In the eighties, a certain Professor Emmanuel Ayandele who was Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar described Cross River State which then comprised Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, as an “atomistic society perpetually at war with itself”. Ayandele was referring to a fierce feud that rocked the ranks of certain academics in the campus who incidentally were all from the same State.
If one thought that the old idiosyncrasies of the eighties would give way to a new behavioural order that reflect civilization, exposure, values imbibed, relationships forged by our commonality and other sundry needs that quilt humanity into a single garment of destiny, that thought is certainly on a default mode in Akwa Ibom State. The people of the State are still in discord, disparate and antagonistic to one another. Hate is still prevalent while “pull him down” has ascended a pedestal where it could be easily construed as part of our value system. The disposition to hate what is ours and prefer what is from outside is considered a curious idiosyncrasy that can hardly be divorced from our cosmology and psyche.
Sadly, such attitude on the part of our people would impinge negatively the “home sweet home” mantra. Home is supposed to be an oasis of peace, joy and relaxation. It is a place to find succour and refuge, and where protection is an assurance. “Home sweet home” is an expression of pleasure or relief upon returning to one’s home, especially over an extended period of time.
Home is herein construed as where the heart is, implying that the home provides the greatest emotional bond. But with the way Akwa Ibom is, the hate, the bickering, the blackmail, the slander, the backstabbing, the pull him down – Can it be home where the heart is for many of its sons and daughters? Arguably, with these vices, Akwa Ibom can not be “home sweet home”.
The answers the above question would elicit are likely to shock many to the foundation. There are many Akwa Ibom sons and daughters who see the home (the State) as Golgotha, where their destruction can be plotted. They view their brothers and sisters at home as people with a natural tendency for evil and having strong aversion for the growth of their fellow brothers, even when such progress is at no cost or deprivation to them. Many attribute this tendency to imaginary witchcraftcy and assert that the attitude has actually shifted the centre of gravity of our morality and made our famed religiousity a ruse and a deceit.
Hitherto, conducts with the semblance of witchcraftcy were surreptitious and operated with a lot of decoy. But today, it is done in the open, with mouths of the people issuing vitriols against fellow brothers. Fellow brothers from Akwa Ibom are known to join conspiracies with outsiders to bring down their own brothers. We are fast evolving into a State where our best are targeted for destruction or elimination. Not even in the animal kingdom, has such anathema gained the currency and stamp of authority it has acquired in Akwa Ibom State.
The ongoing crisis in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) set the stage for the confirmation of the subject matter raised in this piece. Since the Presidential directive that the earlier constituted board be set aside and an Interim Management Committee (IMC) put in place in toe with a forensic audit of NDDC to reposition the agency for optimal development, hell has known no fury. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, the supervising minister of NDDC has been the butt of sustained malicious attacks by persons whose hands have for years been in the till of the commission for only their narrow and selfish interest, at the detriment of the collective good of the Niger Delta region.
Within the short period of supervising the commission, many unethical acts have been unearthed, some monies pillaged from the commission have been returned, some entrenched interests that were detrimental to the commission have been curbed, contractors who had abandoned projects have returned to site, the 13-storey headquarters building which construction dragged for 19 years was finally completed and is currently being occupied by the commission. All these are salutary efforts that should draw deafening plaudits for the Minister.
But as expected, corruption must fight back. This courageous action by Senator Akpabio in favour of the Niger Delta has drawn acerbic and visceral attacks of very destructive hue, even from his own brothers who should rise up to defend and protect him. As our forebears posited in a wise saying, it is better to have and contend with than not to have, implying that there is always a need for certain persons at certain times and so dispute must not be allowed to erode their value.
In the last few days, the airwaves, social media and mainstream media have been agog with Akpabio in the equation. Many have imputed political affinity into the discourse with their hate and prejudice for their brother minister made very manifest. They have called for his head and extended to him the most untoward wishes. None has cared to verify the allegations or subject them to the common rigours of thinking. No, that would not satiate their hate yearning for Akpabio. For them, swallowing hook, line and sinker, fabricated stories and hyperbolizing them would sit well with their decrepit political mindset that is not more than that of a simpleton.
What has happened in Akwa Ibom is most unfortunate. It is witchcraftcy. The case of brothers calling for the head of their own brother and pushing hard for him to be sacrificed, is the most virulent moral aberration to be recorded in Nigeria’s political space in recent times. Just last Saturday in a popular radio programme in one of the popular radio stations in the State, a well known caller who has been erroneously adjudged as rational, called to expose his ignoramus. He said that Akpabio is embarrassing the State with his recurring oath administration culture, referring to the reckless and unverifiable vituperations of Joi Nunieh, the sacked Managing Director of NDDC who claimed that Akpabio wanted her to swear to a fetish oath to keep her job as MD.
The caller said that as governor, Akpabio made giving fetish oaths a norm in the State. Of course the anchors who viewed the comment as incendiary and beneath their presumed status of the caller who touts claims of leading the group was halted. His utterance was shocking to discerning minds and exposed his incompetence in any form of leadership.
It is on record that the caller in reference worked with a well known politician who served the Akpabio administration for about seven years as commissioner in a strategic ministry with extra responsibility assigned him running into billions. He held that responsibility for years. Through his office and that duty post, he empowered sundry people including that caller. One expected him to be categorical in exposing that the former commissioner confessed to him that Akpabio gave him fetish oath to swear before appointing and assigning him such enormous responsibilities. That statement in every sense was reckless and capable of depleting the support base of his principal. For whatever wrong Senator Akpabio may have done as no one is without blemish, he does not deserve what we are doing to him as a people. Brothers are for adversities but sadly, not in Akwa Ibom.
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was governor of Lagos State from 1999-2007. Before vying for the office, he had three houses having been a retired Treasurer with Exxon Mobil. Tinubu sold two of the houses to prosecute his election as governor. Today. he is arguably the richest politician in Nigeria. His people have not called for his head despite his many publicly known indiscretions and aberrations. His people protect him and accept him as their leader. We hardly see negative reports about him in the media. Are Akwa Ibom people more educated than the Yorubas? Or is it just our natural instinct to destroy our own?
Mr. Ibrahim Magu is currently in the news for the wrong reasons. But we have not seen people from his State take to the media against him. While we have no disagreement in allowing justice to take its course, it is good to tread with caution in matters that concern brothers and people of the same stock. In the case of the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, his role is supervisory and not the daily running of the NDDC. The matter of corruption within the agency as so widely preferred, are subjects of investigation by relevant authorities and not the media trial that many, especially sadistic traducers of Akpabio who seem to draw so much satisfaction.
Senator Akpabio is a brand with grace. He is an embodiment of resilience and courage. No matter how much we hate him, he remains our best brand and our brother. Even if we cannot subscribe protection for him, let us not be part of the conspiracy for his destruction. Let us return Akwa Ibom to the “home sweet home” it should be by reviewing our conducts and reinventing love for one another to boost the concept of “home sweet home”.
Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst