Akparawa Patrick Godwin Udofia is the 10th international president of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, a pragmatic, charismatic and purposeful leader of one of the most vibrant and prestigious socio-cultural associations with branches in over 66 countries of the world.
Akparawa Udofia who also doubles as the senior special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on inter-cultural activities, in this exclusive interview with Crystal Express speaks on the life and times of his late mother, the activities of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Akwa Ibom State and Governor Udom Emmanuel, among other salient issues.
Let us meet sir.
My name is Akparawa (Obong) Patrick Edwin Udofia, the international president of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio. I am also the senior special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on inter socio-cultural activities. I am also the president-general of all the socio-cultural organizations in Akwa Ibom State, which include Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Ati Annang, Nto Afe Annang, Afigh Iwaad Ekid, Kpadia Obollo, Esu Nlap Oro, and the Oro Union. We operate and stabilize the state for our brother, Akparawa Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, to deliver the dividends of democracy, especially the completion agenda. In my village, I am the Obong Ekpuk Nna Itina (the head of Ekpuk Nna Itina); a member of the village council and also Eduek Ikot Obio Inyang. These are titles the village conferred on me and asked me to take them to Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio to become the international president which equally informed them that I came from a good background.
Before your present jobs, you must have had a successful career somewhere?
Yes. I worked with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and have served in Port Harcourt Refinery; Pipelines and Products Marketing Company headquarters at Abuja and also at the Eleme Depot in Rivers State where I eventually retired as head, finance and accounts. I put in 35 years of service to the Federal Government through the NNPC and after my retirement, I returned home to add value to my community and state.
Recently, Akwa Ibom celebrated 33 years of statehood. How will you rate the journey so far?
The state is doing very well. Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio is also 33 years plus just like the state. Akwa Ibom has been blessed with very productive leaders. The leaders have added a lot of values to the state at different times and presently we have Akparawa Udom Gabriel Emmanuel who is creating a lot of job opportunities for the teeming youths of Akwa Ibom State with the Ibom Airline, the Ibom Deep Seaport, the revolution in agricultural sector, the just-approved petroleum free trade zone and so many others. The incumbent governor has added much value to the state such as the 21-storey intelligent building ready for occupation by the international oil companies and none of them can now claim that Akwa Ibom does not have the necessary facilities to accommodate them. We have so many industries now and my major concern is for our children to take advantage of the new opportunities and the coming ones by going to school to read relevant courses to fit into the opening opportunities. When for instance I see pilots flying our Ibom Air I see names of people from other nationalities not Akwa Ibom State. It is also time to see our youths take advantage of opportunities in the aviation industry. Our youths should go and study relevant courses to take advantage of things Governor Emmanuel is bringing into the state. It takes about five years to produce a commercial pilot but it is in our interest that our children take charge soonest. We are here to support the governor as Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio to make sure the state moves forward. I am really impressed with the governor’s revolution in agriculture. Our people are now deeply involved in agriculture and are producing various food crops. Personally I am also into farming and most of the garri and other food crops we eat at home are produced from my farm. I don’t buy much from the market.
How do you rate the state’s development before the coming of Governor Udom Emmanuel?
I said earlier that our past leaders added serious values to the state. Before the state was created, we all stayed in Calabar as the state capital of the then Cross River State, with Uyo as a mere council headquarters. But today we have a fast growing cosmopolitan state. We have had our sons in the governance of the state. Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga did the magnificent state secretariat which till date is one of best in the country. He had a short stint in government but did lots of popular projects. Obong Victor Attah came, did so much, fought for the resource control and his efforts paid off with the removal of onshore/offshore oil dichotomy and we got our due from the federation account. However, the benefits of his efforts came during the Senator Akpabio’s era. Attah planted, Akpabio harvested. Akparawa (Obong) Godswill Akpabio added lots of values to the state. He created lots of roads and built infrastructure. He did a lot of investments and consolidated on the foundations laid by Obong Victor Attah. Recall also that Obong Attah started the international airport project and also built the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort; and so many others. Our past leaders in a very short time have built massive infrastructure in our dear state which surpass what is obtainable presently from some older states. Presently we have the man of the moment, Akparawa Udom Emmanuel, who has shown leadership. Akwa Ibom leaders ensure even-distribution of power to give every segment a sense of belonging and due recognition. Obong Victor Attah from Uyo Senatorial District had his tenure and handed over power to Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District with Obong Godswill Akpabio as beneficiary and Akpabio on completion of his tenure further took power to Eket Senatorial District and we have the sitting governor, Akparawa Udom Emmanuel, as the beneficiary and he is working. We have no friction or problem in power sharing and giving every segment their opportunity to serve the state. We are one family and brothers in Akwa Ibom which informed why the state has been very stable and also making progress.
