– Samuel Ayara
When Pastor Umo Eno, the Maintain Peace Movement backed Governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party on February 11, 2022 consulted the Nigeria Union of Journalist on his gubernatorial intention, in a massive way several aspirants at the time were yet to consider, not much of what to expect could be hazarded. Brushing off speculations without calling the bluff that the media community in the state had long before his indication of interest pitched their tents elsewhere, signposted a giant image of a man who dares to succeed where others fail.
Rare confidence and belief in ones capacity have not defined more men, as they did the Nsit Ubium born entrepreneur, whom addressing journalists and media executives in the mini conference hall of the NUJ Press Centre on the said date took them through his life’s journey and successes attained by intentional living and dint of hard work. He went past these much to lay bare practicable steps to sustaining Akwa Ibom’s socioeconomic leap as well as how the state could leverage his knowledge of the market place and homegrown solutions to sustainably navigate the socioeconomic puddles that have held Nigeria hostage.
According to him, “starting from a five room hotel, I have for twenty-five years sold rice and stew, cared about peoples’ satisfaction to sustain business streams that have continued to grow in leap and bounds; providing jobs to several hundreds without going under for once”. How more ambitious could a man have been to liken the task of running a state like Akwa Ibom to a business empire that solely belonged to him? He was at the time the only aspirant who could point to an endeavour they independently started and sustained for that long.
The rice and stew business narrative in ways than few spotlighted his amity for entrepreneurial engagements, and quite strategically as an appealing listing on the menu, as there are not many adults who did not grow up with it as a helpless culinary delight. This interestingly has become a love story in success and describes in flowing prose how tasty the meals he intended for the state would be served. It is unequivocal to note the place of street sense as captured in the “everywhere go stew” social parlance, which aptly explains the enthusiasm of breaking even and meeting expected targets. Months after, here we are recollecting take aways from that one visit, that more than a consultation placed before media practitioners a deal as premium partners; an irresistible pot of stew.
Coming at a time it was more convenient to advice journalists on how not to be combative; staying objective and other such dos and don’ts, which are agelong ideologies they were long in training exposed to, Umo Eno came big with a whole different perspective when he proclaimed the institution of a four year annual award to promote development journalism. Not much lessons could have quickened the mind to the possibilities of bagging the Five Hundred Thousand Naira price money, for doing the right thing in steering off sensational reportage and internalizing media offerings that would put the state in good light.
The thunderous applause for this gesture had barely died when he spotted the need to support the roofing of an over one decade auditorium building at the press centre, a rare gesture not many thought could come from him, having been touted as not being favourably disposed to philanthropy. The assertion of not being a giver must have terribly stunned those who knew him before his gubernatorial foray, as many would later query how a fellow who is not given to charity could rise to a three-star Paul Harris fellow honours of the Rotary Club International; heights reserved for charitable minds and deeds. That gesture of contributing to the building project stands tall as a valid proof of his giving(ness).
Not done. At his emergence as candidate of his party, not many of his co-contenders to the hilltop mansion plum job engaged the press more. It became common to find his voice in every topical issue of development, with precise and workable solutions, reaching out to hitherto unreached communities and hamlets to deepen the message of his ARISE Agenda. All the while, he maintained an exceptional mien of a man who knew where he was headed, even in the face of bile persecution from a section of the media. His purpose and resolve, though tested, were never betrayed by emotions from tarbrush media.
Coming full cycle in his quest for the top job, he returned in the most amiable manner in gratitude to the press community barely 48 hours after inauguration, when he listed two journalism eggheads; Mr. Ekerette Udoh and Mr. Anietie Usen as Chief Press Secretary and Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity, respectively, among his first five appointments. The nobility of such massive love for a profession cannot be lost on necessity, he could have chosen to keep that in view if they were not roles he is convinced would help drive the success of his famed agenda.
While members of other profession are sure to make the servings from the golden era broth tasteful, commending the fair advantage given journalists may never be out of place, but speaks volume to how much the administration prioritises an extensive reach that will see that no part of the state is blackedout on development and government initiatives. Perhaps this would further explain his resolve to launch the state-owned broadcasting corporation AKBC-TV on the DSTV network, in the build up to the polls. This vision has not lost its validity, the gains of its manifestation can only be imagined.
As with his Sunday sermon at the All Nations for Christ Church where he declared major adjustments to the Akwa Ibom carols festival to open the floodgates for more indigenous artists and creatives, nothing could have been more assuring than his readiness to make the state work for its people. Promoting local contents and populating the Akwa Ibom brand, will sure keep journalists engaged for the right reason, and if hard work remains as promised, the guaranty to partake in the happy hour table, then the media community would not beg for access when the doors are flung open.
Methodical of every good turn, a wide embrace for the golden era of Pastor Umo Eno, promises a defining moment for Akwa Ibom State. Journalists as pivotal partners in the same era a Southeast Governor barred their colleagues for life from government functions, must do the most not to be overtaken for the priority and recognition it has so far courted. This the community can achieve by staying on the grind to ensure the voice and mind of Akwa Ibom’s fifth elected governor is heard, even in farstrecthed and hitherto obscure crevices. In seizng the moment, let us be thoughtful to appreciate that a start could not have been any better.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA