By Ekemini Simon
So much have been said recently about the ignoble role played by the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Udoh, in the just concluded election of Nigeria Union of Journalists in the State. The story of how he crashed out is public knowledge, thus, we wish not to dwell on it. However, for the interest of the State, I wish to strongly recommend that the said Commissioner is long overdue for tutorials. The NUJ election is just serving as a reminder to this glaring fact.
If I were to be Mr Charles Udoh, the day I would have gone for compulsory tutorials would have been the day a former Commissioner for Information in the State received appointment to Chair the Media and Publicity Committee of my boss’ second term campaign when I am currently serving him as Commissioner for Information.
It is on record that Aniekan Umanah’s appointment came despite the pressures before him to campaign for a mandate at the House of Representative. This would have sent a strong signal to me that even in moments of inconveniences, Aniekan Umanah’s value is miles apart from mine. No, I would not only have covered my head in fretting shame, I would have made appraisal of myself, and gone for tutorials to deliver on my job. But no, Charles Udoh was unperturbed about this negative development. He instead moved on, basking in the cover fire from the works others provided.
If the aforementioned instances escaped my consideration, certainly the ones that followed weeks later would have awakened me to improve myself and my services. It could be recalled that when the State faced some trying moments especially during the time of crisis at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and when EFCC froze the accounts of the Akwa Ibom State Government, the country needed to understand what was happening in the State. To clearly put things in perspective, the State needed a witty and sagacious spokesman to visit national TV stations among other national media organizations to put issues in proper perspectives. No, not for the errant Commissioner for (Mis) information whose stock in trade is denigrating journalists here.
Alas! The official spokesman of the State was nowhere to be found. Thanks to the man who stood in the gap. If I were him, I would have discerned that my boss understands that probably the only sermon I will give there will be the only one I am known for about how South Africa media worked together to fight the apartheid system of which the people were already tired of hearing. I would give myself to serious study and tutorials. I would ensure that at least, I appear on National TV like past Commissioners of Information to defend and project my State. But no, our dear Commissioner has not seen the need.
I am of the thought that the privilege he had as Brand Manager for some banks may have overwhelmed him to reason that the same strategy used in corporate image management can be used in information management for the larger society. If that is not his thought, how would one explain how a Commissioner for Information will stop press conferences from the Ministry of Information with the journalists not to mention the traditional press conferences that often herald activities for State creation. Needless to mention that it is Charles Udoh’s reign as Commissioner for Information that journalists ceased to participate in the on- the-spot inspection of government projects that are earmarked for inauguration. History!
For one thing, these opportunities aid journalists to carry out their work effectively and most importantly grease the wheels of a smooth working relationship with government. Interestingly, the result of this edgeless, misguided strategy is very glaring. Little wonder many assert that the projects carried out by the current administration have been grossly underreported. But Charles Udoh is lost in his dance. He is far from looking back. Truth be told, journalists in the State have never had it so bad since the Uyo born man was plucked from Lagos to come and manage the Information Ministry. In fact, one is only short of saying that Charles Udoh is the worst Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom State since 1999.
What is more, the acclaimed “System” General seems to be playing on the intelligence of Journalists. Journalists were on their own when the Commissioner proposed a Health Insurance Scheme for 250 journalists in the State. The Union sent in their names and commended the State government for the gesture. Since early 2016 till date, the Commissioner can say nothing about the scheme despite several letters as reminders. Relationship built on falsehood. Lagos man in action. Since his assumption of office, our brand expert has not seen how imperative it is to contribute to the retraining of Journalists in the State. In past administrations, it was a common practice for the State government to sponsor seminars and workshop for journalists. Most of those seminars often end with giving out gadgets that will enhance their work such as laptops, midgets and phones. But those things are now history. What then do you bring to the table for a collaborative relationship? Intimidation, meanness and threats?
Indeed, a Commissioner for Information will certainly
be in dire need of tutorials to understand that blacklisting some journalists who do not report to satisfy certain whims and caprices is akin to shooting oneself on the foot. That we cooperated with the State government, kept quiet to our detriment does not mean we are nitwits to cower in the face of intimidation and influence of money. We looked at the greater good of our dear State. But let me hasten to add that no one man will be allowed to ride roughshod on the collective intelligence of members of the fourth estate of the realm nay Akwa Ibom.
Needless to remind you that your claim and actions as the “System” General has brought to an end that era of a relationship managed by suspicion and endurance; just tighten your seat belt and be ready for a rollercoaster but rough ride for you will certainly need tutorials to ride across the thick forest ahead of you. Get your socks ready, writing materials in tow, eyeglasses on for clarity of vision because to the class, you must go!