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In spite of all that has been happening all over due to Coronavirus and its lockdown, the family of a retired Customs officer turned cleric, and Akwa Ibom born Rev. Daniel Esu Ekpo could not let the opportunity to slip them off as they all gathered with surprise to wish their father a memorable 75th birthday on Tuesday 21st July 2020.

“It was Mummy’s idea, she had earlier put it on facebook. Very early that day, my daughter came here, in fact she woke me up. She came with saxophonist or trumpeter, they were blowing trumpets and singing happy birthday songs. It was a surprise, we did not invite anybody. But it was a landmark to celebrate. I was then in my night wear, I later went in to tidy myself up and began to celebrate with my family”, explained Rev. Ekpo, the excited celebrant.

He continued, “It was supposed to be a big event but we could not celebrate because of the state of things in Nigeria and other parts of the world. So we did not plan it but Mummy had to place a birthday message on radio, the one I love to listen to, they called me and congratulated me. Mummy made it big, and we thank God for that.”

Few days later PTL News was with Daddy Ekpo who spoke about how he felt with living up to 75 years, and he who was born in the present day Akwa Ibom State became a Lagos man.

“75 years is an experience worth sharing. Those days I used to think like a young man, but now that age is not on my side, I can think like an old man,” he opened up.

“I lost my father as a baby. My father was a Methodist Church missionary born in the present day Akwa Ibom, but my mother was from Cross River State. The woman carried the responsibilities of myself and those of my two sisters, and took care of us till we became adults. My father died in Ogere, Ogun State as a Methodist missionary.”

Recalling how he moved from his village in the eastern part of the modern Nigeria to Lagos, Elder Ekpo has this to say:

“There were lots of fun in those days especially when I remember how I came to Lagos. We came by lorry. The placement in lorry had grades. There were first class, second class and third class. First class is when you sit in the lorry with the driver, you are covered. You are on second class group of lorry when you board lorry that had cover on their top behind driver, and that place may be covered, and the third class group were the ones with open tops. It was like you were on your own. Rain could fall on you, dust would settle on your body, but as a child we enjoyed it.

“Coming to Lagos, we started life in Lagos in 1958 at Denton Street in Ebute Metta. I schooled in Lagos before I was taken to Mobalufon in Ijebu Ode where I finished my first school leaving certificate in Primary six then.  I attended Ijebu Ode Grammar School, I was there for one year. I had to withdraw and came back to Lagos because there was no means of continuing with my education.

“In 1962 I got employment at Bhosons Stores also in Ebute Metta. I worked with them till 1964. I later joined my mother at Arolahun in Mushin, and from there I got my own apartment near Igbobi College.

Rev. Ekpo also told the story of how he became a Customs man, “While working I took some part time studies at one School of Career at Palmgrove. I had a friend then, he is now late from Ile Oluji, Ondo State. He was my landlord’s son. When he finished his secondary school he got enlisted in the Nigerian Customs Service. He also arranged for me to join Customs, and in October 1965 I was enlisted in the Customs. That was where I worked for 35 years before retirement in 1996.

“I worked almost in Lagos throughout except when I was transferred to Osun State in 1991. Then I used to travel everyday from Ilesa where I lived to Osogbo. Sometimes I used to travel from Lagos directly to Osogbo and I would still report early for work. The road was very smooth. I worked in the General Duty department, Photograph section, and Enforcement department. I later retired as Deputy Superintendent of Customs.

On his life after Customs, “When I retired from Customs I took up a contract job with Panalpina from 1996-2000. I was in charge of the entries as the Long Room Supervisor. When I left there I came back home to live on my retirement.”

Rev. Ekpo is also an ordained minister of the gospel, the responsibility he took after full retirement. On this he said, “I joined my wife in the work of the ministry. She is the one that was called. She is my General Overseer. I am just as associate minister and that is what I will be doing until I cannot do anything again.”

As an Elder statesman he also spoke on how he saw life in Nigeria then and now.

“Nigeria needs a lot of prayers. Dollar used to be at par with Naira. One Naira used to be one dollar. Things were better then when we used to spend pounds and shillings. I used to earn eight shillings in a month. It was during former President Babangida’s time that Naira fell and Nigeria has not got things right since then.

“In those days if somebody gave you ten dollars it would mean nothing to you. The military started and the civilian worsened the situation for Nigeria. I don’t think this country can go back to those good old days except we pray hard and God hears our prayers.”

He also spoke about his wife Mummy Ekpo, “She is an angel to my life. She always try to make me happy, and I will not be happy with anything that makes her sad. She was always with me when I was in Ilesa providing for me all I needed every two weeks.”

Speaking about himself he saw himself as a very private person. “I am an Akwa Ibom man living in Lagos. I have spent all my life in Lagos. I am not a good mixer. I like to stay on my own; an introvert as people say, but my wife is the opposite. She is a good mixer. She can bring 100 people together at same time and make them happy. As for me it is not wickedness. I don’t have friends.

“On what life has taught me. I don’t take things too serious. I take things as they come, live, leave and forget and move on with life. I pray little and I know God answers. I have passed through challenges but life continues. I am still strong and healthy. I thank God for that. I don’t have any life threatening problems and I thank God for that, and I will continue to thank God. God gave me a good wife. She doesn’t give me any problem. We don’t quarrel. She gives me peace. She is a good woman. She knows Christ; she lives what she teaches as a minister of God. I thank God for our children too, and the grandchildren. They are wonderful, they also make us happy.”

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Julius Adegunna, a writer, and publisher of good news and reports. He is also a trainer in Writing and Publishing, a Media Consultant and an Entrepreneur. A 1987 Graduate of International Relations of the University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations, and Master in Communication Studies of Lagos State University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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