I couldn’t figure why our school games master, Late Mr. Uwe Ekpaha Mkpandiok selected Victor Antai the team captain. I wasn’t one of players but a keen supporter of the team. But my best friend James Okwong played full back and was much older and more mature though we were all in the same class. I thought he should have been selected. But Late Mkpadiok knew better. However, the Primary School Uko Uyikim football junior team became an enigma under Victor Antai’s captainship in the mid 70s. The team was a huge whip which sent other primary school football teams to tears.
It took many years before I understood Mr. Mkpandiok’s decision. Later events, interactions and observation of Victor over the years justified his selection even at that young age. I have come to associate him with the following:
1. A source of inspiration
As young as Victor was he had mastery of motivation and the importance of getting to the root level and inspiring team members.
He generated enthusiasm amongst team mates, which helps focus on future goals and current issues at hand. That is a strong leadership quality which he has built upon over the years.
2. Persistence by nature
Like Henry Ford, Victor’s story is that of persistence. Back in the 1890s Ford’s Quadricycle was launched with four large wheels meant for bicycles and an engine powered by ethanol. It failed but that didn’t stop Henry Ford from making it to the top charts later on. Ford Motor today is the number one choice amongst the crème-de-la-crème and the who’s who of the motor vehicle world. Victor’s story of “Oro Ekufre Mi o” (meaning Oro don’t forget me) is well known to any Oro adult of today. He came into politics with sacrificial service to his people. As a private individual Victor single handedly embarked on reactivation of an electrification project by replacing electrical lines to about 21 poles from Udung Uko Local Government to Mbo. A distance of over a kilometer. The poles had earlier fallen, abandoned and vandalized. As a result part of Mbo LGA was cut-off from the National grid. In doing this he appealed to Oro people not to forget him any day he comes knocking but Oro forgot him not once, not twice and yet he never gave up. Persistency got him to where he is today. His persistency then kept other members of the team going even on a day the team was 3 goals down to Saint Marks at half time. They came back to win 4 goals to 3. During the last election Hon Victor Antai’s resilience on the face of pressure was manifested. He and the likes of Mrs Akon Eyakenyi, Hon Felicia Bassey, Hon Nse Ekpenyong and a few others stood with Gov Udom Emmanuel irrespective of pressures from home.
3. Recognizing true potential
Like Steve Jobs, Victor has capacity to identify talents in very unique ways. Victor Antai was among the first Oronians to recognize the potentials and innovative visions of Gov Udom Emmanuel as best to move the state forward at these trouble times.
For his team, he not only recognized but brought out the best from his young team mates at Uko Uyukim. He hasn’t changed. He is still a recognizer of the vast potential in other people and respects them for it.
To be etched in the minds of millions, one of the most important leadership traits for world leaders to have is that of being authentic.
No power plays, no muscle pulling and no arm twisting needed, but clear intentions and someone who can be consistent in their words and actions. That is Victor Antai as I know him. When I say no power play I mean no power play. Not Victor, he doesn’t play “Brutus”.
He embraces diversity in all forms and is unique in displaying strengths even where others are weak. He demonstrated it during the last elections of His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel.
Victor is filled with empathy, an embracer of diversity and someone that knows his own areas of improvement and strengths that would help his people go forth!
I was in his house yesterday morning when some young men from his Local Government thronged his residence to complain of some issues with PHCN which resulted in cutting of electricity. Right there he called the PHCN substation, had a chat with them. He then agreed to subsidize outstanding bills while negotiating with the community to do well by being more responsive to the demands of PHCN. As I write the problem has been amicably resolved. That is leadership.
Leaders stand out to support you when others walk away. At a time when it was customary for Oronians to leave PDP, Victor remained firmly rooted.
One thing however you won’t find with Hon Victor Antai is betrayal. Historically, betrayal hasn’t been an attribute of the Oro people. His Excellency (Chief) Etim Jack Okpoyo did not betray his boss, Obong Akpan Isemin neither did Nelson Effiong when he worked hand in hand with Obong Victor Attah. It is simply not on record. Senator Akpabio on his part cannot point at any of his subordinates from Oro nation who was one of those positioned to edge him out in 2011. The Oro man may have his arrogant contentment “Nlie ku uffok ovuu” meaning am I feeding from your house, but intrinsic and clandestine mischievous betrayal found in most other communities are not in Oro DNA. What an Oro man would do he would speak out.
Leadership is a complex technical skill which Oronians have displayed in every field of human endeavor. It is not based on a desire to supplant their bosses. There are numerous theories on what makes a good leader, yet the consensus is clear: like all areas of expertise, it is something that requires commitment, dedication loyalty and focus. One thing even the greatest detractors of Oro people would admit is that Oronians they have worked with at leadership positions either as partners or subordinates have demonstrated long-term ethical thinking, interpersonal connection making, inspiring and bringing out the best in others, self regulation, higher order negotiation, a learning mindset, balanced processing and goal focused behaviour. Betrayal and supplanting is not a characteristic of the Oro people. I say this very strongly. As a result those who go about blackmailing Mr. Antai to create an impression of his possible disloyalty to his boss should look for another victim.
It is no news that a lot of people have thrived through blackmail in this state. But unfortunately this time they selected the wrong horse – Victor Etim Antai. I have once said in this forum that Kenya is two hours ahead of Nigeria but that doesn’t mean Kenya is faster than Nigeria. It only mean they are in different time zones. The fact that some communities seem to have it better today doesn’t mean Oro is slow. It only means Oro is in a different time zone – spiritually speaking. Oro time to produce governor would come. Like Hon Victor would say “mkpo onu kinni” meaning there’s time for everything.
For now, The truth, The Whole Truth is that Hon Victor Antai was one of the first Akwaibomites to proclaim that the “glory” hasn’t yet departed from Onna. And so he stands till 2023.
Less I forget, Rt Hon Victor Antai is 51 today, join me in wishing this grassroots expansionist, and administrative strategist, Oro son a happy birthday.
James Abang Writes From Atte Okiuso-Village, Urueoffong/Oruko LGA