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Chief Dr. Clement Nyong Isong: Statesman, Economist, Educationist

-Anietie Udobit

 

He lost his father at a tender age, and was adopted by his uncle, a trader who married his mother according to traditional mores and practice.

Chief Dr. Clement Isong, born on April 20, 1920 to Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Isonguyo of Ikot Osong now Ikot Udo Esang of Awa Clan, Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, was a prisoner of reactionary aristocracy, an Ibibio man with a national spirit.

In the words of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi: he was an uncommon spirit.

His adoptive father was instrumental to his attending the Methodist Boys High School at Oron, where he served his school master, Mr. Ata Otoro, faithfully as a hard-working houseboy, with the outstanding qualities of humility, studiousness, honesty, sincerity and loyalty.

At the right time, these qualities earned him recommendation to the University of Ibadan, from where he won a scholarship from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations to study for his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration where he graduated (first class) from Iowa Wesleyan College (USA), and his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Economics from the famous Ivy League Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Science. Here too, young Clement stood out as a first class academic, a trusted leader, and a cricket star as attested to in Honors Roll listings in those Institutions today.

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Clement Isong thus became a firm believer and strong advocate of sound education as a potent tool for the liberation of the mind from the shackles of poverty, ignorance and mental servitude. He stood for excellence in quality leadership and performance. In this regard, he not only upheld but lived out his principles of honesty, integrity, patriotism, and loyalty which he emphasised should never be compromised.

Again, these qualities stood him out in his work at the Federal Reserve Bank (New York), University of Ibadan, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the erstwhile Cross River State Government, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Governing Council, and later as an Elder Statesman in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria at large. He was constantly consulted on key issues of the economy and political governance owing to his depth of wisdom and wealth of experience, by various national and international organisations. Dr. Isong was honoured with Nigeria’s national honour of Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR) in 1982.

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Dr. Clement Isong’s life experiences caused him to become an advocate of high quality education, and a strong proponent of excellence and integrity in leadership. He was known for his honesty, patriotism and loyalty – qualities which he upheld and emphasised in all he did. Having been the second Nigerian to be appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he has been honored with his portrait on Nigeria’s highest currency note – the N1000 – an honour he shares with the first indigenous governor.

As one who enjoyed divine benevolence and human assistance, Clement believes that to find happiness for oneself, one has to work for the happiness of others. And so, throughout his life, he put his genius at the service of this principle.

As a loyal and patriotic African, he worked selflessly to ensure the fulfillment of the dream and aspirations of the big black continent.

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Clement became a colossus, spreading tentacles in intellectual & political spheres, and became an inspirational leader not only to his people, but all Nigerians and Africans. His life, works and ideas also shaped the African Economic identity & Nationhood.

A community organizer and leader, a politician par excellence, a nationalist with patriotic spirit, a philanthropist with the heart of the poor, a pace setter, a patriotic Nigerian & exceptional African, a strong follower of his faith, and a father.

His head was the source of great ideas as the sun the source of light. In his life as a politician his search was to make his people politically relevant in a multi-ethnic nation where pocket of internal imperialism was visibly noticed.

Clement Isong’s life was an ‘epic poem’, a man of a turning point in history; a teacher of energy; and a symbol of love, respect, understanding and mutual trust.

Dr. Clement Isong Dr. Isong passed away on May 29th, 2000.

He is to be celebrated and revered.

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