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ITA Awak And The Akwa Ibom Stereotype

By DY Ekpenyong
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When Professor Emmanuel Ayandele, in the 80s, then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, described the then Cross River State of which today Akwa Ibom was a part of as “an atomistic society perpetually at war with itself”, many took swipes at the intellectual who was volunteering a postulation based on informed and empirical analyses. But conducting a dispassionate self –audit today, it would be difficult to fault Prof. Ayandele’s assertion as cases of Pull-Him-Down (PHD) replete our social spectrum. We are victims of the curious stereotype of killing our best and ruing over the loss in a day of need.

I once attended a church in Lagos where the Pastor in the Homily attempted an evaluation of the social attributes of some ethnic groups inNigeria. When, it came to that of “Calabar”, a generic name that is loosely used for people of the origin of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, the pastor, whose sense of responsibility could hardly be questioned submitted a revolting picture of the people of that axis.

The man of God noted that the attitude of the “Calabar man” is often worrisome and very disturbing pointing out that he is petty and often exercising tendencies of jealousy against fellow brothers. He said they do not mind destroying their fellow brothers, even as they would gain nothing, noting that the people are often preoccupied with hate for one another.

Most of us from the axis who were at that service were confronted with a rude picture of our image. We were denuded of that lavish image of virtuous Christians and exposed to the nudity of our grotesqueness as a people. The man of God had isolated the monster in us and flaunted that moral deficiency with the intent to necessitate a change in us whereupon we would proceed to serve as moral compass to others. But from every account, we remain like meager drops in an ocean of wickedness that continues to rule the land. Our people have remained tethered to fiendish tendencies towards their brothers. We have continued to wallow in hate syndrome and in furious search for ways and means of cutting down our brothers that God has graciously lifted up. What manner of people are we?

Chief Ita Awak’s reaction to an open letter to Mr. President by a group with the appellation, Elders of the Divine Mandate is in strict compliance with our established stereotype of self destruct. The treatise which ought to have dwelt with explaining the propriety of Ita Enang’s actions went off tangent and strayed into an over kill. The response conveyed the imprimatur of an adversary not willing to give up in a war that had long been lost.

The piece dripped with bile indicating intolerance, unforgiveness and virulent hate. The discontent was so strong that it even queried the phrase “Divine Mandate” suggesting the repudiation of the mandate and even God, all in one swoop. How can people be so hardened in their hearts to the point of shutting their eyes away from the truth and rather embracing and relishing fabrications and falsehood? When would our people leverage themselves of the baggage of hate and allow reason to prevail. Elections had come and gone and the winner decided by God and man.

If we admit that no man can be king without the authority of God, then we would recognize that every constituted authority has His endorsement and we can only manifest our Christian values by submitting to it. Is it the Akwa Ibom style not to submit to what you hate even when such thing has the imprimatur of God? The intent of Chief Ita Awak in that piece is very apparent. Apart from disparaging the Udom administration and casting it as insensitive, his consuming quest to put some of his brothers on collision course with Mr. President cannot be lost on the reading public. In fact, the piece appears more preoccupied with that quest than any other consideration even though inciting the people against the government has also been given premium place

This incitement is locatable in the licentious fabrications against government and its actions without the benefit of verification and comparison. For instance, in this country, many state governments are known to be owing arrears of salaries even after receiving bail outs. But Akwa Ibom State has paid salaries up to date to those that were properly recruited into service and whose documentations are in tandem with stipulated guidelines. Pensions, which had remained unpaid since 2001 has been liquidated up to 2011. But Chief Ita Awak, a well informed personage and leading figure in the State deliberately misinformed the people in that piece.

Hear him, “we want to take a very strong exception to the senseless deployment of public funds by the Udom administration to sponsor baseless advertorials in many national newspapers, forgetting that at the time of promoting this fabrication of lies against Ita Enang, most civil servants were owed arrears of salary and pensioners had not been paid for months in the state”. How come Chief Ita Awak can fund his own advertorial but believes that others cannot fund theirs? How much is the cost of advertorial vis-à-vis wage bill of workers in the State? It is certainly infinitesimal. Such emotional analysis is only aimed at inciting the people with the tool of falsehood.

Chief Ita Awak in a rather feeble defence of the many infamous vituperations against the Udom administration and Senator Akpabio by Ita Enang described those unwarranted assaults as “interventions that seek to demand evidence to quixotic acts of government.” It is unfortunate that many still see the industrialization of the state as unrealizable and therefore quixotic. But many things are already in place as evidence of practicability. For the doubting Thomases, they would be singing different choruses in no distant time. When the metering plant comes on stream, and the coconut refining plant begins to engage the people, the automobile plant begins to absorb our people and invigorate businesses within the catchment area. Only then shall it be known that the Udom administration’s vision is not quixotic.

But public angst in all this is how our people react in moments of anger. We must always come to terms with the fact that no matter how fierce the war may be, our identity as brothers can never be eroded. We would still remain one people with a common destiny and heritage. When therefore our cerebral brother, Chef Ita Awak isolated his own brothers and associated them with statements purportedly said against Mr. President, he was deliberately putting them in harm’s way and jettisoning our cherished cord of brotherhood. Minor skirmishes should not be escalated to the point of endangering a fellow brother and this counsel extends to all. To do so is to deepen the stereotype which is already a stigma.

Election time is like war time where all is assumed to be fair. During such campaign periods, parties make assiduous efforts to pooh-pooh on the credentials of their opponents to secure mileage. That is what the people Chief Ita Awak has singled out for annihilation did. With elections over, the people congratulated Mr. President and pledged unalloyed support. Senator Godswill Akpabio led the league and has at various fora called for support for Mr. President. But Chief Ita Awak elected to ignore the many pledges of support and mischievously cited a social media link where Akpabio made a normal political comment as dictated by the zeitgeist of the enterprise.

The intention is not lost on even the undiscerning. It is to put the innocent man on collision course with the presidency. And as if that was not enough, he joined his state governor with the same intent. The question is, how would the outcome of that intention profit the state? Let us not cut the nose to spite the face. Such reprehensible mischief is an ill wind that would blow nobody any good. Let us recall the good old days of our brotherhood before politics and in that milieu find the need to sheath our swords.

Joe Iniodu
Public Affairs Analyst

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