Those who know me may have noticed that I don’t react to issues according to the spur of the moment.
It is on this backdrop, among other issues that I had restrained myself from reacting to actions and utterances of the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Ekerete Udoh arising from what transpired during the LG elections in Onna on Saturday, December 2, 2017.
However, my silence wouldn’t be golden anymore in a situation where brazen lies are launched on the image of the leader of members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm in the State who are known to be custodians of truth and fact.
In a release signed by Ekerete Udoh over what happened at Awa Iman during the Local Government Election monitoring on Saturday, Ekerete, in trying to defend himself from a story which did not emanate from the Chairman nor his office, said the NUJ Chairman, Elder Patrick Albert had ambushed him to see the governor.
It is rather disheartening and embarrassing that a person of his office will describe a request from journalists for an audience with the governor to speak on the happenings of an election day as an ambush. So, are journalists now seen as enemies who waylay people in order to attack at will? Very unfortunate misinterpretation.
It is on record that his Principal, the Governor had granted interview to various teams of Journalists who were on Election Monitoring and also the one led by the NUJ Chairman during the 2015 General Elections in Onna. With Ekerete coming on board, such exercise is now ambush? Is Ekerete seeing Government as an “Empire” with this strange regimental disposition? How will this “quarrelling” posture which he introduced as soon as he came on board, help his principal?
Glaringly, his assessment of journalists as his enemies has been the reason for his unfriendly disposition towards journalists since he came on board – the worst relationship the media community both within the State and outside has ever had with the office he occupies.
It is on record that his lies against journalists are not novel, neither will they shock any keen observer of events since he assumed that office.
One can recall the embarrassing case where he denied granting interview to a reputable online newspaper medium, Premium Times on DSS invasion of Akwa Ibom State Government House but was later exposed when the recorded call was played on several online platforms. This incident is still fresh on our minds. That was not only shameful but revealed the personality of the individual who manages the esteemed image of the governor.
Thus, for him to lie against the NUJ Chairman is not only surprising but reminds Akwa Ibom people about his stock in trade, although one would never have imagined that this uncontrollable attitude of his will ever be expressed against a man of the standing and character of Elder Patrick Albert.
Those who know Elder Patrick Albert are aware of the fact that he is too refined to rain abuses on an individual, threaten, rave or rant (as alleged by Ekerete Udoh). He is an individual who is known to be mild tempered, reasonable and respectful no matter the age of the individual he communicates with.
To put matters straight, the NUJ Chairman who had with his entourage toured several parts of the State also visited Onna Local Government Area on election monitoring.
When he got to Awa, he politely approached the CPS to intimate him of the presence of Journalists on Election Monitoring and the need for journalists especially those who were sent from their medium to cover the elections in Onna to speak with the Governor.
It could be recalled that among such journalists were the Director of News and Current Affairs of AKBC, Chris Ikpoto and Samuel Jonah of AKBC Radio who report for the State government owned medium, and were desirous to put the governor live on the happenings in Onna. Such live interface is a known Media tradition and Ekerete Udoh should have known and respected. Isn’t his main duty to publicise his Principal?
However, in his usual unfriendly disposition with the Media, the CPS blatantly refused even when the NUJ Chairman explained further on why such interaction was necessary. However, on receiving information on the readiness of the Governor’s entourage to move to Uyo, that was when he beckoned on the journalists to go in. That did not yield result as the Governor’s convoy was already on motion to leave.
When that happened, the Chairman called on Ekerete to speak with the journalist to douse misunderstanding, only for the CPS to explode that the Chairman was trying to teach him his job.
To the surprise of many, Ekerete charged “I don’t take that rubbish. There’s what we call mutual respect. If you do not respect me, I will take it up with you.”
Discerning that his reaction left more to be desired, the Chairman with his entourage left.
It is also surprising that the CPS in a feeble attempt to justify the reason he stalled the interview with the Governor had stated that all interviews with the Governor must be scheduled aforehand.
While such justification is laughable, it is important to note that there is no strict rule on this. Interviews especially on election days are spontaneous and necessitated by observations from journalists. Scheduled interviews is not really tenable on a day like this. His insistence can only create suspicion of having something to hide.
Moreover, it will be necessary the CPS discern that such occasion would not have been the first time a sitting governor will be interviewed. Immediate Past Governor, Sen. Godswill Akpabio was always at hand to speak with the Press during elections. Same happened with former Governor Victor Attah. His uncharitable disposition can only attract unfavourable goodwill.
Surprisingly too, Mr Ekerete in his release questioned the rationale behind the State NUJ Chairman having a relationship with an Aide to Senator Ita Enang, Essien Inyang. As Chairman of NUJ, Elder Albert is father to all journalists and by extension, Media workers in the State. To segregate is to destroy the very foundation of NUJ in the State. It is not done and he cannot do so.
Such thought is not only disappointing but disheartening. It’s smacks of childishness and fear for the future.
It is important to state that Essien Inyang has been a media practitioner for years in the State and it will never be expected of the Chairman to suddenly treat him with disdain because of the political leanings of his master. It is time Akwa Ibom people rise above such disparity.
To this end, Ekerete Udoh, having spent the better part of his life in the US before coming home, should as a matter of urgency get to know his way around his duties as an image maker that he is.
His stance on issues concerning the state media, so far, remains uncomplimentary, cold and strange. If he continues to exhibit this flippant and casual attitude with the media, one only wonders what the future holds for his boss.
I don’t want to believe, as many have said, that his US ideas does not correlate with the environment and the office he occupies, yet I’ll like to end this piece by calling on him to retrace his steps and copy the blueprint of others who served in that office before him.
By Ekemini Simon