The Topmost Contract Between Government And The People Is Protection Of Lives And Property

. . . People Can Now Receive AKBC Television In Their Homes Without Startimes



Pastor Anietie John Ukpe is the director-general of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), a communication expert and former chief press secretary to the former governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio (2011-2015). Ukpe in this interview with Crystal Express recalls efforts he has made to transform the state’s electronic media outfit, the efforts of Governor Udom Emmanuel to transform Akwa Ibom State, among other contemporary and trending issues across the country.

After over four years on the saddle as the director-general of AKBC, what are the challenges?

The major challenges are updating the equipment at the station, meeting the demands of the people and galvanizing the workforce to perform optimally. We have enjoyed the support of Governor Udom Emmanuel who stands with us at all times. The governor has been very supportive. We thank God specifically for what we have achieved and also the governor for his interest in the growth of the AKBC in general.

With the support of the governor, you must have changed or turned around the fortunes of the AKBC. Could you tell us more?

First and foremost, before my assumption of duties at AKBC, the television section used to be epileptic in its operations and hardly carried out transmission for two months without a major breakdown. We eventually discovered that it was not really a technical problem as such but human sabotage. So we effected some changes and drafted the right people to man our equipment and from that time we have been running the station seamlessly without hitches for three years now. Before we fixed the problem, it caused so many disillusions among our viewers and audience. We have also digitalized our operations both at the television and radio stations. We are no longer using any analog system or equipment in AKBC. Our television and radio studios are wearing brand new looks with up-to-date equipment to serve the people better. Our radio studio in particular, after digitalizing all equipment, could be said to be an ultra-modern studio and among the best in the country. Our new mixer in the radio station is custom-made. We ordered for it and it was specifically produced and sent to us. It is called oxygen. Our newsrooms are fully digitalized with computers. Every reporter signs in to do their job without any encumbrance. We have come a long way but still have some distance to cover.

AKBC had enjoyed monopoly before now. Is the presence of over four new radio stations a threat to its survival?

No. It will never be. As a communication expert, I am always delighted to have more platforms for communication. The coming of other radio stations is in the interest of the Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria. It is also in the interest of our society to have as many media platforms as possible. We are happy that more stations have come up and we are still expecting more. We are also happy because you run the fastest when you are in a competition. So we welcome the competition. We are relating very well with all the other stations and we feed them too. They poach on our staff because we have the best trained staff. They come to AKBC to fish and we don’t mind. We have opened AKBC up. We have some ad-hoc staff and we train them and hope that these other stations will also come for them. We are like a training ground for these stations and as long as Akwa Ibom person is gainfully employed, we will be happy for it.

Akwa Ibom people rely on Startimes to watch AKBC Television because it is difficult to access without decoders. When will the problem be over?

We have fixed the problem. People can now receive AKBC in their homes without Startimes. There was a time our transmitter was down and that was when we opted for terrestrial transmission and we were on Startimes at that time. But since we fixed our transmitter, everything is working perfectly.

Government ownership of the media outfit, AKBC, appears to limit the scope of editorial materials allowed for broadcast on the station. Are you worried as a communication expert that there are things you cannot handle owing to political interest?

That is the way it is sometimes. For instance, if it is like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which is funded with public trust fund, it is a different ball game. In Nigeria, there is no public trust fund. The funding of any public broadcast station is done by government and the government expects you to understand its structures and also build goodwill between them and the people. We serve as a bridge between the government and the governed which is useful and that is what is sometimes referred to as developmental journalism, where you work to build the society, deepen cohesion and make sacrifices. It is not about profit-making but about unity and development in the society. It is about societal cohesion, which is primarily our objective. Therefore, even if somebody brings N1billion and asks us to air materials with the potential to set the society on fire, we will reject it. Our motivation is to ensure the welfare of the people and peace in the society.

Again, we work for the development of the society and produce conducive atmosphere for government to not only serve the people but also to serve the people well.

Are you worried that AKBC is still operating from a rented apartment without a corporate headquarters since inception?

I will speak for the last four years in which there have been a lot of concerns about AKBC having corporate headquarters. The present administration is committed to providing the AKBC a corporate headquarters. We have had a meeting and there is a comprehensive architectural plan which has been discussed and critiqued and I believe that soonest, the corporate headquarters building will be work in progress.

What is your take on the achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel with regards to his promised industrialization of the state?

I think the governor has done extremely well. Industries are sprouting up all over the state and more industries appear to be coming. We have seen great commitment on his part to industrialize Akwa Ibom State and turn it into a hub of development. This has caused an influx of people to the state. In all, I pay tribute to our dear governor for doing extremely well. He deserves the support and prayers of our people.

The setting up of Ibom Air and the completion of Ibom Deep Seaport are now mega projects being handled by Governor Emmanuel. How would they change the fortunes of the state?

The airport is a major gateway to the Akwa Ibom State and has opened up the state to the world. People from our neighbouring states also rely on our airport. It is a future revenue earner and good investment for the state. Ibom Air is a master stroke in the aviation sector investment for the state. It will become the wonder of the aviation industry and its success so far has received global applause which is another major credit to the governor’s strides. The deep seaport too is a wonderful project; the concept is to have a seaport with oil and gas support services. A seaport on Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Guinea is a major gateway to the world and also one that could be used by big ocean liners because it has one of the biggest depths in the country. It could take virtually any type of ocean-going vessel. It will serve as an avenue for people to import and export their goods and products and Akwa Ibom people will be better off for it.

