We’ll Pursue New Development Narratives For Oro People

. . . It’s God That Enthroned Me


Oro ethnic nationality in Akwa Ibom State is a community of highly formidable indigenes, versatile, educated and rooted in various spheres of endeavours. With an umbrella body known as Oron Union, founded in 1925, the people of Oro are located in five local government areas namely; Oron, Udung Uko, Mbo, Okobo, and Urue Offong-Oruko.

Sitting atop as the President General of the Oron Union is Bishop Etim Ante, a businessman, politician and administrator. Ante is the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South South, Former President of Essu Nlap Oro and former Chairman of Mbo Local Government Area. He also served as Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters amongst others. In an exclusive interview with Crystal Express, he spoke extensively on the ideals of his leadership and the template he intends to champion the development of Oro.

Bishop Ante also gave a pass mark to Governor Udom Emmanuel in his development of Oro compared to what past administrations did, amongst other issues. Excerpt.

For the purpose of those who may not know Bishop Etim Ante very well, please may we meet you?

Bishop Etim Ante is my name. By the special grace of God, the incumbent president-general of Oron Union. The Union which was established as far back as 1925, is not a mean union, but one of the top ranking organizations in this country.Its founding fathers were pathfinders and promoters of unity, progress and development of humanity across Nigeria. By the grace of God, I have served this country, state and my immediate locality in different positions and capacity before my emergence as the current president general of Oron Union. I served as the South South publicity secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP);former chairman of Mbo Local Government council;former Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters, and the pioneer president of Essu Nlap Oro, a foremost socio political youth group in Oro Nation among many others.

Today, God has brought me on board to steer the ship of Oron Union as its spokesman and a touch bearer to synergize the collective interest of Oro people and also build bridges of partnership, unity and progress across the state and beyond for the interest and development of Oro Nation. The present administration of Oron Union under my leadership is poised to place Oro nation on a global map through people and development centered programme that would be initiated by the union. God being with the new executive, we shall reciprocate the good gesture of spirited Oro people for graciously giving us the opportunity to serve them in this capacity.

The emergence of the new executive of Oron Union few months ago with you as the President General came to some people as a surprise considering frantic efforts made by some power blocs within the union to install their cronies. What do you think was responsible for the landslide victory you and your team recorded to emerge the winners at the just concluded elections?

There is a saying that man proposes, but God disposes. From time immemorial, there have always been anointed candidates brought in from some quarters but the Bible says, “it is not him that willeth but God that showeth mercy”. When God says yes, nobody can say no. When He commands any door to remain open, no one can close it. It was that same God who caused the Red Sea to separate for the Israelites to move majestically across; it was that same God that caused the same sea to submerge and drown those who were out to destroy the Israelites.

Certainly, my victory and emergence as the president-general of Oron Union is that of God’s victory and supremacy over man. I am bringing everyone together as one family. I am going around ensuring that certain persons who were aggrieved as a result of the election, certain persons whose expectations were truncated by God are all brought into the fold together. I am appealing to all to come together because it was a victory for Oro people, a victory for the younger generation. What that means is that, Oro people now know what is good for them. By this election, God has actually delivered quality dividends for Oro nation. My continued appeal is that whosoever that could not meet up with the superior movement and revolution that brought me on board should join the moving train. We are meek, peaceful and all-embracing. We are committed to ensuring that Oro people are sensitized and brought into the mainstream of the development initiative of the union so that together we can build an egalitarian society.

RELATED:Inside Account Of How Bishop Ante Emerged Oro Leader

What are the key programmes you would bring to bear for the benefit of Oro people?

The first thing we have to give to Oro people is peace because no tangible development or progress can be recorded in an atmosphere of chaos. When God gives peace and harmony, development would automatically follow. Shortly after my inauguration, the first thing we did the following day, was to organize a solemn assembly of all Oro people for just one purpose which was to hand over Oro people to God. Our slogan is “God First, Oro second and Oro third”. What that means is that, God is leading and Oro is following. So, when God is leading, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve in life. Secondly, the empowerment of Oro people is one thing we must do. The unity of Oro people is one thing we must not only encourage but must achieve the unity and empowerment of Oro youths, women and all the good people of Oro Nation. We have many things in stock for the people. At the moment, even my office is powered by a generating set and I know that this is the same thing that Oro people across the five local government areas are suffering. We are putting a machinery in motion to ensure that we have steady power supply. We have gone into survey, done a lot of research and investigations and have come to the conclusion that it is the same old power lines which were put in place since 1914 when Nigeria was amalgamated, at the time when Oron urban was having only about 60-70 houses, those are the same power lines that still exist in Oro. Successive state and federal government administrations in Nigeria have not deemed it fit to change the obsolete power transmission lines on Oro till today. That is the problem we are facing as a people. I am happy that we have a listening governor. We intend to partner effectively with the state and federal government to ensure that we have quality power supply in Oro for economic boom and enhanced quality of life.

