By Osondu AHIRIKA
It still seems like yesterday. The date was Friday November 10, 2017, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ Zone ‘F’ (South South) converged in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. It was their Zonal Conference held at the Emerald Event Centre along Edet Akpan Avenue.
The Vice President of NUJ Zone ‘F’, Pastor Edward Ogude, supported by his host and State Chairman of the NUJ, Elder Patrick Albert, conferred on the State Commissioner for Works, Mr Ephraim Inyangeyen, the honorific status of the Grand Patron of the NUJ.
A greater significance proceeded from the theme of the Conference: “The Role of the Media in harnessing Human Resource for State Development.” I say so, because, Mr Inyangeyen is a tested and proven Aide of Governor Udom Emmanuel, whose dogged personality, positive drive, tenacity, focus and integrity, are amplified by his valuable contributions towards the development of the State and actualizing the vision of his boss.
My thesis commences here. On that occasion, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Barrister Onofiok Luke was a Special Guest of Honour. As he never fails to, he made my day with an impressionable and rousing speech.
Hear him, as I abridge the remarks of Speaker Onofiok Luke, which he rightly described as dropping a bomb.
“The problem with this administration and our state is too much blackmail. THEY HAVE CRITICIZED UDOM FOR EVERYTHING BUT I AM HAPPY NOBODY HAS ACCUSED HIM OF STEALING PUBLIC FUNDS”. That was for the governor. I won’t belabour that observation in this piece.
Then, the next bombshell. “I want to thank the Governor for not believing every story…If he believed everything they had said about his hardworking Commissioner for Works, he wouldn’t be standing here today to be honoured deservedly. Akwa Ibom State would have lost that rare passion, sincerity, capacity and results, this go-getter brings to bear in his office and thereby helping this government to succeed. There is so much blackmail in this government by people who want to hold the Governor captive and turn him into a slave..people looking for political relevance. But I thank God they did not succeed and I thank the Governor for remaining the good God fearing man that he is”
It was a scud missile that strangely drew applause from the packed hall. While my stomach churned from the sad truth he told, others, I am sure, celebrated his candour in being blunt.
Folks ‘, whereas Barrister Luke’s decrial was for the assault targeted at bringing Inyangeyen down by some fifth columnists in the system, and some influential persons out there, truth is, he was/and I dare say, he still is, a victim of the situation he tried to mirror. I will discuss that in another piece.
That brings me to the first blackmail Ephraim Inyangeyen suffers. They say, he is becoming too popular in the media. They(detractors) say the focus is shifting from the governor to him. They say that some Aides of the governor are more loyal to him and projecting his image than that of the governor. But, in their heart, they know that they lie. They see GOOD, but laden with dead conscience call it, EVIL.
The incontrovertible fact is, you can’t take somebody to the MIRROR and not be seen on the same mirror. By working hard and loyally to ensure his boss, the governor succeeds, especially as it has to do with roads, there is no way the glory of Governor Emmanuel’s success won’t rub off on him. That is the lesson of taking someone to the mirror.
But the detractors say, he is hungry to outshine the governor. They even said, he plans to upstage the governor, come 2019. It did not fly.
Away from that, they say he is making millions per kilometer of road. At a time, it was even bandied that, he had diverted money earmarked to construct the Atan Offot road. Although a very vocal person, his stoic silence was a loud response to the smear campaign.
On Thursday December 28, as I walked through the completed phase 1, of that road, I could sense his detractors have lost their voice, at least, on this matter.
Inyangeyen has refused to compromise on projects and contracts awarded. It riles those who call themselves, ‘System men’. He will not cut corners or ask for kick backs. Reason he stands on moral high ground when cracking down on erring contractors.
Our people don’t know that, majority of the roads being constructed by the Udom Emmanuel administration are implemented through the Alternative Funding APPROACH, APA. This initiative implies that, the contractor sources his own fund to execute the project, while the State Government guarantees payment, at convinience and based on work done. One wonders how tenable it is, to ask for kickbacks from contractors who are struggling to raise money to finance their business.
When they accuse him of fighting the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, over road projects embarked upon by the agency, they stand truth on its head and circumvent it with ‘comforting’ lies. They blind themselves to the fact of the litany of abandoned NDDC projects all over the State which should be revisited.
They wave away the simple truth that, it is unhealthy for the state, or benefitting communities, to have NDDC road projects graded and asphalted without removing the top soil and unsuitables, refilling with red earth, compacting, and going through the due process before asphalting. Rather, Inyangeyen’s insistence, or advocacy that, the right thing be done for his people, earns him the ‘bad guy’ scolding from people who should know better.
Truth be told, the fifth columnists will give an arm to have Ephraim Inyangeyen out of the way. If given the magic wand to wave, they will take him out. That will strip his principal bare of a dependable support base, who knows nothing other than serving the governor, faithfully and with all his heart.
Being human, Ephraim Inyangeyen has one virtue, which as far as politics concedes, is ironically a ‘flaw’. Which is – He wears his heart on his face. He is so real. So genuine. So straight forward. So down right plain that, he does not suffer fools gladly, indulge mediocrity or give room for intrigue.
Unfortunately, that’s not how politicians operate in our climate. That is strange alchemy to the chemistry of politicking. So he stands out from the pack that believes, Political maneuver, scheming and treachery is a credit of one’s ‘sagacity’ and makes you a smart politician.
That’s reason, they want his head on a platter of gold. Just that, God has tied their hands and they can’t find occasion to perform their enterprises.
I am aware that, as 2019 fast approaches, and commencing in 2018, the coming war on Inyangeyen will find assailants intensify their plot on all fronts. They will concoct more tales and recruit new willing allies. They will enlarge the web of conspiracy. The cacophony of ‘Ephraim Inyangeyen is the problem’ will not abate.
Howbeit, I have breaking news for them: We have seen them coming. Nevertheless, in the evergreen words of the Akwa Ibom born legendary musician Xto, to them, I repeat the chorus in admonition, “Na you dem send, go tell them say I (Inyangeyen) no dey o! Na you dem send.”