By UbongAbasi Ise
“When a man is at peace with his gods and ancestors, his harvest will be good or bad according to the strength of his arm” – Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Parties’ primary elections have come to conclusion, and the next lap of campaigns will definitely land us at next year’s general elections. Contestants are now aware of their real foes; they could now assess their strength, their popularity and weaknesses. Politicians can now formulate the combination of strategies and stratagem to bolster their own popularity while seeking to de-market their opponents and then rubbish their political parties altogether. In all, it is time too for the political office seekers to give account of all their good deeds, deconstruct their bad history, and raise a new hope for the future. We are in the season of thrilling epithets, incredible manifestoes, and perhaps Quixotic promises.
I have come across one sympathetic catchphrase on both the mainstream and social media which reads ‘Only God.’ This Only God theme happens to come out from the camp of Mr. Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, who is the incumbent Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and who is seeking reelection. Before I am unfairly linked to atheism, agnosticism, deism or whatever, I am not willing to distract the purpose of this piece by provoking ontological argument on the existence of God, rather, I prefer to look at the issue of faith and reasons as they impact our political system in the heat of the campaigns towards 2019 elections. I know political office seekers are desperate, and are bent on resorting to any ploy to gain advantage over their rivals. That is why greater percentage of them would invent catch-phrase to arouse public emotion. When some politicians discover they have nothing to offer and lack concrete reasons that could excite electorates to vote for them, they fall back on faith. They bring in religion because this would take away the sense of reasoning from man and replace it with faith because “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” according to Hebrew 11: 1. A lot of shrewd politicians know how to master the manipulation of faith and religion in order to create hope out of empty promises for the people, and make them fall head over for their gimmickries. Of course, a German sociologist, Emile Durkheim, had posited that religion was created by society to hold grip on the ignorant masses. Also a 19th century thinker, Karl Marx, was with the belief that religion is nothing but the opium of the masses created by the rich capitalists to opiate the poor. A positivist philosopher, Auguste Comte, at a point in his life, believed that religion was set up by primeval thinkers just to provide succour and calm to humans in the face of rising difficulties. So when Mr. Udom Emmanuel started to be using ‘Only God’ epithet, which is faith-based, it arouses suspicion that the Governor might have since realized that he is unable to provide Akwa Ibom people with adequate reasons that could have influenced their decision in reelecting him for another term, hence he decided to opiate them with faith, Only God.
Akwa Ibom, a predominant Christian State, has majority of very religious population, which invariably means that smart individuals can easily have their way once they appeal to Christian faith instead of reasons. No wonder dupers and pulpit thieves use the name of God freely to rip-off unsuspecting citizens of their hard earned resources. It is, however, not surprising that a State Governor, after wasting the people’s mandate for more than three years, would use religious term as premise that unfortunately turn out to become a kind of fallacy called argumentum ad populum, which emphasizes emotion instead of facts on ground. Udom’s Only God motto, which also come on social media with harshtag, is probably aimed at washing away every bit of rationality off the people’s thinking and then cause them to overlook the actual facts of underperformance.
Instead of industrialization model that could have been designed to revolve around Ibom Deep Seaport project, we are seeing ecumenicalism as reflected in the proposal of International Worship Centre. Instead of granting entrepreneurs credit facilities to strengthen the state’s informal economic sector for industrialization to find its footing, monies are allegedly distributed in Qua Iboe Churches to be used for no good reasons. The systemic excuse of Udom’s government used to be hinging on paucity of funds. We were never told that money was stashed away somewhere with deductions and cuts in expenditures becoming the order of the day while businesses were begging for recapitalization. But today, money flows in leaps and bounds for the single-minded selfish purpose of reelection. Mr. Udom Emmanuel, a Qua Iboe Church deacon, the self-acclaimed spiritual leader of Akwa Ibom State, and the master of the modern day scholasticism, should know that it is written in the Holy Bible that those that hoards grains and starve the people, deserves curse, for Proverbs 11:26 (KJV) says he that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him.
