One each from Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi, Itu, Etinan, Mbo

In an unprecedented development, five indigenes of Akwa Ibom State have been promoted simultaneously to the rank of two-star general in the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN).

They are Major General Effefiong Effiong Ekpenyong, Major General Wisdom Benjamin Etuk, Major General Victor Edet Emah, Rear Admiral Etop Ekpainua Ebe and Rear Admiral Aniefiok Cletus Uko.

Their promotions, alongside other two-star and one-star generals, were announced by the Army and Navy penultimate Friday.

No one from Akwa Ibom, however, made it among the 22 Air Vice Marshals, two-star generals, promoted by the Air Force this year.

Ebe and Uko, together with 28 others, were decorated with their new rank of Rear Admiral at the Naval Headquarters (NHQ), Abuja, on Wednesday morning.

The three new Major Generals from Akwa Ibom took their turn, alongside 44 others, at the Army Headquarters (AHQ), Abuja, on Thursday afternoon.

All five generals, who spoke separately to this writer on telephone, expressed joy at their promotion.

Profiles

Ekpenyong, 55, hails from Obong Itam in Itu Local Government Area (LGA).

Unlike the four others who joined the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, as secondary school leavers and spent four years for degree education and one year for military training before commission in 1995, he was in the NDA for only nine months of military training before his commission into the Army in 1993 through direct regular commission since he already had a degree.

Ekpenyong graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Brewing Science and Technology from the University of Uyo in 1990. At the university, he was a schoolmate of the present Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Prince Enobong Uwah, who studied Geography and Regional Planning.

He obtained a master’s degree in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the Lagos State University in 1998.

Currently, Ekpenyong is a participant undergoing a master’s degree programme in Strategic Management and Policy Studies at NDA/Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Abuja.

His promotion is backdated to January 4, 2023.

Etuk, who turns 52 on January 2, 2024, is an indigene of Ikot Udobia in Etinan LGA.

He is the present Commandant of the Nigerian Army College of Logistics and Management, Ojo, Lagos.

Etuk is the holder of a bachelor’s degree in Economics (1994) from the NDA and two master’s degrees, one in Transportation Management and Planning from the University of Lagos (2012) and another in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan (2017).

He is at the moment pursuing a doctorate degree in Leadership and Public Governance at the University of Abuja.

Emah, 53, is from Utu-Udim Ebughu in Mbo LGA.

He is serving in the Logistics’ Department of the AHQ as the Director of Clothing and Stores.

Emah has a bachelor’s degree in History (1994) and a master’s degree in Strategic Studies (2017), both from the NDA.

Ebe, 53, who hails from Ikot Edeghe in Mkpat Enin LGA, is the eldest son of late Sir Maurice Ebe, an academic, Ibibio activist and veteran politician who served briefly as the Chairman of Mkpat Enin Local Government Transition Committee in 2003 during the regime of Governor Victor Attah.

He is the Manager of Plans at Naval Dockyard Limited, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Ebe possesses a bachelor’s degree in Electrical/Electronics Engineering (1994) from the NDA and is presently pursuing a master’s degree.

Uko, 51, is an indigene of Nduk Town in Ikot Abasi LGA.

He serves at NHQ as the Director of Lessons Learnt.

Uko possesses a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (1995), a Master of Science degree in International Relations and Defence Studies (2016) and a Master of Philosophy degree in Security and Strategic Studies (2020), all from the NDA.

He was the best graduating naval cadet (gold medal award winner) of Regular Course (RC) 43 in the NDA in 1996.

His seniors, Ebe, Etuk and Emah, are members of RC 42 who passed out of NDA in 1995.

Akwa bom boasts of two of the three Rear Admirals from the South-South zone promoted this time.

Military Specialisation

All five new two-star generals from the state are well-trained specialists, having attended various military courses within and outside Nigeria.

In the Army, as one Akwa Ibom-born retired Major General, who left the Army seven years ago, explained to this writer, the three new Major Generals from the state are all logisticians, meaning that they belong to the logistics’ branch of the Army which comprises of the Supply and Transport Corps, the Ordnance Corps and the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps.

Ekpenyong and Emah are of the Ordnance Corps while Etuk belongs to the Supply and Transport Corps once commanded by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the Navy, Uko is a navigation and direction specialist while Ebe is a weapons’ engineer.

