I have always resisted the temptation of arguing with Prof Etok Ekanem publicly because he is a fatherly figure who has my utmost respect especially for his role during my learning period of students activism at the University of Uyo. However I draw great inspiration from what he taught us then, about functional literacy, the act of being able to tell anyone(including your elders) that you disagree with his position on an issue despite the huge respect you have for him. A former commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Prof Ekanem engaged in an unwarranted outburst against the governor of his state, Mr Udom Emmanuel. In a seven paragraphed treatise titled “THE NARROW AND ILLIBERAL MIND IN THE MANSION ON THE HILL IN UYO” Ekanem attempts to undermine the estimation of the number one citizen of the state. His exposé bothers centrally on the absence of the governor at the swearing in of Mr Nsima Ekere and other members of the new board of the NDDC in Abuja. I have attempted to recollect memories of the previous swearing in ceremonies of NDDC Boards, right from the days of Obong Victor Attah as governor, and never did I remember the presence of state governors in those events at Aso Rock.
Although it may be difficult to perfectly conclude on the actual essence of this article by the erudite Professor of Animal Science, it may be fair enough to tie it to the snippet we got from the inauguration party where most APC members were quoted as saying they have conquered Akwa Ibom state through the NDDC. What a misplaced priority. In the said piece, Prof Ekanem even misled the public by saying, “Obong Nsima Ekere and Mr Frank George were inaugurated into Office by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a very colourful ceremony in Abuja, Friday, November 4, 2016.” This is not true, there was no President Buhari to perform the ceremony. Prof. Ekanem then knows that hitherto, the duty of swearing in of NDDC board members had always been the exclusive responsibility of the number citizen of the country. In the absence of the President, the ball would have automatically fallen on the court of the Vice President and the worst case scenario would have been the Secretary to the Government of the federation. This is a reference to the importance supposed to be attached to this all important intervention agency. But no, Prof Ekanem has no problem with that spite. It is unfortunate that the absence of the President has hindered a very fundamental aspect of the inauguration, as Mr Usani Usani the minister of Niger Delta Affairs who actually conducted the exercise could not announce the duration of this new board. No one presently knows if it is for two years, one year or fresh four years? Such inadequacy will prevent the new NDDC board from effective planning on its much touted revamping programme. Does it even matter that those who travelled all the way to Abuja, really thought that they would be entering Aso Rock for the first time, only to end up at the private office of a minister at the federal secretariat?
Again, Prof Ekanem did his students a great disservice when he said, “Obong Nsima Ekere’s appointment as MD of NDDC — is clearly a cause and source of great pain and discomfort to the mind in the Mansion on the Hill in Uyo, just because the people are happy.” That is rather an unfair comment surprisingly coming from a former state executive council member. Everyone knows that throughout the nearly one year that Ibim Semenatari held sway as the sole administrator of the Commission, no APC chieftain from Akwa Ibom saw the need to write against that injustice. They chose to suffer and smile to be in Mr Presidemt’s good books. It did not bother any of his contemporaries in the APC that it was the right of Akwa Ibom state to hold that position of CEO for the first time since the commission came into being. Rather they were so comfortable issuing hush signs against Governor Emmanuel and his PDP members who campaigned against the anomaly. I remember several instances when the governor appealed to the president to look inward and select from among the few Akwa Ibom APC members, one person to replace the sacked Bassey Dan Abia, who appointment was terminated without reasons other than flimsy petitions from the same APC conspirators. No one can forget in a hurry that PDP contributed more to Mr Ekere’s emergence than the APC in Akwa Ibom. All the senators from Akwa Ibom are of PDP and none raised any objection to Ekere’s nomination. On the contrary, they shielded him from the barrage of petitions sent in by aggrieved APC members from Akwa Ibom.
It is common knowledge that since his inauguration as Governor in 2015, no APC chieftain ranging from Mr Umana Umana, to Nsima Ekere or their supporters have found it expedient to issue a goodwill message to the governor, even after the Supreme court had corrected them by explaining that the 900,000 + votes means that Udom Emmanuel scored the highest number of votes as against the paltry 100,000+ votes of Umana his closest rival in the 2015 gubernatorial election. They have distanced themselves from activities of the state, including the state anniversary and other landmark events that unite the people of the state. So for someone who has been refused his due regards as numero uno in the state, will he then belittle his office by going to an event uninvited, to be exposed to ridicule? Let Prof and other APC chieftains point to the invitation letter or one material they published, inviting the government and good people of the state to their swearing in. Even Prof Ekanem’s letter refuses to acknowledge Udom Emmanuel as governor, and rather chose to refer to him as the Man at hilltop mansion, and one then wonders why he makes such a fuss. In any case, at that event, the Governors of other Niger Delta States including Rochas Okorocha and Adams Oshiomhole, who are of the APC all shunned the insignificant event. So why is the Prof now singling out Akwa Ibom state governor? A cursory look at those in attendance show that even the bulk of APC elders of Oro nation were missing at the party because of the apparent marginalization of the area in the scheme of things. The most recent former minister in the federal executive council Dr. Akon Eyakenyi was replaced by an Ikot Abasi man, Senator Udoma Udoma while the commissioner in NDDC from the same axis Mr Etim Inyang (jnr) has just been replaced by Samuel Frank from Onna, and our Prof knows the Oro people are bitter about these imbalances. Where did Mr Umana Umana the former governorship candidate of the APC and his deputy Ben Ukpong sit during the occasion. This contradicts Prof’s point that all Akwa Ibom elders attended the ceremony.
Methinks that the proper thing we should expect of the new NDDC management is a courtesy call on the governor of Akwa Ibom state, to discuss ways of partnering with the government to bring developments to the state through the agency. I know that Mr. Nsima Ekere is an amiable gentleman and will get it right. I may not be able to write up to seven paragraphs, but let me summarise by saying that Governor Udom Emmanuel owes Akwa Ibom people an obligation to create wealth and jobs for the teeming populace, he is busy partnering with investors to establish industries and empower the people of the state as he did promised them on assumption of office. It may therefore not be in his agenda to start flying around to seek legitimacy from opposition elements who believe more in selfish accumulation of wealth and power as against the collective interest of the state. After eight years of Governor Emmanuel’s leadership, people would not be as bothered by how many swearing in of APC chieftains he attended in Abuja, as they would of how many opportunities he created for his people at such trying times in the country’s history.