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Home / Oro Nation / ADDRESS PRESENTED BY EKPENYONG NTEKIM, ESQ., AS CHAIRMAN, CONFERENCE OF ORON UNION BRANCH PRESIDENTS/DIGNITARIES AND FOUNDERS’ DAY THANKSGIVING HELD ON SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2016 AT ORON HOUSE, LAGOS

ADDRESS PRESENTED BY EKPENYONG NTEKIM, ESQ., AS CHAIRMAN, CONFERENCE OF ORON UNION BRANCH PRESIDENTS/DIGNITARIES AND FOUNDERS’ DAY THANKSGIVING HELD ON SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2016 AT ORON HOUSE, LAGOS

ADDRESS PRESENTED BY EKPENYONG NTEKIM, ESQ., AS CHAIRMAN, CONFERENCE OF ORON UNION BRANCH PRESIDENTS/DIGNITARIES AND FOUNDERS’ DAY THANKSGIVING HELD ON SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2016 AT ORON HOUSE, LAGOS

I thank Dr. Effiong Edunam, President-General, Oron Union and Prince Offong Okung Ntofon, President, Oron Union, Lagos Branch, for the invitation and honour to chair this epoch-making occasion of the Conference of Oron Union Branch Presidents/Dignitaries and Founder’s Day Thanksgiving. Indeed, the theme of this extraordinary assembly, “Oro”: Turning embarrassment of riches to organised development” completely encapsulates the embarrassment that has been the story of Oron for the past three decades.

Oron people have had the very rare privilege of a distinguished ancestry. All studies, including Wikipedia, indisputably show Oron to be “rich in natural resources, including oil and gas”, “formidable”, “vocal”, and, now arguably, “one of the most formidable political forces in Akwa Ibom State today”.

In the Oron Intelligence Report of 29 February 1936 by the District Officer, Eket to The Resident, Calabar paragraph 2 of it provides, inter alia, as follows:
“The population of the whole area is estimated at 50,284 persons (12, 264) giving a density of 251 to the square miles. . . The density of the population in this fertile portion is about 340 to the square mile, and the people here are principally engaged in farming, trading and in the production of Palm oil and kernels. Immediately to the south of the creek, the people in addition to these agricultural pursuits are engaged in fishing . . .”. Paragraph 6 thereof also provides that “At Oron there is a Mission Centre of tha Methodist Mission, factories of European Firms, and a Timber Company. Another European Missionary is stationed at Oyubia. The influence of the Missions and Commerce in the area is particularly on its eastern side have been considerable with the result that the people are well advanced in religion, commerce and Education.”

I had the personal enjoyable childhood of being born into the family of a headmaster and classroom teacher whose father later migrated into cooperative commercial family, all within the confines of my environment. After training sessions in both Cooperative College, Enugu and the Centre for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, Israel, my father became a local entrepreneur managing a personal poultry farm of over 300 birds and the first cooperative community farm in Eastern Nigeria, Okobo Cooperative Community Farm Ltd, with rural staff of over 280 and to which Mr. John Sutter of USAID was attached by the Eastern Regional Government. He lived in my village and worked with the rural staff of the cooperative community farm. As a Primary School pupil, I learnt bookkeeping in my father’s private poultry farm where I was the second daily recorder, counting and booking the overnight egg and bird mortality rates immediately after morning devotion before handing over to the general duty staff. All these came to ruins during the Nigerian civil war, especially as the farm became a recruitment ground for the depleting rank and file of the Biafran Army and my father was declared wanted by the rebel regime. My father’s poultry farm stands directly opposite our family house in Okobo.

A recollection of this personal family experience demonstrates the viability of the economy of our community. Many other persons, some of whom are here, had parents usefully engaged in diverse economic activities within their immediate environments, including the high sea. And, by all honest standards, they were affluent enough to afford far more than basic needs of their families. If the circumstances of our recent past did not inhibit the greatness with which we were born, we may have gathered here with a different, dignifying theme. A young man or woman born in Oron about 40 years ago may not know the greatness into which he or she was born or has inherited; and may not understand the squandered or stunted richness in him or her.

Come to think of it, were we not the first set of international traders and consumers of the most quality imported goods in Akwa Ibom State? We had in our midst early traders from Cameroun, Gabon, Equitorial Guinea, Ghana, etc and got used to tuning into Radio Yaounde, Santa Isabel, Congo Brassavile, etc. The expansive Marina was filled with so much daily day and night activities. Who had the wonderful foresight of an academic institution as early as 1905, but our forbears? As the entry and exit point to the Mainland part of the then South Eastern State (later Cross River State), Oron was a melting pot of diverse international and local economic and social activities, and at the peak of its boom.

All that came to an abrupt freezing point by exercise of a political discretion. It instantly numbed the economy of Oron. The Federal Highways (Declaration) Order made under section 24 of the Federal Highway Act since 17th December 1971 provided for Federal Highway No. A342 , conceived and statutorily prescribed as “The road starting from Aba thence to Ikot Ekpene‐Uyo‐Oron and terminating at Calabar.” However, the reality on ground is a postscript – “A4‐1 The road from Calabar‐Itu (projected)”. Yes, a subsequent projection, forecast, proposal in A4-1 came into instant being in lieu of prior A342. Since the distortion of the Federal Highway A342 to the disadvantage of Oron and, ipso facto, its economy, many more policies of seeming willful neglect have blunted the economic development of Oron. The climax came with the sequestration of Oron to the backyard of the Akwa Ibom International Airport. The closure of the Uyo-Oron portion of Highway A342 sentenced Oron to an indefinite term of economic retardation. When these are added to the foisted political rascality in our backyard and applauded marginalisation, one can only imagine how important politics is to an economy.

It is beyond contention that the prolonged policy of promotion of political perfidy in, and downright exclusion of Oron in the levers of power, has completely impoverished and minoritised it with consequential loss of economic opportunities, as it can affect any other community, however formidable, vocal and naturally endowed. Any desire to change our status quo must be anchored on coherent efforts, targeted strategies and the spirit (in contradiction to the many manifested forms) of Oro 2015. It needs no emphasis that the economy of an ethnic minority is worsened by unequal or restricted access to political structure. And as an additional woe, according to a UNDP Resource Guide and Toolkit, Marginalised Minorities in Development Programming, “disadvantaged minorities are commonly poorly represented in political structures and decision making bodies and consequently have little control over decisions that affect them. Lacking a voice in shaping their own circumstances, they are vulnerable to neglect.” As many as were ignorant of the basis for Oro 2015 in Oron, so many more in Oron are blind to the political economics of Oron. Oron is too endowed, and I used to think it was too vocal and formidable, to suffer the grave deficit of men, materials and opportunities we have either endured or been subjected to thus far. Akwa Ibom State cannot remain the first equation with inequality of variables without a second and meticulous look at its formula.

I, therefore, applaud the initiative of ODU to have this inward reflection through this Conference organised by itself, of its people and for its people. The prejudice of both jealousy and contempt Oron of the last three decades should convoke the “Yes, We Can” spirits embedded in our genes.

I declare this Conference open, and wish you all very fruitful deliberations.

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