Gift-giving has deep and strong roots in the historical communal culture of Africa. It used to be an exchange which created, built and cemented relationships. It used to be a peace omen, a love omen which loosened taut nerves and drew smiles – a sign of relief and joy. In many circumstances, gifts were solutions to problems when they met the needs of recipients. Gifts were worthwhile articles and artifacts cherished by both the giver and the beneficiary. Gifts were given respectfully; the status and dignity of the recipient taken into consideration.
Not so anymore, this culture has now been abused by many: politicians who exploit it to sustain support, aspiring politicians who want to buy acceptance, students whose desire is to compromise their teachers, public servants whose aim is to ingratiate themselves with bosses at the place of work, contractors who see it as a means of getting a job or payment for job executed or abandoned mid-way. This is how the beautiful age-long tradition has been turned upside down by smart- alecs.
Political actors now send gifts to their people in the manner of crumbs. Indeed, fellow citizens have become ‘crumb eaters.’
Some gifts now come like food offered by witches and wizards to enemies they want to kill. Such gifts may be received cheerfully but they cause sickness and ultimate death. An example is the gift of a tokunbo vehicle to the unemployed who lives in a rented room. The recipient was struggling for food and rent only to be gifted a car.
Imagine the trouble such a gift would heap on the ‘lucky’ one when his rent is due and the car breaks down or crashes because the new car owner didn’t know how to drive in the first place? Believe it, the landlord won’t find it funny when the rent is due and the new ‘big guy’ in town comes up with excuses not to pay.
Some gifts become a bandage across the eyes and mouth or cotton wool stuffed inside the mouth which muffles and stiffles able-bodied men and women thereby making them blind, dumb and deaf on matters they should see and speak about. If they must talk after such menial gifts, it becomes a hush-hush affair.
Beneficiaries can no longer walk boldly along the streets. Such gifts make people blind and also acts like hooks inside the throat, the recipients can no longer talk; they spend time struggling to clear their throats when they were supposed to say something. Several gifts given in certain circumstances become voice thieves, sight thieves and ear thieves.
There are gifts which turn ‘youth leaders and leaders of tomorrow’ into unprofessional security men and bullies. There are gifts that have turned a large population of people into gullible, docile men and women who carry on like slaves in their own country. Certain gifts and the manner which those gifts are given come like showmanship stunt which stunts the size and reduces the weight of giver and recipients.
Such a gift usually makes demands on the recipient, it’s “money for hand, back for ground” gift. On the other hand, there are gifts which are not necessarily on the basis of quid pro quo. This category of gifts induces holistic personal growth and self pride. There are gifts which make men to lose their manliness and women, their poise.
There are gifts which degrade and dehumanise the recipient. There are gifts which make several prophets to speak falsely and in false tongues, deliver out of point and out of context homilies, mostly, to caress the ego of their benefactors. There are gifts that have turned so many occupants of the fourth estate of the realm into tame lap dogs, groveling sycophants, bless – the – mess Media operatives, purveyors of false and fake gossip and echo – chambers of unfounded conspiracies.
But there are few people who just know how to give, who to give, what to give, when to give and why they should give. For several years now, an award – winning Journalist, Ibanga Isine has given back to the profession by sponsoring training for others in his field in Akwa Ibom State. He wants other practitioners to succeed like him.
And recently, another man who knows what to give and how to give proved his mettle when he accepted an invitation extended to him by the Akwa Ibom state Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the last working day of July. At the end of that visit, Henry Nkom, a Senior Journalist who served as Editor of the Sensor, an Uyo-based Newspaper for 13 years wrote “Whether this has to do with 2023 or not is not my major concern as a journalist, fully aware of the terrible circumstances in which most of us work in Akwa Ibom and how thankless the sacrifices we make can be.
”I am excited that Mr. Udom Inoyo can immortalise Ray Ekpu, one of Akwa Ibom finest breed in the pen craft. There are many fine journalists from Akwa Ibom state who have been completely forgotten. Moreover, in our practice in Akwa Ibom state, how many journalists earn a dignified N500,000 annually and here we are with the possibility of some pen warriors being able to have clean N500,000 yearly.
”Of a truth, this is a plus for Ray Ekpu, our practice in AKS and it comes with a challenge for journalists in Akwa Ibom to become really competitive. I am sincerely grateful to Udom Inoyo for bringing value to our profession. He could have dropped the miserable brown envelopes that have only tended to impoverish us more and gone his way like many people we have been promoting to get to the top, but he decided to respect the noble journalism. Thanks a lot Mr. Udom Inoyo and God bless u.”
Another talented Journalist, Eneh John, in a letter which he circulated widely stated ”I sincerely appreciate Mr. Udom Inoyo for instituting the Ray Ekpu award for Investigative Journalism annually… my flair for investigative journalism may die if I fail to appreciate Inoyo for such feat of encouragement. If people like us got encouraged by such men when we started investigative journalism, perhaps we would have won international laurels.”
The two testimonies reveal that there are GIFTS and there are gifts. There are gifts which encourage, motivate and empower. There are GIFTS which dignify both the giver and the recipient. There are gifts packaged like aspirin tablets which only give temporary relief and there are GIFTS which provide permanent solutions to recurring problems.
Udom Inoyo’s GIFTS to teachers, students, Principals of schools across the state, lawyers, medical doctors, the state government, prospective movie stars, those he empowered and mentored at ExxonMobil and elsewhere are transformative and sustainable gifts which reflect a marked difference in character and respect for human dignity.