The name, Patrick Albert rings bell in the present leadership of Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). Albert, who was unanimously voted into office on August 1, 2013 to steer the ship of the Union kick-started development of the decayed and dilapidated structures of the state council located along Information Drive, Off Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) Way, an eyesore, village-like road that is less than one kilometer in the heart of [an] uncommon state capital. This same road plays host to the state owned print media outfit, the Pioneer Newspaper; Federal Character Commission, Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) South South Zonal office and the state office of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). This same road, which is an en-route to the Africa’s largest television network, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), The Nigeria Police Force, through to Goodluck Jonathan Boulevard and indeed, the administrative office of first and only indigenous, private radio station, Planet 101.1 FM. Though, I might sound to have digressed away from the point of concentration, this said road was promised by the immediate past Akpabio-led administration that it would be constructed but until the end of the administration till, the road remains as it was though the present administration of Udom Emmanuel is yet to make a policy statement (am hundred percent sure that Gov. Udom Emmanuel is fully aware of the said road because he came with the former Gov. Akpabio to the Press Centre plying on the same road). My heart however pricks, if on completion of the New NUJ press centre the same road remains the way it is now.
Back to my eulogy, Elder Patrick Albert, the ninth in the family of 10 born to the family of a retired school teacher, Late Chief and Mrs. Joseph Albert Okon in Uyo Local Government area, is the elder brother to a religious icon, President and founder of New Birth Bible Church, Bishop Josephine Gideon Eggah. A husband and proud father of five is an ethereal leader whose leadership prowess transcends human comprehension. This is true because his leadership began in his early twenties when he was elected the pioneer secretary of Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Akwa Ibom State, after the creation of the state. When duty calls in his primary constituency(the Pioneer Newspaper)as a reporter to be transferred to Kaduna State, he obeyed and went obediently but on arrival he initiated and established a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) christened, Akwa Ibom Journalists Forum (AKJF).
Still in his tender age, because of his resourcefulness, doggedness, articulate and result-oriented leadership spirit, the Akwa Ibom Community in Kaduna State unanimously nominated and elected him Secretary of Akwa Ibom Community in that State. Because of his impressive performance as Secretary of the forum, he was also nominated and elected President of Akwa Ibom Community in Kaduna State where he took control of over Sixty Thousand (60,000) Akwa Ibom indigenes resident in Kaduna State of different classes, status and social strata. Under this regime, Elder Patrick Albert was able to take Akwa Ibom to Kaduna and Kaduna to Akwa Ibom. A man who has worked diligently with three governors of Akwa Ibom State starting from the era of military administrators to the civilian governors and worked directly with two Executive governors of the state viz: The now Senator Godswill Akpabio and Obong Victor Attah who appointed him as Personal Assistant Press Affairs in charge of Abuja Liaison Office because of his diligence and forthrightness. Here, apart from positively projecting the image of the governors, he was able to use his position as the Personal Assistant to the governors to renovate the Akwa Ibom house in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. Before his appointment as Personal Assistant, Patrick was a Deputy Liaison Officer Akwa Ibom Liaison Office, Abuja; a duty he performed with pride, diligence and dignity. Due to his capacity to deliver, he was appointed an acting liaison officer in charge of Akwa Ibom House in Abuja.
Professionally, Elder Patrick cut his teeth with the Nigerian Chronicle and on the creation of Akwa Ibom State in September, 1987, his service was transferred to The Pioneer Newspaper and he was posted to work as City Editor, Kaduna State for The Pioneer Newspapers. Currently, he heads the community News Desk as well as South-South Desk for The Pioneer, the Akwa Ibom State owned tabloid. In all this, he has never been found wanting but was sagacious in service at all times. He is a prolific writer, versatile journalist, a reliable partner, a visioner and result- oriented leader. Humble but not timid, fair and firm without being frivolous, large-hearted but not loose, and a lover of good things without being proud; above all, God-fearing without compromise.
This workaholic elder of a church and fellowship pastor who, according to a media interview questionnaire on him “Combine unionism with elderism without conflict” to achieve positive result. He took over the mantle of NUJ leadership in the state in 2013 August 1. When he came on board, the press centre was like a ghost town; out of the total land size of the NUJ Press Centre which is about 1.409 hectres, less than ten percent (10%) of it was occupied with a one-storey building with structural defects and obsolete office furniture items scattered everywhere including office of the chairman which had a medium size table television set, an old ceiling fan, Abrahamic executive chair and table for the chairman and, Oh my God, outdated wooden doors and louvers. The old one story building was just a camouflage of what it was not. The outside of the premises, aside the entrance and parking bay was thick forest. This, without mincing words and with all sense of responsibility, is a place which by 4p.m or at most, 4.30pm everybody has vacated the premises for fear of being molested and or robbed. It was only two things that used to keep people beyond 4.30 p.m which is either press briefing or classes for students of the International Institute of Journalism. This does not however, mean that other chairmen of the NUJ were not doing anything; No, they all tried in their capacities and did their best for the union.