Reactions from Kinsmen

Reactions have been pouring in over the elevation of the quintet.

Senator Ekong Sampson, the representative of Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District in the National Assembly (Ebe, Emah and Uko are his constituents), hailed their promotions as “‘reward for hardwork and patriotic dedication.”

He was not done: “Their elevations are a testimony to their hardwork. I know Ebe, in particular, very well. He is a calm, disciplined and dedicated officer. I’ve been following his progress in the Navy over the years. His promotion is not surprising. The Akwa Ibom-born officers are a pride to Akwa Ibom State and to Nigeria. They richly deserve their promotion.”

The first female Deputy Governor of the state, Lady Valerie Ebe, was ecstatic about her son’s elevation: “I feel like I am on top of the world. I am eka (mother of) Rear Admiral. I am proud of him. Yes, I did expect that he would come this far. I know God.”

The chieftain of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) pointed out that the unprecedented elevation of the quintet was happening at the time of Governor Umo Eno: “It is a good thing coming to Akwa Ibom at the time of Governor Umo Eno. The Governor is for everybody. He does not know the difference between PDP and APC or any other party. We all belong to the same state.”

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The Chairman of Mkpat Enin Local Government Transition Committee, Lady Mercy Bassey, also touched on timing: “With the elevation of Rear Admiral Ebe happening at the time of my being the Transition Chairman, my name is already written in gold because whenever this would be remembered, it would be said that it was during my time as the Transition Chairman. For it to happen in my time is nothing but extravagant and amazing grace for me.”

She spoke further: “For me, it is a great honour to Mkpat Enin as a local government area and to Akwa Ibom as a state. This particular feather to our cap has given me great joy. His elevation, as a matter of fact, is of great inspiration to me because it has aligned with the philosophy of our Governor, the ARISE Agenda. To him, as a person, this elevation has proven that his dedication and commitment in service over the years have not gone unnoticed. We celebrate with him and we pray the Lord to strengthen him and grant him good health.”

Her Ikot Abasi counterpart, Barr. Godwin Udonta, hailed the promotion of Uko who he had known right from their days at the famed Regina Coelli College, Essene, which is very close to his (Uko’s) village, Nduk.

Hear him: “I know Admiral Uko. I met him in the secondary school, Regina Coelli College. He was my senior. We have been friends over the years. We have kept in contact. He is accommodating. He has the interest of the community at heart all the time. Every time we meet, he is always talking about how to better the community. His promotion is a thing of joy for the people of Ikot Abasi. We are excited because it is happening at a time security is a very key point to Nigeria’s development.”

Udonta seized the opportunity to urge the Navy high command to develop the permanent base for NNS Jubilee at Essene in Ikot Abasi.

The Deputy State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Ubong Ekpo, revealed more about the admiral: “He is my cousin. Of course, the promotion did not come as a surprise to me. He was the best in his set in NDA in 1996. We had expected he would come this far. We even expect him to go higher. He was the senior prefect at Regina Coeli College between 1988 and 1989. God has really been faithful to him. And I thank God for him. He comes home. He is someone who is very useful to the community. His father, late Obong Cletus Uko, was a very prominent person in the village. He was the Secretary of Ikpa Nnung Assang Clan Council. He was also the State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners.”

Mboho Ikot Abasi, the apex socio-cultural organisation in Ikot Abasi LGA, in a statement signed by its President General, Arc. Ufot Udoinyang, and Secretary General, Mr. Nsemeke Udoakpan, equally celebrated Uko’s elevation.

The statement read in part: “A distinguished son of Nduk Town in Ikpa Nnung Assang Clan, Rear Admiral Aniefiok Uko, who was commissioned Sub Lieutenant on August 16, 1996 as a Seaman Officer into the Nigerian Navy, is the third two-star general of Ikot Abasi extraction after Rear Admiral Sylvester Usoro Umosen (retd.) and Air Vice Marshal Iboro Harry Etukudo.

“We thank the Chief of Naval Staff and all members of the Navy Board for the confidence reposed in our son, especially taking into cognisance his meritorious career in the Nigerian Navy.

