Gov. Emmanuel turned up in something uncommonly simple… went for the customised clothing knowing it would wordlessly market his re-election bid
A convenient distraction last Saturday should take the credit for this entry, but also the blame for my inability today to round off the political mentors series. Next Monday, willy-nilly, I shall serve that closing chapter featuring a south-easterner. Back to how we got here. Director-General of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), Pastor Anietie Ukpe, had graciously invited me to join his staffer, James Edet, and Marian Vincent-Okoh of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 12, Uyo, to play host to the state governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, on radio and television.
Having done tens of thousands of interviews in my media career spanning over a quarter of a century and counting, plus this being with a Nigerian state’s number one power holder, I thought I could guesstimate how this would go. I braced myself (read I rehearsed my facial expressions) for the inevitable puerile bragging, the village square insults, and the sickening godless arrogance. However, the moment James, Marian and I took our seats on set awaiting the governor’s arrival, something from my birthplace (what you call the sixth sense) warned me that the experience would be fresh air. And it was, big time!
First, the man was fifteen minutes early. In a country where ‘big men’ treat time as a little plaything, one could not help but tick this governor right from the start. At some point, as he sat there throwing his trademark jokes, there was awkward silence among the three of us on the panel. When James gesticulated about kicking off earlier than the scheduled 6pm, I broke the silence by whispering that we still had 10 minutes until the start.
Apparently to rescue us, the Zenith Bank executive director turned state chief executive immediately accepted an opportune invitation by the AKBC boss to see the control room part of the television studio that had recently received a facelift. It might seem frivolous but for me, the governor’s ability to decode and break up that unspoken impasse resonates with me. I have a thing for extra-meticulous, super-dynamic and hydra-talismanic leaders. I ticked him right again.
On our marks, I took note of the governor’s desperation to connect with the people. Apart from politely requesting more phone-in time and SMS, he adopted a barely intelligible language and mode of explanation. Even an illiterate viewer or listener would not be at sea. That unforced simplicity got the professional in politics (he’s an accountant by training) another plus, in fact two pluses, from me.
It was refreshing to listen up close to one of a tiny minority of Nigerian politicians who abhor grandiloquent, complicated and misconstruable communications. By the way, the extra plus was for his dressing. While most people like him would have gone for flamboyance, Gov. Emmanuel turned up in something uncommonly simple. I believe that the cost-benefit guru went for the customised clothing knowing it would wordlessly market his re-election bid well beyond the duration of the live telecast, and without any cost!
Bankers and their sense! I am laughing at how the man outsmarted us, but smarting from that won’t becloud my appreciation of the other aspects of the interview where the governor scored A+: his content, his humanity, his godliness, his visionariness, his temperament, his maturity, his restraint, his integrity and his inclusive politics. I liked his measured tone, his fearless disposition to questions, his confidence, his willingness and readiness to talk, and talk sense. “Ask me any question you want,” the Akwa Ibom helmsman had said shortly before we set sail, pushing away the heads-up prepared for him by his team.
He did not shy away from so-called no-go areas but not once did he deploy name-calling or insults. I thought that was beautiful, so I ticked him right again, and again, and again. I also loved the fact that throughout those 155 minutes, he came across as a leader who’s in control, as well as one who knows both the way and what he’s doing. He’s quite strategic and deliberate with his industrialisation policy.
His easy-to-understand explanation on the coconut plantation, coconut refinery, among others, speaks to a governor who doesn’t just know the economy and economics but who’s also known by the two forces of market and commonsense. I ticked him right some more as he guided us through his road and sundry projects. This special interviewee whose first name means right was a delight to man and to God. Let’s hear it for him when James brought up the issue of the opposition being allowed electioneering use of public facilities in the state:
‘It is not about the opposition but what an average Akwa Ibomite stands to gain from such events. The woman selling soft drinks, the man offering rental services, the pure water boy, etc., gain so much from these rallies.
“What about the God factor in everything we do? If God wants me beyond 2019, their billboards and use of state sites won’t stop me! If He wants them, denying them access won’t stop them!”
Another classic, fantastically un-Nigerian answer by this award-winning governor of peace and sports came when an undergraduate grumbled about students being left out of the Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation: “My children are students too. If I cannot bring them away from school to join me on the campaign trail, why should I use other people’s children?”
On that interview, I tick Gov. Udom Emmanuel right 98 percent. He only destabilised me just before sign off when the issue of AKBC came up. I am committed to helping the governor get that 2 percent soon. God bless Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria!