Posted by Churchill S. Umoren | 23 August 2013 | 4,725 times
When I first met the former Secretary to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Umana Okon Umana, his simplicity and unassuming nature were overwhelming. This was so because I had heard stories of how powerful and influential this soft-spoken Ibibio technocrat, born in Ndiya, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, was.
I had taken a flight from Abuja to Uyo, and was picked up by one of his drivers. I met him in his home. He was warm. Umana was anxious to make me feel comfortable. Later he and some of commissioners and kinsmen settled to watch an Arsenal game. He is an Arsenal fan. For the few days I stayed, this former pupil of Edgerly Primary School, and his principal, Governor Godswill Akpabio, were perfect hosts, even though I was a few miles away at the Meridien.
When speculations became rife that Umana would succeed Akpabio, most Akwa Ibomites were not surprised considering his loyalty to the people, Akpabio, the party, his pedigree, discipline and tendency to be a workaholic, among others.
Umana’s loyalty to Akpabio right from the days of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries was one of the reasons most people were surprised at the turn of events and eventual removal of Umana. In 2007 when Akpabio faced real challenges at the primaries where over 50 aspirants, most formidable, showed interest in Governor’s Lodge, Umana, an Ibibio, threw his hat in the ring for a man from Annang, Akpabio, an outsider then.
He is a workaholic who gave his all at all times. He was the engine room of the Akwa Ibom State Government and he worked closely with his principal to ensure the success of the ‘Uncommon Trasformation Agenda’ of Akpabio that is the envy of most states. This was his principal’s testimony in 2011: “Umana, an Ibibio man, from Uyo Senatorial District, having served creditably in the first term, was the most suitable for the office . . . He is a technocrat with a team spirit, he is an administrator with exceptional strength, ability and vision. The depth of his understanding of policies and their backgrounds proved vital in our administrative efforts.”
Umana is no doubt a very honest administrator who cherishes humility. Even when everyone knew he was a strong pillar in the administration he gave all the applause to his principal. He had said: “I think my experience can only be discussed in the context of the programmes and policies of the administration of Chief Akpabio . . . as a member of the team, my experiences have been rewarding and very fruitful because anybody who comes to Akwa Ibom is amazed at the pace of development.”
So when talks about a disagreement between both men came up, it was a shock, because Umana born 54 years ago, is a loyal man. First, it was the move to send him to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and then speculations that he would be removed. And then, sadly, he left under controversial circumstances.
Umana, who marked his birthday this week, had showed leadership qualities and brilliance from his days St Patrick’s College, Calabar, where he left with Grade One, and was the best graduating student. He kept this on at the University of Calabar, where he bagged a Second Class Upper degree in Economics. He then got an MBA from University of Port Harcourt and strings of professional qualifications from Columbia University, New York, London Business School, among others.
Umana still wants to be the next chief Executive of Akwa Ibom State and has had stints in sundry sectors. He was a research assistant at the University of Calabar, joined the state public service in October 1989 as principal budget officer. In a few years buoyed by hard work, Umana became State Director of Budget in 1998. In October 2000, he was appointed Permanent Secretary in charge of the Budget Office. He retired in 2003.
The he began his sterling foray in the political terrain. He joined Victor Attah’s administration as Finance Commissioner; his astute management quality benefited the state immensely. He was also saddled with the chairmanship of the Interministerial Committee on Direct Labour, Micro-credit, and the state’s Programme Coordinating Committee of the UNDP.
Because Umana was an asset, Akpabio had wanted him to fill a ministerial spot in Abuja, but the spot was not available, so he took him in. And no doubt he has no regrets.
As his kinsmen urged him to join the race for 2015, Umana had no choice but to say yes. His words: “Whatever level, regardless of the platform, you can make a difference. You should strive to serve in such a manner that when you leave, people would say, yes, you made a difference, made an impact or did your best.”
As we celebrate this astute technocrat at the young age of 54, I want to say say “Yes, he did his best as SSG.” There is no doubt Umana would make a difference and ensure the uncommon transformation is taken to the next level. Happy Birthday.
•Churchill S. Umoren writes from Asokoro, Abuja. •Photo shows Umana.
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