By: John NTEKIM
Ironically, everyone desires success, yet, only a few still exemplify hard work and discipline which we were taught as pupils, to be the key to success.
We live in perilous times, when wise counsel is rarely tolerated by both the young and old, and morality is fast becoming unpopular. In Akwa Ibom and elsewhere within the Nigerian state, the opposite cannot be said to be the case. Most journalists, lawyers, law enforcement agents, clergymen, parents/guardians, elder statesmen, and others in whose place it is to instil discipline, demand accountability, demonstrate ethical conduct, and define acceptable behavioural standards in our society, have abandoned their roles to embrace the bandwagon.
Quite unfortunately, there is a new order which leaves much to be desired of our social, political and economic systems, all of which are now engulfed in ruins of all sorts as daily reported in the news. A few individuals who still preach morality, etiquette and professional codes, as opposed to the impunity, greed, injustice and their variants which have overwhelmed our society, are largely perceived as hypocrites, while the rest are rendered mute and taciturn for the fear of being misunderstood. Because leaders are products of the society, the endpoint of this repulsive trend is the endemic corruption which we generally decry in our public and private sectors.
It therefore worries me whether or not Mr. Udom Inoyo’s message was assimilated by majority members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council, when in his recent interaction with the pen pushers in Uyo, he exclaimed, “Make no mistake, we are on a journey to nowhere except we retrace our steps and begin to do things properly. So long as we continue to disregard our moral pathway, it would be difficult to make progress and be part of the respected comity of nations.” Although he expressed confidence in the media experts when he added, “This is not necessarily my prediction, but yours too,” it is unsafe to assume that his words were in sync with his entire audience.
Remarking further, the former Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil subsidiary companies in Nigeria told the pressmen, “As we all know, hard work, discipline and character, have taken a back seat in our society. Those amongst you who continue to drum into our ears the need to act with honor and do things properly are now viewed as prophets of old. You are chastised and left to lurch in solitude. It has now become fashionable to be correct in your reporting, not wanting to stir the hornets nest. So, let me upfront salute those who have decided to remain steadfast, bold, and honest; determining not to behave as if everyone is captured by an incubus or succubus powers.”
If anything, the gentleman’s foregoing remarks pose a crucial challenge to journalists, to rise courageously to the occasion as watchdogs whose duty it is to set behavioural benchmarks upon which they can judge their own conduct and that of others, and ensure that ‘hard work, discipline and character’, among other virtues, re-claim the front seat in our society. To inspire the journalists in this regard, Inoyo donated computers to the NUJ and further instituted the ‘Ray Ekpu Annual Award for Investigative Journalism’, with N500,000.00 as prize money for each award winner per year.
Meanwhile, Mr. Udom Inoyo is reported to have thrown down a similar challenge to members of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Akwa Ibom State, during the Ibom 2021 Engineering Week. In his keynote address at the NSE conference, he partly said, “I had earlier complimented you (engineers) for your aptitude and ability to resolve issues that seem complex to a majority. But unfortunately, it does appear that society is not getting the better of you. Or, put differently, maybe our environment has succeeded in clipping your abilities to soar.”
After highlighting instances of how the engineering profession is promoted in the United States, China and India, the ex-ExxonMobil chief continued, “…we need to do something about incentivizing our engineers, just as the engineers must help solve our numerous problems. After all, the role of the engineer is to look inwards and find solutions to our problems, and we have a lot in almost every sector of the economy, education, health, agriculture, security, power generation, etc.”
Like he did at the NUJ congress, Udom in his parting words at the NSE event, harped on hard work, discipline and integrity, emphasizing that, “We all must admit that we have a poor work culture in this country which is a sure barrier to our competitiveness as a nation. This must stop. People must be reminded that they do not need to be the best, but should always give their best in all circumstances.”
To be concise, let me make a quick reference to the keynote presentation by the Nsit Ubium-born lawyer to his learned colleagues at the 2021 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Uyo Branch Week. (See http://www.bit.ly/2VChbOw). It is noteworthy that at the NBA gathering, he elected to sponsor a high-profile capacity building workshop programme for legal practitioners in Akwa Ibom State through his brainchild – the Inoyo Toro Foundation. The workshop later commenced in the month of June, with Nigeria’s top legal experts drawn from across the country to train Akwa Ibom based lawyers on a broad spectrum of sectors, ranging from Ethics to Arbitration, Oil/Gas & Energy Space, Tax Practice, Aviation, Finance, ICT, Sports and Advocacy, among others.