How has it been leading an international organization like Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio with many branches around the world?
In Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio we have about 66 chapters presently all over the world and about 34,000 members. We also have about eight un-inaugurated chapters because it is a process. In our large association we have people across all kinds of interests and even political parties. We have people in all kinds of professions: from medical, military, special forces, business and everywhere.
The condition to becoming a member is that you must be up to 21 years of age and must also have a source of livelihood. We don’t bring in applicants into the association because they may not be able to pay dues or little contributions that may be required from time to time. We bring in people who are ready to work, not necessarily minding their age once they are still energetic and can add value to the system like Professor Edet Emekuo who is a lecturer based in Houston. We in unison support the state selflessly. Our biggest benefit is knowing one another and sharing brotherhood. Every second Sunday of each month we meet, contribute and support the association and that informs the level of development at Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio today. We have a befitting secretariat which no other socio-cultural group has and the secretariat has a guest wing with about 23 guest suites. We have about five different halls, the largest in the state that can sit more than 5000 people comfortably in conference setting. We thank our brother, Obong Victor Attah, who relocated us from our old site to the new land which we built on today. We appreciate all those who supported us to put up that structure. It was a massive collective effort. It is on record that we are the only socio-cultural organization with our own school. We have a crèche, nursery, primary and high school known as Mboho Unity Schools at Idu-Uruan. We are working on having a university there. We are working to ensure the unity, progress and stability of our dear state. We are the fourth largest group in the entire nation and should be seen as a progressive people moving their state forward. That is what Mboho has been doing and we are determined to succeed.
Recently there was a conflicting statement on your position on the issue of creating additional state from the present Akwa Ibom State. Can you put the records straight?
I met with a cross-section of the press recently and after our discussion I saw a very misleading news attributed to me and I refuted it and put the records straight. My true position was not reflected. They alleged that the Ibibio back new state creation for Annang and Oro people which was not true. What I said is that every person or group is entitled to his or their opinion, especially in a democratic dispensation; and as a fact, if there is need for a new state from the present Akwa Ibom State, the three ethnic groups of Ibibio, Annang and Oro will sit and discuss as a family. We are one united family. The publication being circulated gives the impression that our brothers of Annang and Oro people are not comfortable being in the present day Akwa Ibom State whereas it is not true because they have equal opportunities socially, economically and politically. They have no reason to feel bad. If there is any issue we can all sit at a roundtable and amicably resolve it. Thus I disclaim that publication in its entirety because it was purposely done to cause disunity in the state which we are strongly against.
You gave your departed mother a befitting burial for a life well spent. Could you speak on her life and times while on earth?
We are from the royal house and a blessed family. God has been very good to us. My late mother lived from 1929-2020 which is 91 years. The Scripture says 70 years is the number and anything additional should be appreciated. God has been good to us to have spared her and given her the opportunity to live well. My mother went to school up to Standard Two and in those days our parents laid less emphasis on female children’s educational training, so she stopped at that. She lived a very virtuous and Christian life. She started with Qua Iboe Church which came very early to our community and later changed to The Apostolic Church where she ended as a deaconess. She was a practising Christian, open to everybody and mother to all. She was privileged to see her great grandchildren. I miss her special cooking, especially the efere usung ikpong with ibat, which was prepared with clay pot and firewood which tasted better than the ones prepared with modern metal pot and gas cooker. My mother, after serving you food, would sit by your side to ensure you were enjoying the meal while telling you various stories which made the food more appetizing. She was a symbol of godliness and ensured we’re very strong in faith and in Christianity. We the children decided to give her a most befitting burial in celebration of her life well spent and all she did for us to succeed while on earth. She left to Calabar where she worked as a seamstress and also farmed. She was in love with farming and trading. She lived in Iwuru at Akamkpa, Cross River State, till her demise. She loved the place and only visited us from time to time. She was also an obonganwan. When she fell sick, we did all we could to bring her back to her feet but unfortunately her time was up. We thank God for giving us all the opportunity to bid her welfare rather than her mourning our demise. We are grateful to the Almighty God for her life on earth. However, be it as it may, we still miss her and strongly feel her absence occasioned by her demise.
How has the union between your now late parents influenced your life today?
My late father was a disciplinarian who used the cane to correct your mistakes while my mother would verbally advise you and use facial expression to reprimand you when disobeying her advice. She kept encouraging us to be united and love one another. She also advised us to support one another and grow together. That helped us to grow as a family and mutually use our material blessings together. In our compound you don’t know who owns a particular car as we use one another’s vehicle freely. In our family the coming back of my father to the house put everybody on their toes as he was a disciplinarian while my mother was very soft. That was the difference between them.
