Problems of Akwa Ibom State Journalism

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Ekere Bassey

12166992_1070918762927487_1474090599_nAt a point the Akwa Ibom State government became seriously rattled by the press especially the print media. To a large extent a section of the press had discovered that exhuming skeletons of public officers to put on display in the public got the people’s fancy to no little measure. Since it spun out large dividends to the practitioners the business got sustained and vigorously too.

Perhaps the incumbent governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel had once taken notice of the irresistible rascality of the situation and must have confided in some friends on his discomfiture with a section of the Akwa Ibom State press and the story went into the grapevine that he said he would not read local papers or was not interested in them. He was not alone in the supposition.

It was also reported of the immediate past Chief judge of the state, Justice Idongesit Ntem-Isua. It could have been slips of the tongue but the grapevine peddled it to a large degree. Most of the anger of the local press may not be easily understood by the helmsmen of the administration. It is just a situation in which we become too familiar with what we have, thereby failing to recognize its integrity or importance.

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Too much secrecy which characterizes the ordinary Akwa Ibomite and in large measure, the Akwa Ibom State civil service, gets most journalists frustrated when trying to excavate out news stories and some egg-heads in the department of communication arts of the University of Uyo advised that speculations can be resorted to in such circumstance. There is sense in the postulation because it could make the truth to come out. It looks like philosophy but no responsible journalist can resort to thriving on speculations which, most times, are falsehoods. If people may dare to reply, the intelligent ones merely say they do not want to join issues with careless job-seekers. And it does cover a lot of meanings.

The main cause of the errant and vexatious write-ups is often anger. Government image makers always appear to support and patronize national media based in Lagos and Abuja to the detriment of local media. Instead of giving advertorials to local media who charge relatively low, they prefer to make one advertorial at the cost that could have supported about five media houses. Chief Godswill Akpabio often said that over eighty local papers were always attacking him and his media aides never cared to find out the reason or to advise him on it.

There is no reason to have thought that Lagos and Abuja based papers were better than Akwa Ibom State papers. Most local journalists qualified from the University of Uyo and as at the present the University ranks among the best in the country. It is difficult to understand why most top civil servants and politicians think so poorly of Akwa Ibom local tabloids. We have come to the point of getting our perspectives clearly spelt out. There was a time China felt dwarfed by the more advanced economies of the West like Britain, Germany and the USA and Moa Tse Tung, then the Prime minister of China closed its doors to Western civilization that sought to suck its juice out and leave it flaccid. Almost everything about China was internal until it built up itself and now the economy of China is one of the strongest in the world – almost buying off the African economy or to be more appropriate, swallowing it up.

The government administration in Akwa Ibom State has, as a matter of expediency, to recognize that three quarters, if not more, of journalists in the state can compete quite favourably with those of national papers. What they need is the leverage and the encouragement. When they are hungry, it leads to anger and, in their anger, they see the government the way an Alsatian dog sees its steward when it is starved.

The visit of the Special Assistant to the governor on local media, Uko Umoh, to the press centre recently was a very strategic move. It could not be understood why Uko Umoh who has been a very steadfast publisher and close to the powers that be in the state had never been drafted into the system to look into the case of the local media for such a long time.

During the just concluded political campaigns this year, he hosted journalists at his house in the company of powerful political stalwarts. The crowd was mammoth and the NEPA line street of his abode was close to traffic for some hours. He has gone through the nitty-gritty of Akwa Ibom State journalism and has come in contact if not having worked with an appreciable cross-section of Akwa Ibom State journalists. Uko Umoh knows the problems of Akwa Ibom State journalists and is the only person who can attune to their sensibilities.

Most of the journalists who have resorted to the journalism of anger know the ability of Uko Umoh and some of them had worked with him. He was able to whip them into line while they worked with him but when they left him, they set off an attack-journalism. He knows them very well, even to their door steps but still maintains that friendly disposition. For the first time after very many failed attempts, the administration has struck the right cord by appointing Uko Umoh as the Special Assistant to the governor on local media. His visit, was the real balm.

He was there to strengthen the lone voice of the NUJ state chairman, Patrick Albert who had all along tried to convince his constituency that it is a very despicable stance to antagonize the establishment with untruths, speculations and downright falsities. But the people had always thought that he did so because he had found himself in the pocket of the administration and had no option than being a government stooge. Now they know that Uko Umoh is not a government stooge for sure. He is from their ranks. What they would now want to discover is why Uko Umoh has been so passionate for government administrations to succeed over the years. He told them, without the state government, the press centre would have continued to remain a cassava farm plot with an obnoxious menacingly sitting shrine there and daring every journalist.

If they really wanted their lot improved, they would do well to work with the administration to move things well fashioned out for all. It did not mean that they had to be sycophants but of course, constructive criticism would be cherished. He, without most journalists who were there knowing had already planned a welfare package for some of the down-trodden journalists in the state. This is going to complement the welfare package system which Patrick Albert has already started implementing.

At press conferences he tries to carry everybody along and he may not realize how far his popularity profile had soared up already. If the two of them (Patrick Albert and Uko Umoh) continue to work together, journalism in Akwa Ibom State will escalate to heights that were never dreamt of. With what is already happening and if journalists cooperate with them and desist from unnecessarily inflammatory and malicious write ups, the journalism profession in Akwa Ibom State will no longer appear as a cursed profession. Presently there are many journalists practis ing without being able to get married, put a reasonable meal on their tables or even have where to lay their heads, yet most of them if not all, are graduates.

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