By Joe Iniodu

Reading through a piece of vile diatribe entitled “Etekamba Umoren and his Habitual Hypocrisy”, I came to the painful conclusion that unless we change our orientation in the manner we play politics and what we say about people in the pretext of doing politics, then we may be sentenced to co-exist in a State perfused with hate and intolerance in near conformity with the Hobbessian state of nature. And it gets worse when journalists and writers, who are presumed to be the conscience and mirror of the society are co-opted into this insidious but horrendous enterprise.

To achieve the twisted aim of making Etekamba Umoren look like a villain, the writer went into concerted struggle of finding what she considered as virulent darts that can undo the man and lower his esteem in the eyes of right thinking people. The efforts yielded nothing more than incongruity, distortion of facts and fallacies. Such writing can only satiate fickle minds that lack the rigour to be discerning or ones warped by hate. It may also impact impressionable minds and become injurious and a danger to the readers. Of course at that level, such writing ceases to add to the body of knowledge and becomes a mere trash only fit for the dustbin, not of history but of ignominy on the credit column of the impish writer

Yours truly is not against any writer’s obsession with his principal or boss. In fact, loyalty to one’s principal or political idol demands such unbridled obsession. But any cultivated person must draw a line by decrying the act of any writer, who surrenders that critical ideal of allowing his work to be a contribution to the corpus of literature that should impart knowledge. Taking up the ignoble role of maligning anyone, one thinks is in opposition with his principal just to scale up one’s relevance before the master is antithetical to the purpose of being a writer. It is worse when the story is replete with malice laden content as the one in reference. This is unacceptable and should be condemned and repudiated by every right thinking person.

When I managed to pore through the inane piece, I paused to ask myself some rhetorical questions: “Is this the same Etekamba Umoren that I know or should I find another? Is this the same Etekamba Umoren that Governor Emmanuel on the day the current Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem was being sworn-in described in lavish terms as an encyclopedia of the civil service and appealed to him that he should not hesitate to volunteer his wealth of knowledge/­experience to the State any time such is required of him? Is this the same Etekamba Umoren that a notable Cleric of the Methodist Church during an event at Udo Umana Assembly described as a workaholic that is so serious with his work that he hardly smiles? Is it the same Etekamba Umoren that former governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, now minister extolled generously as a dependable ally during one of the valedictory activities that ended his tenure as a performing governor? Is it the Etekamba Umoren that I worked with and have a fair idea of his mindset and world view? Questions upon questions boggled my mind and made me incapable of thinking clearly. For clarity, I returned and skimmed through the material for another time. It was at this point that I concluded that the piece can best be seen as a banality of evil.

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The article which is unprofessional and ill-proficient in language use in the equivalence of the hate and desperation that drive it opens with unsalutary lexical items. Sounding judgmental, it concludes with logical fatality that Umoren’s rising political profile was curtailed by “greed and his penchant for betrayal coupled with his corrupt nature…” (sic). What a fallacy! The writer has failed to put a time frame to the unverifiable assumption contained in the first paragraph. When was Etekamba Umoren‘s name verging towards being a household name in politics? For the benefit of the writer and the reading public, Umoren joined the civil service in 1987 and remained so till 2014 when he retired as permanent secretary to become Chief of Staff to the then governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON. He did not resign as permanent secretary because he had interest to be a politician. He resigned because he was about to finish his mandatory 8 years as permanent secretary. The then governor whom he had served as permanent secretary, Government House chuffed by Umoren’s definitional capacity appointed him as Chief of Staff. As a witness, I dare to say that he did not disappoint. He acquitted himself creditably. As a civil servant of long standing, Umoren has the civil service ingrained in his DNA. I do not think it was ever his ambition to be a politically exposed person.

The second paragraph which is a failed ambition in the exhibition of literary expertise has the word “valetudinarian” which simply means a person of weak and sickly constitution. But everyone knows that Sir Umoren is strong, rugged, virile and reliable with no infirmity. To further depict the lack of content for the unsavoury piece, the same paragraph morphs into incongruity by stating that the name of the innocent man is synonymous with “hypocrisy, lies and an anything negative”. What are the bases for these asinine assumptions?