Could the deep partnership between Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s administration and the church be the major reason for the peace in the state?

My take is that God supports and loves the state. God is always working for Akwa Ibom State. It is a matter of what came first, the chicken or the egg. Either of them came first. I believe that God was there to make it possible for the church and the state to work together. All glory must go to God for His wonderful work in Akwa Ibom State, especially the peace that Akwa Ibom State is presently enjoying.

Council polls are coming soon and people are of the opinion that those interested in aspiring for council chairmanship should hold higher certificates, not just secondary school certificate. What is you take?

I support the issue of having well educated persons for that office because the society is getting more sophisticated and you need to attain some certain level of education to understand some societal dynamics. Therefore, it will be better to ensure that those who are elected to run the local government councils are those with proper educational orientation in order to better comprehend the demands of the office and also understand the workings of such an office. They will also be well schooled and exposed to the operations of the different arms of government, the role of each one in democracy and the principles of separation of power and more so, how the demands of democracy can be served at that level. Knowledge is power and if we do otherwise by electing people who are not very knowledgeable, especially in the nitty-gritty of administration and demands of democracy at local government level, it will only introduce more confusion to the system.

Notwithstanding being the largest contributor to the national coffers, Akwa Ibom State has benefited nothing from the Federal Government in terms of projects. What is your take?

I think the Federal Government should come and do more for Akwa Ibom State. They should let Akwa Ibom State feel a sense of belonging to the nation. The Federal Government should provide the state with all she is entitled to as an oil producing state and the same should be applied to all other states in this category which have been ignored.

Do you think that the forensic audit ordered by the President on Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) will help refocus the interventionist agency into optimum performance?

In this life, I personally believe in auditing from time to time. A man should audit his life too. It involves sitting down and taking stock for the person’s actions especially how they are living their lives, otherwise you will end up living your life carelessly. I support auditing of any firm being managed by men. There is nothing wrong with conducting such audit and that is when you will find out what went wrong over the years and see how you can make it better in the years ahead. To understand better what has transpired over the years, the forensic auditing is necessary to expose the workings of the organization to the understanding of the chief executive. Even in communication which I am into, we do what we call communication audit from time to time to find out certain things about the organizations whether they are on track or derailing. The organizational graphs expose such findings which will help those in charge to take positive decisions. Therefore, it is important at every point to do self-assessment to ensure there is growth where necessary.

Insecurity in the country has forced the South West governors to set up a regional security outfit. Will you advise South South governors to toe same path or do it even at their various state level?

In life the law of self-preservation is the first and is very good. Therefore, it is important for people to think of self-preservation which is security in itself. The topmost contract in the social contract between government and the people is the protection of lives and property. The right to life is sacrosanct. Government should do everything to ensure the protection of lives and property of citizens. The government owes a duty to the people to punish any murderer and those who shed blood in any guise. Again, in a situation we are witnessing bloodletting and consistently too, you won’t expect people to sit down and fold their arms and wait for their turn to be killed. It doesn’t sound right or reasonable.

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If for any reason, the Federal Government should kick against such security innovation by the western Nigeria governors, then it should take bold steps to address the current security challenges in the country. When the Federal Government pragmatically addresses the challenges that gave rise to the formation of the security group, there will be no need for its existence any more.

But as long as we still have rampaging Fulani herdsmen killing innocent people and no action is taken, sooner or later people will take up arms to defend themselves. When we entrust our security in the hands of security agencies and they are not performing owing to lack of motivation, equipment or political will to act, they should know that people will take their destinies in their own hands and seek for ways to defend themselves.

It is a two-way thing, if the Federal Government cannot do it, they should not stop others who have devised ways to stop the menace. On that score, I support any region that evaluates their security challenges and feel there is need for complementary security services for the interest of their people in protecting lives and property.They should go ahead and do so because life is important.

The calls for restructuring and devolution of powers at the centre have been persistent. Do you think restructuring will address Nigeria’s problems including those asking for their independence from Nigeria?

It is time Nigerians sat down and talked on their future. When Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, our forefathers were not part of it. The British did so for administrative and economic reasons and benefits to themselves. Nigerians were never part of what Britain did in 1914 which was mainly to advance their economic interest. Thereafter, Nigerians have not created adequate time or opportunity to sit together and discuss their future.

But I believe that the time has come to address the challenges. If a victim of rape bears an offspring of rape, the offspring must not allow the stigma or problem to weigh him down, rather he must chart a way to be very successful tomorrow. So Nigeria must sit down to address the security challenges in the country, consider the fears being expressed by the people in different ethnic groups, in different religious sects and see how they can be addressed. And if there is also a serious demand for anybody to leave the union, it will also be discussed.

There is a very big need for Nigeria to sit down at a roundtable and discuss the future of the country. It is only when these have been done that Nigerians will return home with a sense of brotherhood. It is sad that we still witness pogrom in some parts of the country. Sadder is a situation a non-Nigerian does a cartoon in Europe and people will waste innocent lives in Nigeria over it, even when the cartoonist was not a Nigerian and has nothing to do with Nigeria yet lives are wasted. Nigeria is the only country in the world where foreigners are safer than the indigenes and owners of the country.

If you are a foreigner in Nigeria your life is more protected then than that of a Nigerian citizen. There is need for dialogue in Nigeria.

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