By Sam Akpe
It’s celebration time! Let’s beat our drums to frenzy; and call out the dancers. Where are the praise singers! Something extraordinarily thrilling is unfolding. For once, in recent memory, honours are being accorded those who deserve to be honoured.
At the Convocation Arena of the University of Uyo today, three outstanding Nigerians – one, a tested technocrat and boardroom maestro, Mr. Udom Inoyo; the other, a global soccer brand, with local and international laurels, Vincent Enyeama, and another, a philanthropist extraordinnaire, Senator Daisy Danjuma; are being honoured as you read this piece.
Two of the three distinguished honourees have something in common—a trait called taciturnity. Both are temperamentally disinclined when it comes to utterances. Vincent parades tight lips even at the best of times; while Inoyo displays tantalizing smiles that conceal clenched teeth against public proclamations. His words are valuable though. They are not easily displayed.
Daisy, wife of billionaire war-tested general and former Minister of Defense, Theophilus Danjuma, is a glamourous politician whose voice was loud on crucial issues while serving the country as a senator. She disappeared into relative obscurity after leaving the senate to concentrate on serving humanity outside the political arena.
Vincent, Nigeria’s former senior national football team goalkeeper, is receiving a rare recognition, hardly given to footballers across the world, for his service to the nation as one of the safest gloves in national colours between the posts. Always calm between the posts even while halting dangerous shots from world-class strikers, Enyeama, viewed from every angle, deserves this honour.
Over the years, during his active days between the goal posts, he repeatedly rescued the Nigerian national football team from embarrassing defeats. From the national and continental levels to the global scene, he was always trusted to stop penalty kicks and long-range shots—jumping, diving and stretching in all directions.
Inoyo, the smiling, intellectually toughened past executive vice-chairman of ExxonMobil in Nigeria —a global oil and gas exploring and exploiting company —is hardly seen, but mostly heard-of. Unlike Enyeama, the goalkeeper, Inoyo is rarely on physical display, except you visit boardrooms where brain-tasking decisions on crude oil matters are discussed.
However, his honour by the University of Uyo today is unquestionably deserving—both at a personal and corporate levels.
As observed by Calvin Coolidge, no person is ever bestowed honour for what he has received from others, honour has always been a reward for what the honourees have given back. In other words, honour is a payback for our good deeds, according to Chris Marlowe.
Over the years, Inoyo, while still in the employ of ExxonMobil, established the Inoyo Toro Foundation, with specific focus on inspiring and promoting educational advancement in Nigeria generally, and primarily, Akwa Ibom State. The aim was to give back to the society that has already given him so much.
With the slogan: “eradicating poverty through education,” the Foundation exists to “recognize and reward distinctive and hardworking teachers and principals of public secondary schools” through its annual awards that reward excellent performances among teachers—including students.
Some time ago, during the celebration that marked the creation of Akwa Ibom State, this Foundation was honoured with Excellence Award for its “sterling contributions to the promotion of academic distinction” in the state.
Beyond its objectives of promoting subjects’ development, especially the sciences; rewarding performances, and engaging in community development; thus, complementing government in educational growth, the Foundation is involved in four other initiatives.
These are the annual teachers’ award for excellence; training teachers and promoting their certification; conducting periodic surveys aimed at gathering education data, and promoting innovation and invention initiatives.
There is no doubt that it is in recognition of these achievements spanning several years, that the University of Uyo has chosen to honour this political scientist and lawyer with Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) today.
The university, in a letter conveying reasons for the award was specific on why Inoyo was selected for the honour. It stated: “Your conferment is based on your track record of service to humanity, especially your credible contributions to the advancement of education in Nigeria and beyond.”
By the way, Inoyo almost got his fingers burnt shortly after his exit from ExxonMobil not quite long ago, when he passively expressed interest in politics. He was said to be nursing the ambition of seeking election as governor of Akwa Ibom State, in the last general elections.
For those who know him, that was a tall ambition, viewed from several perspectives. First, he does not seem cut-out for politics, the way the game is played in Nigeria. Someone remarked that he is too gentle for the tug-of-war engagement, which could be bloody at times.
Next is the fact that Inoyo unapologetically believes in investing resources in pragmatic ideas as long as they do not include vote-buying. This is understandable—he has never been e beneficiary of free money, which is what politics in Nigeria is known for.
So, spending his hard-earned income on cutting corners so as to win elections does not appeal to him in spite Niccolò Machiavelli’s theory that the end justifies the means.
Soft-spoken and strong-willed, Inoyo must have experienced a rude-awakening when he realized that our democracy is not as democratic as the name implies. While waiting to test his ideas and visions at the polls, his friend, Governor Udom Emmanuel, acting on inexplicable supernatural direction, announced his successor without regard to democratic principles.
Inoyo absorbed the news in silence and left not a few people confused. His few public appearances ended; except you chased him to the libraries and lecture halls of Kennedy School of Government in Harvard, Massachusetts; or elite seminars on development policies across the world.
There is something Nigerian journalists will forever remember Inoyo for. Just before he created a scare with his unagitated interest in politics, Inoyo inaugurated the Ray Ekpu Prize for Investigative Journalism, an annual journalism award in honour of one the best in the profession, Ray Ekpu, who turned 75 recently.
The highly competitive award is meant to promote ethical and professional practice of journalism; empower and motivate diligent practitioners to play their traditional role of the media for better society. The award whose ultimate objective to encourage excellence in investigative reporting has been won twice already and is exclusive to journalists based in Akwa Ibom State. With N500, 000 prize money, that amount is said to be the highest attached to any journalism award in Nigeria, at present.
Such are just a few of the numerous impacts Inoyo has created in politics, education and journalism fields. He has so far demonstrated that one does not need to hold an elective office to serve humanity and impact society; responding appropriately to that citation by Martin Luther King, Jr on life’s most persistent question, which is: what are you doing for others?
So, to Daisy, Vincent and Inoyo, I can only say: congratulations for daring to stand out from the crowd. So far, you have inspired others in your callings. However, the road to the end is still far. Keep doing good. More rewards are on the way. Never give up. Don’t get tired.
Sam Akpe writes from Abuja