POST HUMOUS TRIBUTE TO UDOKAHA JACOB ESUENE(1936-1993)
THE NEED FOR IMMORTALISATION BY AKWA IBOM GOVERNMENT
The famous Williams Shakespeare in one of his widely read books: THE TWELVETH NIGHT proclaimed, “some men are born great,some have greatness endowed on them while others attain greatness through hard work.” In the global categorisation of personalities noted as great,Late Brigadier-General Udokaha Jacob Esuene has a towering profile easily noticed and difficult to surpass.Late Esuene cannot simply be said as belonging to the class of great men but that of rare gems.The cardinal distinguishing feature revolved on the personage of Esuene was that from October 17, 1936,he had a divine birth,assigned to serve through hard work and discipline.
Given birth to by Madam Lucy, Udokaha was nurtured and made to pass through the tutelage of a father, Jacob, who influenced his upbringing.Twenty seven years ago, precisely on the 6th of April,1993, Udokaha Esuene bid farewell to teeming admirers, the immediately family, community, state, Nigeria and the world over. Perhaps, Late Esuene would have gone since 1993 without being remembered, but it becomes worthy exhuming the body and soul of Late Esuene based on indelible footprints and living legacies, planted through his visions, initiatives and ideas.
Esuene’s journey of remarkable statesmanship began with the popular Etinan Institute, Etinan to Teachers Training College, TTC, Uyo, now University of Uyo before taking the irreversible decision of enlisting in the Nigerian Army as a Cadet Officer.
Esuene obtained a thorough brush of leadership in Teshie Mons Cadet School, Chana, the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and the Marminister in the United Kingdom (UK).The international exposure prepared Esuene to serve successfully in the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in the Republic of Congo. It also granted him the ample opportunity of serving as Commander Officer in Enugu.
The large field of the Nigerian Army did not swallow late Esuene into obscurity. In 1963, the authorities of the Nigerian Armed Forces recognised the proficiency and leadership potentials of Esuene and thus transferred his services to the newly created Nigerian Airforce.Together with four other officers, Esuene pioneered the reorganisation and consolidation of the establishment of the Nigerian Air force to a position of reckoning. Not done yet, Esuene applied a deep sense of direction to specialize, through effective training, as a pilot.
Esuene was the first Nigerian Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Air force base in Kaduna. He rose progressively through the ladders and attained the rank of a Brigadier-General in 1972. The Nigerian Civil War and the determination to keep Nigeria one as a task, unfolded the dexterity of late Esuene in piloting jet fighter. Little wonder late Esuene in 1967 was spotted and appointed by General Yakubu Gowon as the first Military Governor of the then South Eastern State. Of course, the then State, today, comprises the present Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State.
In presiding over affairs of the defunct South Eastern State as a Governor, Esuene displayed the sterling qualities of his parents, giving justice to all sections of the State.
The application of truth and transparency aided the quick transformation of the then South Eastern State from a war ravaged territory to a State reckoned with basic infrastructure and good governance. From educational institutions, commerce, civil work, health and recreational facilities, the then South Eastern State was in the forefront of States in Nigeria. Notably among the educational institutions attracted to then State are the present University of Calabar, the College of Technology which transformed to the Polytechnic, Calabar and now the University of Cross River State(CRUTECH),Calabar.
Late Esuene established the College of Education, which was later upgraded to then University of Cross River, now University of Uyo.
Late Brigadier-General Esuene promoted commerce by floating the defunct Mercantile Bank of Nigeria Limited.
Complimenting the bank, Esuene initiated the establishment of the Champion Breweries, Flour mills, Abestonit, Qua Steel, CALCEMCO, CALVENPLY Industry, SESCOT SUPER MARKET and SESCOT Transport.Tourism received great attention also with the establishment of the Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar, Metro Hotel in Ikom, Ikot Ekpene and Uyo and the Qua River Hotels in Eket.These industries created gainful employment for many.
In the area of infrastructure, Esuene linked the State through roads and bridges. In order to link the mainland part of the State, the Calabar-ITU highway was conceived and constructed by the Esuene administration, the Stadium was built, the Cultural Centre Calabar was equally built and lots more.
Esuene’s services were noted and appreciated by his community. Hence, he was awarded the ATTAH OF EKID, the highest honorary chieftaincy title of the Ekid race.His immense contributions were not only seen at the local level but also at the national scene.Arising from the platform of education, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the University of Calabar in 1973 and 1992, honoured Esuene with separate Honorary Doctoral Degrees in Law and Sciences respectively. The Polytechnic Calabar joined in decorating him as a Fellow, while in the United Arab Republic, Esuene was listed in the First Order of its President.
Esuene was decorated by Emperor Hail Selassie as the Lion of Judah and was also appointed to the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem by Henry Duke of Gloucester. In the recognition of Who is Who in the World, the Marguis Press Chicago, conspicuously recognized Esuene in its 77th edition while the Melrose Press Limited of Cambridge, England, chronicled Esuene as an achiever in the 1976 Men of Achievement’s list.
Esuene was a presidential aspirant in the Social Democratic Party(SDP)in the 1993 presidential elections.
The present generation of Akwa Ibom people and even generation yet unborn cannot but be eternally grateful to U.J. Esuene for having the wisdom and the effrontery to insist and ensure the Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited now ExxonMobil establish their production facilities and residence in the then Eket Division (today’s Eket, Ibeno, Onna and Esit Eket LGAs).This made Akwa Ibom State a leading oil producing State with the concomitant benefits.
Today, Esuene lives in the memory of many people as a man of incomparable courage, valour and vision with selfless leadership in all endeavours to Akwa Ibom people, Nigeria and the World.
As we remember this rare soldier, we make a popular request that the Akwa Ibom State Government should as matter of urgency and importance immortalise LATE BRIGADIER-GENERAL UDOKAHA JACOB ESUENE.