“We are confident that the can-do spirit of an average Ikot Abasi man will propel him to justify this huge responsibility on him by the Nigerian nation even as we wish him success in his new assignment.”

Concerning Ekpenyong, the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly who represents Itu State House of Assembly, Hon. KufreAbasi Edidem, saw things from the spiritual angle.

His words: “It is the answer to my prayer. There is no day I do not pray for God to bless the land and people of Itu. God has answered my prayer. I feel so proud that we have someone who has risen to become a Major General. It is no mean feat. To God be the glory. I didn’t know him before now. But from my interactions with him recently, he is someone who loves the community. My prayer is for him to go beyond two-star general.”

Edidem encouraged Itu youths to embrace a career in the military, disclosing that he has been consistently relaying information about opportunities in the three services to them.

The Chairman of Itu Local Government Transition Committee, Barr. Etetim Onuk, was also in a joyous mood: “For me, it is a thing of great joy during my time. He is the fourth person from Itu Local Government Area to be so elevated. I see it as a reward for hard work. It is also an impetus for him to put in his best not only to the Nigerian Army but the country at large.”

He testified to Ekpenyong’s patriotism: “In the course of activities of Itam Secondary School Old Students’ Association (ISSOSA), we have been meeting in the last three years. He is a man with a very pleasant personality. He is humble man and a man who is committed to any assigned responsibility. His involvement in ISSOSA has been exemplary. I have seen his passion to develop his place and people. I see him as a very patriotic person. He is very active and patriotic in the activities of ISSOSA. He contributes immensely to the goals and objectives of the association.”

Onuk hinted that his government was planning to honour Ekpenyong alongside Mr. Ebong Eyibio, another Itu son who was recently promoted an Assistant Inspector General of Police, during the coronation ceremony of the Paramount Ruler of Itu coming soon.

In a congratulatory message signed on behalf of the people of Obong Itam, the general’s village, the Chairman of the State Secondary Education Board, Dr. Ekaette Ebong Okon, said: “The news of the promotion of our dear son, brother and friend came to us with exceeding joy.

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“On behalf of the elders, the women and youths of Obong Itam community, we are grateful to God for at His own time, He has visited us again.

“We felicitate our son, Effefiong Effiong Ekpenyong, who has been promoted to the rank of a Major General in the Nigerian Army.

“It has not come easy but as a result of hard work, painstaking nature, dexterity and resilience at work. This honour attests to your intergrity at work and has brought us joy.

“We are grateful to the Chief of Army Staff for deeming it right to promote you to the rank of a Major General.

“We urge you to continue to serve this nation to the best of your capacity as we pray God Almighty to guide and protect you throughout your career.”

Rev. Umoren Ekpenyong, the general’s younger brother and Moderator of the Abasi Ibom Synod, the second synod (diocese) of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria in Akwa Ibom, gave an insight into his sibling’s background: “He is our family head and he is shouldering everything. He is down to earth in the community. He is a grassroots’ person. He relates with the people. He is a typical village boy. He schooled in the village at the primary school in Obong Itam and the prestigious Itam Secondary School, Obong Itam, before proceeding to the University of Uyo. He comes home. He has impacted the family, community and the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Obong Itam Parish, Itu Presbytery and even the newly-inaugurated Abasi Ibom Synod based in Ikot Inyang, Ibiono Ibom.”

Mbo leaders have also risen in joy over the elevation of their son, Emah, who is the third two-star general from the LGA and Oro Nation as a whole.

The Honorary Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Prince Chris Abasi Eyo, stated: “Comparatively, when Mbo was much more easily accessed only through the sea than by land, the late Inspector General of Police, Ikpoto Etim Okon Inyang, showed up, through whom God used to open up the area. In less than a decade, Mbo, nay Oro, has produced three two-star generals in the persons of the now retired Major General Isidore Edet of Uko Akpan Enwang, Rear Admiral Okon Eyo of Akai-Udo Ebughu and the newly-decorated Major General Victor Edet Emah of Utu-Udim Ebughu. It shows that ‘there is more to it than meet the eye.”

