October 27, 2020

By Ibanga Isine  |

A lot of things have happened in Akwa Ibom State during the past one week that makes one upset and equally depressed at the same time.

I had refrained from making comments about my state government for a very long time but I want to break the silence now.


I have the right to interrogate what the government does and how citizens react to such actions or inactions as a reporter and a citizen.

In a letter he addressed to Sir Thomas Mercer, Irish statesman and Philosopher, Edmund Burke, is quoted to have said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I do not claim to be a perfect man and none is perfect except God. I have made mistakes; I have failed my friends and colleagues knowingly and unknowingly but I have also strived to do the best I can irrespective of the inherent fallibility of my humanness.

I feel strongly to speak to the #endSARS protest in the state, the N4 million scandal, the Kufre Carter scapegoating, the killing of a young protester by a prison official, the curfew by the state government and the growing leaks from the Government House.

Considering the issues that trended on social media in the last one week in Akwa Ibom State, the questions that readily come to mind are: Why are we moving so fast on the path of self-destruct? What do we gain by destroying what we have?

Are there people who benefit whenever there is an atmosphere of conflict in the state or put succinctly, are there potential “benefits” to be derived from throwing the state into chaos?

Let me say here and for the record, I supported and still support the #endSARS Movement and the call for good governance not only at the federal but also at the state and local government levels.

Every reasonable person will support genuine moves to reform public institutions and make our country and state deliver on the sacred promises of good governance, the rule of law, equity and justice. That is why I support and indeed joined the protest against police brutality and for the reform of our law enforcement system, our governance institutions and our leadership recruitment systems.

I have been a victim of SARS brutality and I can say it is one of the worst police units anywhere in the world. My encounter with the sons of the devil (SARS) is a story for another day.

Perhaps, I will approach the judicial panel set up by the government to seek redress. I daresay the majority of SARS operatives do not respect any law. They don’t subscribe to any rule of engagement.

While the state of their mental health is highly questionable, one does not know on whose instructions they operated but I guess they sure were taking orders from Lucifer. It can’t be otherwise.

Thank God SARS is now history but I don’t know what SWAT will birth. God help us.

When Governor Udom Emmanuel decided to address the #endSARS protesters just like his colleagues all over the federation, he might have asked his aides what to do for the thousands of young people who braved the elements and peacefully marched in strategic locations in Uyo metropolis.

I am strongly persuaded to believe that the decision to release money to the youth who led the protests wasn’t meant to procure or suppress the action of the youth.

I am also strongly persuaded to believe that the decision to release funds for the “protesters” was taken based on what was supposed to be a “sound and well-intentioned” advice of the relevant aides and it was supposed to be kept under wraps.

Although it is morally wrong to give money to young people who were protesting against societal ills, it is not a crime to appreciate people who conducted what was supposed to be an angry protest in a most peaceful, organised and innovative manner.

For the first time in the history of Nigeria, protesters fed themselves, defended themselves, treated the wounded among them, discarded the wastes they generated and even supported members of society including the police they were protesting against.

But I would not have advised the governor to give the money to the protesters, if my opinion was sought because of the possibility of being misconstrued by the public.

At face value, it wasn’t wrong to appreciate the young people for their good conduct and to contribute to their common purse just like others.

However, I have serious issues with the way the funds were disbursed and what happened after the black-market disbursement.

You may decide to condemn Mr. Udom Emmanuel or stay in the middle course. The choice is strictly yours.

I am aware of very prominent Nigerians who paid money into the common fund that supported the protest. Some governors are said to have tacitly supported the #endSARS Movement while begging them to leave the streets.

What baffled me and still baffling, is not only was the governor’s action, which was supposed to be under wraps shared on social media, the telephone recording of conversations on how the largesse was shared also surfaced online.

And the question is: Who released that audio clip and why?

Perhaps, it was meant to deal with a certain Kufre Carter, who was accused but denied releasing an audio clip of a highly sensitive conversation which seriously criticised and “indicted” Governor Emmanuel of poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

If that was the case, then those who released the audio and also caused the N4 million “donation” to trend on social media missed the elementary lessons in Public Relations, Political Marketing and Government Media Relations.

Blowing open and trending what was supposed to be a confidential action of the government is worse than whatever disgrace and humiliation a Kufre Carter can possibly be dished.

No sane person would allow his brand to suffer collateral damage just to spite an insignificant competition. And Mr. Carter can’t be close to Udom Emmanuel’s competition no matter how you look at it.

The action of those who mismanaged the supposedly good-intentioned gift of the governor is despicable, crude and at best, an impulsive betrayal by those who are supposed to have his back.

Currently, Mr. Carter is battling not only for his mental health but also for his life against persons who feel he has done a terrible evil against God and man.  Unknown persons have threatened to “deal” with him and others said “boys” are waiting to fix him permanently, for whatever that means.

But I am piqued by the fact that those who received the larger chunk of the funds have cleaned their mouths, dusted their reputation and moved on while one person is being dragged endlessly for a mistake he openly admitted and tendered a public apology.

Make no mistakes, I do not support the wrongdoing of anybody and so cannot support the misbehaviour of Mr. Carter.

That said, I believe he should be forgiven and given a chance to reinvent himself and continue with his life and that is why I am using this medium to call those who feel hurt by his action and poor judgment to please forgive him.

I am aware the organisers of the protest weren’t averse to collecting the controversial money based on the statement they posted on social media.

Truth is, they were ready to collect and channel it to a predetermined cause. But that was not to be as those entrusted with disbursement had other ideas.

I want to also use this medium to call on the state government and security agencies to ensure that Mr. Carter is not hurt in any way by any person or group of persons under any guise.

I have defended the rights of many Nigerians and will continue to do so as long as I live. So help me God.

Then came the killing of a young protester by a trigger-happy prison official and the concomitant reign of terror by hoodlums in Uyo metropolis.

Although I have not been detained in a correctional facility before, I have had two major brushes with prison officials and those encounters have shaped my understanding of the mentality of many of them.

The bad eggs among them tend to have a deluded mentality of wielding enormous power as members of the law enforcement community. With such a gullible mindset comes the thought they can do anything and get away with them – the SARS we are protesting against.

My first encounter with a bad prison warder happened long ago when I was operating Okada in Uyo as a young man.

I picked this warder somewhere in Ibesikpo and took him to the prison headquarters along Barracks Road in Uyo. As he climbed my bike, I told him the fare was 50 kobo and he said nothing.

At that time, 50 kobo was charged for long distant drops and the distance from where I picked him to Barracks Road was more than 10 kilometres. That was a long distant drop.

However, when I dropped him in front of the Prisons Headquarters, he brought out 20 kobo and I refused to collect it.

He looked at me contemptuously, sighed in a most disrespectful way and dropped the money on the ground (as if I were an evil masquerade) and walked away with his shoulders so high like a proud soldier who had just crushed an enemy.

Because I couldn’t do anything to him and cannot even be allowed inside the gates so I can make a complaint to his superiors, I took the 20 kobo from the ground, kicked my bike and went my way.

There are so many good and professional prison officials in the country but we also have the very bad ones like the one who took my money away because he wore a uniform.

The prison operative who opened fire that killed the young protester in Uyo is not different from the SARS we protested against. He represents the worst of our law enforcement system and should be prosecuted.

He is responsible for the hoodlums who went berserk and unleashed terror, looted, burnt and destroyed private and public property in Uyo.

The hoodlums did not find any excuse to carry out their criminal business throughout the well-organised #endSARS protests in Uyo until the prison operative decided to misuse his arms.

– Isine is a media practioner

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