Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Udom won’t join issues with fabricated innuendoes - Ekerette Udoh

Udom won’t join issues with fabricated innuendoes - Ekerette Udoh

Ekerete Udoh may not have practiced journalism in Akwa Ibom State, but in the National and International Media, he is a colossus, a trailblazer and a thorough- bred professional worth his onion.  He is a total Akwa Ibom man that oozes a friendly and courteous aura wherever he steps in. Mr. Udoh who remains the Director of Udom/Moses 2015 Campaign Organization Project has travelled far and wide and has paid his dues appropriately while building an enviable niche for himself. In this interview with THE INK crew, he speaks passionately about the Akwa Ibom State Governor-Elect, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, his five point agenda and what Akwa Ibom people should look forward to in the incoming administration. He also denies allegations whether real or imagined that Udom Emmanuel will be vindictive, noting that the Governor Elect will rather run an all-inclusive government while also promising a better deal for journalists in the state.  It was a vintage Ekerette Udoh on a Thursday afternoon. BY EMMANUEL AKPAN AND KENNETH JUDE, Excerpts: 
Sir, you came from the Unites States of America  to emerge the Director of Media and Publicity  for the then candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Udom Emmanuel, how were you able to land that position?

Well, without sounding immodest I don’t think the name Ekerete Udoh is such an unknown quantity. For those of you that are seriously related to the media world, I am sure you would have known that there’s a man by name Ekerete Udoh and he happens to come from Awa clan in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state and he has done quite a large body of work in journalism, and he’s also a member of the National Mainstream Media. He got his first piece written in 1985 and shortly after, in 1986, he became one of the youngest columnists in any mainstream newspaper in Nigeria. I wrote a column for Sunday Times, now defunct, under the Editorship of Achike Okafor.

I started what has become the Society journalism that we know today bordering on issues of the heart, relationships and all of that. I thought it was a virgin area that no one had ever delved into so I went to the Editor of Sunday Times and I told him his newspaper was nicely packaged but that I would like him to soften  the pages since there were so many professors from UNILAG that used to write columns and very few people read them because the language was too academic, and  it  was not everybody that belonged to the academic class,  Thoroughly exasperated,  Achike said, “young man, how on earth do you think I can give you a column in my newspaper, get the hell out of my office.” 

I then told him “ sir, you are making a mistake, why don’t you ask me to bring some sample stories, if you don’t like them, throw them into the trash bin here in your office, I pointed at the trash bin beside his table,  if you like them, go ahead and publish them”. He said, “I like your dash, bring me some sample articles.’’ The next day I brought four articles and this was on a Tuesday and by Sunday, my photograph was on the front page announcing that they have a new columnist and I started what has become The society journalism in Nigeria today, stories that touches the heart and a year later, I got invited by Sunday Concord.

Udom won’t join issues with fabricated innuendoes - Ekerette Udoh

I was poached from SUNDAY TIMES because the Sunday  column that touched the heart elicited so much excitement and the print run of Sunday Times shot up to about 200,000; I think it was the largest Weekly newspaper in the country then. When I joined Sunday Concord, you can verify this from the then Editor of Sunday Concord, Mr. Sina Adedipe, he writes a column for THE SUN. He called me and said, Ekerette, thank you for what you are doing. From there I went to Hint magazine, became the Editor of the magazine. 

We were instrumental to bringing the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati to Hints. He was a columnist with us for almost two years while I was the Editor. The Publisher of Hint Magazine is the Vice Chairman of EXXON Mobil today, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.  And between all of that I have written columns for practically every mainstream newspaper in Nigeria, Punch, Champion, and for almost five years, I was a columnist with THIS DAY. Nduka Ogbaibena, publisher of THIS DAY is my friend when I ran into him sometime in 2010 at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, he said, “Ekerete, why don’t you do a column that provides a platform, let’s say a hand shake across the Atlantic, here and the United States,’’ then I was still in America and I wrote a column called The Diaspora Perspective for about five years.  

Currently, I write a column in Sunday Vanguard. Between all of that, I became the publisher of the largest and the most popular newspaper in the whole of United States by an African Diaspora called “The Diasporan Star”. The Paper was a media partner for the African Diaspora community for the Obama/Biden campaign. 

