Minister launches education fund for Okopido’s children as Party buries late chairman

By ETIM ETIM

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senate Godswill Akpabio yesterday launched a N5 million education fund to finance the education of the children of late chairman of the APC, Hon Ini Okopido who was buried yesterday in his village, Ikot Akpan Anwa, Ika LGA. Only two of his children are still in school, the rest have graduated. It is important that friends of the Okopidos continue to support the family. The minister also announced a N2 million gift to Qua Iboe Church which conducted the funeral service and another cash gift to the women and youths. I can also recall that soon after the chairman’s death, Senator Akpabio had visited his widow, Idara, and donated handsomely to take care of the immediate family needs.

In addition, the minister yesterday pledged to facilitate the road that the construction of the road that leads into the village. This writer can also confirm that the minister had equally made financial donation to the party, APC, last week to assist the party foot the funeral bills.

‘’I thank Senator Akpabio and all the other members of our great Party, including His Excellence, Gov of Yobe State, who came to our help in these very difficult moments, for their generosity’’, enthused the Ag Chairman, Dr. Ita Udosen last night. ‘We have already publicly acknowledged our party members who donated to the party to help settle the funeral costs. We are very grateful to them’, Dr Udosen added. This writer can also confirm that Dr Udosen did not only coordinate the funeral arrangements on behalf of his party, he also made his own contribution. The Acting Chairman gave out his ambulance, free of charge, to convey his late chairman’s remains to his final resting place. ‘’I am very proud of the APC family in the state. Their sacrifice to the Okopido family is notable’’, said Engr Bassey Ekanem, Managing Director of Base Engineering Limited.

The launch of the education fund yesterday by Senator Akpabio was a fitting closure to a daylong event. The day started early at the late chairman’s residence at Ewet Housing Estate where his body was taken to from the morgue. There were cries, wailings and sobs. But the prayers were also intense. His widow and children cut a pitiable sight. From there, the body moved to the Party’s Secretariat on Ikot Ekpene Road. Party members and leaders thronged the secretariat to bid their chairman farewell. Again more cries and sobs. I lost my composure as the incantations and prayers intensified. I walked up to the widow who was sobbing uncontrollably by the casket. I remembered my own mom 45 years ago when dad left. I choked as I uttered a few words of comfort to Mrs Idara Okpido. ‘Be strong and take care of your mom’, I turned to the first son, who managed to stay stoic. There is no pain like the loss of a loved one. By now the fervency of the moment had become surreal. Dr (Mrs) Roseline Harry, the State Party Auditor, was speaking directly, personally and passionately to the body in the casket. She made statements, proclamations and pronouncements. The picture of Mary Magdalene at the graveside of Jesus Christ that early morning flashed through my mind. God bless our women. There were more wailings and sobs. Earlier, the Acting Chairman had received the body and made a beautiful but brief eulogy. He recalled his closeness and working relationships with the late chairman.

Soon we were all on our way to Ikot Akpan Anwa, a distance of about 50 km from the Party office. The funeral service was well attended by both the APC and PDP chieftains. The officiating minister, Rev Ekpedeme Moffat Efanga ruffled a few feathers when he thundered from the pulpit ‘’There is so much hunger in Akwa Ibom’’. The crowd cheered him on. Soon after, the SSG, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem dashed out of the venue, followed by other PDP members. They could not have been prepared for the tongue lashing that flowed from the pulpit.

Among other APC chieftains that attended were Senator John James Akpanudoedehe (he also represented the Chairman of the Party’s Caretaker Committee), Senator Ita Enang, Barr Dan Abia-Abia Snr, Chief Ita Awak and wife, HE Group Captain Sam Enwang and wife, Mr Umana Umana and wife, Engr Akanimo Edet, Chief Victor Antai, Chief Inibehe Okorie, Mr Uwem Udoma, Mr Don Etim, Mr Ibanga Akpabio, Mr Nse Ntuen, Mr Ekperikpe Ekpo, Mr Godwin Afangide, Chief Dan Akai, Mr Perry Ebong and Abom Tony Esu, among many others. Dr Amadu Atai represented Atuekong Don Etiebet and Obong Nsima Ekere.

From the PDP and state government came Dr Ekuwem who read Gov Udom Emmanuel’s condolence letter, Ini Ememobong, Chief Ndueso Essien, Engr Ibok Essien, Barr Emmanuel Enoidem, Mr Onofiok Luke, Barr Uwemedimo Nwoko, Chief Udo Ekpenyong (PDP State Chairman), Mr Emmanuel Obot, Mr Ntientong Inyangmme, Mr Paul Ekpo and others.