By John Asuquo
During the build up to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, reportedly condemned what he described as ‘crudity and vulgar abuse of language’ which was a dominant factor at electioneering campaigns. He particularly took the Nigerian political class to the cleaners on their collective effort to take Nigeria to “imaginable low in the art of public persuasion” by adopting “sheer venom, crudity and vulgar abuse of language in such prodigal quantities.”
The renowned playwright is not alone in this assertion. Nathan Kalmoe, an assistant professor of political communication at Louisiana State University, found a correlation between political rhetorics and political violence. According to him, after the spate of violence that trailed presidential campaigns of Mr. Donald Trump, it became clear that “the president’s hostile political rhetoric—attacking “globalists,” minorities, the media and Democratic “mobs”—contributed to these attacks”.
Hostile and abusive narrative is the hallmark of an impulsive politician, who hides behind empty bravado. We remember vividly unpopular remarks attributed to Senator Godswill Akpabio during the run-up to the 2019 general elections. At one occasion, when asked how election will pan out in the state soon after his uncommon defection, he replied “….in 2019 Warsaw shall see war and war shall see Warsaw. The return will be victory.” Such chilling analogy foreclosed the violence that led to the loss of two young men during the APC governorship primary and nearly overran the state but for the peaceful nature of Governor Udom Emmanuel, and the restraint he displayed throughout the period.
I came across a similar abusive and self-serving narrative a couple of days ago, while skimming through cover pages of state based newspapers at Ibom Plaza. It was a banner story with the images of the two-term Member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, and the Executive Chairman of Esit Eket Local Government Area, Hon. Iniobong Robson. It read boldly “Esit Eket boils: Usoro Akpanusoh is a stupid man – Council Chairman blows hot”, with a rider “Why I sacked Council Secretary”.
While I concede that this is not the most inciting banner I have come across, nevertheless I was struck by the stark vulgarity and abusive language used by Mr. Robson in that interview. He went so low to the point of calling the member representing his local government area “stupid”. It is both condemnable and unbecoming of a public office holder, no matter how provoked, to throw caution to the wind and rain abuses on another person just to vent a grievance. In an ideal circumstance, it would sure attract impeachment on the Council Chairman.
Apparently, he was aggrieved with the House Member for challenging the outcome of the recently concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congress in Esit Eket. I won’t dwell on that since both sides have had their say on the issue. As a matter of fact, there is no point arguing back and forth on a foregone issue when it is crystal clear that the entire hullabaloo by Mr. Iniobing Robson boils down to his ambition to clinch the party ticket for 2023 Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency.
From all indications, Robson knows his ambition is dead on arrival, yet since the entire episode began, he has been very aggressive, uncouth and erratic. He hides under the coverage of Esit Eket political leader, Elder Ben Udobia, to insult those whose shoe laces he cannot untie. He boasts of having the majority on his side yet he fears an open contest. There is nothing wrong with having opposing political views or articulating a dissenting position on any matter, but as a public office holder one should always show decorum and good conduct.
As regards the interview, which has been widely condemned by party chieftains, both in Esit Eket and at the state level, it came at a right time to expose a serious character flaw in an individual who craves to represent Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency. Iniobong’s unguarded outbursts is an ominous sign to warn the people. Those who don’t have much to offer usual resort to grandstanding and abusive rants.
Methinks he should learn from the example shown by Rt. Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh, whose stellar performance within and outside the hallow chamber is unparalleled. The lawmaker stood his ground during the botched party Congress d and forced a rerun without resorting to insults and name calling. A public officer must show restraint. The capacity to absorb issues, ruminate and respond is an art of political communication honed by refined gentlemen not thugs. Only a charlatan would lose control at the sight of a recorder and a camera.
One is tempted to think that the chairman was high on something before speaking with his media boys because only that could explain his tone in the interview. Even with that, there is no excuse to flippantly refer to Rt. Hon. Usoro Akpanusoh as “the richest House of Assembly Member”. While Mr. Robson did not mention his criteria for the sarcastic reference, it is important to note that he is exposing his House Member to harm.
Furthermore, the summary sack of Esit Eket Council Secretary, Comrade Felix Udo, yet again shows the impulsiveness that characterizes Mr. Robson. He is so intoxicated with power such that the only explanation he could offer for the despicable action is “the law empowers me to hire and fire. I hired him and I also fired him. I am the chairman of the local government.” How irrational is that? Sadly, while exercising his ‘power to hire and fire’, he ignored the fact that the position of council secretary is the party’s slot. Incidentally, he terminated such the appointment, evidently moving against party interest.
If Mr. Robson gets away with his abrasive vituperation, he may believe that it is acceptable. That is why it becomes necessary to call him to order. He should be reminded that he is merely a local government chairman with just few months left on the saddle. He will finish his tenure and return to an ordinary human one day. If he truly desires uplift then he must learn humility, season his utterance and work on his public conduct. In the words of Soyinka: “The very gift of communication is considered the distinguishing mark of cultured humanity even in polemical situations.”
John Asuquo, a concerned native of Esit Eket, writes from Uyo.