It was a carnival of sort as prominent sons and daughters of Akwa Ibom State and beyond bestrode the less busy Ikot Ukpong in Abak to witness the terrestrial farewell of a cultural music maestro, Uko Akpan Ekpo Umana on Friday.
Uko Akpan, 93, as he was famously known, was conferred with a Doctor of Music Honoris Causa by the University of Uyo in 2018 in recognition of his musical prowess.
The funeral service conducted by the Sanctified Mount Zion, Ikot Ukpong, Afaha Obong was held at St. Andrew’s Primary School, Ikwek, Afaha Obong in Abak Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
At the colourful ceremony, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State Governor described Uko Akpan as a hero who would be greatly missed for his commitment to promoting African culture, uniting the older and younger generations.
Emmanuel represented by his Deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo urged the bereaved family to sustain the virtues of peace, love and unity which their father advocated in his songs.
In his stunning tribute, Godswill Akpabio, Nigeria’s Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, said “The loss of a legend like the late Chief Uko Akpan could be agonizing but take solace in the fact that till death your father was a foremost cultural music icon who dedicated his life to putting smiles on the faces of humanity through his genre of music.
“It is also to his credit that he expanded the frontiers of cultural music beyond the shores of Nigeria. Notably, the late culture icon had put up an outstanding performance in the National Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.
”It was in recognition of his talent that although he had no formal education, the University of Uyo awarded him the highest academic honour with the award of Doctor of Music (Honoris Causa).”
Akpabio who was Akwa Ibom Governor from 2007 to 2015 declared ‘’The legacies he has left behind are mementoes that will remain evergreen in the memories of those who knew him or listened to his music. The late Chief Uko Akpan will be sorely missed but he will continue to live in our hearts through his evergreen music.
“We know that this is a difficult time for the entire Uko Akpan family, and the people that he mentored and inspired. But remember that death is only the end of the physical life and the beginning of eternal glory.”
Akpabio who was also a Senator prayed ‘’God to grant the family, the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.”
Not left out in the tributes galore, Martha Udom Emmanuel, wife of Akwa Ibom State Governor described the late cultural cum music Icon, Chief Uko Akpan Ekpo Umanah as a man who used his artistic prowess to build bridges across board.
She said the late music maestro through his illustrious musical career which spanned over seven decades, promoted peace, unity and progress in the state and urged all to emulate his legendary legacies.
Emmanuel, a holder of Doctor Honoris Causa, posited that late Uko Akpan was a great man who explored his God-given talent to the fullest.
“God gave us a father with such unrivalled, artistic potentials. His songs are laced with deep connotation. His stance on morals and attitudinal principles are all captured in his lyrics, I must say that Akwa Ibom has missed a great Icon of music,” she remarked.
To the bereaved family, the First Lady encouraged them to emulate their late patriarch by living together in love and honesty, saying his demise should not relegate what he stood for to the background.
“I urge you all to continue to live in peace and love one another. Let his demise not cause any friction in the family,” she said.
The governor’s wife also used the event to call on all to give their lives to Christ, pointing out that all that matters is where one spends his eternity after the earthly sojourn.
Federal and State legislators, socio-cultural groups, political groups, religious groups and a host of others graced the funeral.
In 1977, he was one of the prominent artistes selected to participate in the African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) in Lagos. In 1983, he won and received an award at the Zonal Cultural Competition organised by Cross River State Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture.
In 1983, he received a certificate of honour from the National Association of Annang Students (NAAS) in appreciation of his work in promoting Annang folklore and advancement of the culture of the people. The National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students (NAAKIS) also honoured him with an Award for Excellence. Ikot Ekpene Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture recognised him for uplifting the cultural standards of the Akwa Ibom people and Nigeria.
In 1987, Abak Traditional Rulers Council conferred on him the chieftaincy title of Èķêrê Abak. In 1990, the Annang nation upgraded the title to Èķêrê Annang. The Akwa Ibom Traditional Rulers Council thought that he was too iconic to be seen as an ethnic champion, and so elevated him to Èķêrê Akwa Ibom. The title Èķêrê is derived from a special metal gong with peculiar sonorous sound. So, the title means the sonorous voice of Akwa Ibom.
He was variously described as Ubők Udom Ajiârâ Ekpe, Mkpo ide Abak, Mkpâ Uto Annang and Èķêrê Akwa Ibom.
In the year 2000, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, the umbrella socio-cultural association of Ibibio youths, gave him a recognition award while Ati Annang, the umbrella body of Annang youths inducted him into the Annang Hall of fame. They also gave him the Heritage Prize award. Annang is the second largest ethnic nationality in Akwa Ibom State.
Chief Uko Akpan died on February 3, 2020.
Some of his prominent songs include Tum kere, Isua Kaa o, Asana Edet, Titia aku kpep, Mkpo anam, Nse ajen ayaya ntom, Se ukpono se ajen Akpono Ette, Nse awo Anam Ari duku ufun, Anyie awo eku abogho, Mkpa asong anyen abogho, Naira Udorji, Edeme ema awo inogho Uko’kpan and Mwon Onyon.