By Jackson Udom
Anyone who read last Sunday Vanguard of 3 January, 2016 column of the former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr Tonnie Iredia, entitled: “Uncommon governance: The bane of Akwa Ibom State” would be left with more questions than answers.
Iredia had, in the piece, cast aspersion on the Akwa Ibom State government; Senate Minority Leader and former governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio and his successor in office, Governor Udom Emmanuel.
According to Iredia, the uncommon governance in Akwa Ibom, which he summed up to mean mere celebrations, is the bane of the state.
While one would have loved to ignore Iredia’s opinionated and contemptuous reduction of the good governance provided by ex Governor Akpabio in his eight years in office, which the people of the state still remember and respect him for and the continuity in human and physical development, which Udom stands for, to mere celebrations of landmark events such as Christmas Carol and the state’s founder’s day, not responding would have conceded too much to sophistry and irresponsible journalism.
For instance, one is bound to ask, are all the statements made by the erstwhile media chief sacred truths based on empirical evidences or hearsays? Was Iredia objective enough given his confession that most of the things he wrote were “based on what he read in the media and based on media reports?”
For a media practitioner in the class of Iredia, making statements of facts based on “what we hear” and “media reports” should have been an anathema to the ears and eye of those who had the unfortunate opportunity of reading the trite, given the fact that he spent his productive years as a media manager.
Anyone who is conversant with the Nigerian polity knows that media reportage of political events should not be the final basis for making informed judgments, and one expects Iredia of all people, to know this. But Iredia the columnist, unlike Iredia that anchored Point Blank on NTA, threw caution into the winds, couching blackmail and outright lies as sacred facts.
The former NTA DG had clearly shown his disdain for the Akwa Ibom state government and Akpabio from the beginning of the writeup, thus when he said there were “media reports” that people were unhappy with Akpabio’s teleguiding of the governor, which he said “results in huge expenses on cosmetic matters which do not impact in the strict sense on the living conditions of the people,” it should not have come as a surprise. And when he went ahead to mention the Christmas Carol and the celebration of the 28th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom State as examples of such cosmetic matters, his “mission to destroy” became clear. Did Mr Iredia ask Akwa Ibom sons and daughters their view about the celebration of the state’s 28th anniversary, which signifies the end to hard labour and bondage of decades and gave them a state of their own, where they could truly develop and aspire for greatness like real people?
Did he ask the view of the people on what he described as Christian extravaganza? One doubts if he did or would ever do that; hatchet writers don’t need real views from real people.
For the purpose of clarification, the 9999 Christmas Carol was established by Senator Akpabio in 2008 while he was governor and at the time of its establishment, there was only one goal in mind; praising God and celebrating Christmas.
Now, it is one thing if Iredia’s posturing is about the propriety of Akwa Ibom State organising an event for its people to, in one accord, praise God and celebrate at Christmas; it would also have made perfect sense if his argument had been about the need to praise God at all in a state largely dominated by Christians but where the rights and privileges of minority Muslims and others have never been ignored. Iredia would have saved himself and his “them say” column the embarrasment he has brought to his fans in his days in the NTA, if he had taken time to visit Akwa Ibom State inorder to have a first hand information on human traffic through the well tarred roads into the state and the airport, just to attend this landmark event which he mischievously tagged a monumental waste. I am quite sure in the thinking of columnist Iredia, the airport he flew into during his visit, which was constructed by Senator Akpabio is also a waste.
To criticise such landmark event that annually brings Akwa Ibom indigenes together to praise God and pray for their state, distinguishes Akwa Ibom from others in Nigeria and made it an attraction for the world, having entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest carol on earth as a waste of public money only exposed Iredia as either an atheist or a paid agent of the opposition in the state.
But the question is simple, who is Iredia working for? Even some of those in the opposition cannot openly come out to criticise the carol because Iredia in his jaundiced submision failed to realise the amount of revenue that accrued to indigenes of the state,through the provision of support services at the venue of the event with the presence of tourists who were largely from outside Africa.
Also in a bizarre and unfounded claim that could only have been made by a confused and uninformed hatchet writer, Mr Iredia brazenly attacked Governor Udom of being teleguided by Akpabio. Really, if Akpabio, who Iredia accused of teleguiding the governor had not set worthy examples in good governance, which were commended at one time or the other by several national and international figures such as Professor Wole Soyinka, former Governor Segun Osoba, the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the United States Congress, including Iredia during his visit to the state during Akpabio’s tenure, people would have reasoned with Iredia.
But to accuse Akpabio of teleguiding Udom to “waste funds” on cosmetic matters, to say the least, is ungodly, irrational, unfounded and irresponsible, because for anyone conversant with the politics of Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio has not only allowed Udom, a banking expert-turned-politician freedom to govern the state, the latter has put his signature on all areas of the state as an independent-minded administrator, with most of the government efforts and projects being in direct fulfillment of his electioneering promises.
Or is Iredia also confessing to the whole world that as the DG NTA, he was also teleguided by his predeccessor? If that was his ordeal in the hands of his predeccessor, Udom Emmanuel, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, is not going through such and he is not even thinking of such.
Because Iredia, the columnist ,had a target set for him by his paymaster, he shamelessly blamed the epileptic power supply in the state on the state government, but choose to forget that power supply is on the Exclusive List, despite the fact that the state has over 250 mega watts of power begging to be evacuated from the Ibom Power Plant by the government at the centre.
For instance, the Akwa Ibom Dakkada project, which celebrates the never-say-die spirit of Akwa Ibom and the courage of its people to rise above challenges, clearly shows the independent-mindedness of the governor to chart his own course of success. Unfortunately, however, Mr Iredia did not see this or chose to be blind to it.
Finally, one doubts if Mr Iredia, before penning that piece, heard from his grapevines that the 2015 edition of the Akwa Ibom state Carol was sponsored by the United Bank of Africa, Globacom, Zenith Bank among numerous others. It will also be of interest if Iredia can furnish the public with the details of wasted public funds in monetary figure, as it is easy for anyone to make claims of wastage of public funds without ever providing any proof.
While Akpabio has never for once pretended to have solved all the problems of Akwa Ibom State in his eight years as governor, it is incontestable that he did his bit and even did it better than how some of Iredia’s paymasters ever envisaged and has left Udom to chart a better course for the state.
Today, people’s endorsements for Akpabio’s works, one of which was his election as a senator, have continued to show the love they have for him but Iredia chose not “hear” or read “media reports” about how Akpabio defeats his paymasters in every contest—at the poll and even at the courts.