Ini Ememobong’s model of humanizing politics
By Edidiong Udobia
“I want to thank Obong Ememobong Essien because his stock has produced the strength of the party today”. That was the Akwa Ibom state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Obong Paul Ekpo paying special tribute to Nkpisong Ememobong Essien, during Governor Udom Emmanuel’s meeting with stakeholders and elders of Uyo Senatorial District PDP at the party’s secretariat, last Tuesday. Obong Ememobong Essien is the father of the PDP state publicity secretary, Comrade Ini Ememobong. Like the scripture says, a wise son brings honour to the father, Paul Ekpo’s tribute to Obong Essien was in recognition of Ini Ememobong’s impressive performance as the party’s publicity secretary.
I had barely known Comrade Ini Ememobong, when I first heard his “we should humanize politics and not politicalize humanity” advocacy. His message was simple; let’s promote the humanity in politics rather than promote the politics in humanity. Politics and humanity are not just two sides of the same coin but are tightly intertwined. American writer, H. Scott Prosterman, in his article, ‘Politics and Humanity’, said “…one’s politics is defined by one’s sense of humanity, or the lack thereof.” In addition, one of the definitions of humanity is “the quality of being benevolent”. It therefore means that humanity is the conscience of politics. It is the compassionate side of politics. But the big question is, beyond just preaching the message, how has Ini Ememobong walked the talk?
My first personal contact with Mr. Ememobong was when he served as Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel. Not much impact was felt, probably because it was a brief stint, or perhaps due to the constraints of the office. On May 10, 2016, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in line with her constitution, held her state congresses across the country, and Mr. Ini Ememobong was elected the state publicity secretary of the party. Prior to his emergence, the publicity department of the PDP was almost never heard of. The deadness of the PDP’s publicity arm gave the All Progressives Congress, APC in the state, particularly, her then publicity secretary, Engr. Ita Awak, the audacity to roar. It was a roller-coaster for the opposition. Coupled with a number of undemocratic and antiegalitarian
dispositions of the PDP then, survival was an uphill battle for the party even with a very weak opposition. But two years after the election of the current state Exco of the party, the table seems to have completely turned. The PDP seems to be living true to her name.
Shortly after Ini Ememobong’s election, the publicity secretariat blew a deafening horn to signal the arrival a rebranded PDP ship. It was the birth of The Scroll, a monthly publication of the PDP. Besides just being the first of its kind, the Scroll came at the time when there was a huge gap between the leadership of the party and the people at the grassroots. The greatest undoing of the party at that time was having a large crowd of uninformed supporters spread across the state, especially in rural communities. They were the real loose cannons because they were easily manipulated. The Scroll bridged that gap. For instance, since the birth of the publication, PDP members in the remotest part of the state know where to get the authentic list of party delegates, elected officials and are kept abreast with the happenings in the party. The former system of keeping the people aloof was a great disservice not only to the people, but to the party. In the words of Robin Morgan, “Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” The translation of the publication into Efik is the icing on the cake; this means that no one is left out. The Scroll has since become a household item for members and friends of the party. This was the beginning of the demystification of the PDP.
While PDP faithful were still basking in the euphoria of a rebranded party, the publicity secretariat launched another first-of-its-kind, The Umbrella Show, a weekly radio magazine. The programme, which started like every other radio show, with interviews, news, quizzes with prizes etc, has now become a major source of support for young and outstanding entrepreneurs in the state regardless of party affiliations, with the coming of the Umbrella Business Quest. The quest sees young entrepreneurs compete for startup capital of two hundred and fifty thousand (N250,000) naira for grand prize, one hundred and fifty thousand (N150,000) naira for first runner-up, one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) naira for second runner-up and lots of consolation prizes. So far, two seasons have been completed and no fewer than six young entrepreneurs in the state have been financially empowered. Interestingly, at the presentation of cheques to the winners of season two of the quest, last Tuesday, Governor Udom Emmanuel promised that each of the winner will be given additional one million, five hundred thousand (N1,500,000) naira each. A food vendor, Mrs. Grace Bassey popularly known as Eka Udo, who received a Business Icon Award of five hundred thousand (N500,000) naira, was also promised additional one million, five hundred thousand (N1,500,000) naira by the governor. In addition, the state government also took over the treatment of Eka Udo, who suffered a serious eye impairment sometime last year. While kudos must be given to the PDP and the state government for this magnanimity, we must not forget to tell Ini Ememobong to “come out and take a bow”.
The season three of the Umbrella Business Quest is on, and from the progress so far, the radio show has become the toast of Akwa Ibom audience. Besides the prize money that these young entrepreneurs compete for, the exposure that they get through the radio programme also counts for something. Having the opportunity to talk about their businesses on radio remains one of the best opportunities these young people can get to promote themselves and their businesses. It is not the duty of the publicity secretary of any party to push for the development of young people in business, but man is kind in nature, and for Ini Ememobong, there is no particular office suitable for the display of this kindness. The Umbrella Show has also become a meeting point between the government and the governed, and this has gone a long way to build a public goodwill for the government and the party. While most public office holders, even the elected ones, choose to lament over lack of resources, berate opposing government and party for unemployment and poverty, Mr. Ememobong has created a viable platform for young people to get significant financial aid from the government.
Ini Ememobong has further demonstrated his model of humanizing politics in his personal capacity. From his reward system, which is a departure from what is obtainable in our politics, to his intervention and empowerment programmes. It is on record that through the Ini Ememobong Foundation, he has funded scholarships and other educational aids to majority of primary and secondary school students in his community. “The future of school children in Primary School, Use Ndon in Ibiono Ibom local government area looks brighter with the assistance being provided by a son of the soil in the area of computer education, literary skills, motivational coaching and spiritual guidance. He has also sponsored Mathematics quiz competitions for school children in the area as a way of stimulating their mental ability and numerical skills in a society where science and technology education have become a major curriculum focus”, writes Etorobong Inyang of The Edge News. According to Inyang, through the foundation, Mr. Ememobong provided a well-equipped computer centre to promote computer education among the children of the area, adding that “the centre will also serve as a computer-based test centre for candidates preparing for the JAMB examinations”.
The PDP spokesman has also been committed to the development of the youths of his immediate community, Use Ndon. His commitment was manifested when he sponsored some youths of the area on a three year training in furniture making at Ephra-Wood Company, Uyo. He has gone on to sponsor many other young people in various trainings and skills acquisition. It is interesting to note that what many elected office holders are either unable or struggling to do, Ini Ememobong is doing them effortlessly. Very commendable is his commitment to end the agelong tradition political slavery where young people work like elephants but eat like ants. This is revealed his reward system, which has seen some members of staff of the publicity secretariat become land and car owners within the last two years. Without any gainsaying, the PDP publicity secretary is not a utility player for the party, but the best lobbyist the government has. Since he came on board, he has deployed the best strategies to win supports for the government and the party. He has indeed, humanized politics. Little wonder why the PDP state chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo paid that special tribute to Nkpisong Ememobong Essien. And, because I heard it from the horse’s mouth, I can say without any fear of contradiction that for the success of the current Akwa Ibom state PDP, Ini Ememobong, sure deserves some accolades.
Edidiong Udobia writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.