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Etteh at 80, multiple dance steps for engineering icon

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EttehDignity depicts him like some contemporary Caesar, but Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR, transcends the guile and chicanery that claimed the fabled Greek hero in his lifetime. He is in totality, a mortal husk of humaneness and grace. The story of Ikpong Etteh’s life is the stuff gallant dreams are made of, no doubt. In utter deference to his extraordinariness as an engineer, builder of men, genius, philanthropist and citizen of humanity, free verses and ornamental rhymes would simply not do to eulogize the man who lifted himself by the bootstraps to ascend the pinnacle of distinction.

Timeless anecdotes seep from his being like whirlwinds writing on the grass and inscriptions teaching us that everything and anything about the Co-Principal Partner in the firm of Etteh Aro & Partners, Ibadan, Oyo State, offer priceless lessons in modesty, resilience and grace. Thus as he clocks 80 today, December 16, 2015, significant segments of Nigeria’s high-society, comprising socio-economic and political titans, indeed, have justifiable cause to celebrate and rejoice with one of their own.

Pa Etteh is very honest about his convictions and would express them without reservations irrespective of the constitution of his audience. His ingenious approaches to business, views and beliefs among other issues, have distinguished him as one of Nigeria’s most respected icons.

Etteh presents an exception to the norm of the privileged class’ detachment and arrogance. He is unpretentiously open, meek and never given to posturing. Very few successful men are that way. And very few successful men and shining icons of Nigeria’s industry and high society are as humbled out by their own success stories as Ikpong Etteh – since, like too many of the privileged class, they want it either too much or too little. And it’s that ability to be constantly modest and selfless that makes him a darling to everyone. He has a way of daring you—which, for folks who cannot resist a bit of a challenge, intelligent dialogue and electrifying companionship, can be irresistible. Eventually, most of Etteh’s acquaintances are usually left awestruck.

Yet in spite of his sterling personality, Etteh is modest to a fault. There is no entourage at his beck and call neither does he parade gargantuan chips on his shoulders as most successful technocrats are wont to do. Notwithstanding, he exudes elegance and a decent modicum of self-respect which imbues his person with that proverbial poise and magnetism that is the dream of not a few of his peers and yet eludes them.

The likes of Etteh are very rare; not only in terms of the wisdom, poise and panache available to him, but the general sense of refinement and modesty that dominates every aspect of his relationship with his fellow men. His life is that of selfless service to humanity. He gives without expecting anything in return. It is in this spirit, that he virtually turned the company he co-founded to a training ground for young engineers who enjoy unlimited scholarships to advance in their career by studying mostly abroad. By this the young and upcoming engineers are encouraged to garner requisite experience and post-graduate training and pass the required professional exams and continue to work with noteworthy and professionally- endowed engineering firms. He believes in imparting knowledge and has lost count of the young engineers and others who have drank from his fountain of benevolence.

In a society in which personal talent and merit account for too little or nothing, Etteh has shown that if a man dedicates himself passionately to his work, even the most tyrannical odds and his most pitiless adversaries, will eventually bow to him. For this unique personality, as he clocks 80 today, many of his associates, friends, acquaintances and family are determined to go out of their way to ensure that the day does not pass like an ordinary day. It has to be extraordinary. No such sacrifice can ever be too much for a lovable friend, confidant, father-figure and socio-economic icon. This is the more reason why his professional colleagues, under the aegis of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers, NICE, have decided to honour this Icon of the engineering profession by instituting an Annual Distinguished Lecture Series in his name. Also on the card is a Life-time Achievers Award, probably the first of its kind. The maiden edition of the Annual Lecture holds today at the Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos, with Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Foreign Affairs Minister as Guest Lecturer.

This maiden edition also coincides with Engr. (Rev) Etteh’s 80th birthday anniversary. Some of the works of Engr (Rev) Etteh, spanning over 5 decades of Engineering practice, including his first bridge assignment in 1965, will be on display at the venue. Everyone he has come in contact with in one way or another are set to show love to a man in whom they are well pleased and have entrusted their present and their future. They are set to appreciate the impact he has made in their lives.

