We’ll Miss Our Father’s Monthly Blessings, Wise Counseling -Gabriel Emmanuel Nkanang Jnr



Gabriel Emmanuel Nkanang Jnr is a renowned businessman and the eldest brother of Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Named after their late father, Gabriel in this interview with Crystal Express took us down the memory lane on their upbringing, their convictions and strong belief in God and how the virtues their late parents inculcated in them shaped and formed their present way of life

Can we meet you, sir?

My name is Gabriel Emmanuel Nkanang Jnr. Coincidentally that happens to be my father’s name. I am the second in the family of six but first male child. We are six (two females and four males). Presently I work for myself, having worked for so many multinationals. I have worked for Guinness Nigeria, Vitamalt Plc, British-American Company, Multi Choice Nigeria, and Multi Choice South Africa. I have worked for 13 multinationals since I left the university and I am happily married.

What was your growing up like?

Our growing up was very interesting in the sense that our both parents were teachers and we had the privilege of extra tutorials from them which gave us an advantage in learning. I can remember vividly the aspect of being taught Mathematics. There is this aspect called the HCF and LCM which we were taught when I was in primary three and it took time for me to understand it. But when I came home my mother who was mathematics major simplified the LCM and HCF and I moved ahead from that day. In school while the class was in exercise 18, I will be in 25. By the time we got to page 20 in school I would be on page 32.

We used to use the textbook they called LA Combes which then was like the dictionary of mathematics which divides the subject into geometry, arithmetic and algebra. You could be good in geometry without knowing algebra. But our parents made us to love all aspects of mathematics and English. In our family I have the best handwriting and literary flair I got from my father.

My father was the secretary of Qua Iboe Church Area Conference in the entire Cross River and Akwa Ibom states and chairman of various committees of the church. From my Primary 3 and 4 my dad was already entrusting the responsibility of copying the school diary for him and the school register with the boys in blue or black ink and girls in red. You know then you could not afford making any mistake on the register because there was no Tippex (correction fluid). I can also remember that from primary 4 my dad started entrusting me with the responsibility of preparing the teachers’ salary voucher every month. Even when my mum was teaching under my dad, she would not know her figures though they lived in the same house.

My dad would put me in one room known as room 13 and if anything happened and you were summoned to the room, you would find it hot. We labeled all the rooms then. My dad would put me there to do the job without any distraction. That was how we learnt meticulousness, confidentiality and how to do things painstakingly. My dad had a superlative Christian background and that defined everything in his life. The way we are today is a complete reflection of the tenets we grew up with. I freely mix with people and I can’t till date remember anybody telling me that he had been insulted by the governor, not as a child or an adult. I don’t think that anybody in this state has ever heard my voice on any issue. In fact, this is the first time of talking to the public moments ago, when I was asked to come and thank the elders and stakeholders of Eket Senatorial District on condolence visit to my family. We were trained on how to comport ourselves, be very hard-working, honest, transparent and efficient at what we do. We were trained to do the best with whatever opportunity we are given because you may not have it again.

These virtues are already inculcated in us and have formed parts of our daily living; we will continue to practice them even after bidding the final farewell to our daddy.

Your dad and mum were teachers without fantastic salaries. How did they manage to give six of you sound education with their meagre resources?

In those days, salaries were not much but people still refer to yesterday as the good old days. Today, there are people working under me earning over N2 million per annum as managers. I still remember that my parents were earning below N200 and it was my dad as the head teacher that was getting N285 at the time, and it was like the N285 million of now. There was no inflation and they were very articulated people. My parents were the kind of people who lived their lives according to where God placed them at any point in time. They had their priorities and the topmost was for us to have quality education. When my mum retired, I asked her how she felt and she proudly told me that she taught for 36 years but I asked her to please show me one thing she achieved in her 36 years of teaching. She looked at me, laughed and shook her head.

She said I should tell her any achievement that is greater than training us. She said all her salaries in 36 years were burned in us to have a better future. She said I should get a good job and pay her back her salaries and I saw the sense in what she was saying. We were the consumers of her resources in her 36 years as a teacher added to that of my daddy.

Even with that my father was the first person to have a permanent building in our community and the entire Awa Iman. My father was also a merchant and dealer in raffia products. He teamed up with his partners to be taking the products to the UAC people then in Aba. We grew up in the family of merchants. My parents were also teachers and to cap it all, we were living a very contented life. You won’t see any of us struggling for anything and we live a life of contentment. We don’t go after luxurious life. In fact, ours is a simple life of commitment.

What do you and your siblings miss about your dad?

We miss his constant monthly parental blessings. 26 years ago we started holding monthly family prayers in Lagos. My mum would come to Lagos on her occasional visit, she will stay one day in sister Idy’s house, one day in Udom’s place, a day in Ekerete’s house and come to my house to spend the rest of her holiday because we understand one another. One day she asked me, how do you people see yourselves and that was how we stated the prayer meeting and for 26 years now, we never failed her once.

