The year 2020 is a stand out year in world history. It is the year that has witnessed some of the world’s worst events ever recorded – from the deadly wildfires that left wanton destruction in their wake to the more pronounced effects of climate change and global warming. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still raging in waves, and it’s attendant fatalities stands out as one of the worst global health crises.
Nigeria, as a part of the global village, is not insulated from the pandemic. In addition, the country is bedeviled with numerous challenges that have all combined to make life difficult for the citizenry. The harsh economic situation, combined with the incessant harassment of young Nigerians precipitated the End-SARS protests which ravaged the country last October leading to loss of lives and destruction of both public and private property.
One man who will rather blot out the year 2020 from the history books is Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Leader of the 7th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. An unassuming personality who oozes mental resilience, this accomplished lawyer and politician faced, unarguably, his greatest adversities, in the year 2020. And he emerged from all that with a smile and a certain resoluteness that belie his slim but trim frame.
Ndoma-Egba is no stranger to adversities in the course of his life’s journey. He tells me “listen Sunny, challenges and adversities have dogged me my whole life but the grace of God always manifest for me during the trying moments.” His words ring true in my ears always. Or else how do you explain the stoicism and typical graceful comportment of a man who lost his dear mother, dear mother in-law, his favourite cousin , his personal house in Calabar (which took him all of 18 years to build) looted and vandalized and his dear wife lost in a ghastly auto accident, all within a space of three months in year 2020. In his usual philosophical equanimity he likes to tell all who care to listen that “the death of my dear wife, as painful as it is, I like to believe that I have a personal angel in Heaven joining the hosts of angels watching over me. I give thanks to God for the beautiful marriage that we had which has left me with beautiful memories”.
On the looting and destruction of his Calabar home, Ndoma-Egba melted some hearts when he confessed during an interview that “today, one of the biggest regrets I have in life is when I have to sleep in a bed inside a hotel in Calabar, a city where I had a befitting home, a place that has been home for a greater part of my adult life”. And when I probed further on how he is able to maintain such mental balance in the face of such daunting adversities, he replied that “Sunny, if you read the Bible every day as I do, you will know that what has happened to me is not strange because it has happened to others before. My unshakable faith in the Almighty God is my staying power”.
Indeed a close scrutiny of the life of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba shows man who has had to weather several storms in life, whether professionally or personally. He has a place in history as the youngest ever commissioner in not just in Cross River State but the whole of Nigeria and remains one of the youngest till date. A young Victor Ndoma-Egba, two months shy of his twenty seventh birthday was recommended by one Gregory Edem Udomah of blessed memory to Navy Capt. Edet Akpan Archibong, former Military Governor of Cross River State for appointment as Commissioner. Seeing that he was still a very young man, yet to find his footing in his fledgling legal practice, he was unsure of himself. In fact his late father, Honourable Justice Emmanuel Ndoma-Egba protested the nomination on account of his young age. But the appointment as Commissioner for Works, Transport and Agriculture not only stood, but he also served as, at some point, as Acting Commissioner for Justice in the same Government and left with distinction. He went on to serve subsequent Governments in various advisory capacities pro bono.
His foray into politics saw him elected as a Senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District in 2003. He went on to spend 12 years in the Senate, leaving as a well loved, affable, effective and efficient Senate Leader in 2015 during the 7th Senate. The events leading to his unsuccessful attempt to return to the Senate in 2015 are enough to consign any faint-hearted politician to the political dust bin and indeed many political watchers believed that to be his case. But like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Ndoma-Egba was to resurface into political reckoning first as the Chairman of the Board of the Niger Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between 2016-2018 and also as the Secretary of the 2018 National Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress.
For those who have had the opportunity to interact with Sen. Ndoma-Egba, one finds a warm-hearted, friendly, simple, empathetic person. In addition, his all round intelligence, emotional control, broad mindedness and good grasp of national and international issues of contemporary importance are obvious to anyone who cares to know him. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why political leaders of different partisan and generational inclinations find him easy to relate with.
Sen. Ndoma-Egba is a journalist’s delight anytime. Little wonder he is a patron of the Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Cross River State. In fact his emergence as Senate Leader had some kind of in puts from the Senate Press Corps, following from his brilliant stints as the Deputy Senate Leader and spokesman of the Senate during the 6th Senate. In his legal profession, he had risen to the zenith as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a Life Bencher. Prior to that, he established a thriving law firm that has produced judges and other Senior Advocates of Nigeria, in addition to grooming and mentoring some of the brilliant lawyers from these parts.
Cross River State, and indeed Nigeria is blessed with some of the finest pace setters in every field of human endeavour. And Senator Ndoma-Egba ranks very high in that list. It is a good thing that he obviously still has some thing to offer. My take is that while he is still with us, both the State and the country at large should make the most use of whatever contributions that can be tapped from this legal and political icon of our times, who has emerged victorious from various adversities of life.
Sunny Udeh writes from Calabar.