Today, we have more churches in Akwa Ibom than any era in the past. Businesses that used to be using large office spaces to operate are now closing shops apparently because they are struggling in the environment where cash are not flowing. Therefore, those office spaces are to be converted to churches where people will sing halleluiah and forget about their sorrows. Perhaps Udom Emmanuel never knows or let’s say, he fails to remember that there is something about government expenditure, because it can serve as a lifeblood for the societal growth and development. When government spends, it is not intended for profit but to impact people’s general welfare and to stimulate the growth of economy of the entire society. Full payment of promotion arrears, gratuities, pensions and all other worker’s entitlements could boost their purchasing power. They can build houses which involve seeking the services of professionals like architects, engineers, carpenters, plumbers, tilers, horticulturists, and those that offer unskilled labour. These professionals, in their own turn, would buy from shops and from market women and their businesses would grow and become sustainable; they can comfortably feed many mouths that are depending on them for survival. In a situation where a sitting governor withholds money with the lame excuse that the flow of income is low, informal sector of the economy becomes suffocated and businesses die miserably. Proverbs 11:24 says “there is that scattereth; and there is that witholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”Only God!
I don’t know if the civil servants and pensioners are told to close their eyes on the issues bordering their entitlements because their reward would be waiting for them in heaven. Whatever it is, will the civil servants wish for the continuation of a government that oversees frivolous deductions of their salaries since 2015? Will they vote for the return of a governor that withholds their promotion letter along with promotional entitlements since he assumed office? Will those in the higher echelon of the civil service sincerely support the return of a governor that practically starve them of imprests that could have been used in running ministries, directorates and units effectively? What about the retirees? Will they advise their children to vote for a governor whose administration treats them as beggars of their own entitled pensions? Only God!
To the present crop of Akwa Ibom students, payment of bursaries is history. Will members of National Association of Akwa Ibom State Students, NAAKISS, support the continuation of a regime that doesn’t care about their welfare package? What about medical and law school students who have not seen the state government largesse after the days of Godswill Akpabio at Hilltop Mansion? Will they want Mr. Udom Emmanuel to continue to withhold their allowances? Only God!
Senator Godswill Akpabio was a man that brought Mr. Udom Emmanuel from obscurity against the popular wishes to give him political relevance. Today, Udom is urinating on his head. To humiliate Akpabio, he has practically punished the constituents of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District by not siting meaningful projects in the area. Some projects have been abandoned in the area, some of which include Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, and Four-Point by Sheraton in Ikot Ekpene. Even in Essien Udim local government area where Akpabio comes from, Udom has not done any consequential project to show appreciation to the man that brought him to political limelight. In Akpabio’s first term, he carried out over 75 projects in Onna local government area which include electrification projects in Okom and Ikot Abasi Oniong that were hitherto cut off from modern civilization. Nagging water problem was solved for the people of Abak Ishiet, Okat, Ntan Ideh Ekpe, Ikot Akpan Ntebom, Ikot Ntuen, Ikwe, Nung Oku Ekanem and several other communities; and dilapidated educational facilities in Ikot Eko Ibon/Mkpaeto, Ikot Ebidang, Nung Oku Itina, Ikot Abasi Oniong, Okat, Ikot Akpatek, Nnung Oku Ekanem and others, all received the state government’s attention through inter-ministerial and direct labour. That was why the good people of Onna local government found reason to vote for the reelection of Chief Godswill Akpabio in 2011. In 2019, what reason would the people of Essien Udim and other forgotten local governments in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District find in reelecting Governor Udom Emmanuel? Only God!
And only God is the ultimate judge who allows a man’s harvest to be good or bad according to the strength of his arm, that is, to paraphrase Chinua Achebe’s quote in Things Fall Apart. If God is a Perfect Being, then It is associated with positive attributes such as good governance, employment, prompt payment of remuneration and entitlements, good roads, quality education, sound economy and therefore it is on these variables that Providence could decide who leads Akwa Ibom people in 2019.
We are in the digital age, not in the medieval period of over 700 years ago that was characterized by faith and religious interpretations in the area of economy, politics, government, law, science, arts, and literature. We are in the age of advanced reasoning and enlightenment that altogether coalesced into digitalization of all fields of human endeavours. So dear Akwa Ibom people, as you are going to the polling booths next year, I would love to plead with you to “have courage to use your reason” as a German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, would say.
Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment, send SMS to 08189914609 | firstname.lastname@example.org