Thursday, June 20, 2024


Meeting Barrister Ini Ememobong, a consummate linguist, media strategist, public relations expert and State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), outside the paraphernalia of government was very soothing. It was even more interesting to know that he is a practicing lawyer who is committed and dedicated to his profession. Despite the tight schedule of his official functions, he still makes out time to prepare lawsuits for his clients. In a brief discussion with Darlington Udobong of Ibom Telegraph, the former President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and Special Assistant to the Governor straightened bothering issues. Excerpts:
On the issue of an alleged face-off between him and the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Engr. Ita Awak, Barrister Ememobong gave his standpoint. In his word: “No. Engr. Ita Awak is a great Akwa Ibom son. He is a former Commissioner for Information. However, we only have disagreements as to political ideology. So, there is no conflict between us. I have the greatest respect for him and that is why you will never hear me abuse him. I have the greatest respect for him and we are still keeping our front door open because his political umbilical cord was buried in the PDP and we hope that someday, like the Catholic Church says, that he will join us in the catholic party, which is the PDP. So, we have the greatest respect for him, we appreciate some of the things he does. We may have reservation about some of the strategies he uses but on the whole, it does not rob off of the respect. He is a great son of the state. He is an engineer. Our party, the PDP, found him fit and cleared him to be Commissioner in the Akwa Ibom State Executive Council under the leadership of Obong Victor Attah. So, we do not destroy the things we have built.”
When asked what the relationship between them was like, he said “I have not met him personally. The closest I was to meeting him was when I saw him in a white Toyota Hilux with a State Government number plate. But I trust it will be fun when we meet.”
On the recent uproar resulting from a recent interview he granted on Planet FM radio station; the State PDP Publicity Secretary took time to give details. According to him, “People should know that we are a very careful set of people and again you should know that English language is a very difficult language to understand. So, people understand things differently and words are pregnant with meanings. But if there is anyone who listened to that interview and has issues with any part of that interview, such a person should feel free to extract such part of that interview and rejoin and where we found that we have crossed the line, we will apologize. But let me remind you that we have played that interview over and over again and we stand by every single word we said, particularly the primary evidence I gave. I saw Engr. Ita Awak with my eyes in a white Toyota Hilux driven by someone and three other people inside. He sat at the owner’s seat. The vehicle had an old security government plate number and I can depose to that on oath. Is that an insult? It is a statement of fact. And take note, what I said there at the studio was that the vehicle may be a government vehicle or his private vehicle with a government plate number and the only reason a private person who is not in government will use a government number plate is so that he does not pay tax. It is very simple and in both, I did not come to conclusion. I made proposition as to the two circumstances that could arise. I said on that same interview that I have an aged father and that part of the reason I do not insult older people is that I will not appreciate somebody insulting my parents.”
“However, I warned that we must respect constituted institutions. You cannot call the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly a boy. He is an institution. He is the head of a law making institution of the state. Barrack Obama was not the oldest person in the United States of America when he was made the President, but people respected him. So, I am simply saying that those who criticized must themselves know that there are lines that should not be crossed; lines of sensibility, which is why you heard me, said at the beginning that we will not wrestle with pigs and I keep saying that. What are the pigs now? We are simply saying that when people choose to take a mud baths, we will not go there because we have a shower.”
“That interview was simple, it was clear, it addressed the issues and we simply said if you want to know how Local Government funds are spent, come up for education. What is education? It is simply enlightening you when you have a test or question. It is providing answers where there are questions. If there is a question as to the allocation and use of Local Government funds or the workings of the Local Government Joint Account, we invite people for education. And we say, so that you are comfortable, choose the time and venue so that we come and put the facts available. There is no need always trying people in the Court of public opinion. If you have facts about people who stole money, by the Freedom of Information Act, you should apply for the certified true copy of the document you need and after that, you take that to the Attorney General of the Federation for a fiat to prosecute and when you have obtained the fiat, you go ahead and prosecute and you can get judgment. It is a laid down procedure and for people to keep saying that people stole money and that local government gets N80million and all that is preposterous.”
“Therefore, whoever has issues with either the last administration or the present one, must use the Freedom of Information Act and demand for whatever fact he or she wants. The law says when you demand and don’t get it, you can go to court and the court will grant you an order giving you access to those document and when you have access to the document you can do whatever you want with it. You don’t just sit at the comfort of your home and be calling figures. Unfortunately, I have come to discover that those who criticized the most have very thin skin for criticisms themselves. But for us, we have the greatest respect for the opposition party and that is the official position of the PDP. That is why you won’t see us attack them.”