Beyond that, education, they say, is the bed rock of every development. We intend to attract scholarships from various institutions, various companies and notable personalities within Oro and beyond to ensure the youths and others have access to quality education.

We would also ensure that we partner with relevant government and non governmental agencies to attract tertiary institutions to Oro nation so that the suffering of Oron students outside Oro and the risk associated thereof will be checkmated. If we have several tertiary institutions in Oro, the transportation, accommodation and associated risks will be reduced to the barest minimum.

On health care delivery, we intend to ensure we partner with relevance health institutions to attract free medical treatment, establishment of quality healthcare centers among others across the five local government areas of Oro Nation. On agricultural development, an Oro man is a very lucky person. We have quality aqua-cultural environment and also blessed with arable land. We have vegetation and farm lands across and it is therefore incumbent on us to ensure that we attract agriculture to Oro. We have various agencies like AKADEP and even United Nations related bodies that are willing to promote agricultural development everywhere in the world. Oro would not be left out because in agriculture there will be food sufficiency. In agriculture there will be meaningful employment. We have a federal fishing terminal in my village in Mbo Local Government Area and we would do our best to ensure that we attract good and efficient fishing companies to come down to our shore and to ensure that those facilities are properly utilized. We are currently in contact with some of them across the globe. As a matter of fact, we have a lot of things in stock for Oro people, but we cannot do all of them in one day. However, we will ensure that we tackle those ones we have identified their potentials and possible benefits for the people.

Particularly, we are aware that Oro Nation constitutes a major oil bearing community in Nigeria because one local government like Mbo is hosting more than six oil companies currently drilling oil in our environment. In as much as we don’t intend to take laws into our hands, we will ensure those companies do the needful by carrying everyone along.

For instance, if all the oil companies can practically exercise their corporate social responsibilities as it should be, you can understand where Oro would be in the nearest future. We are aware that one of our sons who represented us in Oro Federal constituency at the Federal House of Representatives some years back, through his frantic effort brought several committees like environment, oil and gas among others, came in and practically moved across the various LGAs by land, sea and air and those oil wells were conspicuously identified in Oro territorial waters and land. And those committees passed a resolution to that effect which was subsequently ratified by the executive through a letter by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation then, confirming and affirming that Oro and indeed the five local government areas are all oil bearing communities. People tend to blame government for not recognizing Oro as oil bearing community, I cannot say so.

By the resolution of the House that empowers the then Governor Godswill Akpabio to appoint an Oro son as a commissioner of the Niger Development Development Commission (NDDC). In the same vein, our son is also commissioner of NDDC from Mbo Local Government. What that mean is that government has recognized Oro. So, what is remaining is for Oro people to take the bull by the horn through meaningful dialogue, intellectual militancy and media militancy to ensure that what is due for Oro people by way of rights and privileges are freely given with out any fear of contradiction.

Cowards, they say, die many times before their death. Oro people were not serious. They were rather indulging in blame game; blaming government and blaming everything on sight without actually approaching the companies involved in the exploration of oil in the areas, and to that extent, there were some hawks within the society who would get peanuts from the companies and put under the table. Because it is said that a problem shared is a problem solved. When a paramount ruler decides to appoint his cronies who do not have the mental capacity, the strength and the concentration to approach these people who are always described as wolves in sheep clothing, what do we expect?

