Asaba Boat Mishap: How to Be And Not to Be Governor

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By James Eze AGN

“you are not governor (only) when people are celebrating. At times like this, you are their governor too. You become the mourner in chief” Gov. Umo Eno

The world saw how Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State went to the humble home of the late Nollywood make-up artist, Abigail Frederick who drowned in a boat accident with our brother and Nollywood star, Junior Pope, to commiserate with the family. This was even as the late artist was not a citizen of his state, Akwa Ibom. She was from neighbouring Cross River State.

At the visit, the governor sat with them, spoke kind words to them and gave them comforting hugs. Tell me anything that could be more therapeutic for the family than that.

He went on to offer them the following:

  1. The body of the girl that was earlier buried by the riverside, as the family could not meet the traditional requirements for its release to them, would be exhumed and returned for proper burial by the family at home.
  2. He offered an automatic employment to the sister of the deceased.
  3. He offered to complete the father’s building where the family live.

Welcome to Enugu where it took nearly a week before the state government could find it fit to react to this benumbing tragedy that also dimmed one of Enugu’s brightest stars in the skies of the Nigeria movie industry. And this was after much condemnation and pressure by an outraged citizen.

Those of us in Nollywood, and the entire entertainment industry in the state, are finding the whole thing more melodramatic than anything we could have ever depicted in movies. This pattern of lack of care and concern at the highest level is a huge concern to all of us flying the flag of the state in the entertainment industry, giving the role motivations play in the entertainment and sports arena.

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Even when the government finally woke up, it was only through a statement by the commissioner for information as mum remains the word from the governor who could not even send his memo loving SSG to issue yet another one on this.

Enugu used to play a big role in the film industry in Nigeria until it naturally relocated out of the state due to tepid government involvements in the sector. As Enugu’s loss became Delta’s gain, Asaba is now the booming host and locations for the many productions going on there all year round. This one Junior Pope and his unfortunate colleagues had found themselves on a boat in a river to access locations, was just one of them.

When herdsmen killed citizens recently both in Isi-Uzo and Uzo-Uwani, there was no ‘pim’ from Governor Peter Mbah. It was when citizens started talking that the state spin doctors said he was the one who sent the state commissioner of police. It is so disheartening that the state lost her citizens the way it did and the governor just carried on like nothing happened, and would only have his commissioner release a statement about Junior Pope after citizens literally held them by the scruff.

The level of sadistic aloofness of Governor Peter Mbah is extremely worrisome. He doesn’t also identify with citizens during their joyful moments. This is added to the constant report that he mostly interacted with the few callers to the government house on Zoom. This has left the people wondering whether their governor is for them, and actually with them.

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However, when he launched his Pinnacle Oil shortly before the election, he was happy to see hundreds of Enugu citizens in Lagos to rejoice with him. Most had sponsored their trips to Lagos themselves. When he was declared the winner, he was happy to see people around him to rejoice and celebrate with him. When he called for a town hall meeting, he was happy to see the hall was not empty as citizens were there with him.

Yet, when the citizens look up to him to lead them through a common period of grief like this, he is nowhere to be seen. It is difficult to categorically say where he is leading from. This can only be from the middle or back, and certainly never from the front as he behaves like what is happening to them is none of his business, forgetting that the state he is presiding and it’s resources he is using as he wished, are theirs.

As Governor Mbah has made himself unreachable, unseeable, and ‘unhearable’ even in moments of unbearable pain as the entirety of Enugu is going through, let him just remain so during the next election campaigns. The people are already noting that only very few of his campaign promises are being kept. And while it is at that, government propaganda is more visible than any real work.

Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State has become the latest to teach Peter Mbah how to be governor. Earlier it was Governor Otti of Abia State through the ground breaking projects he is executing in his Abia State. And each time the people of Enugu pointed out what their neighbour’s governor was doing, his media team responded with photos of the governor on his blue suits.

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What would the propaganda people of our governor say after reading the very empathic words of the good, kind hearted, and fatherly governor of Akwa Ibom State? Who wouldn’t be in a tragedy coping mode in Ukehe and indeed the whole of the state if it was Governor Peter Mbah who had said,“you are not governor (only) when people are celebrating. At times like this, you are their governor too. You become the mourner in chief”?

Leading a state is not all about playing tough and conveying a hard man’s image. This is a civil administration under democracy that requires the highest level of identification with the people. That is the first step towards accountability, that is, the governor’s natural involvement with the people. Nobody would have given a hoot if he was a private citizen.

Governor Umo has ordered for the retrieval of the body of a girl who was not even from his state. If not for the intervention of some kind hearted people who supported the family, Junior Pope would have been by now claimed by the riverbank of Anam.

So far, Governor Mbah has proven to be the most distant, cheerless, unfriendly man to preside over the affairs of Enugu state. Always wearing an expressionless mien, his lack of empathy, compassion, fellowship, social interactions with citizens, put him across as a man on his own personal mission in the state. This is very unfortunate indeed.

Eze, a member of Actors Guild of Nigeria, writes from Enugu

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