However, being a self-starter like Etteh is harder than it looks. Some nights are great; others, you feel like you are up to your neck in quicksand but Etteh’s tenacity and capacity for soaking up pressure and transcending it, remains an inspiration to many of his colleagues. Ardently inured to the essence of good leadership, apart from encouraging and producing some of the best engineers in Nigeria, Etteh encourages both his contemporaries and underlings to develop the courage to tow the path of justice and morality and do what is right even when it is unpopular. He possesses the enviable skill to bring people of differing viewpoints together to get things done.

And by those measures, he became a very efficient manager and gentleman with sterling qualities. Not the one to capitulate or yield to the odds however daunting they become, early in his life, he braved the odds, and faced his fears and the odds head-on in his determined march for success. Having communed with his inner man, he sought divine guidance as he hacked his way through the world’s wilderness of vicissitudes and uncertainty to become the man he is today. At any rate, his ascension to the top wasn’t totally inured to temptation and self-doubt. For instance, he decided to ignore the temptation to travel abroad in search of greener pasture and focused on his self-development as a man and ambitious industry upstart. Today, his story is a triumph of the resilience of the human spirit. The never say die type. Nothing better personifies a determination to win than this 80- year-old-man with a knack for prodigious challenges driven by a heart of raw steel.

Pa Etteh is very honest about his convictions and would express them without reservations irrespective of the constitution of his audience. His ingenious approaches to business, views and beliefs among other issues, have distinguished him as one of Nigeria’s most respected icons. His dogged struggle against all odds to become a successful engineer and builder of men establishes his girth in consonance with a providential order basically characteristic of the proverbial rare breed or champions if you like.

This octogenarian was born on December 16, 1935, at Akassa, in Bayelsa State, to the family of late High Chief Ikpong Ikpong Etteh and Deaconess Nkaepe Ulaeto Ikpong Etteh, both of the royal families in Upenekang in the present day Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. His early education spanned St. Patrick’s School, Ifiayong in 1945 to 1947 and Holy Trinity School, Mbiakong 1948, all in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. He had his secondary education at the Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, in Cross River State from 1952 to 1958.

Thereafter, he worked briefly as a mathematics teacher at the Lutheran High School, Obot Idim, from January to November 1959. Then he joined the Federal Ministry of Statistics as an Assistant Statistical officer from 1959 to 1961. Subsequently, he got admitted into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1961 to study Civil Engineering. He obtained his first degree, B.Sc. London, in 1964, M.Sc. (Highways) Surrey, in 1969, a second M.sc. (Bridges) Surrey, in 1973, and then a Diploma in Theology in 1997 from Immanuel College of Theology, Ibadan. His professional qualifications include MIHE (1967); MICE, C.Eng (1969); MNSE (1971); FNSE (1981); and Foundation Fellow, the Nigeria Academy of Engineering (1995).

Besides his string of academic achievements, Engr (Rev) Etteh has been honoured with many professional awards which include; the Presidential Merit Award in November 2005, in recognition of his unique support for the cause of the engineers in the country. He was one of the first five engineers to be inaugurated into the Nigerian Hall of Fame in 2013; he received the Merit Award by the Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers in 2002; and the Excellent Award in Engineering by the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Uyo in 1993. Rev. The government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria honoured Rev. (Engr.) Etteh with the national honour of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR); by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001.

He has also served meritoriously in different capacities. He served as the Chairman, Board of Calabar Cement Company from 1975 to 1980 and Chairman, Federal Mortgage Finance Company from 1993 to 1994. He has also served in various capacities as member in different committees; for instance, he was a member of the committee of Road Vision 2000, which established an Independent Road Fund and Road Board for Road Maintenance in 1998; he was part of Arc. (Dr.) Godwin Odumah’s Committee on appraisal of the National Housing Programme in 1995; Engr. S.O. Fadahunsi’s Panel on review of Federal Government Contracts, which resulted in tremendous cost saving in 1978; the Ibom International Airport Implementation Committee and he was also chairman of the Technical sub-committee for Ibom International Airport. He is at present a member of the committee on Road Transportation Framework.

Pa Etteh, though a thorough bred professional in his career, had determined earlier in life to serve God and humanity. To fulfill this call, he enrolled and attended the Immanuel College of Theology in Ibadan from 1993 to 1997. Upon graduation, he was ordained a Minister of Word and Sacrament of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria on June 7, 1998. From then till date, he has been winning souls for the Lord’s Vineyard!
Here is wishing this icon of the Engineering profession, Pa, Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, abundant good health in the years ahead. Happy Birthday Sir!

. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR
Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR


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