How Inoyo Shaped My Career In ExxonMobil – Retired Mobil Staffer

He is a humble man with a good heart

How Inoyo Shaped My Career In ExxonMobil – Retired Mobil Staffer

In this interview with StraightNews, Dr George Akpan, a former university teacher, who retired recently in Mobil Producing Nigeria, shared his views on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s thoughts on qualities expected from his would-be successor as well as his career in Exxon Mobil. Excerpts:

Governor Udom Emmanuel dwelt his 6th anniversary broadcast on criteria he expects his successor to possess, which include international exposure. Having had part of your education in the UK, Japan and Singapore coupled with the fact that you have also worked in a number of places overseas, including consulting for the United Nations, it is safe to say that you fit into the governor’s benchmark. Would you consider running for Akwa Ibom governorship in 2023?

If you know me very well you would know that I don’t have much interest in elective position for now. Of course, as a journalist you should also know that the governorship position is zoned and rotated among the three senatorial districts in Akwa Ibom. First and foremost, it is not zoned this time to Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, where I come from. It is Uyo’s (Akwa Ibom North-East’s) turn. The zoning started with them and it is coming back to them. So, when you view it from that standpoint, I am not even qualified to go there. I rather like to support any person that would help to take our people out of poverty. There is a lot of unemployment and massive poverty in the state irrespective of what successive governments have done. So, I would like to collaborate with any person that I believe would be able to lift the people out of poverty and create better life for our people. Udom Emmanuel is one person in Akwa Ibom State among over five million Akwa Ibom people. As a leader, he must have a vision as to the person that would succeed him. But, of course, he is just one person and there are other Akwa Ibomites that would also have their criteria as to the person that would come after Udom Emmanuel. As an Akwa Ibom person I agree with some of the criteria that he has laid down and if such a person comes forward I would like to work with such a person to ensure that we help our people. Our people are suffering if we are to tell the truth. You cannot imagine how many text messages I receive every day. Anything that I can do to help the people I would be willing to do, but not by contesting election into elective office, but just partnering with people that are willing to do that.

Considering the peculiarity of Akwa Ibom social environment where so many are clamouring for a governor that would be good in doling out goodies to the people what measures would you want a leader to take in addressing the poverty situation in the state?

It is not in our character to describe one person as a giver (onoowonkpo) and another not as a giver (isonoowonkpo). Akwa Ibom people believe in hard work. We are not beggars so it is very unfortunate that the concept have crept into our political lingo. We have to look at where we have comparative advantage if we want to take people out of poverty when you look at Nigeria as a whole or even the world. Farming is an area that can take massive number of people out of poverty. I am not talking about subsistence farming. If there is a policy by government to empower people to go into mechanized farming it would offer opportunities for a large number of people to get out of poverty. Take the oil palm for instance, a barrel of palm oil is more expensive than crude oil today. And we have that in abundance. Our environment is congenial to that type of farming. If we make farming attractive, our people can go into it and the government can partner with private people by providing land and other implements. It would result in many people being gainfully employed and we would not have people that hang around politicians to collect N1,000 or N2, 000 and tell them, “you are a giver”. There are more that people in government can do and not just answering the name, a giver. They can go into establishing skill acquisition centres that would help people gain the requisite skills to be able to function in the present day Nigeria. What I am saying in essence is that you must teach the people how to fish. If you keep giving out small amounts of money you can’t do that in a sustainable manner. Teach them how to fish so that they can earn for themselves. Handing out money to them is not a solution to the unemployment we have. We have to put structures in place that people would be able to run and take care of themselves. The question is: where do you get the money that you are handing out to people? Is it your personal money or are you stealing from the people and giving them a bit of what you have stolen? It is not sustainable! The idea of onoowonkpo is alien to our culture. We are a proud and hardworking people and we should encourage our people to work hard and not become beggars and hangers-on.

You mentioned the immediate past Vice Chairman of Exxon Mobil companies in Nigeria, Udom Inoyo, to buttress a point while discussing at Ukanafun first Economic Summit held recently to mark 45th anniversary of the creation of Ukanafun local government area. Could you let one know how his being in the top position in the company dovetailed to the people of Akwa Ibom?

