On February 13, 2021, Senator Etang Edet Umoyo popularly known as the Cicero of our time because of his intelligence and mastery in public presentations passed on in the gentle arms of his beloved wife, Mrs Grace Umoyo.
It was a big shock to his entire family, his kinsmen in Etebi, people of Esit Eket Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria and the rest of the world.
April 12, 2021 is the day Senator Umoyo and his wife, Grace would have celebrated their 41 years of a rewarding marriage but unfortunately the cold hands of death did not allow that to be.
The drums would have been rolled out celebrating the great couple but that was not to be and God knows it all. Incidentally that was the day, Mrs Umoyo relived to Anietie Akpan, a Veteran Journalist with The Guardian Newspapers her good old days and last moments with her late husband.
“Today, 12th of April is supposed to be our 41st marriage anniversary. We were married in 1980, April 12th at Methodist Church, Yaba, Lagos and since then the family has grown, we have four children, two males and females…My first daughter is married, she’s now Mrs Ekemini Elijah, and she has three boys, so we have three grand children”, she said.
Mrs Umoyo will certainly miss her late husband a great deal as she declared, “my husband was someone that was very jovial and prayerful. In fact anytime we were together, he would wake up by 6 am and we prayed together before he listened to news, you know he loved reading newspapers. Part of what I will miss is that communion we used to have during prayers. Sometimes he leads and sometimes I lead, I miss that a lot. My husband liked gist, he could tell you history of so many years and he would want you to know, so I miss that a lot. All the history concerning what is happening in Esit Eket, he used to tell us. And his own ideals too, he will want you to know why he’s doing this or that. In fact I really miss all those things. Even when he was eating, most times we ate together. I missed his company a lot.
“Even when we quarrelled, he did not like that situation at all, he would quickly crack jokes because he was hilarious. We miss him a lot. He could relate with a young person even if it’s one year old. He loved education and imparting knowledge, indeed he was the one that inspired me into writing because I write and read a lot though not as him”.
“What I will miss most or specifically about my husband is the petting I used to give him. My husband liked being petted somehow and that’s what I have been doing since our 41 years of marriage. So now I don’t have anyone to pet now. I miss that petting and he loved it when I did that. Whenever I think about how we started, it gives me some heartache”, she sadly recalled.
Mrs Umoyo is a pensioner after 35 years of meritorious service as an Educationist with the Lagos state Ministry of Education but on February 13, 2021, the cold hands of death suddenly made her a widow and she has this to say, “the Bible says that God is the husband of the widow, so that’s where my confidence lies. That since He has said it in His word that He will take care of me and the children, it’s not easy though, not in terms of money…most times I resort to the Bible and listen to the word of God and that gives me confidence that God is still with us.
“What I will like to tell other widows is that, death has to come to everybody, and once it happens just take solace in the word of God because that’s where we all draw strength from. Each one of us did not come at the same time and we are not going at the same time. One person will leave one another but if it happens that one person leaves, the other person should take solace in God and believe that God that created you will never leave you nor forsake you”.
Recalling her husband’s last moment with her, she said, “in fact he died in my presence. I didn’t know that it will happen that way, so fast because other sicknesses he has had were even more severe than this one. I was in a terrible shock because I didn’t believe that it has happened and for a very long time it started donning on me that this is a reality. His blood pressure went up unusually, the doctor tried to bring it down and it came down. In fact the very day he gave up, everything was okay, all of a sudden he just turned, and the doctor went out to buy drugs. I just turned to look at him and said, it’s like something has happened o! So I called the doctor to come back. I believe that it’s God’s will because I didn’t think of that type of thing because we just finished burying his mother in December and that time he was okay. People were afraid for him that the demise of his mother might affect him but he was so strong.
“There is one programme they usually do in Etebi, that is Etebi day, we went together ate everything. The following Monday was masquerade parade in the village, he told me that myself and my younger daughter that we should not come that we might not be able to go round with them. I asked him are you sure you’ll be able to go round he said yes and went with the boys and he went round everywhere they went to. When people heard that he was in the village and later heard of his death, they said so this man came to bid them bye bye, people were shocked”.
