THE CULTURE OF BLACKMAIL FROM INSIDE GOVERNOR UDOM’Ś OFFICE BY HIS AIDE
THE DAY NDUESO ESSIEN TRIED TO BLACKMAIL ME
Opinion: It was Wednesday the 17th of May 2017 at exactly 14:36 I received a call from an unknown caller. I was in Abuja at the time. I hesitated when I saw the number because I didn’t know who it was, I didn’t want to receive one of those anonymous phone calls,where you pick the call and there’s this pitch black silence from the other end, you can hear the person breathe but he’s not saying anything and you wonder is someone trying to track your location – or something. Suddenly the person on the other end hangs up.
Well on this occasion I decided to lean on my curious side , I picked the call. Immediately I recognised the voice from the other end, it was Ndueso Essien the Governor’s media aide, I was a bit surprised because he’s one person I don’t talk to often, when he’s called me in the past it has to do with him assisting me on a particular line of enquiry or trying to help me locate Aniekan Umanah the immediate past Commissioner of information, it was always quasi official. So I knew this one was also official. I didn’t think anything particular about this call, I just noted that the time was 14:36 so he should be at work calling me from the Governor’s office.
No sooner had we exchanged the normal ‘ how are you’ pleasantries over the phone, this young man launched into an incoherent tirade. I was so shocked and taken aback, at one point I had to take the phone off my ears and stare at the hand piece because I couldn’t believe Ndueso Essien a media aide of the Governor would call me from the Governor’s office and spew molten magma in my ears. But my instincts immediately informed me that this was not Ndueso Essien, this young man would not have the guts to call me and perform this naked dance on my airtel.
I had heard stories of monitoring spirits of blackmail coming from the Governor’s office, I had not believed those tales but today I was a victim. But I was determined not to fall prey and be undignified. I calmly listened to this young man, all the time my mind was working, who had sent him to me? Who’s dirty work was he doing? Is the person there with him and listening to him..waiting for my response. Has Governor Udom Emmanuel sent him, who is behind this call? Is he calling me from inside the Governor’s office and is his phone on speaker. Who sent this guy I kept asking myself, this was completely out of character, this was not Ndueso Essien. I therefore knew whatever response I was going to give was not going to Ndueso but to whosoever and sent him on this journey to my phone. So I resolved to stay calm.
Now what was this wasp that had entered their pants. Well, my cousin Clement Ikpatt had written an article criticising the Governor Udom’s economic policy, I had seen the article and found it interesting, as its my style, I shared the article on my wall to generate conversation,discussion and debate. That was the wasp that had caused this commotion. “Why were they coming to me” I said to myself, why not go to Clement Ikpatt.
I listened to him calmly as he spoke nervously in a loud tone accusing me of attempting to spoil Governor Udom’s name on social media. He said I should stop posting anything on my wall against Governor Udo. He then proceeded to blackmail me, he said if I continue posting things detrimental to the Governor, he will post unsavoury material about me and tell the world I am frustrated and my reason for attacking the Governor. My natural response would have been to drop a verbal atomic bomb on him. But I restrained myself because I knew this was not him, he was just a hapless messenger.
At 14:36pm he probably was calling me from the Governor’s office, engaging in a slanging match with him would be unbecoming of my person, I wouldn’t exchange words with him, I wasn’t sure if there was someone listening in. I rather confront people face to face or have an open debate with them on social media. I am always acutely aware that people may not be on their own when they are trying to wind you up over the phone.
I told Ndueso Essien in an even tone ” you ( meaning the Governor’s office ) cannot tell me what to put or what not to put on my wall. Then I gave him a piece of advice I told him, ” you ( governor’s office ) should be communicating with the people, respond to the people of Akwa Ibom State and stop reacting. Let the people know what the Governor is doing, engage with them”.
I spoke to some of my friends in government because after that encounter I wanted to do a write up on the twin spirits of “monitoring” and “blackmail” in Udom’s government. They pleaded with me not to write anything that would paint the Governor in a bad light, especially as Ndueso Essien was working directly with him, they said it would hurt them and the government, especially coming from somebody like me, a friend of the government. They asked me to drop the matter, I was informed I was not the first person to come under blackmail from the Governor’s aides, I was told people both inside and outside the government had been caught in this web of blackmail and threats.
So I dropped the matter, that was May this year. But today everybody is talking about the poor and unprofessional information team of the Governor and I think this would be a good time to tell my story.
