The Evangelist News edition, Saturday, November 11, 2023. By Assam Abia.
Prominent leaders throughout the course of history were born to lead and able to do so as a result of their natural abilities and talents. His Majesty Edidem E. C. D. Abia, the Atta Ekid Afid, who clocks 87 years today Saturday November 11, 2023, came to earth to illuminate the path of human journey, as a leader.
As we celebrate this wonderful enigma of our time at 87, it is pertinent to look back, with a telescopic retrospective, the road on which he traveled unto his present station as the Paramount Ruler of Eket and one of the most enlightened royal fathers in Nigeria. We learn from the footsteps of others.
Edidem Etim Charles Daniel Abia, a Prince of Idua Clan and a descendant of the founder of Usung Inyang, was born November 11, 1936 in Eket, from the dynasty of Abia-abia Asi Udoekot Usoutim Usoekon. He is the first son amongst Seven siblings – four brothers and three sisters.
With visible traits of inquisitiveness, noticed from childhood, the young Etim started primary school in 1942 in St. Gregory Catholic School, Eket. In 1943, he transferred to Qua-Iboe church primary school Atabong in Eket, now located along Eket-Oron Road, which ended in Primary 4 then, and then later to Ibeno Central School, Ukpenekang where he completed his Standard six. He subsequently attended St. Patrick’s College (SPC), Calabar from 1950- 1954 where he graduated with Grade 1 Cambridge School Certificate, putting truth to his ambitious, determined and focused mind. It should be interesting to note that in these efforts towards educational excellence, the young Etim traversed the country dutifully alone.
Serene in his strength and obsessed with his quest for higher education, he got admission into the University College, Dublin in 1959 and graduated in 1962 in Economics and Accounting, but not without previously having a stint in medical technology at University College Hospital London, Ibadan Campus and law. He ventured into law because he had worked in the judiciary Department of Eastern Nigeria Government, as a Clerk of the Court in Calabar and later in Uyo.
He graduated with a Second-Class Upper honors degree in Economics and Accounting in 1962 and became a Chartered Accountant in June 1965 and a Fellow (fca) in 1975. He had the second best result nationwide and finished his chartering 3 year article in two and a half years. A feat that remained unbroken for decades.
Edidem E. C. D. Abia returned to Nigeria in February 1966, two days before the first coup. He became employed in the Federal Ministry of Finance as an accountant. He wanted to leave the Ministry for Akintola Williams, the first African Chartered Accounting Firm but the Accountant General of the Federation would not let him go because the Ministry knew his worth as a whiz-kid .
By 1967 he left the government to work with a Firm called Whinney Murray and Company because the company offered to pay four times his salary with the Federal Ministry.
In 1968, Nigeria was further divided into 12 States by the then Head of Military Government, General Yakubu Gowon. He left Lagos in August 1968 on the invitation of the Governor of the then South Eastern State, Brigadier U. J. Esuene, (Later Brigadier General). He was appointed Accountant General for the South Eastern State to help Esuene manage the exigency of the time which was to plant massive infrastructure in the State which saw to the building of a world class Stadium in Calabar, Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar, Mercantile Bank of Nigeria, Manila Insurance Company of Nigeria which he chaired both, linking present day Akwa Ibom to the rest of the world by constructing the Calabar-Itu road, a landmark legacy, Eket-Etinan road, Eket-Oron road, Eket-Ikot Abasi road, Calabar-Akamkpa-Ogoja road and a host of establishment which has made Cross River State economically viable till today and laid the foundation for the present day Akwa Ibom State.
In 1970, he became Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance of the South Eastern State and was one of the famed Super Permanent Secretaries of the time. He worked very hard as his nature is, and contributed immensely to the development of the State.
Having excelled in government and private employment, Abia ventured into the world of business and became a successful entrepreneur of note. He set up various companies in succession including Masibob Nig. Limited, an oil servicing company, Danielli Farms, which according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) was the largest cassava farm in West Africa at the time. The Dr Pepper followed in 1979/80.
Mindful leaders know how to repeat success patterns and overcome failure patterns. Dr. Pepper brand of soft drink became a household name in almost every city in Nigeria. For the first time, Coca Cola saw a stiffed competitor in Dr Pepper. The outfit offered employment to thousands of unemployed youths including those in the retail outlet, nationwide. Government policies such as the introduction of import license and SAP amongst others eventually sent the bottling company into comatose. Presently, he is member of Boards of many striving companies, including Bouygues Construction Nig. Ltd.
The Atta of Ekid Afid has been living a life of generosity. He understands the value of helping others. He had been a beneficiary of kindness himself. He went through St. Patrick College, Calabar on differed payment because his sick father couldn’t afford the fees. Father John Mcguiness the Principal at SPC saw him through school and offered him scholarship to study Economics and Accounting for one year before he got a federal government scholarship that helped him complete his studies in UK. He later returned to pay back the tuition and showered appreciation in various ways to Father Mcguiness when the old man needed care most, especially when he was at Ikot Ekpene.
The Atta of Ekid Afid has never been tired of generosity. Over the years, he has trained and sponsored countless number of indigent students in higher institutions and skilled development. He is well revered in Ekid Nation and beyond. He is an international citizen who has travelled round the globe.
E. C. D. Abia has eleven children ( eight daughters and three sons) and 12 Grand children. His first daughter, Eno, is an accountant and an entrepreneur in the United States. His children are very successful in their respective field of human endeavour.
He is happily married to Mandu, the Akwaobonganwan of Eket who the Atta has described as a perfect embodiment of all he expected of a woman.
Legacies are footprints of legends who walked among men. In recognition of his achievement, service and support to the people of Eket, Edidem Etim Charles Daniel Abia was conferred the highest Chieftaincy of Ekid land. The Atta Ekid Afid in 1982, along side late Brig-General U. J. Esuene and late Dr Clement Isong, former Governor of Cross River State.
Edidem Abia was coronated as Paramount Ruler of Eket on November 25, 2016, fourteen days after his 80th birthday.
As he marks his 87th birthday today, we can not but pray the Almighty God to continue to keep him in sound health, even as he doesn’t wear the look of a man in his late 80s. He is putting on the physiognomy of a man in his 50s. We wish him more wisdom that streams forth from the Holy Grail Castle, for him to continue to do what he knows best, being service to humanity. LONG LIVE THE KING.