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A shipwreck incident a few years after World War II, at Atabong in the present Bakassi Peninsula now ceded to Cameroun has now become a blessing to thousands of young people in Akwa Ibom State.

This is the story: a father went fishing after the war, with his son, at Atabong but was involved in a shipwreck. The grief-stricken father vowed that if God would spare their lives, he would never go on fishing with his son again, but would rather do everything possible to send him to school. That agreement with God was signed, sealed and honoured as God spared the lives of the father and son and the man on getting safe ashore honoured his part of the agreement by sending his son to school. The son never went fishing again. That is how the late Chief Asuquo Etim Abia, went to school while his peers were busy fishing.

Now his son (or the grandson of the fisherman), Obong Effiong Abia, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Godswill Akpabio and the secretary, Finance and General Purpose Committee (FGPC), revealed the more than 60-year old secret of education in his family only last weekend when he instituted a scholarship foundation, in honour of his late father, to assist indigent students of Mbo local government area in tertiary institutions.

'If my father had not gone to school, perhaps, we will not have gone to school. Therefore we want to go back to the society and that is our aim,' Abia said while inaugurating the 7-member board of the foundation headed by Mr Okon Inyang.

But the foundation was only one of the pro-education programmes embarked upon by Abia. In fact the main event of the day was the distribution of free exercise books and other educational materials to 61 schools from all parts of the state in support of Gov. Akpabio's free education programme.

Obong Abia who sponsored the exercise through his native Enwang Welfare Improvement Association (EWIA) was full of praises to Gov. Akpabio, first for instituting free education in the state and for appointing him, from civil service, as the senior special assistant and secretary of FGPC.

'I most sincerely thank my boss for the rare and uncommon privilege he extended to me. Through him, this is made possible. Because he is an educated man, he knows that education is the bedrock of our development. He introduced the free and compulsory education scheme and my little contribution in support of this noble initiative is this presentation of free books and other educational materials to schools.

'You are aware that when the people of Akwa Ibom State rolled out drums to celebrate the one year of free and compulsory education, they all agreed that this noble initiative has given every Akwa Ibom child of school age the opportunity to obtain basic education. The governor told the people that he wanted to change the mentality of our people so that in the next 10 years, they can take their destiny in their hands. That is why I'm doing this to support the scheme.'

Abia who declined to disclose how much he spent to provide the free educational materials reasoned: 'I'm a father and no parent publicly discloses what it costs them to train their children. What I'm doing is to support the good intention of Gov. Akpabio for Akwa Ibom people.

Abia's kinsman and the state commissioner for rural development, Mr Oyong Asuquo, praised Abia for the gesture. 'I'm proud to be part of this ceremony. It is aimed at educating the younger generation and as a mark of support for the free and compulsory education scheme of Gov. Akpabio.'

Asuquo said Abia's gesture had become a challenge to some of them to think of how to give back to the society through the support of free education scheme in their respective communities and local government areas.

'It is not that Obong Abia is richer than any of us, but the passion to contribute his quota to the development of future generation is a leading factor in today's occasion. He could have quietly used the money he put into this to buy plots of land for his children in Uyo and nobody would know. So I commend him for this,' Asuquo said.

The chairman of Oron Think Tank and chairman on the occasion, Chief Okon Osung said support for the free education was the right type partnership the people needed in the development of education.

'When pupils and students get the necessary basic education at primary and secondary levels, they will fit perfectly into the university system. I'm appealing to all well placed sons and daughters of Oro nation to make meaningful contribution to our society.'

The chairman of EWIA, Chief Edet Udesio, who thanked Gov. Akpabio for appointing Abia as his senior personal assistant, however called on Mbo people to continue their support for the governor.

Udesio said the distribution of free educational materials would be a yearly affair. He however asked that EWIA be supported with a speed boat and a bus to assist them in the distribution of the materials to riverine and upland communities.

The elated school children used the occasion display debate mastery of the role teacher and doctors in the society. It was also an occasion for politicians, community leaders and businessmen to come out and show their support to the various socio-political groups that grace the occasion.