Mr. Aniekpeno Mkpanang is the Permanent Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He is the brain behind the Carol Night, an annual event sponsored by the state government that won a spot as the largest gathering of carol singers in the Guinness Book of Records in 2014.
In November 2018, Mkpanang came face-to-face with death. However, he survived it. Recently in a thanksgiving service to thank God for sparing his life in his country home, Ikot Akpa Nkuk in Ukanafun local government of the state, the Permanent Secretary narrated in details how he escaped death in a strange land. Those present at the event were top clergymen, prayer groups, as well as family members and friends.
I am grateful to all of you that have come. I did not want to make this a public show of ostentation; I did not want people to eat and dine and forget the essence of the event. I am the one who was involved and I know how deep it was for me, which is why I had to call a special group of people to come. This special group of people are people who have been helping me to grow by sacrificing their time to pray for me. They were praying for me not to die; they were praying for me to make progress, to succeed and to move on. If I have survived what happened, this should be the first set of people I should invite to tell them to join me to thank God who has answered their prayers and preserved me.
I have learnt from the Bible that intercession is a divine command. God urges us to bear one another’s burden. Some of you go extra miles to pray for others. It is recorded in the Bible that “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him,” (James 5:14-15). This goes to show the importance of the priests and elects in the affairs of ordinary people. For those of you who have heeded the divine command, I am grateful to you. That is why I first called you. Others will still hear this testimony because journalists and online influencers are here.
People who heard that I was dead are going to hear that I’m still alive through the same means they heard the false news. I thank the Prelate, Prof. Isaiah Issong for the homily he has given. There came a particular day that I thought I would die because the pains became too excruciating and I started having hallucinations, but God was in control. You (Prelate Issong) want to live for 120 years; I want to live for 110 years. I have lived for 58 so far, 52 years is left now. Even though many people may think that 52 years is too short, but it is a very long time. It is long enough for you to repent, reorganise and reposition yourself for the life after.
If I had died, I do not think I would have faired very well in the after life, but in 52 years, I should be able to find my depth with God; I should be able to completely change my life and get to a point I can flow in the spiritual realm and be sure that when I die, I will die well. If you hear that I am dead in 2071, you are free to believe then; until then, nothing will happen to me. I had asked that they make a white bed and put in one of the rooms that I built by God’s grace. I asked them to make the walls white too so that in 2071, I will be sleeping there every night knowing that anything can happen any day.
I left Nigeria in good health on the 15th of November, 2018. Before then, I had gone to check my blood pressure and my doctor marveled at the stability of my blood pressure considering the load of work that I do. With that, I didn’t even think of hospital when I left. I only thought that I was traveling and that I would return as usual. The activity I went for was in Zurich, Switzerland. I went to defend my Ph.d dissertation in International Event Management at Robert Kennedy Business School, Zurich. I didn’t do the course to get a job because I should have retired in 2018 but the Governor graciously retained my services on contract basis. I was told to make the annual Christmas Carol Night better, so I had to go to learn more. I believe that that event will become an international event someday.
So, I went to read International Event Management to be able to manage the event properly. It was an interesting course which I did online from home. Eventually I went for the dissertation. It was a very hectic programme; you woke up by 6 a.m and by 8 a.m. on the dot, the professors are there. You won’t go back from then until 8 or 9 p.m. because of a series of interactions and workshops and other related on-the-spur of the moment assessments. I thank God that I didn’t fall sick throughout the one week I spent in Switzerland. I wonder what would have happened to me if I had fallen sick there. As God would have it, I survived the residency programme.
When I was done, I needed to get to London where I was hoping to meet with Sonnie Badu to come and minister at the carol service. He is a great young man who has a gift of worship. We were looking at turning the Carol festival to something that will give God more glory. You know I wouldn’t be considered if spiritually minded people were to be nominated to run the service because I am not up to your spiritual level. However, it pleased God to choose me, which makes me believe that I am on a special assignment. So, we thought that people should not just come to the service and leave empty, but should leave with the touch of the Almighty God. Sonnie Baddu has that gift as one of the latter-day ministers when it comes to worship. I was particular and I needed to get him. I was told he needed to be at Huddersfield, England.
From Zurich, I crossed to London and took a train to Huddersfield. I was very fine all the while. But while I was in the train to Huddersfield on a three-hour journey, I felt a serious sharp pain in my stomach. The pain was very excruciating that I couldn’t lift my hands, legs or any part of my body. A station before the one we were supposed to alight, I decided to stop because I realised that that was a shorter route of about 10 minutes to get to my destination. I stopped there at about past 11 p.m. Little did I know that the railway staff of the station I stopped were on a one-day strike. All the announcements that were made while I was inside the train warning against stopping at that station if one would not have any assistance, I did not hear because of my condition.
