Engr. (Rev) Etteh: Tracing the Trajectory (2), By Dele Agekameh

Engr. (Rev) Etteh puts emphasis on the prime issues of due diligence, accountability, abhorrence for use of sub-standard, fake or inappropriate tools and materials, punctuality, dedication to assigned duties and set goals; hunger for the acquisition of experience and knowledge of new processes, tools and equipment and the maintenance of an open-door policy at any stage of doing a project or performing an official chore.

As stated in this column last week, Etteh Aro & Partners, a firm engaged in civil engineering works in Nigeria, arose from the crucible of the uncertain aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War which ended in 1970. The duo of Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh and Lawrence Oluwemimo Arokodare had been brought together by fate at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where both studied civil engineering and formed a life-long alliance of which Etteh Aro & Partners is the flagship seed. When they came back from the United Kingdom in 1968 with higher academic laurels and further professional experience garnered from their association with the UK office of Ove Arup & Partners, the stage was set for the birth of a collaboration that will re-define civil engineering practice in Nigeria and advance the frontiers of quality professionalism.

In the course of their professional engagements, Arokodare specialised in sourcing for highway projects, while Etteh sourced for bridge construction projects which were treated with the global best practices treatment that has over the past 40 years defined Etteh Aro & Partners as a firm founded on pristine professionalism.

Two incidents explicitly illustrate the unseen bond that existed between Etteh and Arokodare in the formative years of their relationship. Arokodare changed his chosen course from Mechanical Engineering to Civil Engineering after observing the busy schedule of civil engineering workers in Shell (where he was deployed for industrial experience). When he came back to his regular Mechanical Engineering at ABU, he was in the same class with Etteh in their final year. What was to become a lifelong bond was cemented during this period. Thereafter, Arokodare was employed by Ove Arup & Partners in Ibadan. When a vacancy occurred, Arokodare recommended Etteh to fill the gap and gain professional experience that would be useful to them later in life as a hybrid of consummate professionals who are technologically grounded and not blinded by tribalism.

There is no gainsaying that Engr. (Rev) Etteh’s professional engagement has been built majorly around and on the company – Etteh Aro & Partner – that he jointly promoted and ran from 1970 until his founding partner and business soulmate, Lawrence Oluwemimo Arokodare transited from this earth. It is important to note that Engr. (Rev) Etteh still maintains a very cordial relationship with Arokodare’s family till date.

Among the major projects executed by Etteh Aro & Partners are the Niger Delta Development Commission building; the Ibom Hall; Stallion House; C and C Towers; the East/West Coastal Road; Access Road and whole network of arterial roads at the Calabar International Convention Centre; Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos.

Key to the staying power of Etteh Arokodare & Partners over the past four decades is the corporate promotion of and strict adherence to good work ethics as a tool for success. Engr. (Rev) Etteh puts emphasis on the prime issues of due diligence; accountability; abhorrence for use of sub-standard, fake or inappropriate tools and materials; punctuality; dedication to assigned duties and set goals; hunger for the acquisition of experience and knowledge of new processes, tools and equipment and the maintenance of an open-door policy at any stage of doing a project or performing an official chore. It is well-known among the workers and clients of Etteh Aro & Partners that the company’s success indices also include solid experiential background, continuous innovation, quality control and project monitoring, high and specialised qualification and continuous investment in human capital development and training.

The corporate decision to embark on human capacity development was predicated on a policy of training budding Nigerian engineers without any strings attached as the company’s main competitor, Ove Arup were wont to do at the time. Etteh Aro & Partner has the vision to metamorphose into an international firm and be the first on the Nigerian stage, albeit professionally. Among others, the founding promoters of Etteh Aro & Partners (Etteh and Arokodare) were interested in the professional and business growth and advancement of the budding engineers who will bear the mantle in the future. These young engineers were encouraged to seek experience and training and made to drink from the spring of knowledge, practices and innovative ideas provided by Etteh Aro & Partners, free of charge.

Till date, young and upcoming engineers are encouraged to garner requisite experience and post-graduate training and pass the required professional exams and continue to work with noteworthy and professionally-endowed engineering firms. It is projected that the human capital development policy will, in the long-term, provide a pool of committed corps of project managers who will pay adequate attention to technical details, manage the aspect of proper and actual costs of projects, indicate possible revision of project provisions, etc. in order not to create major disconnections that may come up in the foreseeable future, especially the system collapse of structure.

In the estimation of the leadership of Etteh Aro and Partners, the dearth of the above-mentioned professional indices is one of the reasons the incidents of building collapse, road surface malfunction, etc, occur. It is because of this observation that Engr. (Rev.) Etteh has, on many occasions, bemoaned the rising incidents of the havoc unleashed on buildings, roads, bridges and other public and private structures as a direct result of the engagement of fake or unqualified “engineers” as project consultants or managers because they come cheaper.

Engr. (Rev.) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh rightly belongs to that enviable class of renowned African men whose personal achievements and contributions towards nation-building and human capacity empowerment are worth celebrating. Early in life, he imbibed the belief that a man’s success in life is not only measured by his material acquisitions but by how much his wealth brings succour to the under-privileged and by how much the society is bettered on account of his role and influence. Etteh’s foray into business with his bosom friend, Arokodare, was driven by a conviction that success can only come to fruition if only one would dare to begin. He is not your run-of-the-mill person whose ethnic nuances you can easily pigeon-hole through your own prism and evaluation. He is a citizen of the world.

Engr. (Rev) Etteh holds tenaciously to some guiding tenets which he recommends to everyone, especially young people who want to make a success of life. He believes that young people should possess that willingness to learn, eschew tribalism and ethnic considerations, pursue and exhibit the truth always, build friendship on trust and without bias, encourage others with seemingly–insurmountable challenges, that there is always a positive side to life, pass on knowledge and experiences garnered to others, possess unwavering integrity in all dealings, de-emphasise undue craze for money and profit in place of professionalism, dream positive dreams and have undying hope and abundant faith, etc.

No one will accuse Engr. (Rev) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh of being sanctimonious when he says: “Today, I’m who I am, not because of what I studied at school but because of my well-rounded inspiration and experience that has made me to become highly successful. Suffice to say that I’m very well-equipped to pass on knowledge and inspiration to others”. And that is the truth told every day since the incorporation of Etteh Aro & Partners in 1970.

Rev. (Engr.) Etteh has been married to Elizabeth, a former University of Ibadan administrator and an elder in the Presbyterian Church, for over 40 years. Here is wishing him more fruitful years in good health in the service of his chosen profession, Nigeria and humanity in general.

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