top of page

Prince Elijah Akpan Okon

Elijah Akpan Okon (born 1913), into a royal family with a line of great leaders and chiefs in Ikot Mbon Ikono, Uyo, in the present Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria; his father chief Nsentip Ekown, a prominent, and great Ruler of Ikono and the suburbs, named him Ukpong Nsentip Ekown. At his school age, there were no schools in the whole of Uyo division, and it was difficult to establish any, because of strong opposition by Ibibio people, in and around Uyo. Prior to his birth, his father Chief Nsentip Ekown had signed a treaty with the British Consul – Sir Robert Brooks which established Uyo as a British Colonial Administrative station. Chief Nsentip Ekown was a Paramount Ruler amongst his people. He was thus confirmed, honoured, with this title, and crowned as the first Warrant Paramount Ruler of the area through the Consul by King Edward VII in 1902. Chief Nsentip Ekown, in conjunction with Chief Udo-Ekong Umana Ekam of Abak, led the British to establish the Government School at Abak. As a Warrant Ruler, Chief Nsentip Ekown played a prominent role by assisting the British to subdue Essien Inyang Ide of Abak whose parcel of land the school was established. It would be quite unsafe for anybody linked with the name Nsentip to attend the school; hence Ukpong Nsentip Ekown had to adopt the name Elijah Akpan Okon to acquire education at the Abak Government School. This was also an era, which the early missionaries and the colonial teachers in Nigeria preferred to, and renamed the Nigerian students with biblical and European names other than African.

In 1940, Chief Elijah Akpan Okon studied Rural Science Education, and community development at Umuahia. He also had a Graduation Certificate in Agriculture and Home Economics in 1947, through the Pennsylvania State College, USA. In 1952 he obtained a Diploma in Business Management and company Secretarial studies from a school in London.

After completing his Primary school education in 1929, he took a job as a teacher in a local school, primarily to have the opportunity of encouraging the people to send their children to school. From 1937–1950, he was a teacher, and Head Master at Ukana Methodist School in Ikot Ekpene. Between 1942 and 1949 Chief Elijah Akpan Okon was the secretary, Nigerian Union of Teachers (N.U.T.) Ikot Ekpene Branch.

His passion as a community leader and organizer showed up early in his life. Around 1933–1939, Chief Elijah Akpan Okon founded Ikono Young-men Meeting whose aim was to raise funds and sponsor the youths of that era to have secondary education from the few colleges such as Government College, Umuahia; Etinan Institute, Methodist Boys' High School, Oron and Uzuakoli etc. Several youths of Ikono availed themselves of that opportunity.

In 1950, he returned from Ukana, Ikot Ekpene to his village Ikot Mbon Ikono, Uyo. He was appointed a rural science teacher in the Uyo Federated schools (1951–1955). He left that post, and brought up his village school Ikono Central School (now the AME Zion Mission School ) where he was a teacher and the Head Master from (1956–1960).

Within 1949, he had attempted, in vain, to form the Ikono Federation but in the process Northern Ikono Federation emerged in 1950. During his tenure as the founder and first President of the Northern Ikono Federation, a community Centre was built which housed a meeting hall, a library, a postal agency, etc. Arrangements were made for the local people to learn weaving, and pottery at the center. At its entirety, the aim of the federation was to raise funds and give scholarships for the local youths to attain higher education. Sir Clement Pleass, K.C.M.G; K.B.E. the British Governor of Eastern Nigeria was invited and he did the inaugural opening of the center on June 29, 1955 . Chief Elijah Akpan Okon was given a Certificate of Faithful Service to the people of Uyo, by the Governor.

Chief Elijah Akpan Okon used his political influence and affiliations to establish; and promoted the Primary Education (U P E) programme in Uyo, and the whole of Calabar Province. He set up oil palm seedling nurseries in schools and some communities. He encouraged the local farmers to participate in oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) cultivation which was a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. He ensured that certain farm equipment and fertilizer were distributed free to the local farmers. These exercises were in part, programmes of the NCNC led government of Eastern Nigeria which he intended the local farmers to benefit.

From 1959–1961, he became the Chairman of Uyo Federated County Council. He came up with the first master plan for Uyo. It was at this time that the old stadium, the Uyo Motor Park, the streets were established, and named. Pipe borne water and electricity were introduced. He made sure that dispensaries/clinics and maternities were built and operated in the rural areas of Uyo Division. Postal agencies were available for people in the local areas. Within this time he excised the Uyo Council into two distinct and separate administrative entities, Uyo Urban; and Uyo Federated County Councils with headquarters at Uyo and Ikot Ebio, Offot respectively. The aim in this was to allow development to expand into the rural areas. He awarded scholarships to qualified and deserving students to colleges and universities. His efforts in all these had yielded a multiplier effect in terms of human power and resource development to the community. Uyo Division now has numerous indigenous and enviable personnel in almost every field of human endeavours.

Chief Elijah Akpan Okon was a Nationalist. His Political Party, National Council of Nigerian Citizens(NCNC), produced Chief (Dr.) Nnamdi Azikiwe as the first indigenous President of Nigeria, who took over the realms of political powers peacefully, from the British Colonial rule, and ushered in a parliamentary democratic system of government. From thence, Nigeria became an independent and a sovereign nation on October 1, 1960. Chief Elijah Akpan Okon held a strong belief and advocated that Ibibio people should participate, and play the politics of the government at the centre and to stay within that centre and struggle for their rights, and amenities. This was his main differential point between his political opponents, who stayed or crossed the carpet, from the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) to the Action Group (AG) and derived no benefits from that opposing party.

Chief Elijah Akpan Okon was a devout Christian and a Director of Christian education in AME Zion church Nigeria Conference. He was instrumental in establishing the AME Zion mission co-educationa