As a matter of fact, oil companies across the globe have trained workforce that are there to bring their antics and gimmicks to bear. While dealing with the host communities, they always adopt divide and rule approach, instigating brothers against brothers and all that. These companies are experts and are using our brothers in certain local government areas to throw peanuts. If you are there receiving this little peanuts, can’t you ask question? You should say why are you giving me this as a person, what about the larger society? That is why the decision Oro people have taken to bring some of us on board who are always there to ask question could be properly understood. That is why the decision of Oro people to bring on board some courageous intellectual young men and women to man the affairs of the union at this time and season could be consummated and understood and I think God will not let us down. We shall not trample on the rights and privileges of anybody. We shall not rise against any authority but always be in support of government. We cannot blame government in this direction. People have been blaming government; I cannot do so as president-general of Oron Union because I know relevant agencies of government that I would report the oil companies to, particularly, local content board. As someone that is very friendly with the law, I know the nitty gritty, I know the rights and privileges of the host communities because the federal government has made crystal clear that six percent goes to the Federal Government while the remaining 40 percent is to run the affairs of the company and to take proper care of the goose that bears the golden egg. The provision of corporate social responsibilities and the local content law have made it very explicitly clear that oil companies should meet with the host communities. The government through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) could be involved under advisory or supervisory capacity but not to infringe on the rights and privileges of the host communities. So, we shall operate under the framework or within the ambit of the law, knowing too well and believing same that there are certain hawks around us. And if certain persons don’t respect themselves, certain question would be asked. Even if our rights this time around are in the mouth of a lion, we will remove those rights from the lion’s mouth and drop it for Oro people. There are many things that God will help us do for Oro people. As we speak,the territorial waters of Oro people are not safe because of the criminal activities of sea pirates. They have infested the entire coastal lines, making fishing and other lawful economic activities within the coastline very dangerous for the people. We have reported the situation to the area commander who has also promised to take the issue up as soon as possible.

RELATED: Oro Has Fared Better Under Gov Emmanuel – Chief (Mrs.) Amba 


We shall make necessary appeal to the federal government since the issue of security is under exclusive list for effective policing and security of our coastal environment. Because if it is not checked and in time, the development will expose the people to attack. We use to derive our wealth and strength from the sea as the Singapore of Nigeria and today the coastal environment is no longer safe for human activities.

There are negative impressions that majority of Oro youths are engaged in cults activities across all levels. How true is this and if so, what programme have you designed design for young people who are the major victims of social vices?

My experience in community service is aged back to early 1990 when I served as the president of some youth group in my community. First as president, Mbo Youth Movement and later, Oro Youth Movement and thereafter metamorphosed into the president of Essu Nlap Oro. As a matter of fact, that experience especially in youth mobilization has continuously placed me on a position of advantage at any level of responsibility of leadership.

As the president of Oro Union, I intend to organize a seminar or summit on how to have a peaceful environment. Oro youths have for a very long time been peaceful. What used to pose as problem in Oro among the youths were long laid to rest when I was the international president of Essu Nlap Oro. God used us to establish absolute peace in Oro when rival cult groups used to get themselves into incessant war against each other. All that were brought to the barest minimum. As I am talking to you, there is no cult war in Oro. As a matter of fact, I have addressed several youth groups as president-general of Oron Union on assumption of office. Regardless of who you are and what group you belong, all I know is that you are a youth in Oro and you must operate in conformity with the dictates of the union which have to do with peace and synergizing with all the fabric of Oro society in peace and harmony. We don’t condone any act of insubordination or any acts of violence. We have partnered strongly with the police and other security agencies. So, Oro is peaceful.

Whatever wrong notions that may have been harboured in those days are now things of the past. In fact, that is why they have to bring me up to this position on their behalf. In fact, the larger percentage of votes cast in the last election which resulted to my emergence as the president General of Oron Union came from the youths of Oro. Their votes were more of giving me a vote of confidence, a clarion call for service for both the younger generation and all and sundry. That is the reason why up until this moment, no one has made any effort to truncate that mandate they freely gave him and his team. When you give to the people what they want there is bound to be peace and harmony; there is every tendency that the society would be at peace. Conclusively, I understand the terrain because I am an home grown president general.

What is the present relationship between Oron Union and other sister organizations across the state such as Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio and Ati Annang, and how does your leadership intend to sustain the existing relationship for purpose of sharing ideas and strengthen the bond of unity among other ethnic groups in the state?

Like they say, a tree cannot make a forest. Oron Union is a coordinating instrument with the ability to synergize and build the bridges of unity, peace and harmony with other ethnic nationalities across the state and beyond. Our duty is to align with relevant socio-cultural, socio-political groups such as Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Ati Annang and Afi Iwaad Ekid and consult with them extensively for cross fertilization of ideas for the unity of the state. I will also go as far as consult with the traditional institutions across the state because Oron Union is all embracing. It is our sole responsibility to ensure that we identify properly with other socio-cultural socio-political and youth groups across the state, and that we will do.

The lingering crisis rocking the leadership of the Council of Oro Traditional Rulers- COTR in the last few years has resulted in the creation of factional group within Oro traditional institution. What does your leadership intend to do to bring lasting peace to that very important institution for the benefits of Oro people?

We have decided to swing into action to the extent that we have formed a committee made up of illustrious sons and daughters of Oro Nation to harmonize various contending interests in Council of Oro Traditional Rulers.

