Sunday Sandy Etukeren was a man who well understood the power of the
gospel in his day. He effectively used gospel light to dispel the
darkness of idol worship and plural marriage and with inspiration,
fired people to aspire above limiting folkways.
also used gospel incentives to foster unity, peace and goodwill among
a people riven by mutual tribal distrust and conflict. Driven by
strong convictions that all men are brothers, he saw with clarity
through the tribal fog and drew the sword of the gospel against the
tyranny of communal divisions and hatred.
his time, as indeed now, everything in Nigeria was filtered through
ancient and inflexible clannish lens. This
malignant behavior robs Africans of so much capacity-building. The
blight caused bloodletting in South Africa and stood in the way of
halting apartheid in its tracks much earlier.
Kenya and Zimbabwe, the story was just as grim. Rwanda and Sudan
outdid all others in tribal fury, brutality and savagery. In
Nigeria, the insanity wasted more than two million lives. Even now,
since incoherence is steep deep in the country, homicidal tribal
bigots run wild, turning large swaths of the country’s
northeast into an abhorrent killing field.
colleges and universities I taught in Nigeria, certain positions were
reserved for people from certain tribes, a shocking and offensive
travesty known in Nigerian-speak as “son of the soil”
syndrome. This was so even when such persons clearly lacked the
required distinctions. Hence the mediocrity of these institutions,
because policies are based on tribal ethos that fail to represent the
standards and values of quality education.
Annang and Ibibio people, for example, probably share a common
origin. Unlike Americans and the British who are separated by an
ocean, their boundary is contiguous. There’s hardly a word an
Annang speaks that an Ibibio does not understand.
minimal differences, they share similar conventions, deities, foods,
also intermarry, yet the enmity between them is sometimes grim. And
despite shared institutions, both claim they are different tribes.
unprincipled politicians manipulate tribal fault-lines and deceive
the people so as to make personal gains. An opportunistic Ibibio
chief for example, using the Nigerian civil war as cover, attacked
and murdered prominent Annang intellectuals and politicians. Then
taking advantage of the resulting vacuum, he promptly declared
himself the paramount ruler of both tribes.
this, Annang politicians, seeking for breathing space from their more
numerous Ibibio cousins, had aligned with Ibos (another of their
neighbors) to run a party that ruled eastern Nigeria. The Ibibios who
felt spited threw in their lot with a party in western Nigeria.
the war broke out a Nigerian military officer from the western region
who had unconcealed sympathies for the party of his tribe commanded
the Nigerian troops. The Ibibio chief saw this as an opportunity to
eliminate Annang leaders in retribution for perceived past
antagonism. The ensuing slaughter, though on a small level, eerily
anticipated the horrendous Tutsi-Hutu massacre.
reeling and dastardly betrayals breed animosity and tear asunder
relationships woven over time and history.
Etukeren saw in these bitter mangling of relationships a gap he could
work to restore wholeness.
Etukeren graduated from Bible College, Ukpom Abak in 1959. His
father, who founded the Baptist and Apostolic churches in his village
at Ekom Iman, had expected the son to take over from him. The young
evangelist, being something of a rebel, instead opted to work for the
Church of Christ Mission.
Mission posted him to a remote Uruk Ata Nsidung village west of the
Quo Ibom River where he served from 1960-1972.
present-day Nigeria, where prosperity theology supplants the truth,
early Christian ministers saw their calling as service to the people
rather than their pockets.
arrival, the 22-year-old minister went to work with zeal. A versatile
minister, he was a charismatic singer, a prolific songwriter, and an
arresting preacher. With his gifts he soon won over the people. He
secured a plot of land at the center of the village and put up a
he engaged in activities that spoke to the needs of the community, he
was able to enlist the help of members and non-members in raising his
church building. With them he dug sand from a nearby river to mold
cement blocks and bricks for the construction work.
his devotion, a local philanthropist, Asukwo Akpan Obot, came to the
aid of the toil-worn preacher and donated a piece of land for him to
build a house to live in.
Nigerian Civil War cut short his mission, and he returned home to
take care of his family. The war had barely ended when he went back
to his church and found that the he work he started had come to a
contacted the village head and with a token fee secured several iroko
trees for use in the building. He hired lumbermen and other craftsmen
to saw the trees for use in roofing the building. Working like a man
possessed, he soon completed the project.
was a mark of his strength of character and faith that he lived
harmoniously with a people equally dedicated to folk beliefs, fetish
and idolatry. Many of those he affected are currently successful men
and women in various professions.
easily won the hearts of those he served because they saw his
sincerity. While he served on his mission, his wife stayed home to
farm and raise animals to support his work and his family. This freed
him from temporal concerns and focused his energies on taking the
gospel to other places like Etim Ekpo, Nkek, Ukanafun and Ikot
heart was so much with the Annang tribe he labored in that when he
tried to set up a church among his own home folks, he was poorly
received. He took heart believing his mission lay with the Annangs
whom he loved until he suddenly passed in 1990.
the people he spent his time uplifting in the gospel and education
fondly cherish his memory. The
sage who wrote the proverbs had it going for souls like Evangelist
Etukeren when he wrote that, “the liberal soul shall be made
fat: and he that watereth shall be watered himself.”
Etukeren’s son sits as a sales executive in an auto company in
the U.S. His grandchildren are attorneys and pharmacists, thus
continuing in the family heritage of advocacy for the voiceless and
healing for the afflicted.
Sunday Sandy Etukeren consecrated his time, energy and resources to a
higher calling because he knew what Rodney Johnson meant when he
said, “Standing in the gap is our duty, our calling as
Christians. God is looking for those who are willing to stand for
those who cannot stand for themselves — are you willing? ...
We are not here just to live our lives, we are here to influence.
Influence our families, friends, community, city, state, nation, and
Imo Ben Eshiet was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Raised in his village, Uruk Enung, and at
several cities in his country including Nsukka, Enugu, Umuahia, Eket and Calabar, Eshiet is a
detribalized Nigerian. Although he was extensively exposed to Western education right from
childhood in his country where he obtained a PhD in English and Literary Studies from the
University of Calabar, he is well nurtured in African history, politics, culture and traditions.
Imo is currently a teacher in the high priests group in the Summit Ward of the Greensboro North