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JOURNEY WELL, MY BROTHER, MY FRIEND - Hon. Ibanga Bassey Etang By Cairo Ojougboh.

Late Ibanga Bassey Etang.

I would like to begin this very difficult and emotionally tasking tribute to Hon. Ibanga Bassey Etang by paraphrasing the words of the old English poet, John Donne: the death of one man diminishes us all. The loss of one is a minus to humanity.

With no one are these words more poignant than in telling of Hon. Ibanga, my friend and my brother. In the entire 212 days that we served together as members of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, I was privileged to discover, first hand, the wealth of his humanity, the kindness of his heart, the fire of his commitment to helping rebuild the Commission, for better service to our people, and his uncommon compassion.

We met as colleagues on October 29, 2019, preparatory to our inauguration in the office of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, and by his unfortunate demise on May 28, 2020, while in active service, we had become friends. We shared a brotherhood, forged on the anvil of our shared determination to help strengthen the Commission, pursuant to the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari, and in our common patrimony as Niger Deltans.

Today, at his residence at Shelter Afrique, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Ibanga would be laid to eternal rest. He would be surrounded by grieving family members, associates, friends and too many people he touched in his brief but eventful life. Yet as I write, in the new NDDC headquarters he helped bring to fruition, I am reminded that though great men die, they live with us. I am reminded of his great, yet humble spirit, as well as his untiring commitment to his service to the Commission, to the people of the Niger Delta region, to humanity, and to God.

Here in this beautiful edifice, rising new into the skyline of Marine Base, Port Harcourt, I am reminded that Hon. Ibanga will be lowered into Mother Earth, another great soul departed. But I look around and I find in the little things his fingerprints, the days he spent here, pushing the engineers to go the extra mile, the extra day, to ensure that a complex that had remained a dream for more than 25 years, which had faced all kinds of sabotage, whose completion was mired in a haze of circumspection and dunes of delays, would see the light of day.

I remember when the Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, gave us the charge to ensure that the headquarters of the Commission was completed. Hon. Ibanga became one of its strongest apostles and together we made it happen. Such was his dedication. Such was his imprint. And I know, deep within me, that though he departs, he remains with us.

He remains, not only in his work with the Commission, but in all that he accomplished throughout his life. He was the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, in the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission. He was a tenacious, hard-working, astute professional. He was a forward-looking and passionate administrator who believed in helping to rebuild the Commission into the organization it was established to be: one that is equipped to creditably discharge its mandate of regional sustainable development.

He was an independent-minded leader with a team spirit who worked with the IMC to streamline the workforce, as well as the financial protocols in the Commission, to ensure that operations were strengthened and the Commission was able to meet its obligations to staff, service providers and the Niger Delta region.

In a career that spanned over three decades, crisscrossing finance, construction, oil and gas, and the public sector, he distinguished himself as a thorough-bred professional, committed to excellence, integrity and inclusiveness. As Deputy President-General of Uyu Eta Esit Eket and as the President-General of Afigh Iwaad Ekid organization, he was committed to improving the welfare of his people. As a keen actor in the political sphere, he was called to serve as a member of the Esit Eket Local Government Transition Committee. He was also the Special Assistant to the Akwa Ibom State Governor on Project Monitoring and Supervision, a role he played from April 2009 to March 2012. 

Hon. Ibanga, being a man not given to half measures, when called, volunteered himself to the people of Esit Eket Local Government Area, and was elected to serve as the Executive Chairman from July 2012 to July 2015. During his tenure, he was instrumental to the development and urbanization of Esit Eket, with many legacy projects as testimonials to his astute managerial and administrative acumen. 

He was a goldfish which had no hiding place. Recognized as a passionate learner, Hon. Ibanga committed countless hours and resources to his academic, professional and personal development, with many achievements and records to show. He attended well over 40 different courses at home and abroad, including an International Advanced Training Program at the prestigious London Corporate Training, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom. 

His values were strongly shaped by his upbringing in a Christian home, his humble beginning, a sense of responsibility and a generous disposition to the sufferings of others. While a private person by nature, as a community leader, Late Hon. Ibanga mingled easily with people from all backgrounds and affiliations. He was a charismatic leader who led by example. He was known for being unafraid to speak and hear hard truths when necessary.

His sudden demise, sadly, came at the height of IMC's repositioning efforts, as well as the strategic work needed during the forensic audit of the Commission, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari. He will be sorely missed. But we are all comforted that his engrafted his name and spirit onto the great fabric of humanity. And then, we thank God that He gave us Hon. Ibanga, and he lived among us. His memory will continue to live among us.

Adieu, my brother, my friend, and gentleman. Journey well!

Dr. Ojougboh is the Acting Executive Director, Projects at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

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