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The question is, is this author convinced that she has said the right thing, used the right words and in truth with every justifiable sense of fairness in addressing Etekamba Umoren? Does she even know Etekamba Umoren enough to warrant her accepting the role of doing a psycho analysis of him? Does she know that what goes around comes around? What makes her think that a former SSG fits such despicable appellations? Is this still politics? When you run down someone who was once a key person in government so wantonly, how do we expect others still serving to give their all when they know that when they vacate the office, they would be the butt of vituperations by the same people they are slaving to serve?

The third and fourth paragraphs are balderdash, an empty fury signifying nothing? Perhaps, the only aspect that may arouse interest is the questioning of Umoren’s credential on gratitude in equation to the former deputy governor, Senator Chris Ekpenyong whom the former had a tour of duty in the latter’s office as a civil servant. Those who know Etekamba Umoren know that he is a diligent worker and a workaholic. One can state without any fear of equivocation that he served the former deputy governor diligently. But as at the time Etekamba Umoren was promoted to permanent secretary by the Attah administration about 6 months to its exit, Chris Ekpenyong had long been dropped as deputy governor. It is public knowledge that there was no love lost between Attah and Ekpenyong especially from the second term of that administration till Ekpenyong’s ignominious exit. It is, therefore, erroneous to claim that Ekpenyong made Etekamba Umoren permanent secretary and so is the proverbial finger that fed him. It is a claim completely deficit of truth. Besides, Ekpenyong is not known to be a man of such legacies.

On the issue of gratitude, to whom should Etekamba Umoren be grateful to, Madame writer?. I urge you to be circumspect and brutally honest in your answer. Should it be Ekpenyong under whom, according to you, Umoren experienced pauperization or Akpabio who made life for him more meaningful? And Etekamba Umoren being a cultured man with breeding has demonstrated unparalleled gratitude to Senator Akpabio in actions, deeds and utterances.

Paragraph 5 which is another cocktail of banality submits that Etekamba Umoren, prior to meeting the former deputy, had no “Sir” before his name and was a low life man. But life moves in stages. Civil servants in conformity to this norm move up the rung in stages. As it is put figuratively, the higher you go, the cooler it becomes. Madame, did you expect him to defy this tacit rule and remain stagnant? As he moved up the ladder, his life had to improve correspondingly, most importantly, in consonance with his diligent service. For the prefix, “Sir”, it is not given in the office of deputy governors. It is not a government title. It is bestowed on those who do the work of God with distinction. If you know Sir Umoren’s religious life, you would know that it was a well deserved conferment.

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In one of the paragraphs, the writer accuses Umoren of “incessantly pasquinading” (apologies to her) the present governor, adding that it is a tendency of ingratitude. “Pasquinade” means a lampoon or satirical writing posted in public space. I am yet to see anything written or said by Etekamba Umoren in any medium against Governor Udom Emmanuel. Don’t give a dog a bad name because you want to hang it.

The writer concludes that Etekamba Umoren was sacked because of incompetence. My sister, the more you look, the less you see. Whoever fed you with that gibberish is not doing your career any good as that information is misleading. The office of SSG is political and the occupant is an appointee who holds that office at the discretion of the governor. If he was so incompetent, why was he kept for more than 2 years? Need I remind you that the removal was referred to as minor reshuffle and not sack. I say it on good authority tha if it was competence that was the only defining hallmark, Umoren would have survived.

When I see writings like the one considered here, I believe the French poet, Charles Pierre Baudelaire, who opined that “evil is done without effort, naturally… good is always the product of art”. This work of evil bears that imprimateur. When you describe a man who served your principal for years as “daft”, you are invariably saying that your principal does not possess the mental rigour to decipher between competence and ineptitude. That is an indictment on your boss. If you question and allude that a Secretary to the State Government who was appointed by a governor famed for attention to details was incompetent, you are implying that the governor is poor in decision-making. Let us tread carefully before we become the architects of our collective affliction. I rest my case.

Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst

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