I strongly believe that the same God who used me to establish peace among the youths of Oro Nation some years ago would also use me to establish lasting peace in COTR. I have consulted widely across the two existing factions and they all have given me assurance that very soon, they would all come back under one umbrella, more formidable and united with one agenda of moving Oro interest forward. There is a committee in place working very assiduously to prepare a solid foundation for the dialogue.


After my emergence as president-general, they have all sent me their goodwill messages, expressing joy over the peaceful conduct of the election that threw me up as the leader of Oron Union. In fact, both groups supported my candidacy. Surprisingly, I had also consulted both factions.What that means is that this is the time for peace to reign, because according to the Bible, “there is time for everything, a time for war and a time for peace”. Let me declare to you that peace has already returned to Oro traditional institution. We are only waiting to cross the Ts and dot the I(s).

I shall, as the touch bearer for Oro people, use all necessary machinery and dialogue to seek for the withdrawal of all the existing court cases pertaining to COTR. And the court will give us ample time to put our house in order. I think the court itself is very interested in alternate dispute resolution. As the court is eagerly waiting for us to withdraw the case, my royal fathers are equally waiting to hear from me and my executive members on the way forward.

Many people within and outside Oro Nation have argued that Oro being the third ethnic group in the state have been grossly marginalized by previous administrations in many ways too numerous to count. What can you say about the present government of Mr. Udom Emmanuel and have Oro people fared better now than before?

Let me be very frank in my personal opinion and assessment. You can take a horse to the stream but cannot force it to drink. His Excellency has done tremendously well in the area of appointments. Don’t forget that no government can wake up one day and do everything for everybody. The truth is that in terms of political appointment, one may think we are not fairly treated. My calculation is that if Oro, as one leg of the tripod, was given the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), in the wisdom of the system, they have done well for such a people. If such a race can also produce a senator, one cannot say again that such a people have been marginalized. I am also aware that certain persons have been appointed senior special assistants and I hope we have more of that to come through to the people. On infrastructural development, I am also aware that the governor has done some roads in Oro nation, some of them are ongoing and some completed. We are sure that before the end of this dry season, some of the roads that are ongoing would have been completed.

The fact remains that governance is not a tea party. If anyone should castigate the government of Mr. Udom Emmanuel, he should criticize constructively with facts and figures. I am not talking this way because I am close to the system, but the truth must be said.

There are certain things I cannot say now, because we don’t intend to throw stones because we equally live in a glass house. There are certain things we have to articulate properly. We have those areas we utilize when the opportunity presents itself, we take appropriate advantage of such privileges to better out lots. But comparing this administration to that of successive administrations, we can say that, apart from the Obong Attah’s administration, we can boast very well that for SSG to have been given to Oro, if properly utilized, one can say that Oro is being carried along in the government’s scheme of things. You can remember the day that pronouncement was made by government about that office being given to Oro, everyone was very happy in Oro across party lines. The most important thing is to have a good and committed president-general of Oro Union who would serve as a catalyst for government and a support base constantly reminding them of the development of Oro Nation, nay Akwa Ibom State.

The problem we are having is that we feel that one political appointee would rise and flourish Oron with political appointments or road contracts. So, Oro, without any fear of contradiction, has fared well in this government because one can see the Atabong Road being one of the longest roads being constructed by this government and Ibaka Road which is very strategic economically, leading to one of the economic nerve centres in the state, are under construction. The roads that previous administrations may have done in Oro in the past, if put together, may not be as long as the road being handled by the present government.. In my village alone, I have been given a 2-km road.If a 2-km road is being handled in one village, whereby if that road were to be stretched into small streets in Oro, that could have taken like 20 short streets altogether. As we speak now, I am talking to you as a direct beneficiary of government. I have seen them, some are completed and some are ongoing. We did not have all this grace in time past.The road in Udung Uko that leads to Mbo, Ekim and Eyo-Abasi, about 4km long is ongoing. That was the same road that the late Ahta Etim Atti Okpo was crying out to previous governments to construct but to no avail. And many of them were still using that same road in the deplorable condition to visit the royal father without deeming it fit to heed to his pleas, until this administration came and graciously intervened. In law they say res ipsalequato, (the fact speaks for itself). Of course, I am not standing in for my government; after all, I am like a father now. If NDDC would come and do a road here which is under the federal government cover, I will commend their efforts.