After alighting from the train, I stood there in the serious cold of the winter and I didn’t see anybody to assist me. I couldn’t lift my legs or any part of my body. I had two bags with me. I needed to climb a staircase to get to the rail station proper from where I was dropped. There I stood with my luggage with no one to help. I had to drag one bag up and return for the other amidst the severe pains and cold. That activity took me almost an hour to complete. You can only imagine the pain I went through. Everywhere was dark and there was not a single soul I could ask for assistance. I stood there for over 30 minutes before I noticed a car approaching. I lifted my hand and the car pulled over. The driver said “I’m stopping because you are black. They don’t like blacks. They don’t like us. I’m a Lebanese; they don’t like us. If it was in the day and they saw you, they would have called the police and for one reason or the other, you would not go free.” He asked where I was headed and I told him Huddersfield and he asked me to get it. I got in but he didn’t move. He said “I still don’t know why I came out. I was in the house watching TV and I told my father I needed some fresh air and my father asked ‘fresh air in winter at 2 a.m?’ In the part of the country where I come from, we respect our elders but I had to ignore my father and drive out. I didn’t even know where I was going to until I arrived here. When I saw you, I wanted to stop before you stopped me.” He drove me from there to a hotel I could lodge at Huddersfield and left. That was the day I could have died. Everything that could make something die happened to me- my hands and legs grew numb, I couldn’t sit or walk properly, but God sent someone to take me from there and I survived that night.
When I checked in at the hotel, there was a lift by the reception that could have taken me to the third floor where my room was, but in the condition that I was, I couldn’t find it. I had to use the staircase. I would carry one bad up and return for the other. In all of these, I was still feeling a strong pain in my stomach. I started wondering what may have caused it because it couldn’t have been what I ate at Zurich. Our meals there were properly done. It took me about three hours to get to the third floor where my room was. That was the day I could have died. I could have died in that hotel but God saved me. Friday came and I couldn’t leave the room. I still couldn’t leave the room on Saturday that I was supposed to meet with Sonnie Badu. That is how we lost him at the last carol festival. I didn’t eat or communicate with anybody the whole time. I was just in pains. I saw Sonnie Badu’s Whatsapp messages months after where he said he waited for me and would love to be part of the programme.
On Sunday, I managed to get myself to the train station but two particular trains that I was supposed to join passed while I was still standing there but I couldn’t join because of my condition. A shuttle train which headed to London came and I managed to drag myself to join and arrived at about 4 a.m. If I had joined the other two trains, I would have arrived minutes before midnight. I was supposed to stop at Terminal 2 but they passed there because I couldn’t speak or lift my body. The train returned and passed terminal 2 again and I was still in there. They left the airport area completely before I could drag myself to carry my hand up and I was stopped. I was to join a bus back to where I should have stopped but I was told that no bus would carry me from where I stood. I had to move forward. I stood there for over an hour in that freezing cold and couldn’t find a bus because there the buses close by 3 a.m. and resume by 5 a.m. I could have died that day too because the cold was too much and I couldn’t even find a place to sit.
Eventually, a bus came and picked me but we passed terminal 2 again and I couldn’t see it. The bus returned and passed the second time and I still couldn’t speak to ask him to drop me. When the driver noticed I was the only one left in the bus, he asked me to go down that he was going to hand over the vehicle to another driver. I managed to tell the driver I was sick and he helped me to take down my luggage while looking at me suspiciously. I went down from the bus, but again, that was the wrong side of the road. The road is fitted with rails that you can’t cross over. You have to walk to a nearby U-turn where you can cross over and stand where a taxi can take you. Eventually I could locate a U-turn. I waited for a taxi but every taxi that passed at the time were occupied.
Then I saw one coming and I lifted up my hand and it pulled over a bit distant from where I stood. I had to use my last strength to drag my bags and rum to it because I didn’t want it to leave me. I threw my bags in and I proceeded to lie down inside the taxi. When the driver asked what was wrong with me, I told him I was cold and he turned on the car heater. He later discovered it was more than cold, so he drove at a very alarming speed so that I wouldn’t die inside his taxi. When he dropped me off, it took me minutes to see where I put money because my hands were shaking and I couldn’t see properly. At a point he was frustrated and wanted to leave but I found one Pound eventually and I gave it to him. I told him I didn’t want change but he insisted to give it to me. He gave me my change, helped me take down my luggage and zoomed off.
I dragged myself into terminal 2 and got to the airport but the Turkish airlines did not open their counter until 7 a.m and my flight was by 9 a.m. I was supposed to fly first to Istanbul. Through my stay in the airport, I forced myself to smile because I didn’t want people to be suspicious of me if I wore a long face. Earlier, the woman who checked me in had pronounced my name as “Mkpaganga” and I had jokingly said it was the right way of pronouncing my name. That was what saved me. I was lying down at the executive lounge when they called for boarding but I didn’t hear. That woman that checked me in heard “Mkpaganga” over the speakers repeatedly and she remembered I went to the lounge. She came there, quite unusual, and tapped me where I was lying down. She helped me with my luggage to the plane. I entered and we took off.
