Mahatma Ghandi of India once posited that the press is a great power for social transformation. He however warned that if it is misused, it could become a potent weapon of destruction. In essence, the press is like a double edged sword: it can destroy and can build.
While men of goodwill and conscience cash in on the power of the press for societal progress, the parochial and pedestal-minded use the same to malign and pull others down.
The foregoing aptly captures the tragedy of Godswill Akpabio’s traducers. Seeing the towering popularity of the former Akwa Ibom state governor, ex-senator and now minister earned genuinely from the uncommon transformation he is unleashing on the Niger Delta, mischief makers have oiled their character assassination and smear campaign machines to distract him.
To begin with, the detractors found accomplices in an unpopular magazine which in its July edition stood facts on their heads and brought the noble press to disrepute by conniving with corrupt and failed contractors of the NNDC to malign Akpabio.
From personal investigations and minimal research which took me to the Niger Delta for on-the-spot assessment, it is clear that the report in the magazine is incomprehensibly incoherent, based on hearsay and outright fabrication and lies. Throughout the ill-fated report the ethics of journalism was betrayed and the emotion of the writer portends the fact that he was hired to do a hatchet job.
Good character is the single most important attribute of a successful and worthy life. Anyone oblivious of this fact is less than human. The Ministerinister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Akpabio, holds this principle dear, and that is why he strives for excellence and touches lives anywhere and any position he finds himself.
One thing is clear; Senator Akpabio knows exactly what is expected of him and why President Muhammadu Buhari specifically assigned him to the ministry in charge of a region in earnest desire for development. He knew he cannot afford to disappoint the president, hence his decision to dare the ‘undarable.’ He is also aware of the depth of decadence, decay and corruption that had eaten deep into the fabric of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC).
To clear up the inherited mess to enable the NNDC takeoff on a clean slate under his supervision, Akpabio ordered for a forensic audit of the outfit. This bold step angered and pinched the appetite of those who see the NNDC as a cash cow that they must continue to milk at the expense of developing the region.
To get back at Akpabio for daring the ‘undarable’, they have laid a phantom and spurious allegation to the effect that Akpabio paid for a water project not executed. This is a barefaced lie. Who doesn’t know that before Akpabio was appointed minister, the Niger Delta region was a graveyard for abandoned projects? This allegation is certainly not in Akpabio’s character, given his track records as an uncommon transformer.
Which Akpabio are they talking about? Is it the Akpabio who transformed Akwa Ibom state from backward state to an envy of its peers? If he did not steal when he was a chief executive of a state, why now?
Whatever is the intention of these miscreants for spewing out these tissues of lies is as good as dead on arrival. Nobody will buy into their mischief. Without batting an eyelid, it is clear these aggressors are out to tarnish the hard earned reputation of Akpabio for God knows what. They had tried unsuccessfully to use a campaign of calumny to stop him from becoming a minister but they failed. Because they are recalcitrant and unrepentant liars and trouble makers, they will never relent.
But President Buhari who appointed Akpabio knows his pedigree and trust in his unfathomable level of honesty. Their deliberate, premeditated effort to undermine the credibility Akpabio is dead on arrival.
One, they claimed that Akpabio who was democratically elected governor twice and senator is averse to the niceties of democracy. Does this make any sense to a discerning mind? In their desperation to drive home their illogicalities, they alleged that Akpabio’s philosophy is “Anything money cannot buy, more money can buy it.” This is also not true! As a lawyer, Akpabio is steeped in the value of transparency. It is important to drum into these undesirable elements that Akpabio has proven over and over again that he can be trusted with resources and he will get results.
The sponsored report is a smear campaign and nothing more. It is corruption fighting back. The problem is the guts to call for forensic of NNDC projects. It is on record the victims of the forensic audits have rolled out billions of naira to sponsor campaign of calumny and character assassination against Akpabio.
The whole attempt is like trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. If Akpabio had stolen Akwa Ibom blind as claimed by the ill-fated report, how come he was able to record such monumental achievements?
The writer also claimed in his report that Akpabio has resorted to collecting between 10 and 15% contract sum from communities, if their projects must be approved. This also is brazen and concocted lies. The story doesn’t add up, to say the least.
It was claimed in the absurd report that Akpabio abdicated the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting and relocated to Port Harcourt. The magazine is a den of falsehood and mischief makers that must not be taken seriously.
All well-meaning Nigerians should disregard the fabricated allegations as Akpabio is throwing everything to the works to sanitise the hitherto chaotic NNDC operation. It is a smear campaign aimed at diverting attention from the matter in question and onto a specific individual or group.
Ibrahim is director of communication and strategic planning of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).