By Ubong Sampson
I have read a few bible stories of how God punished people by giving them a bad king. Whenever any of those stories flashes in my mind, it reminds me of my place of origin, Mkpat Enin. Local government elections will hold, chairmen of councils will emerge and get sworn into office, but while other local government areas will start counting testimonies, I mean, genuine testimonies shortly after, the case of Mkpat Enin and its indigenes will be that of negative surprises and regrets. Why always Mkpat Enin?
For the records, it is barely three years since Mkpat Enin was freed from the grip of Ephraim Akpan – our immediate past elected chairman that turned out to be an affliction sent upon us all the from Etinan. Though it took us one year to wholeheartedly celebrate that freedom because within this one year, one clueless woman who bears Ekaette Usip as name was inflicted upon us, it was no stress bearing the pains from this one, since we were confident her reign will pass as hurriedly as it came. However, this confidence was threatened when the clueless woman declared to seek election into same office as elected chairman. GOD FORBID! That is what nearly all of Mkpat Enin screamed when we heard of her declaration. The few people who did not shout were those who tried using some external forces to impose her on the people. Thank God the people resisted.
In the build up to the last local government election that eventually held in December 2017, came this man that looked so promising. In fact, in the midst of mostly confused and clueless contenders, he appeared like the heaven sent lamb that was to replace and save Isaac in Abraham’s sacrificial package. Then came the chairmanship debate which I led the organizing team, this man who goes by the name Ekanem Brown, stood before Mkpat Enin indigenes and before the media lenses, unveiling several boxes and packages of promises for Mkpat Enin and its people. This man came from the private sector with one or more successful business to his name, and when he won, there were high expectations from the people. For once, our confidence level could rise, thinking that with a man who had shown such sense of responsibility in his personal life, our collective wealth was marked safe.
In a mandate of 36 months given to Ekanem Brown to run the council of Mkpat Enin as chairman, 18 months is so far spent. The question is, what significant change(s) has this man brought to meet, or at least, begin the process of meeting the expectations his people had in him? In all fairness and honesty, this guy has been an epidemic, call it a box of mess if you wish, and you will be so right. Once in an argument with a colleague, I was forced to rate him worse than that Etinan imposed predecessor of his: this colleague of mine almost took off my neck for saying so. In my defence, I had explained to him that the case of Ephraim was better. First, we know what imposed candidates turn out to be in public office, so we had very little or (in my case) no expectations at all from him. Secondly, the man did not disappoint us at all. He was just the way we predicted him to be and he wasted no time in showing us the reality that had befallen us and that helped us to learn faster, how to live with it for the 3 years he was to hold sway in the council.
Enter Ekanem Brown, he got down to the people prior to his election, making us believe that since he was coming from the people, he was going to be with and serve for the people. He came with promises to turn Mkpat Enin into a mini heaven. He promised to build bridges even where there are no rivers. He promised to create one thousand jobs, and even told us there were so much gold littered on the streets of Mkpat Enin that needed someone like him to teach us how to find and pick the gold. We took all of these, despite being used to these lines by politicians, only to wake up to realize this guy was worse than the “april fool” pranks.
He barely started his tenure, when his media hirelings took to the internet to display photos of him meeting with some gentle looking men in suits, claiming they were bank staff with whom he (Mr Chairman) was negotiating on having their branches sited in the area. This is 18 months and we are still looking for the signpost of any bank. None in sight yet. If anyone has seen any, let him kindly direct me to it. The only thing this opportunist chairman of my local government area has been good at is taking advantage of the free access to media spaces to deceive people with photos of stale or nonexistent projects. For instance, chairman will visit his personal farm and his hirelings will suggest that it will be a good political point to score if shots of him in the farm are taken and shared on the internet as part of the projects of his administration. Of course, a clueless chairman will have no choice than nod his head in approval. You can imagine how low one can go to cover his cluelessness and failure. Several times, Mr. Chairman has been asked to render accounts of council funds channeled into the farms and the whereabouts of the proceeds from the farms, but each time such issue is brought up, reverend father must miss church sermon.
