By Dan Aibangbe
MANY people probably did not witness the comet that flashed across the Nigerian Airspace on August 8, 2021. NIMET did not see it coming either – for the elements had assumed a riotous mien! It is common knowledge that the man at the centre of the storm gets to hear the news last!
The late Mr. Umoh, one of their own, was full of life. So, it is no wonder that they could not foretell his passage! From my vintage point as an outside observer, I saw the esoteric phenomenal passage of this gentle giant, despite the gloomy skies, the deluge around us and the cacophony of death in which our nation is now submerged.
I heard the quiet bristle of Umoh’s transition louder than a thunderstorm. So, I decided to journalise what I have seen and known about this spectral colossus!
The late Mr. Aniefiok Umoh, native of the Akwa Ibom State, was born in Nigeria’s year of independence, 1960. He had his early childhood and education in Lagos before moving out to Ghana for his tertiary education.
In Ghana, he grabbed a Higher National Diploma in Accounting from Accra Polytechnic and thereafter, a Bachelor’s Degree in flying colours, from the Methodist University College, Ghana.
Mr. Umoh commenced his formal working career in the banking industry in 1977, in the employment of the then Barclays Bank of Nigeria (now Union Bank). He worked there until he joined MedAfrica Shipping Line, Lagos, as an accountant in 1985.
Career-wise, he rose to the exalted position of Executive Director in 2002, while working with a renowned flight services company in Ghana, Astraeus Airline. He worked diligently in this capacity for a period of nine years.
In recognition of his professionalism and hard work, he was appointed as the Finance Director at Air Charter Express Ghana in 2012 and served in this capacity for a short period. It was from this office that he was head-hunted and appointed as the General Manager, Accounts with the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
As recent as in August 2017, Mr. Umoh was appointed as the Director of Finance and Accounts, DFA at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA. It was at this milestone that he succumbed to a brief illness on August 8, 2021.
Upon assumption of office in NAMA, Mr. Umoh quickly brought his rich experience in finance to bear. He ensured that the agency’s accounting practices fully met the best statutory requirements and were in tandem with prevailing professional standards.
His stint at the agency was focused on the implementation of strategies to improve accuracy, transparency and timeliness of financial disclosures that were critical to management business plan development.
Another notable testimony from the NAMA boss captured the whole essence of the departed stallion Umoh as a kind-hearted human who loved to socialise but, encouraged diligence and hated dishonesty and rancour.
He would be remembered for his sharp memories and accurate quick recall of events, particularly of official matters. Captain Fola recalled one exemplary event that demonstrated his humility and simplicity. It was the occasion of a corporate training event held in South Africa, where the consultant sought to honour Mr. Umoh by booking a more prestigious accommodation for him in a five-star hotel as the director.
His staff were booked in a low-class hotel. He promptly rejected the offer and insisted that he would either stay with everyone in the same five-star hotel or in the low-class hotel. He eventually settled with the entire staff in the low-class hotel till the end of the training!
The essence of this tribute is to articulate the key attributes that sustained and made the late Mr Umoh what he was, what we loved about him and the memory of him that we should preserve. He was a man of acuity, a hard-working man of diligence, integrity, reliable and loyal to both his bosses and subordinates. His humour was irresistible. He was a peacemaker and peacekeeper.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, at the presentation of the biography of Pastor Willams Folorunsho Kumuyi, founder and general superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry, recently advocated the need for men of God to pay ‘Pentecost Tax’, which in essence, is a record of their life experience in the successful ministry they have accomplished.
In a similar vein, I also use this opportunity to emphasize the need for official journalisation of the essence of the life and times of successful stallions like Mr. Umoh. On a higher note, it would not be a bad idea to think of an official biography, once you are getting appreciable mileage in life and career path.
The lessons to learn from the unexpected passage of Mr. Umoh include the need to care for your co-travellers in life’s journey. It is one of the routes to a measure of immortality. We must also plan to leave a sustainable legacy, through mentorship, nurturing and succession planning.
Another great lesson is to appreciate the role of the grace and mercy of God in all our plans, schemes and shenanigans. The best laid plans need time and space to fester and manifest. These two elements are providential to us as mere mortals They are the sole prerogatives of God. Without God, we are nothing and can do nothing.
When we are given the opportunity, we must avoid procrastination by all means! Whatever your hands find doing today, do it well without delay, for no one knows tomorrow. Finally, we must always remember to use our God-given positions to impact the lives of people in a positive manner to the glory of God.
I encourage family, friends, colleagues, associates and the general public not to mourn but to celebrate the fond memories we had of this great man. This is the correct and positive way to show love at this moment.
At this point, it is pertinent to ask some questions. What would you be remembered for, when your turn comes? Who are those whom you have gone out of your way to show love enough to be remembered fondly? What would your legacy be?
Is it the fleet of cars and real estate you live behind? Have you impacted well on your family or the larger society at large? What will people write in your condolence register?
The bigger and more important question is what would appear in ‘that Great and Ultimate Book of Records’ impeccably kept by The Creator, whose content cannot be compromised, against which each and every mortal will be judged?
For those who do not believe such a record exists, it is a great risk they take! The outcome of such risk is irredeemable. I assure everyone that that day will come when that record will be read to our hearing – unspoken words, unseen things, unknown acts and thoughts we accumulated here on earth will be laid bare!
This is the gate to eternity in heaven or hell – no mid-way! Today is the next best day after yesterday, when each and everyone of us should begin to write our epitaph! Tomorrow will be just too late.