We’ve collaborated with HARPO; HARPO is the inverted word of Oprah Winfrey production. Oprah Winfrey wanted to do a skid on leading stars in entertainment industry across the world and they wanted to look into Nollywood, so they contacted us and we provided the background. If you recall in 2010, Genevieve Nnaji was called by Oprah ‘The Julia Robert of Africa.” We provided the background information for that skid. 

Between all of this, I got an award by New York Senate for the community work that I’ve done, it’s online so am not manufacturing what am saying.  I have a Master’s degree in Political Science with special concentration in International Relations and Comparative Politics, Bachelors degree in journalism and political science from two of the leading colleges within the City University of New York system- Queens and Brooklyn Colleges respectively. and I have worked in United States for almost fourteen years and I am a Nigerian-American. 

So, I believe that the Campaign organization felt that I may have a little contribution to make and in their good judgment, they felt I could add one or two value and when they asked me to join the team, I was just one of the many people, so I don’t want it to appear like I did something that was out of the ordinary. The fact that I am the Director of Media and Publicity does not in any form, shape or manner put me out as being more knowledgeable than others.

But I think, given my background in political science and journalism, I might have one or two things to say that could add value   to the whole enterprise and so I was excited that I was asked to be a part of the team.

Have you ever worked with ECOWAS?
I never worked with ECOWAS; I don’t know where you got that notion from. Who are the people that spread these kinds of rumours? When I did my Masters, I worked as an intern for Human Right Watch which is a global Human Right advocacy group. This is one of the many rumours and lines of lies that are being spread and are given wings to fly as conventional wisdom. It’s very sad. If you don’t know somebody, do not manufacture things about them. The Google rule search will yield tonnes of information about me, and whatever that I say is backed by facts. The National Media is a cabal, you can quote me. If you don’t belong, you don’t belong.
And if you think you belong, then pick up a phone and call an editor or publisher and say this is who I am and let’s see if they will pick up your call. I’ve been a member of the National Media Cabal for 28 years. So why would I come and pass up things that do not represent who I am. That is miserable and it is unseemly and ethically obtuse.

What is that striking thing that you brought to the campaign organization?
I think I have answered that question. Am not going to tell you that I did this or that but I was one of the members of the team. The fact that I was Director of Media does not in any form make me primus inter pares.

What are the challenges you faced while working as the Media Director for Udom Emmanuel?
Manufactured lies by the tabloids in Akwa Ibom state.

Could you please be specific and shed more light?
No, I wouldn’t want to go into that. But you guys are part of tabloid platform in Akwa Ibom state. The manner in which people that pass themselves off as journalists will allow themselves to be used as instruments to project and disseminate lies, blackmail, satanic vile rhetoric that they knew were nothing but tissues of lies is sad. That was the challenge. But again, I am not demonising them because they may have been motivated by certain pecuniary interests. But I just want a new sense of narrative; narrative of engagement—narrative of understanding. Nobody is telling the media to affirm everything the government says. Nobody is telling you that you shouldn’t criticize government; of course, that is the cardinal responsibility of the media. You are supposed to put the government’s feet on fire. But do it constructively, don’t do it with malice, don’t manufacture lies and concerns about hard earned reputations of people just because you have affiliation to a particular camp and that camp wants you to negatively define somebody, it’s wrong. For someone like me who is a hard broiled journalist, it is galling.

But sir we noticed that these things were in both ways... (Cuts in)
I challenge you to cite and instance where we in Udom/Moses campaign organization demonised or engaged in character assassination.

But there was a time those in Umana’s camp raised an alarm that those in government are trying to give Umana a bad name in order to hang him... (Cuts in)

We as a campaign organization did not. Our campaign was run on ideas; it was not run on malice. We didn’t market sleaze or mud. We didn’t do that. We thought it was unseemly to engage in such very below the belt enterprise.

How were you able to manage all these challenges?

By studiously ignoring them, because the discerning minds of Akwa Ibom state will not buy into such claptrap. The minds that are discerned will read through the evil machinations and will just dismiss them. So we didn’t want to dignify people of such definition. We didn’t engage them, we ignored them.

