Managing Director, Hotrock Concept Nigeria Limited and President, Association of Akwa Cross, a collection of Akwa Ibom State indigenes in the diaspora, Chief Etubom Samson Unyime Samson is the patron of over 40 different organisations and holds over 25 chieftaincy titles. He tells Mary Ekah about his intricate ascension into royalty, how it all started from childhood, the challenges and sunny side of his reign

How would you describe yourself?
I am a simple going person but I could also be difficult, so it is really difficult to classify myself. But above all, I am God-fearing, a trained activist, a labour unionist, a Christian and a friend to many. I was born on August 4,1971 at Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State into a royal family. I attended Enwe Primary School, Uyo and later proceeded to Uyo High School in1984 to 1990. I came out with distinction as the best graduating student after which I proceeded to Yaba College of Technology where I studied Printing Technology.

I was elected a Councilor in Ikate ward in 1993 before the annulment of June 12 1993 election.  I was also elected Etubom Mkparawa Akwa Ibom in 1994 at the age of 23. My first task of royalty was in 1993 when I was initiated into the prestigious Ekpe Confraternity, the highest cultural group in Akwa Ibom and Cross States. I am also the immediate past National President of Nigeria Printers Association, Vice President (National) Niger Delta Peoples Movement.

I am a Royal father, patron to many associations as well as the current National President, Association of Akwa Cross Indigenes, Nigeria. I am a philanthropist and also the Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer, Hotrock Concept Nigeria, a printing, publishing and branding outlet. I am married to Obonganwan Elizabeth Samson and we are blessed with two children.

Royalty seems to run in your blood. Tell us how it all started?
It will interest you that I became a king at the age of 23. I have been a king proposed from birth. I was born in 1971 and I was told that up till today, I have been the heaviest child at Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. My late grandfather then was a king and people say I resemble him so much and that I came out like a lion during my birth, I was so hairy and very fat and when my late grandfather saw me, he lifted me up and spat into my mouth saying, ‘I can now leave’. But my grandfather didn’t die that year. He died after five years, precisely in December 1976 and left a bead for me and I was later told the bead represents the handing over of mantle.  I was living with my mother from birth but when I was three months old, I was transferred to the palace.

I grew with my grandfather in palace and when he died in 1976, I was still a small boy and there was no way they could make a five-year-old a king. So somebody else had to take over until when the person passed on, they handed over the kingship to my father while I was made a sort of kingmaker and since then I have grown up to become a man. When my father ascended the throne, he always sought my opinion in all he did. And other times, he will tell me: ‘Son, I am holding brief for you, so you have to listen’. As a child then, I wasn’t keen about what they were doing in the palace like pouring libation, calling on the gods, consulting the deities and honouring some of the tradition and culture.

But at a certain stage I became interested in all that and then my father realised that I was growing into an intelligent boy who could serve visitors drinks and kola nuts in the appropriate manner and could also pour libation calling on the gods of their ancestors. These became part of my life that I didn’t need to say I was the youngest among those that knew tradition very thoroughly. I grew up like that until I moved down to Lagos.  But I was told that the gods needed me to come back to my basis. Back home I joined different groups because I saw groups in my house.

I must tell you that at the age of 26 I ascended the highest deity in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, that is the “Itiat Ekpe”, those who know this deity will understand the implication of what I am talking about. That is why I am having four feathers on my royal crown.  Even my late father got to that stage at the age of 45. When I came back to Lagos, I joined Mboho Ndito Akwa Ibom, which metamorphosed into Mboho Akparawa Akwa Ibom until emergence of Akwa Ibom community. I was one of the leaders of the group even at the tender age of 19; I was the Chief Welfare Officer of the group. From there, when it came to the time of election, unanimously, everybody voted me to be their leader and so I became the leader of that great group at the age of 23.

That is kingship because it was not an administrative position but a traditional position that will showcase the tradition and culture of our communities and the heritage of each ethnic group in Akwa Ibom. Everybody regarded me with reverence and whenever I came out, everybody had to bow because I was the king ambassador in Lagos. I was the voice of our communities’ kings here in Lagos and I had to communicate constantly with various kings in Akwa Ibom State and that made me automatically a king. I was given particular roles to play.

