By Ignatius Ushie
Ambassador Anthonia Akpabio Ekpa (PhD), the former Permanent Secretary, federal Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Women Affairs and of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, a recipient of national award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), has revealed that she was stunned by the news of award having not expecting any of such national honour.
Ekpa, who retired in 2022, was among 447 nominees conferred with national honour awards by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 11, 2022.
Speaking about the recognition on the sideline during a reception, Ekpa described the award as a reward from God, expressing surprise at the gesture insisting she knew nothing about the award and was not expecting it.
According to her “Let me say that we are just five Permanent Secretaries that were given award, some for long service, but majority for having served the country as Perm Sec and for just doing the right thing.
“I want to emphasize that I knew nothing about the nomination, I was just sitting in my house and I was called to say there is a letter for me and I was quite stunned because I didn’t expect it. But I think first and foremost, it is God’s own reward because all good gifts around us are from God.
“Without sounding like one who wants to praise oneself, I gave everything of my intellect, I gave everything of my passion, and whereas it was possible for me to use my office wrongly, but I stuck to the rules and values of public service and I believe that there is no work more noble than serving your country.
“Leaving the university as an academic into the public service, I read the rules and I stuck to the rules, and I knew that if we abided by the rules, the public service would be the best place to work” Ekpa said.
The 2022 list of national honour awardees includes politicians, public officers, security officials, diplomats, academia, businessmen, traditional rulers, religious leaders and legal practitioners among others, having the GCON with five recipients; CFR, 54; CON, 67; OFR, 64; OON, 101; MFR, 75; MON 56; FRM, 8.
As the Permanent Secretary at the federal ministry of Foreign Affairs, she was praised for insisting on the rules and facilitating a smooth relationship between the ministry and the legislature.
Ekpa variously described in the civil service circle as a renowned reformer and team player, brought her passion in gender and women to bear as Perm Sec in Women Affairs Ministry, which helped seamlessly to realize the agenda of government in the ministry.
The team player attribute of the Cross River born civil servant was most probably what made Federal Government to send her to the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, where the mission and visions requires the ministry to interact and work in synergy with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Ambassador Ekpa who hails from Calabar in Cross River State, attended the University of Calabar, Cross River State. She was also at University of Ibadan where she bagged a PhD in English and Literary Arts and Gender Studies respectively.
The quest for more knowledge made her go across the shores of Nigeria to the University of Birmingham, England where she specialized in Policy Analysis and Public Sector Reforms. She is married with children.