“We view this wicked act as not just man’s inhumanity to fellow man, but a very serious threat to our noble profession and womanhood” – Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, condemning the arrest and detention of Mary Ekere, a female journalist with The Post by the state government recently.
That Nigeria is richly blessed when it comes to proverbs cannot be overemphasized.
From the North to the East, the West to South-South, you hear quality proverbs that set you thinking, any day, anytime.
Thus, no situation is so difficult or complex that Nigeria’s proverbs cannot fill the void.
It was therefore not difficult to find one while ruminating over the abyss our dear state of Akwa Ibom has fallen into under the present administration led by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
This is because, it is a clear case of descent into anarchy at every level as far as the state is concerned. The people of the state are being seen as Lamb’s in the midst of wolves. That is why the Yoruba proverb, literarily meaning when a situation gets to a more than worrisome level, the best antidote is laughter.
Who could have imagined that the same Akwa Ibom State that was the envy of all and sundry under Former Governor Godswill Akpabio would descend to this level?
Who would have thought that Akwa Ibom State which was a trail blazer in infrastructural development could return to the days of yore?
Even Akpabio would have replied “not in my life time” if anybody had predicted the situation we now have on our hands.
But something in me blames the former senator for entrusting the future of the land of promise to “a passenger in governance”.
Akpabio was too trusting. Who won’t? Here was a man who had risen to a top notch level in a foremost bank, and whom the former governor thought would surpass his legacy.
Alas, the cookie crumbled, even faster than many had thought, leaving the poor people of the state in a quandary on where the future lies.
Worse still, all manner of tactics are been deployed daily to cover what has befallen the state in recent times, even as those bold enough to speak out against the government are been hounded, using foul and unconstitutional means.
This is not expected because you are speaking about a people who have been used to quality infrastructure, running water, motorable roads, good and affordable health care, education, power and more.
It is therefore natural for such people to ask questions from the Emmanuel administration why taps have suddenly gone dry and government cannot maintain infrastructure it inherited from the previous administration.
Even maintenance of ordinary street lights are even an issue today in the state, a state which use to be well lit at night now sees that as a luxury.
Even the governor could not reel out his achievements after almost four years in office when he was asked to do so by a popular newspaper based in Lagos.
It is therefore not surprising that the government is now venting its anger on the people as a way of making them keep quiet or silence them permanently.
But the question is how long will this unenviable resort to Machiavellian tactics last in the face of bad governance, crass incompetence, lack of vision and decaying infrastructure.
Worse still, the administrations pen chance for clamping perceived opponents into jail on the slightest excuse is legendary, sometimes without any element of constitutionalism.
Many will recall how even journalists perceived to be critical of the Udom Emmanuel administration have had to be put behind bars.
The first case involving a male journalist was illegally done as usual with the legal procedure not followed at all.
The state government clamped the journalist into gulag, to take its own pound of flesh.
Even members of the opposition, activists, unionists and others have become easy prey for the administration to cover its ineptitude.
In the recent past, a female journalist, Mary Ekere, was beaten black and blue by officials of the state task force and later clamped into jail.
The journalist who was performing her constitutional duty was accused of taking photographs of the officials in Uyo while raiding an area noted for illegal street trading.
Curiously, this task force has come under severe criticism for dehumanizing citizens in the line of duty, even as some have described it as a militia and calling for its disbandment.
The female journalist spent two nights in Uyo prison and was set free after a Magistrate signed her bail bond.
A crowd of journalists led by the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist, Akwa Ibom State Council, Amos Etuk, marched to the Uyo prison to show solidarity with the detained journalist.
“She was in tears. She was very emotional when she saw the number of Journalists who came to the prison,” Mr Etuk said
A miffed Etuk condemned the inhuman treatment meted to the Journalist and cautioned agents of Akwa Ibom government to exhibit restraint while dealing with members of the public.
Also, another journalists’ union, the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, in a statement by the Chairperson, Uduak Ekong, and Secretary, Esther Effiong, demanded apology and compensation for Ekere.
“We wish to state that the treatment meted out on our member goes against fundamental human rights of any law abiding citizen in this state.
“We therefore view this wicked act as not just man’s inhumanity to fellow man, but a very serious threat to our noble profession and womanhood.”
Late last year, it was the turn of Michael Itok, a 21-year-old marketer with prudential microfinance bank, Uyo was not that lucky as he was also arrested and remanded in prison custody for weeks on the order of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
His offence? Allegedly publishing ‘damaging and annoying article’ on Facebook against the governor.
Also, two staff of Akwa Ibom state university, Eyo Eminne and Igno Ebong Okon would not forget Governor Udom Emmanuel administration cruelty in a hurry.
Both were arrested for demanding sixteen months unpaid salaries and defaming the governor who is a visitor to the university.
A magistrate court in Uyo which granted them bail has adjourned the case to June 8, 2020 for further hearing.
There are many other cruel and fearful unreported cases of rights abuses by the present administration in the state. But the good thing is that the entire world is watching as the situation in the state deteriorate into a fearsome dimension, even as some concerned groups are already talking.
For instance, the Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP) has lambasted Governor Udom Emmanuel over the recent arrests of Journalist in the state.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare warned that those in government must not misuse power.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of Mary Ekere of the post, for taking pictures of task force officials who raided a city spot.
“State governors should immediately stop the nationwide campaign of arbitrary arrests against Journalists, activists and protesters.
“Otherwise, when state forces arbitrarily arrest, detain brave journalists and protesters like Agba Jalingo, Omoyele Sowore and Mary Ekere and continue to get away with it, they benefit from a climate of impurity”
A coalition of rights group equally dragged Governor Emmanuel before the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the scenario.
The group accused Governor Emmanuel of arresting and detaining journalists, activists, keeping them incommunicado for weeks.
The letter reads “We write to express our displeasure and condemn the insensitivity of your party, the PDP, on the rising intolerance and disturbing cases of human rights violations in some states where your party members presently hold sway.
“It is unfortunate that as the leading opposition party, which regularly condemns the lawlessness of the ruling party at the centre, some of your governors, specifically Governor Ayade and Emmanuel have chosen the odious path of intolerance while embarking on coercive campaign of arrest and arbitrary detention of social critics and political activists, perceived as enemies for being critical of their governments.”
Even COVID-19 which is currently ravaging the world has further exposed the incompetence of the authorities in Akwa Ibom State.
This is because nobody, except a clique within the state government knows the accurate figure of victims as far as the pandemic is concerned.
Politics is said to have crept into a matter that has to do with the health of the people, with the state’s Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Aniekeme Uwah, been redeployed for no just cause.
Even the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) through its public relations officer, Dr. Emmanuel John is crying wolf and alleging a cover up, designed to save the governor from further embarrassment just the way the nationwide result on HIV/AIDs backlash.
This is the major reason concerted efforts must be made by all men and women of goodwill to stop the shenanigan, going on in Akwa Ibom State.
If we all decide to look the other way while the situation in the state gets messier, a bigger, greater and grave danger surely lies ahead. But sadly, Udom Emmanuel administration has carried on as if it has covenant with impunity, cruelty and lawlessness.
Today, it is Akwa Ibom, nobody knows where this worrisome pendulum may swing tomorrow, hence the time to act is now.
Cry my beloved state. This cup of cruelty will surely pass over us.
Umohinyang, President, Centre for Leadership and Justice, wrote in from Abuja
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