How Nigeria missed divine appointment – oil engineer reveals at 70
When Saudi Arabia changed the oil game, Nigeria slept on
Around the time that Nigeria discovered oil and the oil boom started in the early 1970s, Saudi Arabia took a position and increased the price of oil from about $3 to over $20 per barrel. Kuwait used the windfall to establish refineries in many countries. They started refining their crude outside their territory and selling, but Nigeria did not know what to do with their own money. Now, at 70 years, an oil engineer, Anthony Akpan, feels sad that Nigeria missed a great opportunity to secure its future and join the league of highly developed and respected oil powers.
Speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt during his 70th birthday, the retired oil engineer said: “Our problem became how to spend money. In England, they would fawn at a Nigerian, asking what to do for you. Nigerians were worshipped there because of the value of our currency and foreign reserves. We didn’t know what to do with that money. If we had built sovereign wealth across the world, we won’t be in this mess. So, we missed a divine appointment in the early 70s and 80s. That’s why we are suffering today. It is an unfortunate situation.”
He went on: “It is important that we find ways of recouping the economy but that would not happen until we conduct government policies that are consistent. We still have an opportunity to do something, but we must realize that the oil economy is going down.
“By the time Jonathan was leaving office, Nigeria was one of the four fastest growing economies in the world but as soon as the new regime came, the economy crashed. This came because of trading blames, making scary statements that made the international community to lose faith in the economy of Nigeria. The withdrawal from the stock exchange (NSE) in a couple of months was too heavy. It is only God that kept this nation. Maybe there is a divine purpose for Nigeria. It is important for the economy to be sustained and well thought out.
“The economy is threatened from all angles of insecurity, terrorism, kidnapping, etc. I do not know how we are still having food because of all the insecurity in the middle belt. A few years down the line, we may face the consequences because farmers are not going to the farm.
“We really need to put our money where our mouths are in terms of agriculture. I believe that up till now, it is still subsistence farming that sustains Nigeria. Agric now needs to be taken as a national initiative. People need to buy into it and be actually cultivating crops. If you do an over-fly over this country, you will see huge land even in the south. In other countries you see vast tracks of land cultivated but not so in Nigeria. We have the largest population in Africa. How do we sustain this?”
What I learnt at 70: Significance of the Cross
Speaking about his age and lessons, he said he talked about the true meaning of the Cross of Jesus. “Talking of relationships, the Cross of Jesus Christ came to me as being actually about the nature of man’s relationships; the vertical is our relationship with God; the horizontal is our relationships with other human beings. Vertical is with God, horizontal is with man. The meeting point depends on how deep one’s relationship with Christ is. Anyone who does not have a relationship with Christ can only have a relationship with men on the ground.” When this revelation came to him, he bowed and thanked God.
At 70, he said he does not feel any different physically, spiritually, or mentally. “But, psychologically, I can say it may make one to begin to have thoughts; 70 is a marker age.
More importantly, I ask myself, what have I actually achieved; house, cars? Well, at the end of the day, the only thing that remains for us is the relationships we built. The only thing that can endure is impact we made in the lives of people, the friendships we built. Often, we neglect those relationships.”
The retired engineer thinks with scientific precision, but often, many around him will not support his position. “I recall when there was the build-up to the 2019 election and I was brought into a whatsApp group of elite. Some of the things that I shared were not appreciated because maybe what they expected was that everybody had to toe the line of their objective. The majority rooted for a younger fellow to win in the PDP while I argued for a candidate that had clout and wide contact network. My position was that a person without a strong constituency would never win election as president. How many would know him in Nigeria? If we were to be on level-playing ground, the person would have to have a strong constituency. So, I said, let’s pool our efforts to someone that has clout, who is popular and known. I was being attacked and I insisted that we should do some mathematics. INEC said 78million registered to win, the winner would get half of 78 (39m) to win. That would mean about one million votes per state. What structure does this person have on ground to score one million votes per state? I live in Rivers State, what structure did he have in the state to win one million votes when we did not even know his campaign manager, office, structure, etc? They shouted me down and insisted the man would win. I was removed, but the fellow did not get up to three percent of the votes at the elections. That is the issue.
“At a point in life, you must ask yourself what the realities on ground were; else, you would be building castles in the air.”
To live again
Should the Akpan have a chance to start life all over, he would be a different person. His answer; “One of the things I would have done differently would be that I would not have spent 30 years working for another person. I would have struck out in entrepreneurship. I would have tried to build a few more relationships. So, if I had another life to live, I would build more relationships that I can call by 2am and ask for N5m and be sure to get it. It means that young persons should strive to build relationships. It’s important.”