What was her relationship like with the women in your community?
Her relationship with women in the communities was very cordial right from Iwuru, and that was why she was given the title of obonganwan. She crossed into leadership of men. There were times she gave sermons to men who went astray and when you saw she was of your grandmother’s age, you would have no option than to obey her. She would also tell you the truth to your face without fear or favour. She could even counsel a village head and tell him the plain truth no matter the circumstances. In our community here women loved and listened to her advice and guidance. Whenever she was around, a lot of women came here to meet with her on one issue or the other. Some other people who needed favour from me did also come through her with the belief that she had strong influence over me. She was a leader and role model to many women who sought her counsel. She was a proponent of one man, one wife having realized that times have changed, unlike in their days. She believed in monogamous family, believing that polygamy has challenges that can limit the lifespan of men. We have been following her footsteps and teachings.
Your mother lived very long, having spent 91 years. What was the secret of her longevity in your opinion?
The secret of her longevity was lifestyle. Besides that, we have longevity in our family. She didn’t eat all these synthetic foods, processed or preserved foods. She lived on vegetable which is found everywhere in my compound and prepared them and ate them fresh. She ate fresh prepared chicken, cooked and always ate and washed the pot same day. She hardly preserved food. The vegetable our parents used to eat was medicinal and positively checked sugar level. They ate unripe plantain with vegetables. If they needed to drink wine, they opted for fresh palm wine and blended it with lemon grass and it cleansed their system. In those days if your father grabbed your hand you would think you were held by iron fist but today due to lifestyle, if you grab your child and he puts up any struggle you will find yourself on the floor and the child will walk away. The lifestyle of our parents was totally different from ours. Now people move from air-condition cars to homes, offices and even conveniences. In their days they used fire to warm themselves which helped in better blood circulation in their system. They were also sharp and better in their thoughts and hardly had sight issues. I am also given to eating vegetables which generally is beneficial to health. It was one of the secrets of longevity and sound health in our parents’ lives. The problem of diabetes that is prevalent today was not much in their time because they used various leaves and vegetables to rid their systems of such disease. They also ate well prepared garri and fufu, not the type that are harvested, peeled, ground and fried that same day with high cyanide content. In our home, it takes more than a week to prepare garri from cassava and by so doing we would completely eliminate the cyanide content. It is better for strong health and less damage to the system. Any garri in the market that is sweet is not good for health. The one with a sour taste is better. Lifestyle contributed to my mother’s longevity on earth.
Notwithstanding her long stay on earth, what will you miss with her demise?
One is her advice, her constant push on us to worship God in truth and always attend church services. She couldn’t stand us staying back from church and did often come to personally wake us to prepare for church services. Her advice were very useful. She believed that life is in sequence and advised us against going on the fast lane to achieve anything in life. She advised us to wait for God’s time in all we sought for in life. From her we have learnt not to struggle for anything in life but rather wait for God’s time.
You are a senior special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel. How would you describe the personality of your boss?
Akparawa Udom Emmanuel is an excellent man who has the interest of the state at heart. Though a political leader, I will say that he is not a politician because most politicians speak from both sides of their mouths. Governor Emmanuel hardly says what he wouldn’t do and is not given to fake promises. He is committed to his promises and his words are his bond. If he promises anything to your community, he will strive to keep his word. It is very unfortunate that Covid-19 pandemic took the world unawares and affected the world economy. But our governor has shown capacity in managing it. He has shown prudence in the management of our resources. In the state, he has effectively curtailed the impact of the disease and reduced the devastation to the barest minimum. He also ensured the effective dissemination of information on how to keep safe and avoid the disease across the nooks and crannies of our society. He has also blocked all loopholes (if any) and effectively deplored our resources for the greater benefit of the people of our deer state. Today, those who live on free and ill-gotten funds are no longer finding it funny and the governor is not shifting grounds. The completion agenda is on and must be done in a manner that will produce results. Signature projects must be completed and the people will point to them and remember him for those accomplishments. Governor Emmanuel has brought peace to Akwa Ibom State, created job opportunities for youths which further ensure security and reduce restiveness. I am very proud and happy that we have this kind of governor in my era as the president of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio.
What is your take on #EndSARS protests rocking the country?
I know all our leaders are thinking of the best options to address it and we must look at what will give us comparative advantage. We will weigh the options and seek the best advice and take the best decisions.