It was a moment of history for me, a gift of serendipity when the master of ceremonies for Sun newspaper awards, Mr. Gbenga Adeyinka, invited me last Saturday to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to the Deputy Governor of the State. of Akwa Ibom, Mr. Moses Ekpo. It was an improvised setting in which a mentee presented an award to his mentor.
By 1972, I had cut my teeth in journalism under the admirable tutelage of Mr. Ekpo at the Nigerian Chronicle in Calabar where he was the newspaper’s first editor. In 1974 I returned to the newspaper after graduating in 1973 and joining the National Youth Service Corps, but Ekpo had quit the newspaper by then. But his journalism advice has not left me. Ekpo was born on December 22, 1941, three days before being the birthday companion of Jesus Christ. It was during the period of World War II (1939-1945).
It is possible that God allowed him to be born during the hostilities of war as a preparation for the brutal battles of life he had to fight and the hard blows he had to endure. As he entered Holy Family College, Abak in Akwa Ibom State to begin his high school career, he seemed to find writing a business appealing. He would write reports of sporting events and put them on the board for other students to read.
He later became the editor of the school magazine called The Link. The seed of journalism had been planted in him. After graduating from high school, he was eager to find a legitimate job that would save him money for his higher education and help support the family.
When he saw an advertisement for recruiting into the Armed Forces in Enugu, he applied surreptitiously, showed up for the interview, went through all the paperwork and passed. He thought everything had gone well until his angry mother materialized in Enugu and with the cooperation of the expatriate recruiting agent, she brought him home. His ambition to give and receive an intelligent salvation collapsed irreparably. This failure to join the army confirmed his ambition to become a journalist. And journalist, he has become straddling the electronic and print media.
He has worked for the West African Pilot, the Daily Express, the Daily Times and the British Broadcasting Corporation. During the decades he worked in the media, he was everything from proofreader to journalist to editor. His abilities and versatility were enhanced by the fact that he studied in several countries: Nigeria, London Polytechnic in London, Institute of Mass Communication in Berlin, Germany and at the University of Wisconsin, USA.
In the public service, he served as Information Commissioner in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, Board Member of the National Population Commission, diplomat in London, the Americas and Washington, Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, among others. In this office conglomerate, Ekpo had shown dedication, and dedication often leads to the end product called excellence. This is why he was respected wherever he worked either as an employee or as a hiring employee.
Ekpo is a good speaker due to his close affinity with words as a journalist. He is persuasive, but not aggressive, for he is a measured man in speech and manners. It’s charming, the polished version of it, not the eye-catching variety. This is why he makes and keeps friends easily, remembers them and stays in touch with them. Perhaps this is the slice of his character that comes from his background in public relations or his diplomatic engagements or his journalistic maxim of keeping lines of contact open.
These three spheres of his life may also be the reason he developed what I might call an Edwardian sense of decorum, that sense of fairness, fairness and decency, a sense of getting angry and not bring down the walls, be happy and not make others draw bad luck out of your happiness. He remembers his old friends, younger and older, with whom he worked everywhere as if they had all come out of his mother’s womb. It is a unique quality that many of those who have come to the door of success do not have.
Most despise those of their former colleagues who fall short. Ekpo does not. Ekpo is an invigorating company, pleasant to live in, unhappy to part with it. He is a master storyteller who tells stories wrapped around history, memorized history, the media, his community, his country. A lot of it is because journalism is a treasure trove of stories, stories that erupted yesterday, stories that didn’t erupt today, stories that will break tomorrow. Even with all of his accomplishments, Ekpo remained humble but confident. Assurance comes from knowledge, from broad knowledge, from deep knowledge. His knowledge is deep and extensive. His knowledge and his confidence are without arrogance or arrogance because he has his feet on the ground and does not need any validation from anyone.
Ekpo led a noble life which gave him presence, panache and a good car, which together made him a good bridge builder and a good repairman. A part of most journalists’ lives includes coverage of hot spots, areas of conflict and confrontation, weddings, coronations, wars, skirmishes and shootings. These awaken in the life of most journalists emotions such as pathos, love, anger, happiness, sorrow. And when journalists get emotionally involved in the stories they cover, they are able to develop multiple personalities. Many people today don’t appreciate the dignity of work because we live in a country where earning a quick buck is better appreciated than making a valuable contribution in the workplace. It may be a generational disease. Ekpo must have brought the diligence and dignity of hard work taught from his generation to today’s generation who may or may not appreciate him. But it is obvious that he did not remain entrenched in the past. He dresses like a modern man, a man of sartorial elegance. He speaks with the motto of today’s events. Thus, without fear of any contradiction, we can say that it is a bridge between the past and the present.
Ekpo has paid his membership fee. He was stranded in Biafra for 30 months, separated against his will from his relatives. He lost his son in the morning of his life and his wife as their marriage blossomed. He was harassed by armed robbers in his home with the threat of losing his life if he did not cooperate.
He may have been shaken by all these episodes but he remains calm and dignified and easygoing because he is a valiant fighter. Now as Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State for over six years, he has remained steadfast and loyal to Governor Udom Emmanuel. This means that he has faith in himself because as Erich Fromm said: “Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others. This display of loyalty to the governor brought stability to the government and the state.
However, some of his parents from Annangland where he came from accused him of not being able to fight the governor and bring amenities to their communities. I am sure he is able to defend himself but I think their opinion is based on their inability to read the Constitution carefully. The 1999 Constitution states in Article 170 (2) that “the governor of a state is the head of the executive of that state”. As the chief executive, the governor reports primarily to the board of directors, which is made up of the voters.
It should also be noted that a deputy governor is a candidate of the candidate for governor, according to the Constitution. But the most important article of the Constitution which affects a deputy governor is article 193 (1) which states that “the governor of a state may, at his discretion, entrust the deputy governor or any commissioner of the state government responsibility for all affairs of the government of that state, including the administration of any department of government. It is clear from the above that the Constitution does not confer any special function or power on the office of the Deputy Governor.
It operates only at the discretion of the Governor. It would therefore be futile and reckless for Ekpo or any deputy governor to fight with the governor because the governor’s powers are gargantuan. In addition, the governor controls the state stock exchange so that he can secure the removal of his deputy through a cash-and-carry deal with a state assembly. This has happened in several states since 1999. Most of the deputy governors who fight their governors are the ones who want to be appointed governors. In Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s Deputy Governor, Mr. Alfred Agboola Ajayi, was forced to resign on June 21 last year when he defected from the PDP.
He ran for the PDP governorate primaries and lost to Dr Eyitayo Jegede. He scrambled to the Zenith Labor Party, contested and failed miserably. In the Anambra Governorate election scheduled for November 6, Anambra State Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke hoped he would get the APGA governor’s ticket. He didn’t understand it because apparently the party thought Professor Chukwuma Soludo was a better candidate. Now, Mr. Okeke has passed the rug to the APC, but he just jumps out of the frying pan because the APC had already chosen Mr. Andy Uba as a candidate. Mr Okeke is now threatened with impeachment.
In our political context where money is the key word, it is very easy to dismiss a recalcitrant deputy governor like a jig of the foot or lice of the hair. Under the rotation arrangement, Mr. Ekpo would not be qualified to run in the 2023 governorate elections, which will be a matter for the Uyo Senate District. So he has no valid reason to fight the governor. But since there must be reciprocity in loyalty, Mr. Emmanuel is also expected to return Ekpo’s loyalty in the form of amenities to the territory of Moses. It will be another feather in the hat of Moses Ekpo who has performed well as a journalist, diplomat, civil servant, politician and statesman for five decades.