OMINOUS Signs: PRESS Censorship In AKWA Ibom State

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Governor Udom Emmanuel

As part of activities to mark the 2016 Democracy Day, I had been scheduled for a live interview on Team Nigeria, a private radio programme anchored by Aniekan Udosen on Planet FM 101.1 on Monday May 30, 2016 by 11 am to discuss the 17 years of democracy in Nigeria including Akwa Ibom State. I was expected to highlight crucial issues that have emerged during this period, identify challenges and profer solutions to these challenges. Further, I was expected to critically analyse the 365 days of President Muhammadu Buhari Presidency, the Udom Emmanuel administration and other sundry matters as it pertains to good governance both in Akwa Ibom State in particular and Nigeria in general.

As soon as I arrived the station, the General Manager, Mr. Sunday Edet, accosted the anchorman, Aniekan Udosen, at the studio and in my presence, sternly warned that he must abide by their earlier agreement and that under no circumstances should I make any reference, direct or implied, to the Akwa Ibom State government and the Peoples’ Democratic Party during the interview. I was stunned by this brash guideline and asked why it had to be that way. Sunday Edet retorted that Planet Radio Station must be protected and his job must not be threatened; and that I should just restrict myself to the one year old President Buhari’s administration. I reminded him that the theme of the interview was to appraise 17 years of democracy in Nigeria. He simply insisted that I must not make any reference to Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s interview on Channels TV nor mention any matter relating to the Akwa Ibom State Government. In fact, to ensure that his instruction was complied with, he decided to remain inside the studio room throughout the short span the interview lasted.

The interview commenced with an appraisal of the major policy thrust of President Buhari’s Presidency and APC government in the last one year with regard to anti-corruption. Naturally, I observed that the economic quagmire we have found ourselves today in Nigeria was the direct consequence of the uncommon roguery, the fiscal irresponsibility and impunity and rascality that characterised the manner that the PDP national and state leaders conducted the business of governance in the last 16 years. Further, I noted that judging by the miniscule that EFCC investigations have revealed of the mind-boggling looting of our collective patrimony by officials and agents of the PDP government at all levels, it was imperative that President Buhari should wage a strenuous battle to restore some sanity in our public service.

To corroborate my point, I was trying to call attention of listeners to an earlier statement credited to the Speaker of Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Barr. Onofiok Luke, to the effect that the Federal Government should return the recovered looted funds to the state from where such funds were looted, when, without any warning, the General Manager hurriedly switched off the mixer himself. The Anchor person and I were stunned by his reaction and enquired what prompted such brash conduct. He replied that I was warned not to mention any official of Akwa Ibom State Government. With uncharacteristic rudeness, Sunday Edet charged that he did not want to lose his job. Mr. Aniekan Udosen, the Anchor person, noted that my reply was appropriate and in the right context, but the General Manager insisted that under no circumstances should I mention anyone involved with Akwa Ibom State government regardless of the issue at hand or context.

I then asked the General Manager, Mr. Sunday Edet, why he was trying to censor my interview and he replied that he had received clear instructions that Ita Awak must not be allowed to say anything about Akwa Ibom State Government nor anyone involved with the government during the interview. Aware that this interview was well advertised and in other not to disappoint our listeners, I asked that we be put back on air and that I was going to seriously strain myself to tolerate the silly gag just this once.

This censoring and unbecoming drama lasted for about eight minutes in the studio. As soon as we were back on air, I apologised to listeners about the sudden break in transmission and informed them of my travails at the studio. In my characteristic style, I told our listeners that I was being heckled and censored by the management of Planet FM; as such, we would do our utmost to remain within the censored limits imposed upon me by Planet FM. As soon as I said that, the General Manager again switched off the studio mixer. Again, I asked why he put off the mixer. He angrily retorted that I should not have informed listeners that I was being censored at the station. At this point, Sunday Edet said the interview programme will not continue and ordered Aniekan Udosen and I out of the Planet Radio station.

In all honesty, we are alarmed with the new attitude of Planet Radio to both censor themselves and particularly APC from airing those views that they consider critical of the PDP government in Akwa Ibom State. We cannot help but wonder when Planet Radio, a private and independent radio station who used to provide an equal opportunity platform for the canvassing of divergent viewpoints, an attribute which endeared them to Akwa Ibom people and gained them goodwill, respect and credibility for their balanced reportage suddenly metamorphose into the mouthpiece of the government. We have observed that since the inauguration of the current PDP government in Akwa Ibom State on May 29, 2015, the Planet Radio station has done nothing to stop officials of the PDP government from criticising the APC national government or insulting the person of President Muhammadu Buhari.

This trend is very worrisome and is reminiscent of the dark and fascist PDP regime of Mr. Godswill Obot Akpabio. We recall very sadly that the government of Akpabio started by trying to gag the late Chief Edet Esio Ononokpono, a chieftain of the former Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. This character eventually snowballed into state-sponsored kidnapping and killing of perceived political opponents. It is our fervent hope that the government of Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel will not tread that horrendous, bloodied and condemnable path of his predecessor.

Publicity Secretary
APC, Akwa Ibom State.

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