Daniel Etokidem

Benjamin Disraeli was once asked to explain the difference between calamity and catastrophe. His eyes twinkled with epic mischief. “You know William Gladstone?”, Disraeli began in reference to his greatest political foe. “Well if Gladstone were to fall into a river, that would be a calamity”. Then he quickly added the mortal clincher. “But if anybody were to pull him out, that would be a catastrophe.

Without being told, 2017 is poised to be an interesting one both for better and for worse in Akwa Ibom state. In less than than a week, the oil rich state has been blessed with both a tragedy and a catastrophe from the two major occupants of the ‘Pentagon’. Who cannot define the new Akwa Ibom soul. It is a compulsive patchwork. Sometimes beautiful. Inevitably fractious. Ugly often. Marvelously brilliant in potential but grotesque in execution. Fascinated with violence but suspicious in peace.

On January 2, 2017, the governor declared war on his critics from the pulpit. His deputy, better known by his botanical name, Pa Mo, if you recalled, cheered, clapped, danced and exchanged banters as the declaration of war was proclaimed by “God’s” servant, a man who has never fought a war of his own nor planned, initiated, launched, attacked, retreated or surrendered from any battle before.

Few days later, the Abak born grandpa, probably the most irreverent and acerbic deputy governor ever unfortunately produced, behaving like a seer who cannot see his own future, added to the season of absurdity by masterminding the arrest of Mr Nsibiet John, Editor/Publisher of the Ink newspaper just because the journalist simply told the world the gospel truth that despite the fall in the price of oil, resulting in drop in federal allocation to the state, the deacon is still very grateful to be laundering a paltry #250 million monthly to the deputy governor as his share of the loot under the guise of security votes.

It is perhaps time we challenge our psychologists and sociologists to attempt an explanation to the malady currently ravaging Akwa Ibom. In Akwa Ibom this is a season of ego by a recalcitrant band of anarchists, imbued with autocratic mien, militarized composure and abrasive demeanor who are out to prove that conspiracy and treachery are not the exclusive preserve of the military.

Indeed, a self fulfilling prophesy requires a self-destroying political class as the duo of Udom and Uncle, like wanton schoolboys, have been busy setting explosive crackers in the state.

Considering these troubling indices from the two most senior citizens of the state, and the imprimatur of the deputy in the Nsibiet saga, it is tempting to ask who the deputy governor’s advisers are and what kind of advice they give him. In fact, and more appropriately, we should ask who Pa Mo really is, what his mind is made of; and whether in 2015, Akwa Ibom didn’t after all buy a pig in a poke.

Pa Mo, should know that a sacrifice is necessary only if it will be acceptable to the gods and you must not laugh at others if you cannot laugh at yourself. Now that the gates of Hell have been opened, it is most likely going to be a battle between Hell and Hades because if deacon Udom was a tragedy, grandpa Mo is a farce. Neither is inspiring. Either of them is also not consoling but one is harsher than the other. Those stuck in the middle would catch both Hades and Hell in the ongoing season of political madness.

The deputy governor wants to show that like his boss, he too knows how to use and abuse power. Like a chameleon pinned against a rainbow, he knows not which colour he should be. He therefore tries them all. This is a man who has turned from an innocent in the people’s eyes- not my eyes, for I knew him well since his betrayal of the Late Dr Ime Umanah- into a slithering snake. He bites and doges and bites again. When the chips are down, he will leave Udom and Akpabio for the same reason he left Ime Umanah: Self interest.

In the choice of installing a running mate for Udom in 2015 by the emperor, Uncle was decreed and anointed not because he was the most competent from the Annang nation but because he was the perfect match in the political marriage between the two aliens. Never was ability so much below mediocrity so well rewarded. It was merely an exchange of monkeys for baboons.

With Udom and Uncle, two political terrorists were hurriedly joined in political matrimony against their free will and are now using the power of political ascendancy and incumbency to unleash a reign of terror on the state and its people in order to secure and safeguard their temporary and transient advantage. They have both broken all the rules of sober and civilized governance. In just the first week of the year, they both constitute the gravest nuisance to peace, unity and stability of the state. What a tragedy!

I don’t want to believe that the Hilltop Mansion is now occupied by monsters in human garb, savages fit only for the wild and downright brutes ill- equipped for civil society. But if you do not bury a dead man because of his family, you will have to bury him for the health hazards his corpse constitute. Some politicians are becoming a menace to the health of the state. Third- rate politicians whose ability to think clearly and logically and act rationally is compromised by poor education, upbringing and a host of other silly encumbrances. But you see, you cannot force a grown up man into the trousers of a toddler. We may choose to ignore the past, but we will continue to relive it.

As democracy slowly and steadily passes into despotism in Akwa Ibom, this aphroism aptly depicts the incorrigible abyss that the state is sliding into because it is impossible to create and nurture democracy among practicing non- democrats. But for whose benefit is the atmosphere of fear and intimidation being confected? Whenever exceptions are allowed to the law, the society often unravels quickly. How fast things can get messy and disorganized.

Udom’s deputy having drunk from the poisoned chalice is trying to be clever by half. Nsibiet has only done his job by investigating and publishing the fraud among the gang members. #250 million allocated monthly as proceeds of the operation, executed not with guns and bullets but with pen, paper and online transfer in a regime where corruption is the most viable industry and the greatest employer of labour.