He made a case for an Army battalion in Oron: “Therefore, while congratulating Major General Victor Emah on his recent elevation, I seize this opportunity to appeal to him to assist in the establishment of an Amphibious Battalion of the Army in Oron, proposed in 2017 by the Army Headquarters in Abuja but seemingly abandoned. The battalion will help check criminality in the waters around the state, especially the Oro area. And, while encouraging able-bodied men and women from the area to take up a career in the military, I equally call on our dear son, Major General Emah, to extend a helping hand in this regard. Once again, congratulations.!”

The Chairman of Mbo Local Government Transition Committee, Mr. Sunday Etim, summed up the feelings of his people: “We thank God. We are very happy about the promotion of our brother. We appreciate the Nigerian Army for finding him fit to be promoted to that rank. We are very proud of him.”

Etim, whose elder brother is a retired Navy Commander, pleaded with Emah to use his connections to assist in checking insecurity in the Mbo coastline caused by pirates and militants.

The general’s kinsman and former Deputy State Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Sir Michael Essang, said his people were excited: “It is a thing of joy, not just a honour to him but to the whole of Oro Nation. We, in Utu-Udim, are happy and the whole of Ebughu, Mbo, Oro and, of course, this state are happy about it. Victor Emah was born outside Utu-Udim but he is known in the village. We love him. As our son, we are proud of him. He once served at Ibagwa Barracks (6 Battalion) in Abak.”

Emah’s promotion has also been applauded by his clan, Ebughu.

In a statement, Afaha Ebughu Development Union, Uyo Branch, felicitated the general, describing him as “an illustrious son of the soil from Utu-Udim Ebughu and a dedicated and well-trained soldier who has devoted himself to serve and protect Nigeria, his fatherland.”

In the statement, the union’s President, Uyo Branch, Hon. Ben Etibensi, said members resolved at a meeting on Wednesday to “congratulate and identify with the gallant officer, their own son, and charged him to be a good ambassador of Ebughu.”

Etinan leaders have not been left out in the celebration.

The Chairman of Etinan Local Government Transition Committee, Mr. Uko Umoh, in a statement, said: “The Government and people of Etinan Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, are elated at the cheery news of the recent promotion of her son and patriot, Wisdom Benjamin Etuk, to the exalted rank of Major General in the Nigerian Army.

“Accordingly, Etinan Local Government Transition Committee is pleased to extend its profound congratulations to Major General W.B. Etuk on this elevation.”

Umoh, himself the son of an Army major who died in active service, concluded: “The committee notes with pride the many in-service awards and sterling leadership records of Major General W.B. Etuk, who is an expert in military logistics’ management, and wishes him success on his new position and responsibilities.”

Etuk is the third two-star general from Etinan after Air Vice Marshal Tommy Victor Udoh (retd.), from Mbioto I, and Major General Enobong Okon Udoh (retd.), from his village, Ikot Udobia.

Udoh, who left the Army three years ago, expressed delight about the emergence of another two-star general from Ikot Udobia.

“I am happy that Ikot Udobia is making such impact in the Nigerian Army,” he said. “I know Etuk. He is my friend. He merits the promotion. He worked hard for it. Every job he has been given, he has done it professionally. I can tell you that Akwa Ibom indigenes in the military, who are serious, always get to the top because we work hard to pass our promotion examinations.”

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Udoh appealed to Governor Eno to provide Ikot Udobia with much-needed infrastructural development.

Obong Paul Ekpo, the Member representing Etinan/Nsit Ubium/Nsit Ibom Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, whose mother was from Ikot Udobia, could not hide his joy: “I am so happy. I give God all the glory for this beautiful news. I have a special attachment to Ikot Udobia where my mother came from. I schooled at UNA Primary School in Ikot Udobia. I grew up in that village. For us as a community to produce two Major Generals is not a small thing. I thank God for projecting the name of the village. I am very proud of him and I congratulate him. I am proud of all five of them. And it is happening at the time of Governor Umo Eno.”

Etuk’s secondary school classmate and Honorary Special Adviser to the Governor on Donor Agencies, Elder Sam Ikon, went down memory lane: “We were classmates at Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene. Wisdom was a very gentle, always smiling guy. When I heard that he was in the Army, I was surprised. He did not exhibit soldierly nature in school. He was a very easy-going, nice guy. He was never in trouble. He was always a good guy. It is a great pleasure to watch him rise over the years and maintain discipline and service to our grear nation. I feel very proud and I am happy that one of our own has risen to this enviable rank and has served his country well. I want to thank God for preserving him. I am praying that he will be in good health to serve the nation.”