“Now, they know that we know their past but we have not made it an issue because small minds discuss people; average minds discuss event, and great minds discuss ideas. We have not made their past an issue. Our concern is to give good governance to Akwa Ibom people and that is exactly what Udom Emmanuel was elected to do and he is doing it excellently. And if you want to rate Udom Emmanuel, you must rate him comparatively; you must rate him in today and not in yesterday; you must rate him with the current economic indices available; you must rate him with fellow Governors whether from APC or PDP. You are not going to rate Udom Emmanuel with the scorecard of 2007; you are going to rate him contemporarily and there is no rating, including that of the nation, that does not put Udom Emmanuel up in very good light. So, it is funny, it is preposterous, it is intriguing that people will wake up and go on air. And let me say this, every news medium must understand that the right to inform carries an obligation to inform properly and it is actionable per se.”
Barrister Ememobong also cleared the air on the imperativeness of an open debate between the APC and the PDP in the state by saying “When you say a debate, it simply means hold your position and I hold mine and let’s put it to the third party. We have been debating before and a debate is not necessarily when both parties are at the same place at the same time. A debate is, in essence, hoping that you are sincerely ignorance and not intentionally mischievous. We hope that the questions raised are out of sincere ignorance and a desire to be schooled. Meaning that if you are provided with facts, that you will be satisfied. Therefore, if there is a sincere mindset of ignorance, we are ready to provide the fact. We are the party in government and we will make all the facts available. Incidentally, maybe it is founded from this belief, I belong to a Church where Sunday school does not end until everyone had asked every questions he or she had in mind and answers given. So, if someone really has question that is bothering on maybe different areas of governance, or maybe the Governor’s press briefing or the Media Assistant briefing or the briefing by the Commissioner for Information or the various interviews by the various arms of government do not satisfy such a person, then we will welcome them. That is why we were made Publicity Secretaries. We will welcome them to have the information they desire. So, whether it is in a hall or via a medium, we will welcome them. In fact, even if it is via email, if I were to have such a person’s email address, we will send information to them.”
“So, when people now say debate and they narrow it to a face-to-face chat, it is possible that it could be there if the need arises. We are not afraid of it because we must defend what we are doing. Like I said, within the realm of respect, we will offer any information which will not harm the operations of government to anybody who cares to have it. It is their right to have it. For me, whether they say there is imperative for debate or not, when someone is not sure of what he has, we are open. Be it in a venue, place, time, moderator chosen by them and even if that debate were to hold at the APC State Secretariat, we will attend because the people are Akwa Ibom people who need to know how government is running.”
“So, even if you choose the APC State Secretariat for a debate and you invite us, we will come there because we do not expect there will be problem; we are the party in government and you are the party in opposition. We will come there and you ask us question and we will answer and we will juxtapose with the government that your party has produced from the national and draw down, but we will be very respectful.”
When asked why his party, the PDP, has an enviable face-lift in the state, the workaholic Publicity Secretary said “First, the party is not under my watch. It is under the able watch of the State Governor, who is the leader of the party in the state, and the State Party Chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo. I am only the image maker of the party and I take directive from them. The key motivation for the kind of party you now see is leadership. Remember that it is said that when a fish wants to get bad, it starts from the head. Governor Udom Emmanuel has come with great inspiration, coming from the private sector where they know how to boost morale, and that is why you will discover that we have a party bubbling with activities; a party with people who are willing and ready to explore. Our ward Chairmen are vibrant and are willing and ready to evangelize and again, because the Governor is a man of God, he sees politics as evangelism and there is increasing transparency in the party. Under the leadership of the State Chairman of the Party, Obong Paul Ekpo, he sets very ambitious targets of keeping a very large front door open and closing the factors.”
“What people don’t know most time is that it is not about how many people come into your house, it is about how many people leave your house. So, if you have 11 people coming to your house and 12 people leaving your house, it means that the 11 people have also taken the one person you had before along with them as they leave. The secret of what you have seen has to do with the caliber of people elected into the party. When you see the 31-man executive, you will know that they mean business. So, these factors account for the renewed vigour you have seen in the party.”


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