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By Adedayo Odulaja, Reporter, Lagos
It was a grand affair in Nkpanjen-Akparabong, a rural setting in Ikom LGA, Cross River State on February 23 when the remains of Justice Emmanuel Takon Ndoma-Egba were committed to mother earth.
The eminent jurist and highly respected legal luminary, who made his mark in the legal profession as a judge of the High Court as well as the Court of Appeal, gave up the ghost on October 6, last year at the age of 84.
Just before Nkpanjen-Akparabong, the once-narrow 3-kilometre road leading to the home town of the late legal icon wore a new look as it was reconstructed, with even a bridge, to ease movement to and from the burial ceremony witnessed by not less than ten thousand people from within and outside the country.
A pious Christian who was reported to have dedicated a larger part of his life to the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria where he was until his death an elder and trustee, late Justice is survived by his wife, Adeline and children among whom are, Rowland Ndoma-Egba, a Professor of Surgery & Consultant Surgeon at University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and Nigeria’s Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Prominent Nigerians who paid their last respects include President Goodluck Jonathan, represented by Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senate President, David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dahiru Adamu and a good number of legislators from both chambers of the National Assembly.
In his message of condolence, President Jonathan described the demise of the legal pundit as a great loss to the judicial arm of government. According to him, the patriarch of the Ndoma-Egba family left a legacy that has compelled all his off-springs to excel in their chosen careers.
Senate President, David Mark in his remarks said, “it is remarkable to note that in the former Ikom/Ogoja axis of the then Cross River State, he was a pioneer teacher, civil servant and even the only lawyer for 10 years and to cap his numerous feats, after serving his country as a judge of the Appeal Court, he devoted the later part of his years to serving the church.”
Before the funeral service and final interment, a night of tributes and valedictory court session were held for the late legal expert, who established the Oron and Eket judicial divisions where he was the pioneer judge.
Speaking at the night of tributes, Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) said the significant roles played by the late Jurist and his household to the service of the nation account for the accolades and encomium being poured on him by eminent citizens of Nigeria, who created time out of their very busy schedule to be part of his burial.
In a special tribute to his late father, Senator Ndoma-Egba said: “Talking about my father in the past is surreal, almost unbelievable. Not that his mortality was in doubt, he was as mortal and vulnerable as the next human, complete with his frailties and failings.
“We had, maybe in an overdose of optimism, come to see him as a permanent fixture in our lives. Even when the ever busy lawyer and judge went into formal retirement from the Court of Appeal bench in 1993, even when his hands became unsteady and forced him into retirement from his other passion, hunting, even when church attendance became occasional, we, his children, persisted in our optimism that he was always going to be around.
“Not even our own transformation from children to parents and grandparents alerted us to the reality of that day that must come as it eventually did in the evening of Saturday, 6th October, 2012. For a long time I misunderstood my father as he did not indulge me at all. I got to understand him when I became a parent myself. I then knew that he wanted me to be tough, independent and determined. He wanted me to hunger for success and exert myself in every situation to the very limits of my endowments, to take responsibility for myself and satisfy myself that I did my very best in every situation.”
Continuing, the senator said: “He was a father and a friend with whom you could discuss anything under the sun and crack any joke. He loved jokes and a hearty laugh and forever told stories. Even when we called him Wayo, his answer was that Wayo could only beget Wayo. He gave me everything a father could give, the values that guaranteed a clear conscience always, the moral compass to navigate a morally-ambivalent world, and a recognisable and respected name that gave me a head start in life.
“He lived life to the fullest and on his terms. He was at once western and traditional as he easily fit into the sedateness of presidential palaces as he did the irreverent village settings where he found his element. He never left his roots and his roots never left him. His presence, large heart, energy, legendary status belied his lithe frame. He used his enormous endowments to reconcile many communities and persons who remember him fondly till date. He firmly believed everyone should live in peace with his or her neighbour. As perhaps the greatest beneficiary of his legacy and goodwill, I testify to his true greatness for only the truly great remain truly humble.”
Born on August 28, 1928, the late Ndoma-Egba began his education at the Church of Scotland Mission, Ikom in 1933 and passed the Standard Six in 1941, after which he was straightaway employed as a Young Pupil Teacher the ensuing year. After a brief stint as a teacher, he went to New Bethel College in Onitsha in 1945for his secondary education, which he finished in 1949. After his secondary school education, he was employed as a Correspondence Clerk in the Ikom Native Authority where he rose to the position of Assistant Secretary. He later went back to his first love, teaching.
From teaching, he was seconded in 1954 to the Board of Internal Revenue, Ikom as its first staff, from where he was selected Special Constabular at the Reception for the Queen of England in Enugu in 1956. He resigned in September of that same year and proceeded to England, where he registered at the famous Regent Street Polytechnic, now the City of London
University and obtained a first degree in Economics in 1959.
He then went to Holborn College of Law where he obtained the LLB and was called to the Bar at the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple in 1961.
In tears, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, called out to his father, “Father, friend, E.T, Me lord, the Bones, yours was indeed a life. You were a legend beyond your times. Many wonder why you did not make it to the Supreme Court. You could, but you were not prepared to lobby. As you take your place in the bosom of the Almighty.