A section of Akwa Ibom people have said that your principal Udom Emmanuel is a nice man and that if at all he came out on his own to seek to be governor of Akwa Ibom state, he wouldn’t have this much of opposition he’s having today...
What kind of opposition are you talking about?  He is the Governor-Elect of Akwa Ibom State, so I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Yes, that was then. The argument was that he came out from the background of the governor who they accused of not being responsive to their demands... (Cuts in)
That is an intellectually lazy argument and I’m not going to dignify any response to that because it is intellectually decrepit, it is lame and lazy, and am not going to be in the habit of dignifying some people that market stupidity. They have to either innovate or change their ways. If you want to engage us, come with some intellectual platform but if you want to come with some very crass insidious intellectually decrepit point of view or perspective, I don’t have time for such people.

What do you make of the argument that Udom was not popular which led to people wondering how he was going to navigate his way through the hurdles to become the governor of Akwa Ibom state?
The governor-elect for Akwa Ibom state is Udom Emmanuel, so again, what is the premise of your question?  The Governor-elect was massively voted for, by the good people of Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015, so I am lost with your line of reasoning.

Ok, sir, in laundering the image of Udom Emmanuel as Director of Media... (Cuts in)
I don’t have to launder the image of Udom Emmanuel. Udom is a brand, so when you have a man that is a brand, you don’t launder his image, and his accomplishments will follow him as a badge of honour. Udom is an incredibly marketable person, and so I didn’t have to launder any image. He is a clean and consummate professional and a well defined Akwa Ibom son who has done extremely well in the corporate world so, how do you launder an image that has not been stained?

In doing your work as Director of Media for Udom, was there at any point you felt like quitting in the light of all the tissues of lies, blackmails as you pointed out?
Who is that person that will do such a thing? I told you those blackmail and manufactured lies do not scratch at the surface of my essence. I have a sense of identity, so I can’t be fazed by such sleaze. I have been to great schools in the United States, I have travelled the whole world and I have seen many things. I have been to the White House, in my capacity as a journalist; I have met people of power and influence and for me to be intimidated by some people who still need to step up their game? Jesus Christ! Come up with other lines please.

Udom Emmanuel is now the governor-elect of Akwa Ibom state, you know him quite well, you’ve said lofty things about him, what kind of governance should Akwa Ibom people expect from Udom Emmanuel?
It’s going to be an all inclusive government that will take Akwa Ibom state several notches higher. Firstly, let me give you the meaning of Udom which is “Unity, Development, and Onward Movement.’’  That answers the question. He’s going to continue to unify the people; he’s going to work towards increasing and expanding, sustaining the level of development and the good works of the eight years of Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio. There’s going to be an onward movement. We are not going to move backwards. Akwa Ibom People are not looking for a governor that will turn back the hand of the clock; we are moving forward so Udom means Unity, Development, Onward Movement.

Sir, talking about an all inclusive government, some people in Udom’s camp more often than not make comments like, “you did not support Udom, you’ll see real hunger for eight years in this town...’’how  do you reconcile that?
Did you hear that from Udom’s media team? That is trite.

The APC and Umana Okon Umana have gone to court seeking for the cancellation of the elections, are you threatened that APC has so much evidence that will sack Udom, according to them?

I don’t make statements on matters that are in court.

But was there election in the whole of Akwa Ibom State?

What are you talking about? That is an intellectually lazy line of thought. What is the voting pattern of Akwa Ibom State? You should be able to do some analysis on this. What has been the voting pattern of Akwa Ibom people even from 1979? Akwa Ibom people have always trended conservative, we’ve never bought into progressivism. Akwa Ibom people are not into any progressive ideology. The people have voted from 1979 for NPN and that was conservative party. In the second and third republic, Akwa Ibom people voted conservative NRC, Obong Akpan Isemin, and Clement Isong in 1979. Fast forward to 1999 with the current dispensation, we are with the PDP that is conservative. You cannot change a voting culture that have been deeply internalised. If elections were to be held in Akwa Ibom twenty times involving APC and PDP, PDP will win resoundingly. This is a deeply defined PDP state. So when journalists buy into some of these very intellectually lazy layers of analysis, do yourself a little favour; tell them you went to school. Don’t buy into that claptrap. There was election in Akwa Ibom State on April 11, 2015 and PDP won fair and square.