The Other Seven Serving Two-star Generals from Akwa Ibom

The promotion of the five from Akwa Ibom brings to 12 the number of serving two-star generals from the state.

There were seven others already.

The most senior among them is Rear Admiral Joseph Daniel Akpan, from Idikpa Atai in Nsit Atai LGA, whose position as Chief of Policy and Plans at NHQ makes him the de facto deputy Chief of Naval Staff.

He rose to his present rank in 2019.

Next in line is Major General Uwem Udo Bassey of the Infantry Corps of the Army who was promoted in 2020.

An indigene of Mbiabong Ikot Udo in Ini LGA, Bassey is the Director of Administration at the Defence Research and Development Bureau under the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja.

The lone two-star general from Akwa Ibom elevated in 2021 was Air Vice Marshal Iboro Harry Etukudo from Atan Ikpe in Ikot Abasi LGA.

The quartet who became two-star generals in 2022 were Major General Aniedi Effiong Edet, presently the Director-General of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), Kaduna, Major General Emmanuel Henry Akpan, the Director of Materiel (not Material) Research at the Nigerian Army Heritage and Future Centre, Abuja, Rear Admiral Sunday Daniel Atakpa, the Chief Staff Officer (second-in-command) of the Naval Training Command, Apapa, Lagos, and Air Vice Marshal Esen Paul Efanga, the Commandant of the Air Warfare Centre, Abuja.

Both Edet, the immediate past Commandant of the Nigerian Army School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Auchi, Edo State, and Akpan, an Ordnance officer well known in the country as a former Director of Army Recruitment, Resettlement and Reserve, are logisticians.

Atakpa is a hydrographer renowned worldwide for his expertise in the blue economy while Efanga is a fighter pilot.

They hail from Mbak Akpan Ekpenyong in Uyo LGA, Ukpom Edem Inyang in Oruk Anam LGA, Ikot Ekpeyak Ikono in Uyo LGA and Afaha Offot in Uyo LGA, respectively.

Cousins as Generals

Interestingly, two of the serving generals are maternal cousins.

During a visit to Mbak Akpan Ekpenyong, one of the three villages making up Mbak Etoi Group of Villages in Etoi Clan, in December 2022, to get reactions of Edet’s people to his elevation, this writer was taken round the village by some enthusiastic youths and shown the family house of Lady Valerie who is originally from the village.

The house was located not far from Edet’s family house and the residence of the popular musician and Etoi youth leader, Sir Wilker Jackson.

Responding to this writer’s enquiry this week, both Edet and Ebe, separately, confirmed their relationship.

Said Edet: “Etop Ebe is actually my cousin. We are coursemates, relatives and friends. His mum is my aunt and related to my late dad.”

Hear Ebe: “Aniedi Edet is my second cousin. My mother and his father are first cousins.”

Lady Valerie toed the same line: “They are my sons. They joined the NDA at the same time and have grown.”

Statistics

With the latest promotions, the number of serving and retired two-star generals from Akwa Ibom has risen to 40 since a former Commandant of the Nigerian Army Education Corps, late Major General Edet Adam Akpan (retd.), from Iwok Obio Aduang in Nsit Atai LGA, blazed the trail in 1994.

A former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Nsikak-Abasi Essien Eduok (retd.), from Mbak Ekpe in Ibesikpo Asutan LGA, has held the record of the only three-star general from the state from 1998 till date even after his death three years ago.

The rank is usually the exclusive preserve of service chiefs (Lieutenant General in the Army or Vice Admiral in the Navy or Air Marshal in the Air Force).

Nobody from Akwa Ibom has risen to the ranks of four-star general (General or Admiral or Air Chief Marshal) and five-star general (Field Marshal or Admiral of the Fleet or Marshal).

The rank of four-star general is usually reserved for the Chief of Defence Staff, the professional head of the military, who can be appointed from any of the three services.

The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, who is the political head of the military, automatically becomes a five-star general in all three services upon assumption of office.

Akwa Ibom has produced neither of the two positions yet.

© Inemesit Ina

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