By Mathias Okoi-Uyouyo
Okoi-Uyouyo, avid writer and public servant, pens a moving tribute to Emmanuel Utum Solomon Ubi, shot in the stomach on December 31st, 2019, by armed robbers who attempted to rape his daughter in the course of the robbery in Ugep, Yakurr LGA, Cross River State.
I learnt of the death of Emmanuel Utum Ubi, my senior at Mary Knoll College, Ogoja from complications arising from gunshot wounds he sustained while trying to protect his daughter from criminals who had robbed them, and wanted to add salt to the injury by raping his daughter in his presence. Like every good father, he would have none of such, and paid with his life.
My relationship with Emma dates back to the early 80s, when he used to come and pick me from home for Sunday Mass at St. Benedict’s Cathedral, Ogoja. He was living with his uncle, Patrick Ubi who later joined the Nigeria Immigration Service, retiring as an Assistant Comptroller General. He was then the Librarian of Ogoja Library. I would ride on Emma’s neck and back to church, stopping at Mama Hausa to exchange our “offering” money for akara. Later in life I got to understand what he was going through then which called for those exchanges. But he braved it all. The relationship blossomed when I met him, then a Form 4 student at Mary Knoll when I entered J. S. S. 1. He was one of the persons who took me under their wings. We have maintained our acquaintanceship since then.
I have watched Emma brave the odds in life and blossom into what he became – from the University of Uyo, through stringing for Lento Aluminium and many other sides hustles. He was the embodiment of the “hustler mentality” and “never-say-die-spirit”. But today, he died. Cut short in his prime.
From his hustles, Emma has opened a hotel in Ugep. He probably thought with the goings-on in the country, his family and investments will be safer there. That was where he got it wrong. Ugep is not what it used to be. The same town that used to have a deep sense of community and love has been taken over by hate. If not, how does one explain his killing by criminals within us? It did not use to be this way. That is why his death should sound the warning bell, on why we should wake up. We must rid ourselves of these criminals. I have heard some persons call them cultists. No! They are not. They are criminals, and we should not tolerate them in our community in whatever guise. We may be saying they are our brothers and sisters, but unfortunately, they no longer represent us. We should point them out to the security agencies. We know them.
To the family of Emmanuel Utum Ubi, our prayers and thoughts are with you at this trying time, but take heart and raise your heads high. Be proud of who you are, the family of a great man. You cannot have a bigger hero than him.
Okoi-Uyouyo wrote in from Abuja.
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