On his legacies, the soft spoken matriarch of the immediate Umoyo family opined, “he affected lives, that’s the only happiness we have…he didn’t have money as such but he had integrity, good relationship with people, encouraged people to do well in life and to be educated. He even had some people on his scholarship that he was helping out with school fees. In his own family, everyone was looking up to him for one thing or the other. We thank God that God gave him the grace that he was able to do his bit”.
Regrets, “he had unfulfilled dreams and I pray that people should continue with the legacy he left behind for the emancipation of our people. One of the unfulfilled dreams is that he was not able to write his biography. He belonged to the Writer’s Association here in Eket and I am sure he would have wished to do that.
“Another of his unfulfilled dream was that he wanted to build a school because he was really involved in education. His primary aim for that our area was that children must go to school, youths must be empowered so that they won’t be slaves to anybody. Because when you’re educated you’ll be able to come up well. So that was his dreams and I believe other people will continue with that legacy”.
Senator Umoyo’s life was full of love and the wife said, “I was about finishing my school set and he had a friend, my cousin too, Engineer Basset Itama and another one my first cousin, Mr Ikot Essien, unfortunately that one died in November. They were both leaving with my Dad in Lagos, so since he was their friend he was always coming to our house. At the initial stage, he was tilting to be very friendly with my younger sister and back then we used to make fun of our sister by saying “see your husband oh”. As God will have it, I think he must have liaised with those my cousins and he tilted towards me. We were friends and my Dad really loved him, so anytime he came around he liked gisting and my Dad too liked gisting so they will gist and talk about so many things especially our home front. There was no road then and Dad’s prayer was that in his lifetime let there be tarred road leading to our village. I think that happened before he died.
“We were friends, he helped me when I was doing the entrance exams for prelim in the university. He is the one that helped me to collect the form and we filled it together, he helped me to submit it. As at that time I had gone for Higher School Certificate (HSE) at Federal Government College, Sokoto but I didn’t complete it, I just did it for one year because I passed the prelim exams. Why he was pushing me was because he finished from University of Nigeria, Nsuka in 1974. There was no phone then, we were communicating with letters until he now came out to say something but we courted for a very long time since that 1974.
“I told him that my Dad will not agree until I finish my school, he said there was no problem. He now came to Lagos after his Youth Corp in Jos to look for job, he got a job with the Customs but he told me that he could not stand what was happening there, so he resigned and took an appointment with Dunlop. All along, when I’m on holiday I will be in Lagos so there was enough time to see one another. The relationship grew, in fact he was the one that even helped me in my Youth Corp that I had to do it in Lagos State as I finished my University in 1979 and that year, we started talking about marriage and the marriage took place on the 12th of April 1980. So it was very romantic love affair between me and him and that’s what has been keeping us”.
For their own share of marital challenges, “You know in many relationships there will be some hitches and challenges, but we still fall back to how we were, we didn’t bring in a third party for any reason. Even the children, they have never seen both of us quarrel openly like that, everything is done inside the bedroom and like him and myself we don’t put things in mind, once we say it, that’s the end of the matter”, Mrs Umoyo added.
How she coped with his political life, she said, “because of the commissionership that he was given then in Cross River State, we had two children then and they were schooling at Corona and he loved that school, so he asked me to stay with the children in Lagos that the commissionership will not last. That’s how we started leaving apart but we were always in touch. We will go and meet him in Calabar during the long vacation. After that, when the term finished, they reappointed him, the first one was commissioner for Agriculture and the second one was Commissioner for Local Government Affairs and many people knew him especially from Esit Eket and they had seen in him leadership, that this man will be good to represent them so that is how they now started talking about the Senate. When he came, he told me. He said you know how our people are, they have been downtrodden all these years, he begged me to manage that everything will be okay because he didn’t want a situation where the children will be changing school because that kind of thing affects children. Everything went well and he emerged a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since then most of his life he has been towards home because of all the challenges that have been coming up but with that, we were always in touch, though it was not easy but thank God for technology.