Remembering Icons Of Dakadda Philosophy
THE people of Akwa Ibom can look back into history to find that the Dakkada philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel, which has the objective of stimulating in them a new spirit of adventurism; a spirit that would challenge them to live their dreams, did not start on September 23, 2015, when it was unfolded at a colourful ceremony that coincided with the 28th anniversary of the creation of the state.
They will find their history replete with people who embodied Dakkada by successfully overcoming limitations to stand up to be counted not just in the state, but also in the country. They will find icons to whom they can look up for inspiration.
Enter Sir Egbert Udo Udoma. It is not possible to list successful Nigerians of Akwa Ibom origin without the name of Udo Udoma featuring prominently. Udoma knew at an early age that the only way he could break from what was then the norm – toiling in the farms or fishing in the creeks of Opobo (which was then part of present Ikot Abasi) – was to acquire education. With the help of peasant parents, he scaled the first hurdle of secondary education at the Methodist College, Uzuakoli, in present day Abia State, with an excellent result – a rarity in those days – that qualified him for one of the five scholarships that were up for grabs, courtesy of Ibibio Union, for overseas education. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, and Oxford University, where he obtained bachelors and master’s degrees in law, respectively.
He returned to Nigeria upon graduation to practice law, struggling to surmount obstacles that were placed by ethnic factors that were very strong in those days.
Udoma got literally consumed by the nationalistic fervor that enveloped the country in the 1950s. He joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), but left the party when a crisis led to the ouster of Eyo Ita, from Calabar, as leader of the Eastern Region, in search of a platform on which to give the Ibibio a voice in national affairs.
He got elected into the Federal House of Representatives on the platform of United National Independence Party, from 1953 to 1959, a position that saw him in the forefront of the agitation for the creation of COR (Calabar/Ogoja/Rivers) State. The agitation gave birth to the then South Eastern State, which was later renamed Cross River State, from where Akwa Ibom was created.
From the obscure community of Ette, Udoma worked his way to the top echelon of the judiciary. He was, for six years, the chief justice of Uganda and, for 13 years, a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly that mid-wifed the 1979 constitution.
Not many Nigerians know that the first person to register in the Nigerian Army was a man of Akwa Ibom origin. Wellington Umoh Bassey is on record as having the number NA 1.
Bassey joined the Royal Band Corps of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in 1933, despite opposition from parents and the community, which saw his interest in the white man’s army as a novel and risky adventure for a 25-year-old. But he had a dream, and was determined to pursue that dream. He wanted to be the first to enlist in the army in that part of the country. He ended up not just the first in that part; not just the first in Nigeria, but also the first in the entire West Africa, occupying a prominent place in history.
Bassey held different positions in the colonial force, including warrant officer two; company sergeant major and weapons instructor, performing so well in the latter that he was posted to train troops in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), from 1945 to 1949. A successful completion of an officers’ training course in Warwick, England, earned him promotion to the rank of Second Lieutenant as an infantry officer by King George VI in April, 1949, a position that made him the first West African regular commissioned officer with service number WA1.
At the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960, the Nigerian Army was established, from the Queens Own Regiment, with Bassey as the first Nigerian soldier. Before then, he had served as aide-de-camp to the Governor General of Nigeria, Sir Stuart Macpherson. Over a period of about 11 years, Bassey held several command positions, including first commanding officer, Boys Company (now Nigerian Military School), Zaria; first Nigerian commandant, Lagos Garrison, Apapa; first commanding officer, Federal Guards (later Brigade of Guards), Lagos; commanding officer, Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria and brigade commander, first Brigade (now first division), Kaduna.
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