When recently Bishop Etim Ante published a statement by Oron Union to defend the appointment of Mr. Effiong Akwa, the Administrator of NDDC challenged by some miscreants claiming to be of Ijaw extraction, the bold reaction reminded me that in the pre-independence era and immediately afterwards, leadership of ethnic nationality unions and associations played critical role in defending their interest, defining socio-political direction, instigate educational advancement and promote economic growth in order to bring about self help community development. However, with military rulers usurping powers and frolicking with unpatriotic selfish poliitcal associates to misrule the nation for years, some community leaders swerved with them and abandoned very important selfless roles they played in mobilizing ethnic groups to defend their rights or use collaborative communal efforts to develop their societies; consequently a big gap in producing purposeful leadership was created. This mishap brought vioceless leaders and socio-political backwardness in many communities.
However, Oro ethnic nationality, a unique group of people in Akwa Ibom State is fortunate to still remains strong and getting stronger with the recent election of Bishop Etim Ante as the President General of Oron Union, the apex socio- cultural body of Oro Nation.
The group intervenes in promoting economic growth and resolving political crisis, serves to strengthen the traditional system when necessary. It is important to note that leadership of the body is so critical to the point that whosoever aspire to occupy it must meet the requirements to lead the great Oron Nation. Therefore, the seat is not for mediocres or weaklings, but for those with vision and courage to dare challenges in order to advance development of Oro people. Bishop Ante is not only worthy of it, but has exemplary track record of service to Oro people that is why they repose absolute confidence in his capacity to lead credibly as indicated by his election.
From the day he held a solemn assembly after his enthronement to handover Oro to God and used the occasion to preach peaceful coexistence, cooperation and his determination to revived nationalistic spirit in the people, he sparkled like a shinning star illuminating a new pathway to achieve great strides in Oro Nation. There and then, there was conscious shift of the burdens and aspirations of the people to the Union under his dependable leadership. Indeed, the transferred responsibility never took him unawares because as a former international President of Essu Nlap Oro he had adequate working relationship with the apex body he now heads. So he hit the ground running to address critical areas of need with uncommon urgency.
Aware of Oro Nation marginalization as oil and gas host not included in the oil producing local government areas, Bishop Etim Ante has taken steps to rectify the error. Today, Universal Energy, a producing company and the Ministry of Environment, Akwa Ibom State have fashioned out a way to recognized Mbo, the host community in it’s operations. He is driving aggressively towards compelling Exxomobil,Addax etc.to tow the same noble path because he cannot fold his hands or compromise his integrity and interest of his people, while multinational oil companies reap abundantly from wealth deposited in Oro Nation while indigenes live in midst of glaring poverty and environmental degradation. This tested and trusted leader is sure to reverse the trend because of his audacity to dare stubborn obstacles.Nevertheless, though daring, as a touchbearer of Oron Union he is diplomatic when occasion demands. The blend is what defines the unique charisma and leadership style that gives him an edge over others. His approach towards marginalization, shows he is not distracted from focusing on confronting challenges to pacify his people in order to reduce incidences of restiveness and rebellion in the oil rich Niger Delta area who are angered over illtreament by oil companies and governments. Because of this many see him as a the long awaited liberator and so far he has not disappointed them by his rescue actions.
The reknowned activist, community leader, clergy and philanthropist is an embodiment of humility, a selfless personality and visionary leader who thinks more of what to do for Oro Nation than what to gain from it. And he demostrates this by actions, not boasts. His passion to unite all segments of Oro Nation which seem to suffer discrimination is a clear example. The Union brokered consensus that Okobo people are kins and kids of Oro people is not just a feat worthy of note, but has strengthened the nation instead of weakening it as a distinct group in Akwa Ibom State. To prove sincerity of purpose the last Oron Union conference was held in Okobo Local Government Council, December,2020 and it made a loud statement that Oro is united. It is an inspirational lesson to all and sundry in Oro Nation.
This execptional leader who believes in community service through partnership is collaborating with different facets to build a powerful force to advance sustainable economic development, cultural renansaince, educational growth, youth empowerment and resolve insecurity challenges that tend to stall process of business of the people. In this direction, he has confronted obstacles, but is surmouning them one after the other since assumption and the people are already feeling the transformational impact of his leadership as he consulted with different trade unions to resolve internal crisis.
In furtherance to building peace, there is intervention to halt security intimidation and extortion by revenue touts which almost crippled business growth. Moreover, hooligans and criminals are being tackled through collaboration with Essu Nlap Oro and community youth leaders. By his approach the menace of sea pirates and militants in the coastal areas will be checked. Already, he has demostrated that he is proactive in managing crisis like he did by sensitizing all the communities during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic and went on to distribute pallatives.
Development projects have also received his intervention, as Oron Union branches got support to commence groundbreaking of their Oron Union Houses in Calabar, Port Harcourt and Uyo; while Abuja is to be done soon. Also, a befitting edifice for revered Ahta Oro Palace is top on his agenda as design work is on. To promote Oro culture Nkugoho Oro pegeantry was hosted successfully by the Union. The numerous crisis which engulfed the traditional rulers council have been resolved and amicable settlement brokered by Oron Union in order to restore the esteemed traditional system to it’s rightful place in royalty class in the state. This is a feat worthy of applause to his leadership.
About 500 youths completed skills training in ICT and another batch will soon begin in other trades courtesy of the Union. Students have been brought together to team up and advance interest of Oro, while a scholarship board has been established to sponsor indigenes to pursue educational quest anywhere in the world. Furthermore, a committee is to promote Oro unique language in book form to preserve it. Indeed, things have visibly changed since he took over. Therefore, it will be an act of sabotage by anyone or group to attempt to halt the renansaince of Oro Nation to get back her lost glory. What is needed is for unpatriotic elements to shed their swords and team up with Bishop Etim Ante to change the narratives of the great Oron Union and open a new era.
Hon. Imo Ben, chairman Niger Delta Peace and Development Partners writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. 08023772217.