He said: “I am not a good businessman but I tend to see myself as an entrepreneur. I like to initiate things, but am not able to get them to the end. I see opportunities and I like taking risks. As a younger person, I could leave Warri by 6pm and go to Calabar and drive alone till 10pm. Something happened one day and I still wonder whether I was mad or something. I took off here in Port Harcourt to Uyo to buy property and I had N200,000 in the boot of my car in an open sac or plastic bag. When I got to a checkpoint at Oyigbo, the police stopped me, opened my boot, saw the money, closed my boot, and asked me to go.”
Nigeria, full of many good men that do nothing
In his message to the world, he said: “Edmund Burke, a British-Isish statesman, said that for evil to triumph it is sufficient that good men do nothing. The problem is that we have many good men but they do nothing. They must rise up and take action in politics. Politics and governance are a major influence of any society. A lot more people need to be involved in politics. It’s about having voters’ cards, going out to vote, and even to say something and do something. We should begin to say something and do something.
“See the hate bill. How can you want to gag people? The greatest activity of man is to talk, and you want to gag them. You will not have opposition in the country because whatever the opposition says can be termed hate speech. At that point, democracy dies. It will lead to dictatorship. Hate speech is by those who do not love democracy.”
Knowing Anthony Akpan from the Akpans
His wife, Ekama, and two of his sons, Michael and Joshua, gave insights.
Michael: He has reached 70 but looks younger. It’s a miracle. He has no trouble in his heart and I wish to reach that age some day.
We are different people. He may be nicer. We all are willing to give people a chance but I give once but he can give many more times. We both think God is the way.
I wish him many more years because he has to carry my kids and will get to his father age, 120.
Joshua: Talking about miles stones, one thing that has worked for him is simplicity and patience in everything. He has one of the biggest hearts and he gives to a fault. His faith has been at the crux and that is the way he raised us. Looking for how closest Christ worked on earth, he is one. He does not force his will on anybody. He calls you to his study and tells you what you did wrong and points to how it will end. So, we have learnt to think in binary terms and risk assessment to know the result of every action one wants. To take
His virtue includes respect to people and to hold faith very strongly. Morally, we do not have that compass but we always have a belief in God and principles of Christ. Life is a screenshot on perspective. I do not have the level of patience that he has.
I can only advise him to reduce commitment to many things, but it may be what keeps him going. We the children would want him to reduce going too deeply in everything. He has spent all his life doing ministry and supporting people, and it may be difficult reducing it, but we will support him.
Ekama Emilia, wife: God told me this is my husband and gave me some understanding on how I would have to approach the marriage. It was not one of looking for fault. He does not pull his partner down. He does not hurt people. He tells you to look for the best things in a person.
I call him the Barnabas of our time. Barnabas was a bridge maker, putting people together. He is also very intelligent. He had one of the best results in his time in Akwa Ibom, soon after the war. He studied with scholarship all his life and work came to him automatically. That gave us two different paths in life. I had to push myself to get things done. People take advantage of his quiet nature. That is why God brought us together because I see quickly those things he overlooks and I stop things that would harm him. If I do not do that, I would be accountable to God.
He is a perfectionist, but a bit laid back. When he does something, it must come out best. He has this great brain and I wanted it for my children. He is also a man who has the heart to serve. You see a lot of people in my house. I know that’s what makes him happy. I know what makes him happy and I make allowance for that.
God knows why He kept us together. I complement his weaknesses, especially in managing money. I make sure his purse is not empty. When the arrangements for this anniversary came out, he said, wow, it can only be my wife.
He went through a lot of things to get to where he was in career but he never kept it in his heart. He forgives more than 70 times 70. You quarrel with him, he sleeps well while you are killing yourself. I too learnt to reject hypertension. If he is going to look good, I too will ignore tension and look good. He is very neat and clean. His mother hinted me early. He will not wear a dress twice.
He allows me to go about the world and he has no anxiety. He has absolute trust in me. I keep him in focus and ward off advances because I have the best man back home. This is how God has kept us this while.
He is a man of his word. He promised my mother he would give me free hand because my mother said, this my daughter needs free hand, if you want to enjoy her. He kept to that. He gives his children free hand. I pray that his efforts will not be in vain. He is a good man. Many times, he has lost many business deals because of his kind of heart, but today he is at peace. He looks much younger.
Every morning, he will tell God he will forgive all those that wronged him and he will pray they too forgive him. If we all can have that kind of might we will live long. He does not have headache or BP. That is his secret. God has given me a husband that has made it easy for me. A different man would have mismanaged me. He stooped to conquer me. Even in our courting, he focused on me giving my life to Christ. I know him as a man who fears God. Sometimes he makes a mistake too, but together, we overcome it. It’s not about me or us but about Jesus, at the end.