But I knew that Ndueso Essien would fall into a ditch, I found his comments on social media flippant and personal. He was specialised in dog fights, perhaps in his zeal to impress the political mafia that were paying him.
Some of Udom’s aides are his worst enemies. Udom’s government has a zero representation on the Internet, it’s not the first time I have said this and today it’s being discussed on every Akwa Ibom fora. Ndueso Essien is a scape goat, he has become a sacrificial toad. Everybody is tearing into him not only because of his bad behaviour in the past but because people are not happy with the government and the poor unprofessional service they are receiving; today it’s Bamboo plantation, tomorrow it’s Coconut, next tomorrow it is a 21 skyscraper. While these projects are good nobody is engaging the people consistently and informing them on how these projects will impact their lives personally , their economic benefits and timelines.
There is a complete and total moratorium on information about the Governor or about his projects. I keep saying it, it’s not enough to put out bland information like drunk town criers. Talk with the people, inform and discuss with them. Post information and pictures of the Governor daily. Create information forums the Governor can interact directly with the people. Something previous Akwa Ibom administrations have done so well.
Why are the people around Udom hiding him away, he wasn’t hiding when he was campaigning in 2014. It’s an act of supreme ingratitude that the people cannot have a conversation with or cannot see their Governor. People say all they see is the Governor’s convoy. I know a Governor, who once in a while , would alight from his convoy and wave to the people.
I know of a certain Governor who once in awhile will stop at plaza, take a walk and talk to the cheering crowd. People say when a Governor does that he has to share money, I disagree , i say for many people, all they want is to see the Governor in the flesh and that is more than N5,000 notes squeezed into their palms.
Udom’s official media have turned him into a lifeless rock in the minds of the people of Akwa Ibom State, nobody sees or hears anything about him. The only evidence that we still have a Governor is when we him standing or shaking hands with the endless streams of white ‘investors’ that fly in and fly out of Akwa Ibom State. Most occasions are formal.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has long ago ceased to be human, he has become a still cold portrait. There are other people in government who the masses are connecting with ( I wouldn’t mention their names, lest I am accused of promoting other people at the expense of the Governor ) and it’s not as if these other people are scattering corn on the streets but only because they are making themselves physically available to the masses. I see the photos of Governor’s of other States interacting with the people and I ask the question but what about ours, where is our own Governor. What is his Information and Media team doing?
One day I was so concerned I called a friend working in the governor’s office and I asked him,
” what is the problem, why are the Governor’s people not working to improve his image, I feel he’s been abandoned”.
His reply confirmed my worst fears. He told me there were a lot of egos rubbing against each other the wrong side, he talked about in fighting and cold wars within the Governor’s media team. He said the politics within the information apparatus of the State was worst than the politics being played out between PDP and APC. “Some media aides don’t talk to each other”, he said. Some media aides are working for certain commissioners more than they are working for the Governor. Even though they are receiving their monthly salaries , they are not happy with Gov. Udom, they accuse him of being too tight fisted and cutting some their allowances, such as the statutory monthly impress.
Therefore they don’t write except certain commissioners pay them to write. He said unlike in former administrations when there was a lot of unity, that in Udom’s government everyone is on his or her own, people blackmail and backbite in order to survive. It was from that moment I understood the deep issues with the information apparatus within Udom’s government. Today the same acrid system has hung out Ndueso Essien to dry, none of his colleagues have come forward to shield him, it’s everyman to himself.
The Governor’s office should as a matter of urgency do the following –
1) Have a one to one with these aides ( especially after Ndueso’s debacle ) it’s in such forums many acrimonious demons of division and poisoned competition can be cast out.
2) Intervene to settle personal scores
3) Train them to be professional in their conduct
4) Train them in the art of positive public engagement
5) Train them to articulate and explain the policy of government to the people
5) Create forums where the Governor can interact directly with the people
Having said that, I must say Ndueso is very lucky I read what he wrote about President Buhari which has caused this soul searching uproar, Governor Udom must be a kind man. If he can remember one Sulaiman the former ADC of Governor Akpabio, a man who had served the Governor for 6 long years, a very close aide of the Governor – was not that lucky. One day I went to the Governor’s lodge and wondered where Sulaiman was, he was a very funny lively chap and I hadn’t seen him for a while.
I was informed Sulaiman had shared the infamous video of Mama Peace wailing for the kidnapped Chibok girls and the Governor had been informed. They say with pleadings from certain quarters, Gov. Akpabio did not bat his eye, when he took his decision.
By Ata Ikiddeh