If she was alive today, Prof. Sophie Oluwole would have been brimming with smile, she would have been grinning from ear to ear because I had inserted the Yoruba word “Omoluwabi” to the tittle of this article.
Prof. Oluwole of blessed memory, who was a consistent figure in the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos. Everybody in the Faculty knew her and her ways.
She usually frowned at people for quoting European or American philosophers, sayings or idioms in articles. For her, Africans, especially Yorubas, have more than enough philosophers, philosophies and wise sayings to use in garnishing any piece of writing.
Now to my topic: Pastor Umo Eno is many things to many people, but there is no doubt that he is the kind of man that the Yorubas will call “Omoluwabi”.
An Omoluwabi is a person of honour who believes in hard work, respects the rights of others and gives to the community in deeds and action. In addition, an Omoluwabi is a person of integrity. Omoluwabi translates to that person who is a paragon of excellence in character.
Some of the principles usually exhibited by an Omoluwabi include: wisdom in the use of words, respect, compassion, truth, bravery and intelligence.
If we consider all these traits of an Omoluwabi, no one can argue that Pastor Umo Eno fits the bill perfectly, and Akwa Ibom is lucky to have such a man as Governor-elect.
From a very humble background, Pastor Eno began life in the barracks. His father, a police officer, died when he was finding his way in the world and thus, he had to grow up quickly.
When his mates left secondary and went on to higher institutions, he had to work to eke a living and augment the income of his parents.
So a lot of people, in today’s political arena, who have enjoyed what is now known as the “soft life” cannot relate to his kind of situation. They think it is odd for one to leave secondary school and bag a university degree 20 years later!
Pastor Eno had no hesitation putting his personal wants, aspirations and goals in abeyance and that was the Omoluwabi ethos at play.
For those who don’t know, after working for years, rising to the position of Group General Manager, he started his own business, Royalty Hotel, from scratch and has built it into a conglomerate of businesses, called Royalty Group.
His trajectory can be traced. He did not come into sudden wealth through government contracts or inherit wealth, he worked his way to the top through painstaking hard work, focus and the grace of God.
He was at a time the second highest employer of labour after the state government and very few people knew him.
He was savouring his busy but private life and enjoying his time as a seasoned entrepreneur, committed Church shepherd, dedicated father and grandfather.
When he was invited to become Executive Director, Directorate of Agricultural Investment, Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation by Governor Udom Emmanuel, he gave it his very best. One of his major achievements in the course of that assignment was the enumeration of all farmers in the state.
He thought that he would quickly conclude that duty like he did under Governor Victor Attah, when he was appointed Chairman, Akwa Ibom Hotels & Tourism Board and return to his normal life without drama.
That was not to be because not too long after, he was made Commissioner of Lands and Water Resources and even given the mandate to set up Ibom FADAMA Microfinance Bank. As Board Chairman, he helped midwife the bank.
It was barely one year in that office, that everything changed. While some were busy telling everyone that the position of governor was Ogun mi ni (It is my inheritance) and others were shouting emi lo kan (It is my turn) . Pastor Eno was probably humming some part of the refrain in Evangelist Ebenezer Obey’s popular song, Aimasiko, where the legendary musician sang, O ro mi lowo Oluwa lo wa (My destiny is in God’s hands)
Indeed, God changed the whole course of Pastor Eno’s life on January 30, 2022, when as he had promised, Governor Udom Emmanuel declared to a hall filled with Akwa Ibom’s crème de la crème that God has revealed that his successor will be Pastor Umo Eno.
Immediately the announcement was made that Sunday evening, the naysayers went to work. First, they queried the reason he had to kneel down to greet his political father, the governor. They made so much hullabaloo over the picture.
Pastor Umo did not say a word. Like an Omoluwabi, he knows full well what it is to be respectful and give respect to whom it is due.
The next line of attack was body shaming. He was said to be too fair-skinned. Imagine?
Anyway, at her birthday thanksgiving service, his dear wife, Pastor (Mrs.) Patience Umo Eno openly declared that his traducers can call him whatever, but he is her ‘Golden Boy”! The narrative changed immediately. What they thought would be used derisively, became a positive and popular sing song. The moniker has stuck till today.
That was not all, they claimed that a man who was Senior Prefect in his Victory High School, did not attend the school or possess a WAEC certificate. How preposterous!
The certificate lie, as laughable as it seemed, was taken all the way to the Supreme Court by a PDP aspirant and I am told that in the history of the state, no candidate has faced the avalanche of court cases that Pastor Umo Eno has faced.
