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SUN MAN EMERGES NEW AKWA IBOM NUJ BOSS

By NBF News

It is no longer news that the much awaited election into the executive committee of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council finally held last Saturday at the NUJ Press Centre, Uyo.

What would probably be newsy is the fact that only one person out of about 265 registered delegates voted against the election being conducted because he and his group had gone to court to obtain an injunction stopping the election earlier scheduled for Friday, July 30, 2010.

By the time the injunction was vacated on Thursday afternoon by Justice Abraham who also asked both parties to go and resolve whatever differences they might have had and report back to court on Friday morning, it was too late for the national secretary or his representative to make it to Uyo from Abuja, forcing the election to be postponed by a day.

But the parties could not even resolve their differences, which were the comprehensive screening of all the delegates, not candidates, before the elections could hold. But the judge also refused to reinstate the injunction on Friday as requested by the complainants, leaving the union, which ironically, was not joined in the suit, to go ahead with the elections.

But what the complainants could not achieve in the court room, they tried to get it at the election venue where one of the officials surprisingly asked them to state their complaints. The issue dragged for more than an hour before the three chairmanship candidates; Messrs Israel Thompson of the radio service of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation, Joe Effiong, the chief correspondent of The Sun Newspapers and Bassey Eyo of the federal ministry of information, were asked to put it in writing that they would accept the outcome of the election.

Thompson and Effiong signed the undertaking but Eyo, who had aligned with those opposed to having the election till all delegates were screened, refused to sign forcing the officials led by the vice president Zone F, Mr Pius Ede, assisted by the zonal secretary, Mr Sam Egbala and assistant national secretary, Mr Seyi Adekeye, to throw the matter to the congress. Only one person, Mr Oquong Otioro of The Pioneer Newspapers, one of the complainants in the suit, raised his hand to oppose the elections holding.

It was very dramatic because even some other complainants who sat behind him refused to oppose the election shaving seen the overwhelming response by members who wanted it held. By the time he raised his hand and turned back to see that even his co-complainants had backed down, Otioro had no option than to pack his bag and leave the venue for the elections to go ahead. It was one of the most peaceful, free and fair elections. Even Eyo who initially refused to sign the undertaking, freely participated.

It lasted for about two hours while sorting and counting of votes took another hour. Yet nearly all members waited till it was over by 11pm.

And the results were announced. Eyo polled 18 votes; Thompson got 40 while Effiong got 166 votes to become the first correspondent to be elected NUJ chairman since Namso Umoren occupied that position as editor of the Community Concord in the 80s. Effiong also became only the second secretary of the council to get elected chairman. The first was Daniel Ekanem, the man regarded as the master strategist when it comes to NUJ politics. Every other secretary who tried to become chairman suffered defeat in the past.

Apart his election, Effiong was also able to secure election of all members of his Transformation Team which had Florence Umoetuk, Joseph Robert, Helen Udofa and Uduak Ekott all going unopposed as vice chairman, secretary, treasurer and financial secretary respectively, while Mfon Ekefre, also of the team beat Emmanuel Ebong 124 to 94 votes to clinch the position of assistant secretary.

The vice president Zone F Mr Pius Ede advised Effiong's led executive to carry along everyone, including the ones who lost the election. Adekeye asked the new executive to do what is right and should not waste time to join issues with the critics, even as they should not be totally ignored. Egbala, who insisted that the election should hold, charged the new exco to work with the zone to protect the interest of the members of the union.

Thousands of messages of congratulations had since been pouring into the winners' phone. Effiong said even his phone was 'blocked' by text messages.

Others chose to write formally. One of such formal messages came from Gov. Godswill Akpabio, who through the state commissioner for information and social reorientation, Mr Aniekan Umanah.

The congratulatory message in part read; 'I commend you and the entire members of the NUJ in the state for the mature way and peaceful manner you conducted yourselves before, during and after the elections. From the details of the election results, there is no doubt that you and your team emerged winners through the popular wishes of majority votes of members.

'This is a testimony of popular acceptance and willingness of members of our great union to work with you to ensure the enthronement of sanity and global best practices in journalism profession.

'As a government, we shall continue to provide an enabling environment for freedom of the press.'

Even the deputy managing director of The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr Femi Adesina sent congratulatory message to Effiong. The editor of the The Sun, Mr Steve Nwosu also sent congratulatory message, but he added; 'But our job should not suffer- -oo!'. Effiong would have been uncomfortable if such a warning did not trail any message of congratulations from The Sun, the Voice of the Nation.