APC says it has sufficient evidence that elections were not conducted in the state, alleging that some stakeholders of government went to the voting units with thugs... (Cuts in)

They are engaging in selective amnesia. Did APC win Urue-Offong/Oruko State Constituency? Has the Member-Elect been given certificate of return? This is all a manufactured concern on the part of APC. They know full well that elections were conducted under peaceful atmosphere in the state, and one of their candidates won, so again, this is trite, and I don’t want to engage in that.

What do you make of the fact that the APC has now taken over the centre hitherto controlled by the PDP?

Lagos state has never been in mainstream government until now and it has never affected their economic strides.

Yes, because Lagos state is seen as a commercial state... (Cuts in)
And what makes you think Akwa Ibom cannot be run like a city state?

Sir, what is that new thing that Udom will bring to the table?

If you followed the campaigns and you saw the five point agenda of Udom Emmanuel, I don’t think that needs further explanation. 

Can you break it down for the people to understand better?
The last time I checked, it was self-explanatory. Read the five point agenda and come back and ask me some day in future if those platforms were not implemented.

Why is it that throughout the PDP campaigns, Udom has been patronising other media platforms like the radio and television but never for once has he talked to the local press apart from national dailies, why is there this disconnect?
Well, that disconnect will be reconnected.

But why was there a disconnect before?

There were quite a number of the local media that covered our campaigns but sometimes covered the campaigns and twisted the whole essence but like the Americans will say, it’s all the nature of the beast, the disconnect will be reconnected.

The opposition make us understand that there’s a frosty relationship between Gov. Akpabio and the governor-elect... (Cuts in again)
I don’t dignify innuendoes and things that come from the opposition. We are not in the business of dignifying blackmail or manufactured lies, if you want me to comment on such obtuse and very, very intellectually lazy layers of analysis, tough luck; I am not going to be there.

Are you also saying that the rumours that came that Prince Akpabio and the governor-elect were engaged in some scuffles...cuts in (again?)
I do not respond to innuendoes, lies and manufactured concerns. I don’t. People should learn to lie with certain level of intellectual curiosity and realise that certain things should rise beyond the level of manufactured crass stupidity.

Some days back, Obong Umana O Umana led some stakeholders to meet with the president-elect and people have read different meanings into that visit, with some arguing that it is to have the him influence the tribunal, what do you make of that visit?
Please move on to other questions; there are certain things I don’t want to dignify.

You have said a lot about Udom Emmanuel, can you please tell us those specific areas you’ll love him to focus on?

I’ll give you the five point agenda, and then you can take it from there. It’s well enunciated in the five-point agenda; Industrialisation, wealth creation, human capacity development, continuous infrastructural renaissance and all of that.

In every administration, people will always find fault and launch into criticisms, what will be your advice for Udom Emmanuel when he eventually assumes leadership of the state on May 29?
For me, I will rather ask about what the media should do as a partner in redefining and deepening our political culture and governance. What should they do to be partners as opposed to being agents of blackmail and naysayers? We as journalists should learn not to be influenced by certain interests. You can listen to all layers of interests but we should be able to make good judgment call as journalists. That is what is expected of us. By the time we align ourselves to a particular course and then we close our minds and intellectual capacity to enunciate and appreciate certain tendencies, then something is wrong. We have failed in our social responsibility angle of judgment. So, I want that new narrative of realising that we are partners in the enterprise that is Akwa Ibom state.

If we continue to indulge in pull- him down-syndrome, where you don’t see any redeeming value in governance, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

100 days after Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel must have assumed office as Governor, what kind of Akwa Ibom state should the people expect?
We should expect Onward Movement which represents the last two letters of his name.

What is your parting shots to Akwa Ibom people, journalist and to politicians too?
I can only talk about my constituency which is journalism. I want to enjoin my colleagues, my brothers and sisters to show a little bit of intellectual curiosity in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.  Let us put our hands on the social responsibility aspect as opposed to the blackmail, manufactured lies and let us realise that Akwa Ibom state belongs to all of us and if we seek to diminish the essence that defines us, we are not doing ourselves any good.

No comments:

Post a Comment