Just imagine a man which such a sterling reputation and pedigree being riddled with all manner of nasty and hurtful lies.
Despite all the attacks, as an Omoluwabi, he was the one urging his supporters and campaign team to sheath the sword. He consistently told them to steer clear of any negative narrative and he too stayed on message.
He must have told himself that this assignment is bigger than himself, it is for the good of all and meant to connect the dots, while furthering peace and prosperity in the state.
Truth be told, Pastor Umo Eno was the hardest working candidate. Despite being from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which is the dominant party in the state, he took nothing to chance.
He began by paying consultation visits to prominent indigenes, political leaders, religious fathers and traditional rulers. He visited all three Senatorial Districts more than once in the course of the campaign.
Early enough as a man of vision, he gathered a team of experts and shared his thoughts about his aspirations for the state. Those forward-looking ideas were encapsulated in an economic blueprint document called the ARISE Agenda.
ARISE stands for Agricultural revolution, Rural development, Infrastructural maintenance/advancement, Security management & Educational advancement.
According to the document, he wants to expand and encourage Agri-business, create food security and sufficiency. Invest in crop, fishery and animal husbandry from raw material production, processing, off-taking, complete with storage and delivery facilities. While also exploring the huge job and wealth creation benefits of the blue economy.
Being a tourism investor, he wants to develop the shoreline for tourism purpose and make the state a tourists’ haven and hub. His target is to ensure people come and spend their money in the state.
He is very keen on rural development, women and youth empowerment and intends to stem the tide of rural-urban drift by providing facilities and incentives in the rural areas..
He believes that a secure environment is a fertile ground for growth and investments. It is also a fertile ground for sound ideas. Therefore, security will be a major priority.
His plans also include skills development and support for SMEs, while creating a conducive environment for investors to thrive.
His agenda also involves a deliberate policy of training people to fit into strategic sectors to ensure that available jobs are taken up by Akwa Ibomites. A more efficient and purpose-driven public service is also part of his plan. For Pastor Umo Eno, all he wants to see is a big leap in the economic wellbeing of the people.
He was the first candidate to make his people-centered vision public, a sign that he is a man of more action, less talk.
Little wonder that when he was asked why he settled for Pastor Eno, in a February 2022 interview, Governor Udom stated confidently: “ We were looking for my successor not a surrogate and he fits the bill. Umo Eno is a highly respected person; he has enormous capacity, is an epitome of humility, and is blessed with the common touch, a compelling story and is God-fearing.
“He is a successful entrepreneur who has employed our people, lifted thousands from poverty to prosperity. He has an economic blueprint that will further guarantee employment. His life story resonates with the story of most ordinary Akwa Ibom people”.
Governor Udom was spot on about his assessment because this serial investor is a man with competence, capacity, character and above all, compassion.
He is a serious-minded achiever, and that is why immediately after filling out and submitting his nomination forms, he again set up a body of experts who went round the LGAs on a needs assessment 6
Perhaps drawing from his experience as a Rotarian and member of Rotary International, he knows full well that by delivering projects that communities desire, he will be impacting their lives significantly and also ensuring sustainability of such a project.
He was therefore well informed when he began his campaign. He went to all 31 LGAs and each time, hit the mark with his message. He also visited critical organisations and groups, rounding it off with a bus tour. No other candidate achieved that feat. It was no surprise therefore, that his victory was overwhelming.
Despite the fact that the people spoke loudly and clearly on March 18, 2023, he immediately extended a hand of friendship to all, as an Omoluwabi.
His effort at rapprochement has been accepted by some, while others have gone to the tribunal to regurgitate worn out pre-election issues.
Though his olive branch is being rebuffed, he has remained cool and calm.
The reason for his cool mien could have been explained by Prof. Oluwole as Pastor Eno showing his traducers that Bi bi re o se fo wo ra , meaning, good upbringing or breeding is priceless. It cannot be bought with money.
Thus, because of his upbringing and parental training, as they go low, he, as Michelle Obama stated, has decided to go high.
As he prepares for his inauguration and swearing in on May 29, 2023, Pastor Eno, his Deputy Governor-elect, Senator Akon Eyakenyi and team are firmly focused on the task of ushering in the golden years and creating the enabling environment for the people to enjoy happy hours of achievements in different spheres of their lives. For him as a true Omoluwabi, it is forward ever, backward never.
Effiong, a journalist, is the Editor, Ovation International Magazine