When we got to Istanbul, I met a Nigerian who noticed my poor health and offered to assist. He arranged for a wheelchair for me and pushed me to the plane and waited for me till I boarded. The idea was that I would get to know him when we got to Lagos but it was not possible. I couldn’t know his name or get his phone number. May God bless him wherever he is. When I got into the plane, I was asked what was wrong with me and I told them I had a severe headache. They used the speakers and asked if there was any doctor on board but there was no response. Twenty minutes into the flight, I started shaking until I passed out. When I woke up from my coma, I realised that I was taken from my 4B seat to 1B seat. I heard them announce to other passengers on board that one of the passengers was terminally ill; that they were going to make a stop at Malta to check me in for treatment.
When I heard that, I protested that I should be taken to Nigeria straight because I needed to return to plan the carol service. They insisted and stopped at Malta. When we got there, three ambulances were already waiting for me. If we had proceeded to Lagos, I wouldn’t have made it because of what I was later told about my health. I cannot count how many people I have given money to go and treat appendix. I could not imagine I would have such a sickness. Unfortunately, I was taken to the hospital. They did an x-ray and then a scan and started running around and screaming “ruptured appendix, terminal point, red alert. He has 15 minutes to live.” I just heard them say that while I was lying there. I remember them bringing a document for me to sign so that they would operate on me. That is all I could remember before I passed out again.
By the time I woke up, I saw one of the hospital staff seated by me and I asked him when they would do the operation. He asked me if I was still feeling the pains and I responded that I wasn’t at the moment. By the time I looked down at myself, I saw pipes fixed in my stomach and my nostrils. About seven pipes. Then he told me that I was operated upon and that it was successful. He told me I had a ruptured appendix. I was taken to a ward where I was isolated.
While I was there, I had a series of hallucination. I saw myself in a room with many bald-headed people. The room was completely filled with people. I stood in the middle of them defending myself. I talked till I became very lean, but no one would listen to me. I saw two people sitting like the leaders. One looked very wicked and the other looked like he was smiling, but when I looked at him, he would turn his face away. I had constant hallucinations throughout my three weeks of stay in that hospital. I could not think or do anything because each time I closed my eyes, the hallucinations would start.
After the three weeks, I needed to return to join the rehearsals for the Carol festival. The doctors wanted me to stay three more weeks. When I heard them discuss that, I shouted that I needed to leave immediately because I had to join the Carol service. Three more weeks meant the end of December. I started strike. I refused to eat for days. So, against medical advice, the doctors signed and released me to leave. I had to go in an air ambulance that costs US$170,000 because no regular airline would carry me. Meanwhile, because of the acidic nature of the ruptured appendix, all my intestines rolled into a ball. Nothing could go in and nothing could come out. Instead of doing that operation, they stitched me up and left me.
When I arrived Nigeria, some doctors were already waiting for me and they took me to the hospital. For some reason, the doctor who took care of me developed a cold feet because he thought that I was going to be okay. Eventually, I joined the rehearsals for the carol service. I was pushed around in a wheel chair. I heard that people said that I had died; so on the day of the carol service, I managed to come out to read the welcome address to prove to them that I was not dead. A day after the event, I was in for another operation. The operation started by 11 p.m. and lasted till about 6 a.m. the following morning- the longest operation the doctors have ever experienced. Yet, they bore the pains and stood to do it. I don’t want to talk about the many complications in between. Eventually as God would have it, I survived the operation and I left the hospital.
Before I started working at Gvernment House, I came home to meet my sister, Elizabeth, and asked her to be praying for me in the village while I was in Uyo working. If I tell you what I passed through in Government House, you will not believe it. Even the people I could call my brothers stood up against me.
People started different prayer groups to pray for me to get well. Who am I that these Bishops would take it upon themselves to be praying for me? They just called themselves together to start praying for me. They sent me a warning that they didn’t need anything from me except just praying for me every second Tuesday of the month. Who am I that I would have that number of people forming groups to pray for? I am here to say that I thank God for what He has done. What you people heard was almost true. The day I thought that I was going to die, God decreed that I shall not die and I didn’t die. Even when I returned from the hospital, I couldn’t do anything. I used walking stick and was pushed around with wheelchair. I called you here to inform you that God has heard your prayers and has preserved me.
I thank the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. He showed himself to be a man of God. He called the hospital several times. When I came back, the governor left all that he has to do to see me in my house in Uyo and stayed with and prayed for me for a long time. What have I done for him to deserve such? He already retained my services after my retirement without application and now this. It will be difficult for me to forget what he did. I remember also when I was in the hospital, the first lady, Martha came. From the minute she came to the hospital, she held my hand encouraging and praying for me for three hours before leaving. I thank all the Bishops here for finding me worthy to be prayed for.
See photos of the thanksgiving service below;