By Dele Sobowale
NOTE: This was not the original article scheduled for this day. But some issues intrude on the best made plans demanding urgent response. This is one of them; especially because i am involved as you will find out. Pardon me for this. Thanks.
“Today is Christmas day – the day in which God sent his only son to bring peace and redemption and to reconcile a fallen world to Himself. That is why I am pleased to be at this Mass – which had been tagged “Mass of Reconciliation”.
“Many of you know that I had played a very significant role in the creation of this State. A few years later, I had the opportunity to serve as its governor. I did everything that could be done within the limits of the resources available to me, to develop this State.
Today, I am out of office but not out of ideas. If there is today a conducive environment and a suitable set of circumstances are being created for the utilization of those ideas, it will not only be unpatriotic, but also extreme folly not to offer those ideas.
I want therefore to thank the governor, to thank Prelate Mbang and his entire committee for initiating this process. My fervent prayer and hope are that it be sustained and nurtured to fruition for the benefit of this state. “I thank you” – Obong Victor Attah, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, at the Reconciliation Service attended jointly with Governor Godswill Akpabio, CON, on December 25, 2012.
The Committee, to which Attah referred, in addition to Prelate Sunday Mbang, included eminent and patriotic Nigerians, in and out of Akwa Ibom State, who had been bothered by the friction between the former and the incumbent governors. They are General Aliyu Gusau (rtd), Dr Haruna Adamu, Dr Asibo Nsienibong, Bishop Joseph Ekwuen, Senator Essien Ibok and Professor Edward Attah.
Individually and collectively, they felt that a lot had been lost in terms of lives, resources and opportunities for the development of the state as a result. And, this was what Bishop Joseph Ekwuwen of the Catholic Church in Uyo wanted to bring to an end when during the funeral of the late former First Lady, Nneyin Alison Attah, he diverted, during his sermon, from the standard eulogies, to address both the former governor and the incumbent governor in Efik language.
For ten minutes he passionately implored the Excellencies to bury the hatchet for the sake of Akwa Ibom in particular and the country as a whole. He ended by asking Akpabio, who was present at the event, to get up and go and embrace Attah and for Attah to accept his successor as his “Son”.
The pictures that were published in the media did little credit to the electrifying impact of that embrace on the people present. I was happy to be one of them. I was so elated that on Akpabio’s birthday, a card and note were sent to him by courier, expressing gratitude for his attendance and pledging to work for the peace process.
So, unknown to Bishop Ekwuen, he had two allies at the funeral ceremony who were committed to the reconciliation process which he had openly started. The first was the star of the funeral itself. Most people fail to realize that every funeral has a star; the one on whose behalf people gather and the one who will not go home after the event. Late Alison Attah, a first class First Lady, the indisputable star of her own “show”, was also passionately committed to bringing about peace in Akwa Ibom.
During her last two difficult years on earth, during which I was a constant visitor to her in the hospital and at home, she on three different occasions implored me to do what I could to bring about peace in Akwa Ibom because she was tired of people accusing H.E. Victor Attah of being the stumbling block to peace. The last time came as I was seating with her and the nurse, Miss Yetunde Afolabi. The nurse has beckoned to me that “Madam wants to tell you something”.
In halting voice, barely audible, she had said to me, ” Dr, promise me that when I am gone, you will work to reconcile Attah and Akpabio”. My attempt to reassure her that all will be well with her soon was waved off with two words, “Promise me”. So, I made a promise and incurred a solemn obligation to deliver on that pledge because soon after she passed on to eternal life. My immediate problem was how to go about delivering on that promise – until Bishop Ekwuem came to the rescue.
The Christmas service jointly attended by Attah and Akpabio represented the result of a reconciliation meeting held earlier in December with the seven eminent Nigerians present. The joint service was on the advice of the seven wise men and it was intended to continue the reconciliation process with more meetings expected to follow.
H.E. Victor Attah kept me in the picture of all that was going on for the simple reason that there was a promise to keep. As it turned out, I was also involved in the preparation and publication of the article of On-Shore Off-Shore Dichotomy, which Commissioner Umana Umana seized upon to rain insults and abuses on Victor Attah in newspaper publications on Thursday, December 27, 2012 and the following day.
It was shocking; to say the least. On that “Black Thursday”, I was loading the car to travel out of Lagos for the New Year celebrations; I was also happy that the reconciliation process was well underway. A call came in just as the last bags were being loaded; someone wanted to know if I had read the NATION that day. I had not. Then, he gave me a summary of the publication.
Almost immediately, a call came in from Uyo. Suddenly, instead of going West, I was on a plane flying, not fast enough for me, to Uyo to meet with Obong Attah. The obvious question was, “what is the appropriate response to this provocative and deliberately insulting and inciting publication given the joint service two days before?” Thank God, H.E. Attah had already decided to maintain silence; eventually that studied silence was modified to allow for my response, as an “insider-outsider” – for three reasons. But, mainly because I was involved.
Let me assure everybody that there will be no retaliation here; no insults will be rained on Governor Godswill Akpabio. Not because I am afraid of verbal warfare; but because it would amount to a betrayal of a promise given to the gentle departed soul of Her Excellency Allison Attah. Instead, I will explain a few things which, certainly, my brother Umana might not be aware of. I proceed in this manner after granting the governor and brother Umana the benefit of doubt that there was no deliberate attempt to derail the peace process.
First, Umana served under Attah for eight years; and, it is certain Attah will never serve under Umana. Second, Umana had done the Attahs (Obong and late wife) a favour. Now nobody can ever again claim that Obong Attah is the stumbling block to reconciliation in Akwa Ibom. Third, given the differences in age between Attah and Umana, the former governor could have had a child as old as Umana; if he was not busy collecting the “Golden fleece” abroad. Even now, Attah is still old enough to be an “Uncle” to his assailant.
Indeed, it was not too long ago that the Commissioner referred to his benefactor as “Daddy”. Something must have happened to the traditional respect for elders, as well as benefactors which only the Commissioner can explain. I can bet my last naira that, at one time in the future, he will regret putting his signature to that publication. Disrespect to elders allied to ingratitude, openly demonstrated, had never profited anyone – especially one still nursing a political ambition….
ATTITUDE AS A NATIONAL PROBLEM
Our President had decided, for reasons best known to himself that ATTITUDE not CORRUPTION is our national problem. “Don’t give a damn” is the worst attitude imaginable.