When I came to Lagos, I realised that we were being cheated and I felt that we had to come together as one body so that we can make headway and so we formed Akwa Cross. The Onibeju of Ibeju Lekki, Oba Bamidele Salami, crowned me the Etubom Uwana Ndito Akwa Ibom, present Oba of Ibeju Land in Ibeju Lekki. And since then anywhere I go, home or abroad I was given a chieftaincy title and presently I have about 28 chieftaincy titles nationally and internationally.

So have you been eventually enthroned as the king of your kingdom?
No, not yet. The rule is that you must wait till certain age before you can become the clan head of Atoi clan. The law is, you can be a village head but you cannot be a clan head if you are less than 50.

You must have missed all the youthful exuberance since you started so early in life carrying out the responsibilities of royalty. How did you cope?
No, I didn’t miss anything. The simple truth is that I have never been a youth or a small boy by nature. I came in as a small boy by age but by actions I passed through huge responsibilities.  But I never missed any of those youthful exuberances because I went to school like every normal child and mingled with other children, in fact, I played football, people kicked me and I kicked them also. I fought at school like every normal child and all that but I have never been in the age grade called youth.

To me, I have never been a child or a youth; I have always been a man. I grew up as a man right from my childhood. I have lived in the palace for a better part of my life and this special bangle I am wearing on my wrist has been there for 44 years now. I only remove it when I want to make love to my wife after which I put it back. If it goes bad, I repair but another one must be on my wrist till I get this back. I have been a priest from childhood and from priesthood to a kingship.  Even in church I was never in the youth fellowship.

How then did meet your wife?
I was young and aspiring. I was every girl’s dream and the rush was much but I didn’t know where to start. I never wanted to impregnate any girl out of wedlock because if I did that there was a particular traditional rite that I must perform before I could now go for the proper marriage. So I didn’t want to defile any body’s child. So I got married earlier than expected and at the age of 28, I became a father.  I met my wife in Lagos. We met on the street and I called her attention and we started going out after a short while I proposed to her. Though it was not easy when the parents heard about my proposal because they felt that their daughter whose father was a pastor, could never be married to a son of a traditional ruler.

They also thought that since I was from a royal family, I was not prevented to marry as many women as I wanted and so they felt their daughter will not be able to cope with such. But eventually they gave us their blessings and here we are happily married today.  But if you look at where I am coming from, it becomes mandatory that you marry at least two but I do not know if such law will come in here and that won’t be a disappointment if it does but all I know is that for me, it’s one man, one wife.

At what point did you decide to go into business?
I started work with Asuani Textile but when the company saw that I was a labour unionist and that I had unionism blood in me, I was dismissed. I moved to another company and I was still dismissed on the same ground within three months and within three years I had worked I sacked from three companies. At that point I felt that I would never be able to work under anybody’s employment. And so I decided to go fully into printing job because my father was a printer and I was born into printing job.

And so I came back and started assisting my father with printing. So when I resigned from my last job at the verge of being sacked, I went into politics and printing simultaneously. I joined politics and that saw me being unanimously elected the first councilor in Ikate ward in 1993 before the annulment of June 12, 1993 election. So after the annulment of June 12, I had to come back to my profession fully. And when I came into printing fully, I eventually establish my printing firm, Hotrock Concept Nigeria Limited.

  I then realised that printing was not what it should be then. It was like printing was the profession of dropouts. I started a move for the printers to be unionized and we were unionized. So I am like the founding father of printing unionism in Nigeria, before then, printers didn’t know they could come together but I had a vision and saw beyond them, that when we come together, it would be better for us. So I became the first pioneer National President of Nigeria Printers Association. Right now I have finished my tenure. I have been in printing for over 35 years but my printing firm was established in 2008.

What informs your style of dressing?
I love wearing traditional outfits because they portray my tradition and culture. If I am a custodian of our culture and tradition, then I should also portray that in my style of dressing.  In fact I am presently, National Vice President, Niger Delta Peoples Movement, a Royal father, patron to many associations, and currently the National President, Association of Akwa Cross Indigenes, Nigeria. So I should show all these titles in what I wear.