By Soni Daniel
His name still rings a bell more than 365 days after he was lowered six feet below mother earth. Idongesit Okon Nkanga, a consummate pilot, manager of human and material capital, came to the world at the right time, did his best and left the stage like a colossus with indelible milestones when the ovation was till reverberating.
Indeed, it appears as if he is still here but alas, he is gone and no more with his family, friends and associates.
Nkanga came to the scene like a man under pressure to perform given the fact that Uyo at that time of his assumption as a military governor on September 5, 1990, still had more of the relics of a local government headquarters than a state capital with major state government establishments domiciled in private homes and property scattered all over the place in the absence of a state secretariat and other vital institutions.
But by the time he quit the scene on January 2, 1992, the brilliant air force officer left no one in doubt that he came to add value and substance to the newly-created state and move its citizens from obscurity to fame using the instrumentality of his intellect, patriotism and leadership acumen steep in humility and sound judgment to deliver quality service to Akwa Ibom State before being called to higher duty as the Commander of the powerful and prestigious Presidential Air Fleet.
On the 27th of January 2022, which would have been his 70th birthday, he would have been attending to his friends, associates and loved ones with broad and charming smiles in his home but he was not there! Nkanga, a respected leaders and servant of the people, had passed on quietly a few weeks to his 69th birthday, and particularly on Christmas Eve 2020, leaving behind a void in his family, Akwa Ibom State; a sad and debilitating development that actively denied Akwa Ibom State and its people a voice in national discourse and development.
He was an ardent advocate of equity and justice for Akwa Ibom and its people as well as the oil-producing Niger Delta in the sharing and allocation of oil resources and had also stood firm on the issue of true federalism and resource control using the regional platform of the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF as its mouthpiece on all issues of national development.
With his demise, a yawning vacuum had been created in national development and good governance advocacy in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.
But that gap was partially filled on January 27, 2022 when a befitting posthumous event was held by his family, friends and associates with the active support of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, in his honour at the historic Ibom Hall, Uyo, which was completed by the late military governor.
The roll call was intimidating and the speeches in his honour very touchy and elucidating of the man, who was the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Elders’ Forum, PANDEF until his demise. The speakers came from all walks of life within and outside the state to pay their respect to a man of unrivalled humility and immense knowledge and respect for institutions and people both young and old.
It was indeed a double barrel honour for a man who stood for nothing but excellence and brilliance at all times as his biography with the title “Within the Circles: The Life and Times of Idongesit Nkanga” was unveiled while an education endowment fund in his honour known as “Idongest Nkanga Education Foundation”, INEF, was also flagged off at the high octane event in which the Governor of the state, Udom Emmanuel, who was the special guest at ceremony and represented by his wife, Martha, with the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo, in attendance.
Governor Udom speaking through the wife, poured encomiums on the late Nkanga for not sparing any effort in putting key educational institutions in place to promote the foundation of education in Akwa Ibom State during his time as the military governor of the state.
The governor, who described Nkanga as a man of honour and sincerity, pointed out that he was one of the most dependable persons, who worked tirelessly but quietly for the development of the state and deserved to be honoured.
“Idongesit Nkanga was a man of no mean repute, who did so much in 16 months to transform the state and uplift the standard of life for the people during his tenure. He was a great achiever who did not make noise in spite of his many feats,” the governor speaking through his wife, noted.
He particularly lauded Nkanga for building the state secretariat at the time he did when it was unfathomable to do so, given the paucity of funds at the disposal of the young state and praised his courage and doggedness in putting solid structures that have become the foundation to build on in later years.
The governor promised to support the education foundation in Nkanga’s honour given what he stood for in the area of education and development while on earth.
The former Nigerian Ambassador to Russian, Chief Assam Assam, who delivered the posthumous lecture, described Idongesit Nkaga as a rare leader and military officer, who used his position to positively affect the development of the state without seeking for personal gratification.
“We certainly will miss this quintessential officer and patriot but we take solace in the fact that he gave his best to the state and its people and left behind legacies that generations will,” the Senior Advocates of Nigeria said of Nkanga.