the region with a view to harnessing its tourism potential.

In a statement, the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of BRACED Tourism Promotion and Development Initiative (BTPDI), Ambassador Usen Udoh, noted : ‘‘In a virtual Board of Trustees meeting held on Saturday, February 17, 2024, the board made the following appointments from among those who had earlier indicated interest to serve in various executive positions as volunteers.’’

According to him, Mrs. Ifiokobong Anthony Akan of Akwa Ibom State, emerged as the pioneer Director General and Chief Executive Officer while Leo Ruth Fabian Nkoteto of Akwa Ibom State clinched the position of Secretary General.

Other officers include; Walter Aberepikima of Rivers State – Deputy Director General; Bridget Oroupau Sapre-Obi of Bayelsa State – Director of Corporate Services; Barrister Kesther Akanimo Inyang of Akwa Ibom State – Director of Legal Services; Dr. Akong Blessing Mbala of Cross River State – Director of Research and Planning; Sophy Zainab of Rivers State – Director of Intergovernmental Affairs; Lady Fiona Ejomofor of Rivers State – Director of Finance; Eno Itemobong of Akwa Ibom State – Director of Programmes; Dr Tarela Kia of Bayelsa State – Director of Contact and Mobilisation; Andrew Iro Okungbowa of Edo State – Director of Media and Publicity; Hon. Dr. Fidelia Salami of Delta State – Director of International Relations and Mr. Fortune Oyadongha also from Delta State – Auditor.

The inauguration of the Executive Council is slated to take place in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom State in the coming days.

It is hopeful that the emergence of the organisation and subsequent inauguration of the pioneer Executive Council will live to its vision that will catapult the South Southern Region as the new tourist destination in the Gulf of Guinea.

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