If he felt the publication was offensive and unlawful, there are legal and democratically laid out routes to follow. I thought they said this old man was a veteran journalist who once served as Commissioner for Information at the benevolence of Dr Ime Umanah, the man he later betrayed and “stabbed. Why instigate the arrest, detention and arraignment of a reporter and come out to with the hypocrisy to feign ignorance? This is callousness and cruelty at its most dastardly and despicable. If he taught by arresting John he will beat the rest of us into whimpering quietude, he is dead wrong.

Too incapable of being serious when seriousness is desired, and yet incapable of being jovial when joviality is desired, Pa Mo has always weighed down himself with a siege mentality.
To the Akwa Ibom NUJ, Uncle reminds us of our mistake as a people. Today he has become our albatross. I hope we can carry him till the nightmare is over. The press should by now know that seeing Pa Mo as one of us means realizing that the past is a ghost and the future is a dream. With a friend like Moses Ekpo, NUJ needs no enemy. I only wish the media will now know that dressing a growling jackal in a dinner jacket does not keep him from making a mess of the banquet hall.

Now that the Akwa Ibom State deputy governor is in his way to his political “sambisa” by reasoning against reason; luxuriating in the superiority of brute intimidation; beclouded by vengeful animosity and personal vendetta; taking a route in which both the process and the outcome were aborted by the initiator; proving to the media community that he is more of a sword than a shield; exhibiting sham reasoning, implacable ignorance and shallow intellect; forgetting that in a transparent democracy, process and procedure are as important as the final outcome; exemplifying the fact that he is part of a regime made up of redoubt of outlaws; explained through his action that he is in dire need of elementary lesson in logic and reasoning; shown demonstrable prove that the state is governed not by the rule of law but by the politics of fear and always changing the facts to excuse the inexcusable when confronted with facts of his misbehavior, this state has lost its moral bearing and every citizen should be concerned.

But to be troubled by such a deameaning standard of decency requires a concerted effort to combat the perpetrators. To add salt to injury, soon after Nsibiet’s release on the order of the court, the office of the Deputy Governor issued a press statement that was as annoying as it was fraudulently dishonest. The release further exposes the mindset of his narrow group of fuddy- duddy advisers. The message was as flawed as the messenger.

Listen to Uncle’s warped logic in his desperate attempt at damage control. It was not the work of political enemies but a classic case of collateral damage caused by friendly fire.
The office of the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State the release stated, “has been inundated with several calls regarding its purported involvement in the arrest of “a certain journalist” by the Nigeria Police in Uyo today, January 6,2016″. (A man he has spent months of sleepless nights plotting how to “deal with” became a certain journalist) to the office of the Deputy Governor whose Permanent Secretary allegedly signed the petition to the Police.

Continuing, the mischief makers said, “For purposes of clarification, it has become pertinent to state as follows:
1. That, following a spate of consistent reportage bordering on grave acts of criminality, allegations of corrupt enrichment, diversion of public funds as well as outright sabotage against the government that he is a key player, the Office of the Deputy Governor was finally convinced of the need to come clean on those allegations, after ignoring the false publications for over a year.

2. A report on those publications was therefore forwarded to the state Ministry of Justice for proper legal advice and further action.

3. And, since it is trite law that he who alleges must proof, it is presumed that the Justice ministry’s brief is to offer the said publisher an opportunity to have his day in court in order to justify his assertions and allegations.
4. At whatever point the police became involved in the course of events cannot, and should not be blamed on either the person or office of the Deputy Governor. (Another classic case of dishonest hypocrisy).

5. In view of the foregoing, the Office of the Deputy Governor wishes to state that it is neither antagonistic to the media community, nor would it go out of its way to call for the arrest of any journalist, more so, as the Deputy Governor himself is a journalist of high repute.

6. Consequently, the Deputy Governor has therefore advised all journalists in the state to endeavor to always abhor falsehood, eschew all forms of blackmail and undue sensationalism, but base their reportage on facts and facts alone”.
Jesus wept!

In claims that were largely bogus and had fragile connection to reality, Uncle claimed he acted based on advice from the Justice Ministry. Some background will be be necessary here.
The Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice is fortunately headed by a legal officer who is more famously partisan than unbiased, more beholden to the PDP than the constitution, and more loyal and committed to his employer than to the country’s laws. It is not certain that Pa Mo, “himself a journalist of high repute”, reflected deeply on the legal advice he allegedly received. If he did, then his capacity for leadership was highly overrated.

In his characteristically crafty manner, his answers were never straightforward and they were much more ambiguous than they were intellectually bereft. It is a reflection of how Uncle Mo does not understand his job that he had to embarrass himself, the government and the media constituency.

The press release in panic response to the celebration of the news of the release of the arrested journalist was more notable for the questions it did not answer than the questions it answered. In a country where everything is presumably bought and sold, I won’t be surprise if Uncle lands himself a new award from the NUJ soonest. With the renewed clampdown on the media by the government one is forced to ask: Is this an indication of what is to come as the countdown to 2019 begins? Time will tell. For now the nightmare continues.

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