By Jackson Udom
Anyone who read last column of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr Tonnie Iredia, in Sunday Vanguard, 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 a former governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and his successor, 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 contemptuous reduction of the good governance provided by 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.
For instance, one is bound to ask, are all the statements made by the erstwhile media chief sacred truths based on empirical evidence or hearsay? 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 to the winds, misrepresenting 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 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..
For the purpose of clarification, the 9999 Christmas Carol was established by 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 organising an event for its people to, in one accord, praise God and celebrate at Christmas; it would also have been appropriate 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 embarrassment he has brought to his fans in his days in the NTA, if he had taken time to visit Akwa Ibom State in order 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 is to, say the least, in bad taste.
- Udom is Special Assistant Media to the Senate Minority Leader