By Emmanuel Ufon
“In the end, I began to understand. There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like. Just as in corrupt, totalitarian regimes, those who exercise power over others can do anything.”
Chinua Achebe may have had the likes of Frank Archibong, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Environment, Charles Udoh at heart when he postulates the above-quoted quotes.
The duo inactions and ‘doings’ in the administration of Gov Udom Emmanuel also aligned with John Emerich’s quote that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
It is so saddening in Akwa Ibom State that some commissioners in Gov Udom Emmanuel’s administration who are supposed to preach moral fidelity to the masses most especially the Knight of John Wesley of Methodist Church Nigeria, like Sir Charles Udoh and his co-travellers are now lawbreakers – taking the law into their hands to weaponize poverty on the masses as against good governance practice in ‘saner’ climes.
On Sunday 13th November 2022 at about 8:00 in the morning, Mr. Charles Udoh, the Honorable Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Akwa Ibom State, accompanied by troops of police officers in 15 Hilux vehicles and a bulldozer stormed Ifa community market along the Airport road and demolished the only market in the community.
As a commissioner serving in a government that is under obligation to protect lives and property in the state – to avoid breach of peace in the community he was supposed to carry such an act on working days ( Is Sunday an official working day for Charles Udoh?) after prior consultation with the community village heads and the market women to take out their belongings from the market ( Is it a very difficult task for the government to build a market for Ifa Community and relocate them if the government is not comfortable with the market location?) It is noteworthy, there was no prior notice nor payment of compensation before this illegal demolition of their market hence goods and belongings which were inside the shops were all destroyed as hoodlums cart away the little remains on the ground and there was nothing Ifa people could do to salvage the situation.
According to an eye witness who did not want his name on prints, “heartbroken on watching the scene of the event that played out on that day, one Mr. Victor Edet Asuquo the Secretary of the community inquired from the Commissioner the reason they were not given notice of the demolition of their market for them to pack their goods from their shops, the Commissioner ignored the question and simply ordered that the police should deal with him.
“Instantly, the Police Officers descended heavily on Mr. Victor and continually hacked him with their machete until he was soaked in his pool of blood and lost consciousness, Mr. Victor was rushed to the hospital, he is battling with ill health and has since then been receiving treatment.”
Just to give a dog a bad name, Charles Udoh in a press release made available from his office to the gullible said the helpless poor young man was confrontational in approach, and that the market location is against the government’s decision against street trading.
Charles Udoh lied that the Ifa market which is the only industry in the village that the aged women depend on for means of livelihood is illegal. How can a market that is recognized by the government even with the location of a polling unit inside the market be addressed and called an illegal market?
I and Charles Udoh reside close to this community, he truly can attest to the fact that he had an ulterior motive for demolishing Ifa Community Market, if he did not have ulterior motives, which he was all out to witch-hunt the people of Ifa why did Charles Udo not demolished Mbiabong Ikot Udo Owot market that is badly located at a roadside at the entrance of Shelter Afrique Estate? Charles Udo is not the Commissioner for Works to be going around on building demolition in the state, did Charles Udo meet with the Village heads of the four communities that own the market when he visited the community for the demolition?
There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like. Just as in corrupt, totalitarian regimes, those who exercise power over others can do anything.
The Knight of John Wesley of Methodist Church Nigeria,
Sir. Charles Udoh even if he was ordered by his Boss, Gov Udom Emmanuel to go on such a mission ( which I will not fail to ask Gov Udom Emmanuel) as a Christian he would have advised the Governor to tread with caution.
“Military dictatorship is born from the power of the gun, and so it undermines the concept of the rule of law and gives birth to a culture of might, a culture of weapons, violence and intolerance.” – Benazir Bhutto
In 2015 Gov Udom Emmanuel went around asking the good people of Akwa Ibom State to give him their vote to become their governor that he will provide infrastructures and social amenities for them including the market (he is today demolishing) instead of helping to build a standard market for the community he went ahead to destroy and demolished their market illegally.
This was the major reason, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the three months suspension injustice on the village head of Ifa Ikot Akpan, EtteIdung Edem Aniedi Ebong by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Frank Achibong on false claims that the village head who have for the past twelve years on the throne enjoyed goodwill from the people Ifa group of villages.
According to Frank Archibong, “the Village Head was found culpable of gross misconduct of poor leadership and negligence of duty occasioned by his failure to maintain peace and order in his domain, resulting to violence and severe injury considered to be prejudicial to the security of the State and violation of Traditional Rulers Law of Akwa Ibom State.”
There is no traditional law in Akwa Ibom State that calls for the suspension of a village head by the commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, this is simply an abuse of power, the village head works under the Paramount Ruler of a local government area, if the Commissioner has respect to constituted authorities, I believed he would have drawn the Paramount Ruler of Uyo, Edidem Sylvanus Okon’s attention before taking the decision.
Frank Archibong’s action has sparked a public outcry in Akwa Ibom State, people are not happy with the injustice in the land, It is on record that the Village Head, Etteidung Edem Aniedi Ebong was not in Uyo on Sunday during the protest by the villagers against the market demolition.
According to one Mr. Nsima Sunday Eyo, A renowned family head from the community, “Etteidung Edem Aniedi Ebong is a peace-loving village head, he has not been found wanting in the discharge of his duty as villages head that is why we made him the Chairman of all village heads in Ifa group of villages, he was not even at home during the incident that happened on Sunday 13th November 2022 – Frank Archbong should please listen to our cry on this injustice and reverse the three months suspension action.”
In the words of another family head in the Ifa community, Mr. Samuel Umoren, “what the Commissioners are doing is simply a case of adding salt on injury, our community cultural ground (Iso Nung Adede ) which was inside the market was destroyed and the village head was trying to calm the situation, recently we heard on the news that he was suspended, the God of our land is highly provoked, we cry to him to respectfully reverse the suspension order”.