The point I was trying to make at the Ukanafun Economic Summit was the fact that it was because the lead presenter at the Ukanafun Economic Summit, Idotenyin Isaac, and myself had the capacity and skills that was why we were able to be employed by Mobil. Of course, Udom Inoyo was the Human Resources (HR) director at the time we were employed. If we did not possess the requisite exposure and knowledge there is little he could have done to help us. I have worked closely with Udom Inoyo and I can tell you straight away that he is a good man. People that talk about Udom Inoyo in a negative way do not know him. I worked closely with him for about 13 years, I know him as a good man and I know what he has done for Akwa Ibom people. Of course, having risen to the topmost position in Exxon Mobil, he cannot come out to enumerate all he did because that may not be expedient. My hope is that people that have benefitted from the goodwill of this man will start to speak up to debunk the untenable narrative. I know they are contractor and many employees and several others that have benefitted from him.  I know that he loves Akwa Ibom people and he has done quite a lot for Akwa Ibom people. I am also the secretary of Inoyo Toro Foundation and every year we have huge budget to run that foundation for the last 14 years. At the end of the day, after getting money from sponsors it is a far cry for us to carry out our programmes and the man would cut his cheque and pay for the foundation to continue to serve the people of Akwa Ibom. The foundation would take teachers from Akwa Ibom to Lagos for training at American International School. We would pay top quality consultants to come to Uyo and train Akwa Ibom teachers. We will bring students from various secondary schools in Akwa Ibom to the state capital in Uyo. That cost a lot of money and it takes Udom Inoyo’s personal resources and connections to make that happen. The foundation started 14 years ago when nobody talked about his interest in politics. So when I hear people say he has not done anything for Akwa Ibom people I laugh because I know they don’t know that man. Inoyo loves Akwa Ibom State with a passion and he has done a lot for Akwa Ibom people. I am just using one area of his personal intervention. You are a journalist; you can embark on facts-finding for yourself and your organization. Even in his village, he has done a lot.  His father’s house has been transformed into a library well equipped with books and computers from his own pocket for the villagers. He was among the eggheads that spearheaded the resource control fight. Go and read a paper presented by Chief Assam Assam when Mr Inoyo was honoured by oil producing communities, a few years ago. Go and fish out that document for it is a compendium of his many contributions to Akwa Ibom State, the huge resources that Akwa Ibom State enjoys today he contributed significantly to it. So, people that are saying Udom Inoyo has not done anything don’t know him and they need to know him and what he is capable of.

What impression did you have of Udom Inoyo when you first met him?

It was my first day at work at ExxonMobil that I met Mr. Udom Inoyo. I had heard about a top Akwa Ibom guy in ExxonMobil called Udom Inoyo. Of course, he signed my employment letter. Outside of that, I didn’t know him. When I arrived on my first day, I was given an office. Somebody came to me and said “have you met Udom Inoyo?” I said no; and he said, “He would like to see you.” So, I went up to the 10th floor in Mobil House and he said, “Are you the young man from Singapore?” and I said, “yes”. He said, “Welcome to ExxonMobil, please come and see me after work”. After work, I went to see him and he drove me to Paul Usoro’s office, where I met Paul Usoro and his wife, Mfon, He introduced me to him that I am the only employee from Akwa Ibom in the Law Department. He asked him to mentor me. That is somebody I have never met before; somebody I never interacted with in anyway. Before I even arrived Mobil House, he had already made arrangement for me to succeed in my career with ExxonMobil. So, is that a person that doesn’t care about Akwa Ibom people? For me, it only takes somebody that has your interest at heart to do that. Udom Inoyo has interest of Akwa Ibom people at heart and so many people joined ExxonMobil because Mr. Inoyo made that possible. Of course you must possess the requisite qualifications. I had worked with him closely and I know of many battles that he fought on behalf of Akwa Ibom State, Akwa Ibom people in Exxon Mobil. So, that is why I said that it is people that don’t know Inoyo that are saying that he does not help people. Is it the Graduate Assistance Programme that trained over 700 Akwa Ibom young graduates who are gainfully employed today? George Inyangette was there at Ukanafun Economic Summit the other day. He was the driver of that project in ExxonMobil and he spoke about how Mr Inoyo  made that to  happen. So, when people say Inoyo doesn’t help people they are saying  that because they don’t know the man and his many contributions. I can say that  Mr Inoyo  is a man of integrity. He is a no nonsense person. He would tell you as it is! He is an honest man. He is a good man! He is highly knowledgeable and has rich contacts – contacts that cut across tribes, gender, age brackets and religion in this nation. He relates well with everyone. When you come across him, you cannot help but love him, I have met many people that held negative opinion of him, but once they come in contact with him their entire perception would change.  There are certain things I would not like to talk about here, but the point is that I know him as a lover of people, I know him as someone that is passionate about the progress of people and this state. He is also a very contented person.

What do you think drove him to have that kind of special interest in you to a point of taking you for mentorship in the hands of Paul Usoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria? Was it about your being an indigene of Akwa Ibom or something special in you? Was that how he went about with every other employee in the establishment?

Again, Udom Inoyo is a highly detribalized person. But I think it was because I am from Akwa Ibom State. He might have looked at my CV, but he is detribalized. Of course, he was a director in the company, a Vice Chairman and the company has policies you have to respect and abide by. He was free with everybody, but I think the kind gesture he extended to me on my first day at Mobil House was because we come from the same state. He is also interested that people from Akwa Ibom in the company should be able to compete with others. I had an academic background; I was a lecturer before I came into that system. He took me to a foremost lawyer from Akwa Ibom State for mentoring. If you look around you would see that many other people have many different positive stories to tell about him. Inoyo is like an elephant. People who have interacted with him would have very positive things to say about him. For me, what he did for me was something deep. You are just showing up in a workplace for the first time and somebody had already talked about you and made arrangement for you and took you there personally. After that I worked very closely with him both in the company and in Inoyo Toro Foundation. I know that he has a good heart and he is an honest man.



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