The Comforter Had Come: A Tribute To Idongesit Okon Nkanga
By Pioneer Team
January 29, 2021
"The long night is past,
The morning breaks at last
And hushed the dreadful wails
And fury of the blast
As o'er the golden hills
The day advances fast!
Why did Air Commodore Otuekong
Idongesit OkonNkanga, fss,
psc(+), fwc, deploy all of the
opportunity of his first and only political appointment as Military Administrator of Akwa
Ibom State in securing a head-start for the
people of the state?
In a country where the chance to control
the treasury of a state is akin to a greenlight for a looting spree, how come the man
went into the gamble of starting and completing a Secretariat Complex within a tenure which was hardly more than a "whistle
stop? The answers to these questions reside in the above verse, the lyrics for the
song "the comforter has come by Francis
Bottome, the 19th century British poet and
hymn writer. "Idongesit is "Comforter
and "Okon means "night in our language.
According to Bottome, "The long night is
past, because "the comforter has come.
More than a century separates Bottome
and Nkanga. Yet, there can be no better
prophetic anticipation of the essence and
life mission of the departed former Military
Administrator of AkwaIbom State, whose
deployment to the state in 1990 clearly
sealed the fate of Akwa Ibom as, indeed, a
land of promise whose "long night had past
because "the comforter had come.
Like all genuine prophecies, Bottome's
prophecy had an en core in contemporary
time. Before Nkanga's regime, I had the
unique privilege of serving in the first State
Executive Council of our state as Commissioner for Information and Social Welfare.
The first Military Administrator had timely
located a site for a State Government Secretariat but unfortunately, accommodation
arrangements for government offices during his successor's tenure were built around
the then prevalent rentier economy which
was without any concern for enduring state
structures and legacies.
I raised the issue during one of the Executive Council meetings but I was overruled. I had to stand down - but not without
putting it on record that a "Daniel may come
to judgment one day, and that I was no
longer interested in continuing as a member of a government which obviously did
not have the interest of Akwa Ibom at heart.
Shortly after, that Executive Council was
reconstituted and I was dropped.
Happily, my prophecy did not take long to
come true. In September, 1990 the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida appointed and posted Idongesit Nkanga to
Akwa Ibom as Military Administrator in a
move that was to become a game-changer
for the destiny of Akwa Ibom State. Conscious of the Military assignment nature of his posting, and activated by the sense-ofpersonal-stake of a son-of-the-soil, Nkanga
immediately set about the job of giving the
state a footing in the form of a Secretariat
To clearly see the genius and patriotism
in Nkanga's action, let us consider the relief we get as individuals, the moment we
are able to acquire our own private building. Besides the positive social and emotional implications of being a house-owner,
a personal building is the trigger for genuine
liberation! And firing from all cylinders for
the attainment of this goal, Nkanga was able
to move the administration of the new state
from rented apartments into its own permanent housing in a record time of just nine
months which was later appropriately
named IdongesitNkanga Secretariat Complex.
In this, he stinted himself of the lucre built
into the accommodation arrangements
which existed before him. At the groundbreaking for the Secretariat, I had the unique
privilege of being invited by Nkanga and I
flew in from Japan where I was on an official assignment on behalf of the Federal
Government, to be part of the fulfilment of
our dream for the State. Apart from the
rhapsody which greeted the state-creation
itself, and the approval of the Ibom Deep
Seaport Project by the Federal Government
and the launching of Ibom Air, I can say
that I am yet to witness another occasion which generated the kind of jubilation that I
saw at the Secretariat Complex groundbreaking event.
After his epochal outing as Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Nkanga
had been severally involved in other strategic assignments and engagements for the
nation, where - true to the soldier in him -
he was always at the head of the fray. Within
the year 1992 alone, he was Director of
Inspection at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Air Force; and Director, Research
and Development, before his nomination for
the National War College in 1993.
From the War College, he returned to the
Executive Airlift Group as Commander in
1994. He was appointed the Commander,
Presidential Air Fleet and Principal Staff
Officer (Aviation Matters) to the Head of
When he retired in 1999, he joined Jet Support Services Incorporated of America, and
was appointed its Regional Director for Africa. He was chairman, Commodore Aviation Services, a Nigeria-Irish Joint Aviation
Concern; and chairman, Aero Link Limited,
a Worldwide Aviation Consultancy outfit.
When Nkanga decided to join politics, he
proved to be an invaluable war-horse in
every respect. His first port of call was the
National Democratic Party (NDP) under
which he contested for the governorship of
the state, with me as his preferred senatorial candidate for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.
In the politics of the Peoples Democratic
Party, he was not only a caucus member,
but served consecutively as Director-General, Godswill 2011 Campaign Organization;
Udom/Moses 2015 Campaign Organization;
and the Divine Mandate Campaign Organization in 2019, during which outings he
proved his pedigree as a seasoned political
strategist and prized combatant.
As the chairman of the Board of Ibom
Air Ltd, Nkanga brought his full pedigree
as a pilot and a global aviation expert to bear
in managing the first state governmentowned airline in Nigeria. Within a period of
two years of its inauguration in 2019 with
just two aircrafts, Nkanga built Ibom Air
into the preferred choice of air travellers on
the domestic routes due to the several innovations he had brought to bear, while increasing the fleet to five aircrafts with plans
to venture into international operations.
He was also the chairman, Pan Niger
Delta Forum (PANDEF), a platform from
where he waged an unrelenting battle for
an equitable deal from the Federal Government for the shortchanged and traumatized
people of the Niger Delta Region. On the
very day of his passage, the 24th of December, 2020, Nkanga was still vociferating from a broadsheet interview in This Day
newspaper: "The people preventing the relocation of the IOCs to the Niger Delta Region are in Lagos, he said - in furtherance
of the agitation, as if pointing a successor to
where the fight should be taken next in the
eventuality of his departure.
Call it a case of dying in active service;
of posthumous durability; of a legacy of
service which is undying and worthy of
emulation - and you will not be wrong!
When our people balk at the prospect of
dying, the plea is often that they are yet to
move their "belongings into a safe and
permanent accommodation. The meaning
is that accommodating one's own is the ultimate mark of accomplishment. In the State
Secretariat Complex, Otuekong Idongesit
Nkanga provided accommodation for Akwa
Ibom when it mattered most, and though
we would have loved to have him remain
with us always, we can be consoled that he
successfully joined the circuit of his service
to his Creator and humanity. And as that
This Day interview rightly indicated, Nkanga
was a true soldier - he died at his post!
Today, as we commit his remains to
Mother Earth, I urge his family, the people
of Nsit Ibom Local Government Area, the
PDP family and the entire state to equally
draw consolation from the fact that Nkanga
gave his utmost in his life time.
I pray that the soul of this great trail-blazer,
liberation fighter, patriot gentleman soldier
and statesman, find rest in the bosom of the
Adieu Elder Nkanga.
Moses F. Ekpo, MFR, is Akwa Ibom
State deputy governor.