It is not lost on this writer that more professional bodies and organizations have interfaced with the penetrating orator, Inoyo in the recent past, and reports of his articulation are, of course, in public domain. Ultimately, I am more concerned with the substance of Udom Inoyo’s speeches which in no little measure, reveals the broadness of his mind, as well as the uniqueness of his thought process. His apparent insistence on such virtues as integrity, discipline, character and hard work which our society appears to have alienated, puts him forth as one with imitable demeanor, whose main interest doesn’t lie in self, but in the emergence of a saner society for which he regularly expresses hope.
Moreover, experience teaches that in their chosen professions and in other spheres of life, people with Mr. Inoyo’s mindset usually attain prominence in due time. Little wonder he rose steadily through the ranks of the international oil firm to the peak of his career. Moreso, since Udom’s retirement from ExxonMobil in May 2020, several pieces have been written by high-flying professionals who have acknowledged the impacts of his inspiring mentorship on them. In one of such tributes, a former ExxonMobil staff and the Lead Consultant, Georgrid Consulting, Lagos, Mr. Idorenyin Isaac having narrated how his relationship with Inoyo shaped his professional life, had this to say: “Having known him for about 14 years now, I can say for a fact that Udom Inoyo is one of the most misunderstood persons that I know, and the reason is that he does not seek to take credit for his services and assistance he renders, as he believes he is acting for the general interest.”
Furthermore, another indigene of Akwa Ibom State, a retired ExxonMobil executive based in Canada, Dr. George Akpan has in a well detailed feature titled, ‘My Experience in ExxonMobil and Lessons for Akwa Ibom Youths’, explained that, “Because of his exposure, Inoyo believes more in a structured approach to social enterprise, than throwing cash at people on the streets, and …some people do not seem to appreciate Inoyo as much as he deserves, maybe because he is misunderstood and rather self-effacing.”
Dr. Wisdom Enang, FNSE, an Akwa Ibom-born oil and gas expert made history at this year’s NSE Fellowship Award as the youngest Fellow ever in the Nigerian Society of Engineers. In a recent interview, the 31-year old engineer waxed lyrical about being mentored by Mr. Inoyo. In his words, “…talking about mentorship on leadership, I have met someone that I am so much in love with his behavioural signature. Giving that I am closely under his mentorship at the moment, I can say unequivocally that his behaviour is the right positive attitude that we need in political leadership in Nigeria. He is assisting and preparing me for leadership in future – not political leadership! That is what I am banking on now. He is Udom Inoyo, the immediate past Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil companies in Nigeria. He is a leader of impeccable character. I am happy to be attached to such a leader who is taking me to the next level.” (Visit http://www.bit.ly/3yuIJE8 to read further).
Need I say more?
From the foregoing attestations stems my firm belief that for any group or an individual, excellence is the outcome of paying keen attention to the gentleman who has chosen the consistent pathway of setting agenda for institutions and volunteering sound mentorship to young people by insisting on discipline, hard work, and integrity, regardless of how much he has been misunderstood.
It would be recalled by participants at the 2021 NSE conference held in Uyo that Inoyo rounded off his keynote presentation by disclosing what drives his actions. He said, “Those who know me well will attest that I have always strived to be part of a solution wherever I find myself; focusing on matters that uplift rather than downgrade, building capacity instead of stifling growth, and creating wealth instead of wallowing in consumption. Akwa Ibom State is poised for greatness, and you must be part of that journey. I am already part of it.”
On the whole, it is now obvious that by dropping his resounding messages about ethical behaviour, hard work and discipline at every given opportunity, Udom Inoyo seeks nothing inordinate, but to play his part in the strengthening of institutions and spur everyone else to build a saner society by following the known route to achieving success. The question now begging to be answered is whether he will enjoy our audience and partnership as Akwa Ibom people, or he will be ‘chastised and left to lurch in solitude’ like other dissenting voices.
At the moment, Udom Inoyo has provided us a choice, but that choice is ours to make!
John Ntekim is a Lagos based public relations practitioner and public affairs analyst.