By Udeme Nana
The cobwebs this time were not woven by spiders and were not formed from the dust. The cobwebs, the unpleasant silky barrier, were negative notions and perceptions that were held tight by a lot of people.
Some people believed he was a snob, distant, not possessed with the milk of human kindness; a man, who, while at the commanding height of ExxonMobil as a Director, Executive director and ultimately Vice Chairman of the Company’s Subsidiaries in Nigeria failed to “do anything for his people” but rather sacked fellow indigenes from the multinational oil company during his tour of duty.
Notions, particularly negative ones, can be as thick and black as the dark cloud which portends a mighty rainfall. They also form thick barriers which create gaps between people at all levels.
But Udom Inoyo’s face-to-face engagement with hundreds of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State council on Friday, July 30 punctured the nimbus and cleared the cobwebs.
He talked about how he created UFOK, a medium he used to spread the word among indigenes and create awareness about job opportunities in ExxonMobil to encourage qualified indigenes to apply. He talked about setting up the Inoyo Toro Foundation which in the past 13 years has spent more than N400 million to empower students and teachers in Akwa Ibom State.
Although he did not mention his support for the fight popularised as “resource control” which success resulted in the payment of 13 per cent derivation fund to states in the Niger Delta that led to greatly enhance the revenue profile of his own state, the journalists had heard of it from the grapevine. The interface served as an eye-opener and had the effect on the journalists like that of the blind man who exclaimed “I was blind, now I see.”
A journalist, Kufre Etuk shortly after the encounter, wrote on his Facebook page “after listening to Mr Udom Inoyo for good number of minutes, my perception about him changed when he finished his presentation. I felt guilty for not giving him a fair hearing all the while.”
The confession by Etuk cements the wisdom that nobody should believe a negative story or hold a wrong perception about a fellow man until one experiences the person. There are many out there who hold wrong notions about others or things they know absolutely nothing about.
What also came out in bold relief was the crying need for role models as the bedrock for the transformation of our society.
For Udom Inoyo, his late father was such a compelling influence in his formative years. His words, “My father lived a life of hard work, contentment, integrity, and the fear of God. He walked the talk on several fronts. As a committed Christian and an Elder in Qua Iboe Church Nigeria, he knew that the most effective way to evangelise was through the power of personal example.”
Describing the character of his father with a few illustrations that transpired while he was alive, Mr. Inoyo enumerated that: “as the pioneer Company Secretary/Chief Accountant of the erstwhile Cross River State Housing Corporation, Calabar, and later the Acting Head of Corporation, he had only a plot of land.
”No property was warehoused in the name of his wife and seven children. Even later, when he would facilitate the establishment of today’s Ewet Housing Estate in Uyo, he had no plot of land allocated to him.”
“As one entrusted by the late Brigadier-General Udoakagha Jacob Esuene, military Governor of the defunct South-Eastern State, to set up the State Treasury shortly after the Nigerian civil war, he made sure that no money was missing.
”He was so prudent that on one of his several trips to Port Harcourt to collect the state’s allocation from the Central Bank of Nigeria, there were insufficient funds to settle the hotel bills of the security escorts. Rather than resort to the unauthorized use of government money in his possession, he made a personal pledge to settle the indebtedness on his next trip.”
Juxtaposing the lifestyle of his father and what obtains today, Mr. Inoyo opined that “I know that today, some of us would consider his actions unwise, and he may even be abused for blocking the chances of others. But I thank God he lived that way. When he died, there was unanimity about the epitaph on his tombstone: Chief (Dr.) Uko Inoyo, a man of Faith and servant of God. He stood for what was right, even if it meant standing alone.”
No wonder, Mr Udom Uko Inoyo worked hard, with integrity and discipline and for more than three decades in ExxonMobil, retiring without a cloud around him. One wonders how many out there can still stand tall after the test of rigorous scrutiny.
Dr. Nana is the founder of Uyo Book Club