We are gathered here today to bid farewell to a colossus, a giant among men who straddled the political, social and traditional space of this land with flash and dash. For more than half a century, this towering personality lying before us today was to use the immutable words of the late Elder Statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo,  the main issue in the politics of our community, our state, the former Eastern Region and the nation at large.

When His Eminence, Akwa Edidem (Dr.) Akpabio Udo Ukpa, JP, FCE, Pfd, the Oku Ibom Ibibio 111/ Paramount Ruler of Onna Local Government,  in essence, my Paramount Ruler, was born on the 29th of June, 1923, in the quaint and idyllic village of Ikot Edor, not many would have predicted the greatness that would define his life.

The stars it appears had aligned properly at his birth and he was destined to be the loadstar that would eventually guide, direct and illuminate the path for thousands of people to find their purpose in life, and he did this, with utmost humility and a deep sense of community.

We have come here today to pay tribute to the last of that group of rare breed of men who dedicated their lives to public service, accepting in the process, the praise that is usually in short supply and the abuses that also come in torrents.  In spite of this,  those eminent statesmen, did not engage in pity parties because people didn’t  appreciate their selfless contributions to the growth and development of the society; they did not bear malice because their efforts were not  defined  or marketed in sanitized terms;  they did not give up because the odds that were placed before them by the forces of retrogression were too daunting or seemingly insurmountable- they trudged on, believing in the nobleness of their engagements, the higher and ennobling ideals  associated with a career in public service and why through them, the world and our society would be made a better place for us all.

We have come here today to say a final goodbye to a true repository of knowledge, wisdom and strength. As men and women  were filled with patriotic fervour, believing that they had the right skills- set to superintend over the affairs of their nation,  and that colonialism was all but a relic of the past, His Eminence, Akwa Edidem Akpabio Udo Ukpa was in the vanguard of that struggle, leading him to occupy such lofty positions as  far back as   1957, where he served  as  a Member of Eket County Council, Ikot Ubo, now in Nsit Ubuim, First Secretary /Treasurer, Oniong Nung Ndem Awa District Council, Executive Chairman, ONNA County Council, Member, Eastern House of Chiefs, Enugu where he variously served as the Chairman, Public Accounts Committee,  from 1960-1966.

When the military struck on January 15, 1966, truncating our first experiment at democratic governance, His Eminence came back to serve his people and when the military returned to the barracks in 1979 and the Second republic was born, His Eminence  again was a leading light in that  dispensation and worked tirelessly to ensure that Dr. Clement Isong, a proud son of Onna, was elected the first democratically elected Governor of the old Cross River State, and went on to serve that administration meritoriously as the Political Adviser from 1979-83.

In the corporate world, he was not found wanting, having served as  Chairman, Board of Directors , Champion Breweries, (1983) Chairman, Board of Directors Cross Rivers State Cement, (CALCEMCO) (1983). Chairman, Investment Trust Company, Ltd. Calabar, (1984).

In 1992, the 16 villages that make up the Oniong Clan, believing that he was the best voice to articulate their issues and concerns within the state and the larger national socio-political space, unanimously, made him their Clan Head where for five years, he provided an effective representation to his people, leading to his selection in 1997 as the Paramount Ruler of the larger ONNA Local Government- a position he occupied until his passing.

As a towering figure and a custodian of traditional institutional and ordinances, he was appointed the Royal Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs between 2000-2001. In 2006, he became the President/ Oku Ibom Ibibio 111 of the Supreme Council of Ibibio Traditional Rulers Council.

As a community leader with a progressive bent, he was instrumental in the establishment of the former Teachers Training College, Ndon Eyo, now Senior Science School, Ndon Eyo, ONNA people High School, Abat, Oniong West Secondary School, Ikot Ebiere, Oniong East Secondary School, Ikwe and the Salvation Army Secondary School, Akai Ubium.

Determined to ensure that Onna as a major oil producing community enjoyed a corresponding Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) from Exxon Mobil, he worked closely with the oil firm to bring development to the community. He was a member of the Oil & Gas Preservation Committee, Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2010 till his passing.

The passing of His Eminence is indeed a sad event, but we are consoled by the fact that he led a life of purpose, of service to humanity, to his community, state and the nation. His family and indeed the people of Onna should be consoled by the fact he came, did his best and left a huge footprint in the sand of time. As Alphonse de Lamartine stated “Sometimes when one person is absent the whole world seems depopulated” our community, state and the nation is indeed depopulated by the passing of this towering and proud son of Onna, Akwa Ibom and the nation at large. Esiereoo, Your Eminence, Akwaedidem (Dr.) Akpabio Udo Ukpa. You indeed made us all proud!

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