As I am talking to you now, the Oron-Uyo Road that was abandoned and not considered by all past administrations is undergoing intense construction through our constant appeal. Some are of the opinion that it should have been awarded to big construction companies like Julius Berger to construct. But in my own understanding of road construction, two things are involved namely quality equipment and quality workforce. If you bring one of the engineers that might have worked with some of these big construction companies like Julius Berger and also provide good equipment, the company will do quality jobs that could be compared to that of Julius Berger. So, I am impressed. I have been talking to the contractors whenever I pass through there to Uyo regularly. I know the society would behave more like Oliver Twist, asking for more;and we deserve to ask because we are the goose that lays the golden eggs. I challenge anybody to mention if they have as many oil companies operating in their locality or community like what we have in Oro Nation particularly in Mbo and Udung Uko LGAs. Therefore Oro Nation deserves to ask for more. The fact that we deserve more doesn’t mean we should not appreciate what is being done at hand. So, my prayer is that, God should give the government the wherewithal, desire, strength and focus to complete all these roads. I believe that with the end of the Supreme Court case, His Excellency will now focus and ensure that these roads are not only completed but are awarded.

The dualisation of the express road from Uyo to Oron which was neglected by successive administration,is currently being constucted. The Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road was done and the one that was remaining section of it is being handled by his Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Also the Uyo-Calabar Itu Road was done and completed.Uyo-Aka-Nung Udoe Road was done and completed. Therefore one is bound to ask why the road from Uyo to Oron has not been dualised. But thank goodness it is this same Udom Emmanuel that we are shouting, crucify him, crucify him that has deemed it fit to construct the road even though it was not awarded to Julius Berger. I know Governor Udom very well. If the company handling this road is seen not to be competent enough to deliver quality job, the company will be changed and we are monitoring. I have come into office now, we are monitoring the company. If they don’t do well, we will let the system know. But we will not necessarily go to the pages of newspapers to insult the governor. That is how you pass across your message. We have seen work in progress on the road after the governor assured that the project will be completed in record time. Why can’t we declare that we are faring better, though we deserve the best as a people?We would always ask for the best but we are faring better. The underlining word there is better. What that means is that there is a clear departure from the old way of total neglect. In the past in terms of appointment, the Oron man was never considered to be brought into knowing the secret of government as SSG, but Governor Emmanuel has made it possible. I think that would have assuaged the feelings of an Oro man.

The appointment of the immediate past president-general Oron Union, Chief (Mrs.) Janet Amba as senior special assistant to the governor of Akwa Ibom State raised a lot of controversies and condemnation from different quarters within Oro Nation particularly those who believe a president-general should not accept a political appointment while in office. What do you think was responsible for that outright condemnation?

First and foremost, I want to bring to your notice and also to the notice of Oro people that an Oro man or whoever is serving or closer to the government has no problem in serving his or her community. But it depends on the quality and understanding of the people and that of the person that is serving in that government. For instance, Nehemiah in the Bible was under captivity and while under captivity, when he saw the broken walls of Israel, he sought the consent of the king to go and build the broken wall of Jerusalem, that is my case. Oro was in disarray including the crisis that engulfed the last administration of Oron Union because of certain approaches. Maybe it was how certain persons were reacting to issues, how certain persons were relating because your relationship with the people matters a lot. The appointment that came actually was not when the immediate president general of Oron Union was active in office, this is what we should know. It came when she was folding up to round off, her tenure in office. When an aeroplane takes off two things are involved. First, when taking off, it will take in the legs and secondly, when it is about to land it brings out the same legs to enable it have a safe and smooth landing. Therefore in the case of the immediate past Oron Union president general, she had graciously finished her tenure and was about to land just like the aeroplane that needed to bring forth the legs to aid the plane have a safe and smooth landing to avoid crash landing.

As a matter of fact, she had already set up an electoral or central planning committee to usher in the new government. So, the appointment was timely and in order. In a way they should also be happy because it might be that appointment that caused her not to accept the call by some persons to go for second term because at a town hall meeting some appealed to her to continue for second term in the office. But she decided to take the appointment and let go of the call for second term and the problem was over. The answer to that question is that it could be how certain persons were relating with the people. To her, they saw it as a compromise but to me I saw it as a timely appointment. One thing we must all understand is that, no one should start throwing stones at the government because the little resources we could gather from the society cannot be enough to carry out the development programmes of the union.We need government as a development partner to carry out our programme more effectively and efficiently.

If the president general is asking government to build road for the people, would you reject the road because the roads is built by government? At the same time, it is also good for the President-general to have some reasonable level of independent mindedness but not to the extent of going to fight the government, for that will means cutting the bridge and isolating the people. So, government is the government of Oro Union, is a government of Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, is a government of Ati Annang and is a government of every development and progress minded people. The government is there as a source of strength for everyone. However, a leader must be careful because they are expected to eat every food wisely and not to allow oil from the food to stain on their white dress to avoid embarrassment.

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