By Kenneth Jude
It was a scene of shame. A sight dripping with infamy. What we saw was akin to a Hollywood thriller full of mesmerising action, bewildering fury and sometimes inexplicable excitement.
While many were still debating the propriety or otherwise of the legislative sleight of hand on Friday following the suspension of the chairmen of Uyo and Nsit Atai local government areas, the premises of Uyo council secretariat erupted in stormy jollity as Udeme Emmanuel popularly known as Ukai, stormed the arena in an open-top vehicle, face shielded in tune with the times, hands raised aloft excitedly as though one pronounced victorious by INEC or Supreme Court after a hot political contest.
Not a few sane minds were stunned by such crass display of insensitivity riddled with indescribable puerility, if not naivety. Barely few hours after the 7th Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly hastily, and, apparently dancing unabashedly to drumbeats played by God knows who, announced with inelegant glee the suspension of Elder Imoh Okon, the chairman of Uyo and his Nsit Atai counterpart, Lady Emem Ibanga for, according to the House, gross misconduct, Ukai rode into the council like an American pop star complete with the features of an exuberant youngster straight from a roadside casino to assume a seat he obviously craved from the word go for which his ego and unsubtle moves gave him out more often than not.
He was gleefully acknowledging cheers from his crowd of followers. Pictures showed him busily but needlessly prancing round the council premises with cheerleaders in tow. We heard he was inspecting the place. In fact, one of the pictures showed him pointing a finger at a particular section in the secretariat, apparently deploring the state of what he saw. He must be an all-action acting chair.
Ukai would have managed to comport himself even though it’s not his thing. In the circumstance, he didn’t need to act in such a discreditable manner. He would have borrowed tact from a willing lender to move in without such benumbing pomp and roaring noise. If anything, he showed he had always eyed the seat. His showiness which often borders on overt razzmatazz always pointed to one desirous of the chair on which his boss sat. So, for the time he served as vice-chairman, he was, at best, a dangerous deputy to his boss.
Some readers will understandably come at me hammer and tongs for my position, especially for calling out a man who many reckon as a philanthropist, fine mixer with the locals and all that, I don’t dispute this, but one must be careful lest one uses that as a smokescreen to in pursuit of an expected end. It won’t be totally off point to posit that some of those freebies dished out were ultimately aimed at what has transpired today. This was long discerned by sharp minds who knew that Okon and Ukai were a mismatch from day one. If they say his boss was not generous with money, Ukai had to take generosity to Olympian heights whether sincerely or to show that if as a deputy he could be so good in dispensing goodies, a bazaar will be a given if he is the top man.
This writer does not begrudge the vice-chair now acting chairman of his philanthropic gestures which appear to be second nature to him, my grouse is equating his charitable gestures either for humility or capacity to lead. If he could not work in concord with his boss, there’s little or no guarantee he can be a good boss. Anybody who cannot deputize another cannot lead. It’s either such a fellow is arrogant, given to hubris or, at best, a sadist who is envious of the success of another hence covets same deviously.
As a person, Ukai has the right to step in as acting chair just as the House of Assembly questionably directed, but pray, did he have to waltz in the way he did to take the seat as though a prisoner who had just gained freedom hence overwhelmed by excitement, spat on decorum just to celebrate the feat? Both he and his boss may not have had the best of relationships, but even in the seeming uncrowning of the chairman, he would have handled his ascension more maturely by applying even a scintilla of wisdom in his long-standing quest to mount the top chair and not the discomforting revelry with which he seized the seat.
At any rate, the puzzling show that played out on Friday accentuated the cold relationship Ukai had with his boss. But Elder Imoh Okon would not have woken up one day just to, according to reports, deny or refuse to hand out to his deputy what was his due. The man must have sniffed a whiff of ambition in Ukai’s eyes. He must have overreached himself in some things that made his boss relate with him with utmost suspicion and caution.
I don’t know of a boss, governor or president that will like to have a deputy that has and shows traits of insubordination, not to talk of trying real hard without pretence to outshine him. Much as Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President, has tried to conduct himself with remarkable moderation and distinct asceticism, the powers that be still grew uncomfortable thus defanged him by taking off his shoulders some responsibilities that made him more visible, not to talk of becoming an indispensable cog in the Muhammadu Buhari led government.
This essayist does not applaud the above action, but in the game of politics, power and all, the man in charge does not want anybody to overshadow him. You must have read what Robert Greene says about trying to outshine the master in his widely read book entitled “The 48 Laws of Power”. You dont throw your weight all over the place in a manner that strikes fear into your boss. Let your actions not threaten his authority, the seat or his sphere of influence. Deputise with wisdom while waiting for the right time to seek the seat. That way, you can now do all you had in mind if you ever get the opportunity.
Senators Theodore Orji and Orji Uzor Kalu were like Siamese twins. Theodore was Kalu’s man Friday when he was governor of Abia State, hence became the latter’s Chief of Staff. Those who know say Theodore was an extraordinarily loyal aide to Kalu. Some said he was a “weakling”. Among his virtues numbered humility. This, among other things, made Kalu support Theodore Orji to succeed him as governor against all odds. Quite remarkably, Theodore won the election while in prison as his benefactor did all the campaigning for him thus leading to his victory at the polls.
But as a man who knew what he wanted, but chose to be a sly and piously submissive aide, Theodore Orji, on assuming office, turned into a different creature entirely. The hitherto humble and docile aide became a bold, no-nonsense governor that the man who put him there could no longer order around and about. So, all the while, Theodore had a mission, but suppressed it, wormed his way into the heart of his boss, got his backing, became governor and, in a manner that was at once befuddling and dumbfounding, made Abia State too hot for Orji Uzor Kalu. But that was a betrayal of a benefactor, yet filled with lessons.
Sorry for the digression. But I had to use that to drive home the point that you can desire to be, say governor even while you’re a deputy today by not necessarily allowing your conducts appear to undermine the powers of your boss. If the need to have a loyal, unassuming deputy was not a key feature in leadership matrix, Mr Moses Ekpo won’t be Governor Emmanuel’s deputy today. So, just like Robert Greene submitted in his book, “make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power”. Jesus told his disciples to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. Wisdom is profitable to direct, the Holy Book also records.
While Ukai is rightly bowled over by his elevation to the position of acting chair for which he’ll certainly devise every means to tenaciously onto, he should tread cautiously, wean himself of some puerile foibles and conduct himself with the decorum deserving of the office. He and his suspended boss are no doubt poles apart in many areas, especially in intellectual heft for which Elder Okon clearly towers above him, not to say administrative acumen, Ukai should know that being a leader, while one must not wear a tough mien every minute of the day, is not showbiz.
The action of last Friday further revealed the true character and person of Ukai who, I recall with deep pain, once literally spat on the highest traditional stool in the state, calling the bluff of the occupier and defying the governor’s strict warning that no one should ever insult the first-class monarch.
In applying the concluding punctuation mark, it is advisable for Udeme Ukai to tread gingerly, carry himself becomingly and seek to redeem, even if late, the sad image he portrayed on Friday as he swaggered into office in a blaze of shame.
Kenneth Jude, a public affairs analyst, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. 08065998880