It is not my thing to write about my private meetings. That is because I see more than people want seen, and hear more than their verbal and body language evinces. In our hypersensitive society enraptured by political grandstanding and hypocritical masquerading, publishing such encounters would further deplete the few friends that one has or be deemed libellous.
Once in a long while though, one stumbles on fresh air. Like what transpired penultimate Sunday when ‘the Honourable Commissioner who worked the uncommon transformation era of Akwa Ibom state’, Mr. Don Etim, honoured my invitation to present a talk to one of my three mentoring platforms, the 20 Questions Club. Everything the Don did or did not do that fateful day dovetailed with what he said or did not say. He was real; which is the reason you’re reading this.
First of all, he arrived forty five clear minutes to; beating most of the young people and me silly. Second of all, when at his prompting I came up with ‘the reality of life’, a rather queer title, I was shocked that he jumped at it. Third of all, the select crowd was overawed by the cleanliness of his rhetoric, the contemporariness of his presentation and the bottomlessness of his depth. The Don must be the son of a teacher or a teacher himself, or both.
In Nigeria, a politician goes gaga the moment he holds a microphone before a crowd. But, the Don of God was refreshingly different. Quoting the Bible copiously, he was himself all the while he talked about life, his passion for God and humanity, how he became born again in 1996 and has stayed so hitherto, as well as his male life gradation.
Hear him: ‘The boy growing into a man should trajectorise his life. At 17/18, he should get into university; graduate at 22; be through with Master’s at 25, take a wife at or before 27 so he can grow up with his children, and retire at 40/45’!
The Don’s age trajectory would make an excellent safeguard for our young men. If it lies within his powers, a man should round off education and procreation early enough. Sure, nature throws up late starters most of whom won’t end up as late finishers.
Mr. Don Etim also waxed philosophical intermittently, dropping a number of punchlines in his sectoral foci on life. For instance, on its unpredictability, he said: ‘You neither know where I’m coming from nor going. Nor do I you. Therefore, why all the hate and competition’?
On humility, he volunteered a double barrel: ‘Human beings are own problem. Ego stains our personality. We are hindered by attitudes. Once we get these tiny but mighty elements right, life goes on autopilot’.
Plus, ‘how many of us have the heart and the head to apologise when we err, or to forgive? How many of us in power remain sane and humane from start to finish’?
Another double-header came when he ventured on motivation: ‘Never put a cap on what you can achieve. You can go farther than even your wildest imagination. Only keep aiming above your last achievement’.
And, ‘don’t let anyone put you down or talk you out of your life dream. You can do it. You will do it. So, do it’.
The Akpabio Works Commissioner effortlessly reengineered the mentality of youngsters and adults in the conference hall of St. Athanasius Hospital, that Sunday. For me, the icing on the cake came during Q & A. Judging by the endless stream of intelligent questions, it can be said that Nigerian youths hunger for counselling.
One teenager (anonymous for obvious reasons) squeezed in all of five questions. Among others, he wanted the Don to advise him whether to disobey own ‘over-spiritual’ father, who stops him from contesting Student Union elections or such other opportunities simply because ‘the government of this world is not of God’ or to continue his lustreless life. I thought the Don’s response was classic: ‘Da, do none of the two. Only follow your dream. That’s not a sin’!
Next, Endiong John wanted to know the Don’s post-commissionership regrets and if IBB Way was one of them. Again, without raising his voice or betraying any facial or inner emotions, the guest speaker offered an epic reply:
‘Da, first I don’t do regrets. Most people don’t know that when I arrived as Commissioner in 2007 I was a well-rooted born again Christian of eleven years standing. I had God. I was guided by the Holy Spirit. That’s why Heaven got then-Gov. Akpabio to retain me throughout!
‘Number two, Da: IBB Way existed long before Chief Godswill Akpabio came. The Akpabio years brought no road without gutters. That’s how to know that we didn’t do IBB. And, you cannot and should not blame Gov. Udom Emmanuel or Works Commissioner Ephraim Inyang for the current state of IBB Way. To correct that road today, most houses would go. Would we not scream blue murder’?
Then, Aniekanabasi Paul fired the last salvo: ‘Sir, you contributed so much to the uncommon transformation era. But, only the then governor gets all the encomia. How do you cope with not being celebrated as well’?
I stopped breathing. The Don on the podium smiled, raised his microphone and signed off with a gospel that should resonate forever in every ear and heart: ‘Da, listen. I wasn’t on a joint ticket with the governor. My ego might think otherwise but reason must prevail. My appointment was a privilege, not a right. We praise God for what He used my boss to achieve and pray that our current governor does more’.
God bless Nigeria!