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Friday, April 30, 2021

Transition of a Titan: Late Senator Etang Edet Umoyo

On February 13, 2021, Sen. Etang Edet Umoyo, a Titan and Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic, transitioned into eternal glory. Death is a phenomenon shrouded in mystery that is beyond human comprehension. Yet, the not-so-mysterious dimension of the phenomenon is our acute awareness of the inevitability of death as a debt that all mortals must pay. The perennial intriguing  question is not “if╦« but “when”. It is only God, the Creator of life and death, who knows when the debt becomes due--from the poor or rich; weak or strong;  young or old; and the wicked or righteous. Our awareness of its inevitability, however, does not assuage our agonizing sentiment about the brutality and cruelty of death that laid its filthy fangs  on Sen. Umoyo, our own Cicero and Solomon of our time!  That said, we must thank God for his  life of service, generosity, principle, honor, dignity, and integrity that he bequeathed to us as his enduring legacies. His template of life well lived is worthy of our emulation and celebration! 

The essence of life is not how long one lived, but what one accomplished. The life and time of Sen. Umoyo were marked by spectacular accomplishments. A graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he not only knew history; he also made history. In 1984, at the prime age of 34,  he made history as the first Commissioner from Esit Eket. He  also emerged as the first Ekid indigene to be the Senator of  Eket Senatorial District. While his death has robbed our  community of its political avatar, however, his enormous  contributions to the socioeconomic development of Esit Eket/Eket LGAs, Eket Senatorial District, Akwa Ibom State, Niger Delta region, and Nigeria as a whole all are indelible legacies that will continue to loom large in the discourse of the political evolution and transformation at every stratum of our society.

I had not met Sen. Umoyo in person until 2014, in Washington, D.C.,  when he was invited to Eket Development Congress USA, INC, event as a Distinguished Guest of Honor.  That was an eventful year when political gladiators were angling for positions in different strata of the Nigerian political firmament. In Akwa Ibom State (AKS), forces were bent on upending the  hitherto political consensus of zoning the governorship among the three Senatorial Districts,  beginning from Uyo--USD (Gov. Attah, 1999-2007); Ikot Ekpene--ISD  (Gov. Akpabio, 2007-20015); and Eket--ESD (?) The year 2015 was the turn for a candidate from ESD to occupy the governorship.  But individuals from USD were diametrically opposed to ESD’s turn in their quest to actualize their gubernatorial  ambition. It was in this context that Sen. Umoyo was invited to address us in Diaspora.

With historical facts and evidence on  his fingertip, Sen. Umoyo made us proud when he  eloquently articulated  why  ESD should and must produce a governor in 2015. He narrated the date, venue, and dramatis personae  who were present when consensus  was reached for governorship to be zoned, first, to USD, followed by ISD, and then ESD. In one shot, he demolished the farcical arguments of the historical revisionists and tautology of political merchants that PDP had never zoned governorship in AKS. He interrogated why ESD that generated stupendous amount of revenue for the country and the state should not produce governor when it was its agreed-upon turn? The ovation was deafening as our Cicero mesmerized the audience and held it spellbound.

Sen. Umoyo was an icon of the first order; a legendary patriot with stature and moral compass; and a man of impeccable integrity. Throughout his adult life and time, he utilized his intellectual capital to pursue the course of equity, fairness, and justice. This is why he was at the vanguard of the struggle for derivation revenue in the interim, and eventually resource control, as an irreducible fair deal for the Niger Delta region in the Nigerian commonwealth of ethnic nationalities. Unfortunately, however, the tremendous benefits of his apostolic crusade for derivation revenue that has been accruing to AKS has not cascaded to his Ekid Nation. He has been at loggerhead with ExxonMobil for its ecological catastrophes in Eket and its lack of corporate social responsibility in the area.  He was one of the pioneers of  the Pan Niger Delta Forum, and chairman of its chapter  in AKS. 

Sen. Umoyo was a savvy and pragmatic politician of uncompromising principles. In private and public life, he exuded confident consistency.  Unlike many Nigerian politicians who play Thomases in the day and Nicodemuses in the night, Sen. Umoyo was unshaken by the tsunami of political self-aggrandizement and monetization of politics. Faithful to the credo of late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of the defunct GNPP, Sen. Umoyo engaged in politics without bitterness. His intellectual acumen and high ethical dispositions were reinforced by his fearless ability to take the bull by the horn and speak truth to power. His unimpeachable epistemic authority often paralyzed his political foes and rendered them quivering at his towering presence. These are the reasons  he was revered as the embodiment of the wisdom of Solomon and epitome of the oratorical prowess of Cicero.


In all he did, Sen. Umoyo neither craved recognition nor sought appreciation. As a legend in his own right, he was a man of virtue, who opened his whole life to public inspection. We are confident that he had accomplished the tasks  God assigned him on earth, and is gone to have deserved rest in the Lord. As he transitioned into glory, we could hear him reechoing Apostle Paul:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  The family and our community  he left behind would take consolations in the words of Job (1:21): “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

As a legend, Sen. Etang Edet Umoyo lives on!

© Prof. Felix M. Edoho, Ph.D.


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