By Uboho Bassey
Our youths think it was way easier years ago. They see the elders standing on a pedestal of glory, accomplished, embellished with laurels, adorned in their garment of honour and feel intimidated and shortchanged by the realities of today’s challenges. Hah! How wrong they are!
Should we tell them?
Perhaps we should tell them how these people we look up to today woke up at 4am and went to village streams through bush paths to fetch water. Perhaps we should unveil the barest hint of the discomfort of being shipped (bicycled) off to a grandmother to take care of in the hinterlands – villages where having shoes was unheard of. Perhaps they should hear from the original village boys! But that would be a tale for another day.
For a fact, great stories do not just happen. As one of the guest speakers said, opportunity has to meet an already existing process of excellence. And to further confirm this, the Bible says, “A man’s gifts maketh way for him.”
Today’s honour reel was for a great man who surmounted all the odds and more. Mr Ray Ekpu. A world-renowned quintessential journalist, exceptional writer, a man of foresight who has discovered and built up destinies – a shining ‘Ray’ of light. There aren’t many made in his mould.
Born on August 6th, 1948, in Ikot Udo Osiom in the present-day Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Ray Ekpu remains one of Nigeria’s most outstanding Journalists whose career spans more than half a century. In the words of Dr. Udeme Nana, Founder, Uyo Book Club and convener of the event, journalism in Nigeria is one of the riskiest careers and to be alive to celebrate a milestone birthday at 75 years, is a blessing not to be trifled with.
It was a gathering of well-wishers, writers, readers, journalists, book lovers, students. etc
The event/book reading session set up by Uyo Book Club to commemorate and celebrate Mr. Ray Ekpu’s 7️⃣5️⃣th birthday was an eye-opener to the young folks who have only heard of but not had the privilege, honour and rare opportunity to see him. But everyone present in the Shakespeare Hall of Watbridge Hotel felt his creative and intrinsic essence; vibrant, captivating tributes and vibes from his written works. One cannot mention Newswatch Magazine and Newsmagazine journalism in Nigeria without speaking of Mr. Ray Ekpu.
No! Ce n’est pas possible!
Mfon Ebebe said the opening prayer too.
???? Dr UDEME NANA, Founder of Uyo Book Club gave an inspiring opening remarks and read the poem, ”My Pen is Pregnant” being the Goodwill message of the Patron of the Club, Senator Ekong Sampson, on the occasion. He told his audience that he tried to model his life after Ray Ekpu and that the great journalist was his inspiration and Role model. ‘Reading Newswatch were weekly meals I looked forward to in my teenage years’, Dr Nana said.
He described the life story of Ray Ekpu from a remote village to global fame as heroic and appreciated Captain Mfon Udom, Pastor ImoAbasi Jacob, Comrade Ini Ememobong, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr Nestor Udoh, Ani Sunny Udoh and Dr Martin Akpan who supported the hosting of the Event. ”Akwa Ibom people must learn to celebrate their icons in their lifetime’ and not roll out the drums when they die”, Dr Nana emphasized.
???? Dr Martin Akpan, Author of The Crumb Eaters read the piece ” A Hollow Ritual.”
???? Mr Anietie Usen, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Umo Eno on Media spoke about the circumstances of his employment at Newswatch Magazine and how Ray Ekpu, his Boss, permitted him to share the platform of his 70th birthday celebration at Muson Centre, Lagos to launch his book ‘Audacious Journalism.’
???? Captain Augustine Okon, Founder of ADC Airlines told the story of how Ray brought him to the limelight in 1982 through Sunday Times. He said Ray was a ‘man who has inspired a generation to feel that they can do it’.
???? Arc. Ezekiel Nyaetok, a Governorship aspirant of ADC talked about how he had abandoned Architecture, the profession he was trained in, but Ray Ekpu got him back on track.
???? Mr. Brendan Inyang, a Lagos-based artist par excellence spoke of Uncle Ray being one of Nigeria’s greatest heroes and a great inspiration to the younger generation.
Other readers read articles written by Mr. Ray from the Newswatch stable.
???? Uboho Bassey read ‘The Choice We Make” penned to commemorate the 25th-anniversary passing of Mr. Dele Giwa, one of the founders of Newswatch Magazine, whose life was terminated through a parcel bomb blast in his office.
????Vincent Aluu, Nsikak Ekanem, who said his own father was Ray Ekpu’s classmate in Primary School and that he also, later attended the same Primary School.
???? Nkeneke Efo, the skilful compere also read a column written about Ray Ekpu – ‘Ekpu in the Dock’
???? Mary Jonas, the Coordinator of Abak Book Club supervised the cutting of the beautifully designed birthday cake and rendition of birthday song to the celebrant.
Toasts were proposed by Arc. Ezekiel Nyaetok to the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
Anie Sunny Udoh for Akwa Ibom State and Captain Augustine Okon to the good health of Mr. Ray Ekpu @7️⃣5️⃣.
???? Highlight of the well-spent evening was the call made by Arc. Nyaetok to Mr. Ray Ekpu, which provided an opportunity to the gathering of well-wishers to hear his voice and serenade him with a Happy Birthday Song. He expressed appreciation and gratitude for the honour done him, even in his absence.
???? John Obot jnr, the young man who is currently rehearsing to attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for reading aloud also paid glowing tributes to Ray Ekpu.
????A vote of thanks by Israel Umoh and closing prayers by Aaron Solomon brought the evening to a close.
???? To the man who has become a rallying force, a gold mine of information, a national treasure in journalism, a reservoir of knowledge, a reverberating voice in political discourse, we salute you!
Happy 7️⃣5️⃣ Birthday Cheers to the great Ray Ekpu!! ????????????????????????????