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It is the season of the long knives once again. That time when the soapbox becomes the oratory of power. Well, power seeking humans. It is the period when a careless whisper, rumors sprung and truth beheaded could become the Achilles heels of many a person. As both a journalist and public commentator, these times are indeed interesting.

There is always an orgasm, call it intellectual orgasm if you care, but there is always a thrill when you attempt to construct or deconstruct political behavior, including campaign strategy in electioneering periods. Beyond the call of journalism, I believe there are quite a number of people that would readily share in this fact. Whether you are sitting in the comfort of your living room clinking glasses of some wine, in the neighborhood bar or even a social event; truth is, you sooner or later would delve into informed or un-informed discussion on politics and the intending political tides.

What I would attempt in these series is to do what we all do in our spare times. I intend to lay bare the talking points in a general sense, difficult as that may seem, especially seeing that I work for the government. But even with the taint of bias, I would dare to paint my logic at all times with the tar of sound reasoning and a little candor. I do not intend telling you what the truth is. I would rather concentrate my efforts in telling you how to recognize what truth is not.

It is often the worth of politicians to tell their own truth. But in doing so, they very many times tell that truth with a view to influencing the thought process of the electorate. It is war. And all is fair, they say, in war. The death that comes is not the death of the body. What dies is the stride of your swagger. You are stifled in the minds of the people. You become politically emaciated. The lie feeds fat.

The electorate become mis-educated. It was Upton Sinclair who said “it is always a much easier task to educate uneducated people than to re-educate the mis-educated”. That is exactly what propaganda does. It enslaves the thought in a symphony of discordance. B. W. Powe had a word to say about this in his Towards a Canada of Light. According to him, ”we become slaves the moment we hand the keys to the definition of reality entirely over to someone else, whether it is business, an economic theory, a political party, the white House, Newsworld or CNN”.

But propaganda is a sister to democracy. It may not share the high heeled attributes of what a democracy should be. At least in the filial sense! But propaganda is necessary in the battle of the mind, where resides our convictions and decisions on who to vote for. That is why Gil Courtemanche in A Sunday at the pool in Kigali says it is as powerful as heroin; it surreptitiously dissolves all capacity to think”. In fact, Noam Chomsky in Media Control: The spectacular achievements of democracy, holds that propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.

So the propaganda hum says Udom Emmanuel, the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom is a stooge. Stretched further they contend that his victory at the upcoming polls would be Governor Godswill Akpabio's third term by proxy. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a stooge as a weak or unimportant person who is controlled by a powerful person, organization, etc. A stooge, generally speaking, is perceived as someone who is under the control of another.

Indeed, it would be difficult to be perceived a stooge unless your intimacy, closeness and confidante ratio with the piper is acclaimed to be very high. So if intimacy, closeness and enduring confidante are the attributes of stoogeship within the context of who Akpabio is supporting or not, then it follows to reason that all, if not most of the G-22 aggrieved governorship aspirants in the state are all stooges.

There is indeed a common denominator in about 98 per cent of the PDP gladiators, the winner of the PDP primaries and even gubernatorial candidates of other political parties. They, all or most of them, have at various times been very close to, and shared confidences with Akpabio. So if Akpabio had supported any of them to emerge the PDP candidate, would Akpabio be guilty still, of wanting to install his stooge?

Truth is, there was a time in this clime when the closeness of Akpabio to some political actors appeared the only vault to pole the bar. By words, body language or the sheer manipulation of public perception they coveted Akpabio's support and wore their impending coronation on their sleeves like a badge of victory. They facilitated easy access to the court of power and made things happen for quite a number of people. The public thus came to see them as governor-in-waiting. If Umana Umana, the current gubernatorial flagbearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC), for example, had become the candidate of the PDP, wouldn't he have been an Akpabio stooge in the sense being bandied about? Didn't he, at various times of the Akpabio government wear the imprimatur of the anointed? And didn't Ekpenyong Ntekim, the legal honcho of the Akpabio government believe in his heart that his closeness to Akpabio would clinch him the ticket? The list goes on. But come to think of it, if Akpabio had chosen me, his friend and schoolmate as his successor, wouldn't I have been perceived a stooge? Are we all stooges then? When really does closeness translate to stoogeship?

Interestingly at the time of their rapport with power, they, and maybe us the people, saw nothing wrong with what appeared at the time a natural affinity of philosophy, service and vision. So what really changed?

Let us not be deceived that there was a fall-out of sorts. There was no fundamental or doctrinal difference of any kind. That remains a fallacy of conjecture. The parting of ways is but a symptom of failed expectations. What becomes visible is that ambition was all along made of personal grain. Perceived self-worth, strongly stringed to the Akpabio guitar became misconstrued as manifest destiny.

But holding, concocting, publishing and promoting the stooge narrative, pre-supposes certain conclusions. It supports the view that the Udom opposition from within and without, is not fighting Udom but themselves. For in the end, we are all stooges. Stretched further, it circulates the opinion that there is nothing to take Udom on. And that is sad.

But beyond the politics of succession, Akwa Ibom people would want responses on the way forward in the post Akpabio era. For example, they would want to know the policy direction in roads and public transportation in the in-coming government. Having seen the flourish in road infrastructure in this time, Akwa Ibom people would want to know the thrust of road works post Akpabio. They would want to examine emerging solutions to public transportation in Akwa Ibom. For example is it possible to get a taxi to any part of the city outside my gate? How do we make Taxis a common feature of our transport life? Or even buses? Indeed, what other kind of innovation can we add in this sector? Can we create rail transport connecting the entire state? If it is feasible, how do we intend to achieve it?

There is so much to talk about. This is the time to wear our thinking caps and get to work. Let us assume that politics is over. It is electioneering period. And election begets governance. Let's talk governance. What is the unemployment level in Akwa Ibom today? Is there any scientific paradigm formulated by any of the candidates to tackle growing unemployment beyond opening up the civil service? Are there plans by any of the candidates to create an employment agency that would collate data and advise government on the ways and means of saving the teeming crowd of skilled unemployables in our state? Can we, for example, pursue the prospects of providing social security to the unemployed in our state? Do we have a data base of the unemployed from our state, living in and outside our state? Can we have such a database? Is it important to scientifically attack the unemployment scourge? Indeed, what new rhetoric exists in this sector?

I insist there is a lot to talk about. But because we are all stooges, we would rather cultivate the mundane to hide our surfeit of vision or our understanding of the imperatives of governance. Propaganda becomes us, because the lie would best serve our cause. But it was the famed Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, who opined that truth is intrinsic to our existence. “The fact is that truth matters; especially when you're on the receiving end of a lie,” he said.

So the stooge narrative is a lie that cobwebs us all. In the dark cleavages of our desires, we all coveted the Akpabio support. Pretending otherwise does not only reduce our sincerity but also shouts our opportunistic side. There should be more to aspirations. Except of course, we are all stooges.

***Udo Silas is Senior Special Assistant (SSA), Media to Governor Godswill Akpabio and General Manager/Editor-in-Chief, Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation.

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