Sometime last year or the year before, Mr. Chairman launched a programme he tagged, Colours Of Mkpat Enin. According to him when he had the privilege of briefing me of the event, it was supposed to be a culture and unity promoting carnival that will bring some economic benefits to the area, especially the commercialists. No doubts, the event held successfully and gladly happens to be the only thing useful which he can claim for his administration. But the economic benefits? There was nothing compared to the amount of money expended by the council in the said event, except the economic benefits that went the way of his immediate family members to whom all the business spaces were allotted. The number of scandals that have trailed the carnival alone is enough to reshape the culture of Mkpat Enin. For instance, the young girl that won the beauty pageantry is still begging the chairman and his organizers to return the car she won as prize. Only an extraordinary chairman will attach a prize to a contest, and will take the car back from the winner after the contest for reasons best known to him. Even if the rumours that turning down sexual overtures from him and his organizers was the reason the car was taken back from the girl is true, it is still best known to them. But in all, shouldn’t Mr. Chairman be celebrated for this one mega project? I heard he was fanning himself and bragging about how he brought nollywood stars to Mkpat Enin. I am still researching to find out how much in naira and kobo, the presence of the Nollywood stars translated into the area’s treasury.
A little luck stood on his side when Ime Uwah, in his official capacity, went visiting the area. Mr. Chairman saw a good opportunity to mobilize his unpaid shoe factory staff back to work site, where his aides could take photos and disturb the internet with more lies about a dormant and redundant shoe factory. The visit revived his energy, reason he came out few days ago with empty and uncoordinated rants about how some persons have been attacking his administration. Truth is, his treacheries, shams and ineptitude had gotten so loud that some young progressive indigenes of the area took to the social media space, demanding accounts of stewardship from him. Rather than do what is honorable of a public servant, he went unleashing his media hirelings to blackmail the young men. Having consequently provoked them into exposing his lies and deceits, he is now ranting and crying victim.
I heard he was recently given one waggish and amusing award. There was a trailing rumour that he used one of his aides to lobby for the award. I will however shove that because there is no convincing proof so far. I also heard he was partying over the award and gave his urchins and ragamuffins standing orders to make so much about it in the media. Well, that is the bad side of the media – the commercial aspect. With your money in hand, you can get airtime or media space to publicize whatever mendacities you wish to, provided you take responsibility for it. I have been trying to reach the organizers of that commercial award show, so as to ask them if the award was for my chairman’s cluelessness, incompetence or nepotism. Could it have been a recompense for deceiving the public about opening shoe factory that has been under lock and key, because there has been no patronage and those staff have not been paid for months? Okay, I guess it was for the carnival and the jamb forms he purchased for about 50 Mkpat Enin indigenes. Those are award winning achievements, aren’t they? So why can’t I join the tens of sycophants to commend my chairman for the giant strides of buying jamb forms for a whopping 50 people? I just did. Of course, a chairman who rummages knee-level weeds with his legs to enter his office because he thinks keeping the council arena clean is not part of his duties, should be awarded. A chairman who can invite guests from far and near to an event in the council hall which is in a very terrible state, deserves to be awarded as well, even though I had thought that an organized and responsible man is known by his surroundings.
His counterparts in other areas are grading roads and investing in other visible projects that are beneficial to their indigenes, but in my place, my Blind Bartimaeus chairman is still trying to find his feet. He only sleeps and wakes up to claim a shoe factory that was not built by him, neither has he been able to make anything meaningful out of it. This is a chairman that was telling us how he will create a thousand jobs. I have his manifesto in video and written records. He was wondering why a council chairman would sit to depend only on the statutory monthly allocation, but today, one of his major excuses for the gross failure is “lean resources”.
A chairman that is claiming to be productive, yet, cannot cater for members of his executive council who are in their own respect, images of his administration. His vice, and councilors are groaning in pains. But not for the little they could afford before the council job, the vice chairman and secretary of my local government would still be jumping keke, while Mr. Chairman is busy amassing wealth for his family and private businesses.
Finally, having turned out this way, we have had to accept our fate and ask God for forgiveness, in case we are suffering for our sins or that of our ancestors. In the last elected administration, we had an Etinan cabal to blame for imposing the first affliction on us, as well as our stakeholders too for not standing up against it. This time, no one has any blame to take because we collectively made the mistake. We saw a box made of gold and went for it, little did we know that it was full of mess. It is usually said that affliction never rises a second time, but in Mkpat Enin, we have seen it. We can only resort to putting out faiths together in appeal to the forces of nature that this affliction never gets to rise a third time.
UBONG SAMPSON (08021419939) IS A PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST.