Think of him and what comes to mind is the printed word. Mention his name and thoughts of journalism flood through your mind. But Journalism of the respectable type. For the South-South, this great son of Akwa Ibom State first shot to fame in the 70s as the fearless editor of Nigerian Chronicle in Calabar. His distinctive prose, his perceptive mind and his well-informed analysis soon attracted national attention. By the 80s, he was editing The Sunday Times and Business Times, and serving as the Chairman, Editorial Board of Concord Newspapers.
The highpoint of his career was in 1985, when he co-founded the game-changing Newswatch magazine. For a man with a first class degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, this was a crowning glory. By now, it is obvious that we are talking about the accomplished journalist, author, activist, administrator and columnist, Raymond Ekpu, better known as Ray Ekpu.
This native of Ukanafun is one of the most decorated journalists in Nigeria and a recipient of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). He is a national treasure. This was irrefutably demonstrated during his 70th birthday celebration in 2018. The hall was packed. A long line of speakers praised his professionalism and dedication to his art. A common thread ran through the event: everyone admires and respects Ekpu. Well, everyone except governments and dictators. His pen was usually a thorn on the side of governments. Both civilian and military. For this, he suffered frequent arrests and detentions. But for Ekpu, it was all in the line of a profession he has devoted 50 years of his life. A life that has inspired thousands. Thousands of mentees. Thousands of students, who discuss his works in classrooms. Thousands of admirers. And disciples.
Time has not slowed him down. Ekpu is one of the distinguished columnists for The Guardian. It is fitting that the newspaper describes them as Grandmasters.
Ray Ekpu is a true hero. Akwa Ibom State is proud of you.