Great men are of categories. Some were born great. Some managed to stumble on greatness. Some were both great at birth and had the courage to live greatness throughout their existence, although some had to fall by the way side, drifting into insignificance.
Age has no influence towards greatness, although it sometimes pretentiously command greatness. I could not be far detached from this contemplation until I came face to face with aging creatures whose every bit of deportment reflected the absolute exactitude of anything but greatness.
Age is strictly a case of mind over matter, according to Jack Benny who submits that if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. And so, age, regardless of its probable indices towards prestige and personality, could still be conditioned to betray its being.
His Excellency, Arc Otu Ita Toyo is one man whose palm kernel, like that of Okonkwo in Achebe’s Things Fall apart, was cracked for him by benevolent spirit. He came in a lineage where men knew both their coconut and their onions. He grew in the warmth of the Toyo dynasty in the ‘Little stream of Ekim’, the minority village in the minority Udung Uko local government area of Oro Nation in Akwa Ibom State.
With both his patrimonial and matrimonial homes from royalty, he developed very fast, bridging in intellectual capital. A turf gentleman, imbued with wisdom, character and charisma, Otu Toyo, whose uncle was the revered Prof Eskor Toyo with a socialist approach to humanism, went through the reputable Hope Waddell Institute, Calabar beating all odds and crushing the academic records.
He passed out in rainbow colours and went studying architecture at the Amedu Bello University, Zaria. There again, he was top of the class beating all imaginations and greatly astonishing human expectations. He studied together with Arc Namadi Sambo, Nigeria’s former vice president. There and then, he swallowed education like the broken records of the genius Wole Soyinka.
Soon after, Arc Toyo began a brief professional engagement, drawing excellent concepts and gaining admiration from many. The revered Senator Victor Akan found him worthy in learning and character and got him working with him throughout his period as the Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He served the well respected and influential Senator Victor Akan with all level of enthusiasm, commitment and vigour. In all instances, he was properly mentored and conditioned with perfect leadership potentials.
Toyo who grew in politics with many attempts to clinch the party chairmanship position of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Akwa Ibom State, finally got the post during the second term administration of Obong Victor Attah. He stood his ground as an Oron man who knew it was no time for the third leg of the tripod to assume the governorship seat in the state.
Highly morale and conscious of what discipline and decorum mean, he faulted all permutations to send the ticket to where it belonged. That was the glorious weak-point that gained him crucifixion and betrayal from those whose high towers he gathered the beams himself. But sure, as the Chief Priest of the Party which became a religion, Total Chair became a nomenclature whose reputation had no good second. With less than three years on the saddle, Toyo became the mechanic who repaired the crashing destiny the party.
After a little while, Toyo gained the title of His Excellency as soon as his wife, Nkoyo Toyo, a former Member of the national assembly, became the Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia. It was he, Arc Toyo, his wife Nkoyo Toyo who is a legal professional and human rights activist, together with Mr. Edet Udoh, one of Nigeria’s best journalist at the time who coordinated over 20 groups within Oro Nation to draft and proclaim the Òrò Bill of Right on June 25, 1999. This publication defines the self actualization, belief and undying love in the dignity and integrity of the Oro Nation.
Then came the long stretch of time (silence), when the sage preferred solitude, owing to human foibles in various fronts that got him disappointed. Of course, a man deserves to be disappointed, whose good deeds get evil in return. But this was cut off when a strong pool of young chaps from Oro Nation daily thronged his Shelter Afrique residence in Uyo, seeking mentorship.
Otu Ita Toyo, a practical idealist is known for his love for excellence against mediocrity. As a party chairman, he gave aptitude test to chairmanship and other representative aspirants and candidates of the PDP. This came after he pecked academic qualifications for every category of office. Although many thought, perhaps rightly or wrongly, that this gesture was against the constitution, he insisted that those who must represent their people must have the intellectual stamina to whether the pressure of their posts. He stood still and got the job done.
As one of the most respected Oro natives alive, Total Chair is a colossus of morality. He is a quintessence of principles. His wit and sensitivity, especially in solving challenges, make him a reclusive enigma whose reserved habitation is untainted by familiar spirits. Convoluted with inscrutable perfection, integrity and forthrightness, Toyo remains a cornucopia of excellence.
For the past sixty five years, the white bearded champion of social emancipation has remain active, preferring solutions to all forms of complications. Greatly idealistic, he stands in the gab for many and at various times. Of course, time, from the beginning of time, was given to time that time may take its time to live the act of time. Although most men fail their time, drooling out of time, Toyo has not denied himself the act of time. According to the most recent survey by the world health organization, WHO, from ages 18 to 65 are described as young and youthful. This followed the under age average which pecks between zero and 17 years of age, while from age 66 and 79 are described as the middle age.
Total is active and energetic. He is eager to give a hand. He discusses on all areas of human endeavour and is not restricted. So free with modernity, especially in the use of available gadgets, he needs no help to dislodge failed reasoning. With all modesty and honesty, Total remains the best option for the 2019 senatorial ticket for all available political parties. But still, he stands with his hands wide open to embrace birthed ideas that will help move our state forward.
As Arc Otu Ita Toyo strikes 66 today, it is gratifying that the Oro people have greatly been touched by his being. It is also a striking pointer to the fact that he still has a lot to offer the Nigerian people. The Oro youths, those of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria in general have a choice to gulp the over flowing wisdom that still bubbles in him so that the future can better be projected.
SIXTY-SIX HAPPY CHEERS TO YOU THE GREAT SAGE!
*_Joseph Atainyang is a journalist and public affairs commentator_ .*