Even the governor will not accept any programme or event scheduled around the third weekend of any month because anywhere you are in the world you must make yourself available for the prayer meeting. That avails our wives and children to meet and pray, interact, cook and eat together. We also rotate the prayer meetings among ourselves until when my mother died in 2007 and my dad moved to Lagos. We now instituted it permanently in my senior sister’s house in Lagos, where my dad stayed till his demise. One unique aspect of the prayer meeting is that after the worship, praises and prayers with all the merry making, we would all go to my dad and knelt before him, one after the other and he would pronounce the last benediction and bless all of us one after another. We will miss his fatherly blessings, even though he will not be saying the blessings physically, God will still be using that unbreakable covenant to continue to bless us.

The Akwa Ibom governor is your younger brother. How was your growing up like and did you usually have little fisticuffs like most growing up siblings?

I can tell you with all honesty that I stayed with my junior brother, the governor, for good six years in an apartment in Lagos from childhood till date. I will tell you that my brother the governor or any other has never insulted me; and I never insulted any of them either because respect is reciprocal. This does not mean that we don’t disagree on issues; we also respect one another’s opinion. This also has to do with parental upbringing. We have mutual respect for one another. We are a closely knitted family and also very humble. We are also a withdrawn people. I can walk the street on Oron Road, buy akara and go my way without people knowing who I am. I don’t have any direct business with what my governor is doing in Akwa Ibom State.

I come down occasionally to Akwa Ibom to attend events and I remember I was here in 2017 when he nominated me into a committee on agriculture and food sufficiency; because of the programme, we came with all the resource people and for our efforts, Akwa Ibom stands out as a major beneficiary of Fadama programme in Nigeria. That led to our establishing the five garri processing mills. As it stands now, we have them in all the federal constituencies in Akwa Ibom State.

Did you have the opportunity of having any parting words from your father?

Yes. You see age is closely related to wisdom. During the November, 2019 family meeting, my dad called me and told me that he would be going home in December, 2019. We normally brought him home intermittently like four times in a year, so he was already looking forward to going home in December. He told me that when he goes home that December, he doesn’t think he would return to Lagos again. We interpreted it to mean that when we go home that December he will ask for people to stay with him. He was emphatic that once he left this time around, he would never return to Lagos and on Sunday December 1st he died; and we now said this was actually what he was announcing.

In Nigeria, it is difficult not to see brothers of a state governor around the corridors of power. Why do you and your siblings stay away from the Hilltop Mansion?

We are six children of the same parents, same father and mother. The immediate senior of the governor has never come around the state except once or twice. I think it was during the last Christmas carol. His job moves him around the world. If he is not in Zambia or Kenya, he is in Zimbabwe or Sierra Leone. He doesn’t have time for politics here. Before now we have all been very successful people with deep sense of humility. We are blessed. Our parental upbringing gives us focus and God has blessed all of us so early in life beyond our expectations. As I speak to you now, I have a workforce of over 148 people who receive salaries monthly. My company is into roofing sheets. We do welding electrodes, importations of stockfish, textiles and bags. In agriculture we do large scale poultry and we are into flour milling.

We have Indians in our employ; about seven expatriates. When Udom was called to become secretary to the state government, SSG, we advised him to take his time and make up his mind if he really likes the job because we are not wealth mongers and don’t run after wealth. I must say that we tried to discourage him because he was already well to do at 29 years and was already living in Ikoyi, Lagos in the same area with Theophilous Y Danjuma at precisely Park View of the high brow residential area of Lagos. Then a plot of land there was at about N47million and now a plot will go for about N850million. In his 20’s Udom was already an achiever with high profile jobs chasing him about. Before then he rejected two jobs from Mobil Producing Nigeria. For posting he preferred Lagos where board room politics are played to run around the dynamics of the economy.

Since Udom became governor, I have only visited his office twice on very important issues and once in a while we talk over the phone where I always advise him to remain steadfast in delivering his promises to the people of the state. I have never been to any commissioner’s office in Akwa Ibom State. The only one I came in contact with was the former Agric Commissioner whose attention was needed when our committee needed a place for the storage of fertilizers. I don’t know the names of many commissioners. I have never been to the Divine Mandate office till date.

My only privileged visit to the People’s Democratic Party office was on official invitation from Obong Paul Ekpo when the governor won a second term and there was an event to celebrate him and I happened to be in Uyo at that time. That was all. I also attended few of his campaign outings. I have never asked the governor to give me any contract to supply anything for the state government. I have only at a time made case for him to give some empowerment to youths in our community which he obliged with inter- ministerial jobs. I live my very normal life and also very conversant with his strides in the state because I read a lot of what he is doing in the state in the newspapers.

So you people don’t put pressure on him?

Which pressure? I have my own pressure that every month, I have to ensure that there is N13million wage bill for my staff and we also work with bank facilities which means that you have to repay both the capital and the interest. Summarily God called us to our different areas of vocations and we are satisfied with what God called us individually to do. So we have no business to interfere in what anyone is doing. We only depend on one another as brothers.

Are you satisfied with the performances of your brother the governor of Akwa Ibom State?

Yes. Without bias, he has done well. I will just say that I am fulfilled he accepted the task with God on his side. If I say much, most people will say it is because he is my brother.

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