Some years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French writer, aristocrat and journalist, penned “One can be a brother only in something. Where there is no tie that binds men, men are not united but merely lined up.”
But Thursday, July 11, a Nigerian journalist and writer who might not have contemplated Saint-Exupery’s quote ricocheted the thought differently “My greatest enemy is a brother who does not want me to grow or does not want me to fulfill my destiny.”
Cletus Ukpong, assistant editor in-charge of South-South region with Premium Times, reclining on his chair “There are family members, friends or people who do not want you to grow. There are your enemies. The outsiders may appear as your enemy but they are not really your enemies.”
Ukpong, an incisive thinker and passionate person, put it straight “Let us put our house in order. From here, we can fight our external enemies.We can fight whoever is seen as external enemy. There is need for Akwa Ibom people to come together and see what we can do to promote internal unity and internal prosperity. Let us see ourselves as one not many.”
A man of subdued humility, he shares his one-room Regional Office in Uyo with interns but he refuted the claim “My enemy is not a Fulani, Yoruba or Hausa person. The real enemy is Akwa Ibom person who does not believe in me or who does not want me to grow. For instance, my brother executed a contract some years ago for the state government. Yet, he had to beg a Hausa man to plead the state government to pay the contract sum to him. Does that make sense? Who then is my real brother? Is it Akwa Ibom man who refused to help or the Hausa man who intervened for my brother?”
The stoutly built father of two adjusted his pair of eye glasses, declaring “If you reach out to some of them, they can easily help you. But some of our Akwa Ibom brothers are unwilling to help our own. Establish a business now, yet some of us won’t patronise you. Start a business now, some may not want to grow the business for you. Why is it so? It is unfortunate.”
On Ruga settlement proposed by the Federal Government, the University of Nsukka trained-journalist said “Some of my friends suggested that we should stop eating cow meat brought from the North. I opposed the idea on the grounds of flimsiness. Is that the way out of Ruga settlement the Federal Government wants to establish in different parts of the country? No.
“If we want to stop eating cows, what about our brothers who are butchers or traders? What business do we give or suggest to them and how prepared are we to support them? Again, what strategies do we adopt to stop Ruga settlement in our communities? It is not a Facebook issue. We go to Facebook and make noise, yet other people are busy strategizing on what to do. For example, the Igbos in Uyo meet every Sunday and strategise on their well-being. Do Akwa Ibom do same or do they go to radio or Facebook to make noise? Let us sit down and plan for the unity of the state as other tribes are doing,” the uncompromising but humane person pointed out.
Speaking on Ibom Deep Seaport, a state government’s signature project, prolific Ukpong volunteered his opinion thus “We are talking about Ibom Deep seaport. Some people from other tribes have bought parcels of land in Ibaka in case the project takes off. Yet, our people are busy selling land to them. Tomorrow, our people will complain that they have marginalised or shortchanged. Let us think and take a decisive action to benefit immensely from the project.”
Harping on the need for educational growth in the state, he did not lag behind in pouring his fecund mind thus, “What type of education are we bequeathing to our children in state? If I have an opportunity, I will send Akwa Ibom children abroad to study in ivy league universities. I will not publish such stride on the social or mass media. I will do so quietly just to shock some Nigerians in the future. At time comes, many Nigerians will be shocked realise the stride.
“Tomorrow, the graduates will come and control some vital sectors in the country and other people will ask you: How did it happen? Look at the the graduates, ex-Governor Victor Attah sent overseas. Some of them are PH.d holders while others are professors. Again, I will build better, standard schools, equip them with more learning/teaching facilities and train teachers in order to improve the standard of education in our state.”
However, he flinched on the lackaisical attitude “Unfortunately, some our children are not willing to learn. They get qualifications, yet they cannot put into practice what they learnt in the school. Look at journalists. We have many schools of Mass Communicatios in the state, yet how many students are serious to practice the profession. Advertise for positions and many coming may not be able to give you what you want.”
Again, he could not shield his frustration over inability of some Akwa Ibom professionals to access information “Some lawyers do not have access to information. Even most professionals. Check the meaning of ‘access’ in the dictionary and you will agree with me. It is not enough to know something or have knowledge about an issue, but do you know to impart the knowledge or champion the issue? This the problem most professionals in our state are facing.
The large-hearted and visionary person observed “We have many people in our state with great talents. Yet, do we develop the talents? I try to encourage many young boys and girls to develop theirs. We should not asphyxiate the entrepreneurial spirit of young entrepreneurs in the state.”