When this quintessential leader mounted the rostrum of leadership in NUJ, Akwa Ibom State council, he started by erecting an altar for God by setting up NUJ Choir and backed that up with the inauguration of NUJ Chaplaincy. It was thereafter that he embarked on an aggressive renovation, re-equipping the offices with modern facilities, creating an office room for the state Secretary, who hitherto had no conducive office space for operation; re-equipping of the chairman’s office with modern gadgets such as split unit air conditioner, LED Television, refrigerator, new and modern sets of executive chairs and tables including multiple set of visitors’ chairs, tilling along other equipment. Similar things are also duplicated in the office of the state Secretary. The mini conference hall on the first floor and the main conference hall on the ground floor, all have been given face lift as assorted chairs, round-table arrangement for conferences and meetings, split unit air conditioners to their capacities are all mounted with corresponding lights installed and other facilities to meet the 21st century use. Through his foresightedness, this rare leader injected new ideas into the system, which today materialized into:
Viewing Centre- The chairman established the NUJ viewing centre out of two gigantic spare rooms within the old one storey structure with two giant size television screens, well-equipped rooms with about one hundred (100) sitting capacity or above intended to host members whenever there is international or national events or other events of interest to members of the union, their families and indeed other members of the public.
Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem NUJ ICT Resource Centre – When Elder Patrick Albert came up with the proposal to establish the NUJ ICT Centre project, it was like wow! Such elephant project, where would money to achieve that come from? But within a twinkling of an eye, the wonder working chairman equipped and got the place working with the most recent ICT equipment along with WIFI network which is registered and has direct access free of charge by members within the premises. Today, the Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem NUJ ICT centre is a media resource hub for members and other members of the society to access information.
Fencing/gate house project – When Patrick came on board, he visualized and within two months in office fenced round the entire 1.409 hectres of land in the NUJ Press centre, built a unique twin gate house with modern facilities. Today, the fence is well equipped to providing internal and external security lighting system that gives not only the press centre, but the entire community a beautiful sight to behold. As at press time painting of the fence and the gate house is on course.
The Mini Club House – This is another wonder of architectural master-piece which, on commissioning, would be bequeathed to members of the pen profession and indeed the public. The club house is a relaxation spur with a state-of-the-art cafeteria with about 300 sitting capacity (both internal and external)sitting arrangement.
Two Story Office Complex – This is a project under construction. As at press time, is at the point of raising blocks for the second floor which is aimed at being roofed by the end of October this year. On completion, all NUJ offices would be relocated there and will house about 300 sitting capacity ICT Centre, including other affiliate bodies of the NUJ such as NAWOJ (Nigeria Association of Women Journalists); SWAN (Sports Writers Association of Nigeria), among others.
Elder Patrick Albert, who is marking his second year in office as the state chairman of the NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council had taken a delivery and handed over to different chapels five brand new Toyota Hiace buses fully air-conditioned from Akwa Ibom State Government; 75 number laptops from ExxonMobil, another 100 number laptops and 1000 pieces of GOtv Decoders from Akwa Ibom State Government, while working hard to get more buses to the remaining chapels, laptops and IPads for members who are yet to benefit.
Elder Patrick Albert, a man of big vision who has already designed to build, on completion of the on-going two storey office complex, a-one-thousand capacity auditorium complex, club house and a 28 room guest house and suites, all to be part of the state-of-the-art structures within the NUJ premises. As at present, the NUJ Press Centre can conveniently boast of two gigantic sound proof generating sets 60KVA and a 150KVA that are used alternatively to power the centre in the absence of public power supply.
A look back at the manifesto of Elder Patrick Albert during his electioneering campaign far back in 2013, he put it on black and white under “NUJ Press Centre” subtitle, “As a rallying point for journalists, the NUJ press Centre will receive every attention needed to make it functional and attractive to members through provision of basic facilities. In this wise, a master plan will be developed to determine desired projects and facilities. The existing Secretariat will be given a facelift while the uncompleted auditorium will be redesigned to meet the taste of time. We will plan for an auditorium with a capacity of 750 to 1000 to take care of the future. Presently, we have 69 local newspapers, 37 national newspapers represented in the state and five electronic media channels. This puts Akwa Ibom State as one of the largest media communities in the country after Lagos and Abuja. Fortunately, the NUJ is blessed with a large expanse of land. We shall engage experts to map out and determine where each of our envisaged projects such as NUJ Gardens, Guest House and Recreational Facilities will be sited. In addition to the fencing project, beautification shall be carried out immediately to create an attractive ambience. The Press Centre shall also give consideration to raising a separate block for Uyo Campus of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) currently operating at the Centre under a makeshift arrangement. Uniquely designed Shops/Offices shall be built, possibly on owner occupier’s basis. It is my intention to accommodate NAWOJ and SWAN within the Centre. To approach the Press Centre project realistically, a formidable project committee shall be constituted immediately when I come on board”.
Today, all these are gradually coming to fruition. It is worthy of note that these projects are carried out in a community that is not subvented but done in collaboration with good relations created with government, government officials, corporate bodies and public-spirited persons.
Let me pause this piece with the words of these two gentlemen, Samuel Johnson and Zig Ziglar. “Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing gratified. He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking has his fatigues first supported by hope. To strive with difficulties and to conquer them is the highest human felicity” – Samuel Johnson.
“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting, is the trying, not the trump. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest, that is in us, becoming all that we can be” – Zig Ziglar.