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WAR SONG

Posted by By JOE EFFIONG, Uyo on 2008/03/28 | Views: 664 |

WAR SONG


The battle line seems to have been drawn between Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio and one of the prominent daughters of the state, Chief Christy Essien-Ibokwe, the erstwhile songstress-turned business woman.

• Former singer, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, raises hell over printing press

The battle line seems to have been drawn between Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio and one of the prominent daughters of the state, Chief Christy Essien-Ibokwe, the erstwhile songstress-turned business woman.

The bone of contention between the duo is a certified rusty printing machine said to have cost N200million but now lying fallow at the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC), the publishers of the state-owned Pioneer Newspapers.

Akpabio is trying to replace the press with a new one said to have the capacity to perform printing wonders as obtained in other newspaper houses in the country, but Essien-Igbokwe has threatened Akpabio to dare replace the machine and find himself in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) cell after his tenure.

The petition by the Lady of Songs, as the songstress is fondly called, may not be sent to such retired generals like Ibrahim Babangida and Commodore Idongesit Nkanga or the police top brass, like IGP Mike Okiro and capping it up with President Umar Yar’Adua, just for the love of her state of origin alone, but also for some possible undercurrent socio-economic interest.
The machine at the centre of the dispute was supplied by Chuduak Limited, a company where Christy is the managing director while her husband, Edwin, is the executive chairman.

The petition:
Christy had, in her petition of February 26, 2008 , entitled "Threat To Life," told Akpabio: "I never imagined in my wildest imaginations, that you would ever think of harming me or any member of my family. You know very well that I have honoured you. If anybody should know how much God had used me in your life, such a person would also feel very much disappointed at your alleged actions. You dare challenge me to reveal to the public how I have impacted on your life".

She went on to state how she had received threat texts from Akpabio’s agents and how her husband’s several private letters to the governor, as regards the texts, were ignored. She reproduced the text messages in the petition.

"As it is, I want to let you know that if any harm, physical or spiritual should come to any of my nucleus (sic) or extended family, I shall hold you squarely responsible. I would like to add at this juncture that the age-long agitation by our people, poor me inclusive, led to the creation of our Akwa Ibom State. It belongs to all of us. There is no debating the fact that God, from my humble corner, further used me mightily to abrogate the obnoxious onshore/offshore oil dichotomy."

No reward:
Though claiming to have caused the abrogation of the oil dichotomy, with Attah finally winning the political battle to nail the policy, Essien-Igbokwe said, she never benefited from state government, and that even the land that was allocated to her by Attah’s administration, was blocked by Akpabio as commissioner for lands then, and later as governor.

The printing machine:
The only thing she admitted she ever got from her state was a contract to supply a printing machine at the AKNC since when Lt. Col. Yakubo Bako was military administrator of the state between 1993 and 1995. The contract, she said, was moribund until Attah reactivated it in 1999 for the rotary machine to be delivered in 2000 and which the corporation had been using to print The Pioneer till Akpabio appointed a new general manager for AKNC, in the person of Mr. Udo Silas, leading to the paper being printed on commercial basis in Port Harcourt.

"What is currently on ground is that you appointed yet another general manager with specific instruction to suspend the usage of a working machine immediately. The reason for ordering such action, in respect of a printing machined that had remained in use for daily production of Pioneer Newspaper can only be explained by you.

Counter threat:
Christy has now threatened Akpabio that if he dares to buy a new printing machine with the public fund to replace the current one, which she says is still functional, she would drag the governor to EFCC "or any appropriate corruption body for your prosecution on the issue, immunity or no immunity. You need not waste the people’s money unnecessarily. If you want to loot the state, you can do so through other avenues until you are brought to book."

Enough of the Igbokwes:
But the general manager of AKNC, Mr. Udo Silas, at a press conference, which text he entitled, "Igbokwe’ Enough is Enough," gave a chronology of the printing press supplied by the Igbokwes, and how all efforts made to make it function like similar ones supplied even by the same group to other newspaper houses in Nigeria, were fruitless despite money spent.
"It would be pertinent to mention here that the need for a new modern press for AKNC precedes this present management. It is indeed a pointer to the quality of machine supplied that only one year and some months after the press was put to use, the then production manager, Mr. Boniface Okon, had advised the then board on the need for a new press."

Away with Igbokwes’ machine
Silas says it is obvious that the corporation cannot continue wasting its lean resources on the present machine, which is why it has for now printed Pioneer titles in Port Harcourt on a better machine still supplied by the same Igbokwes at another newspaper house.
"It was precisely the need to ensure that The Pioneer was printed at home that perhaps prompted government to strike a bargain with Igbokwe. But rather than serve that need, Igbokwe only succeeded in taking us back. It is indeed an irony that he seeks the moral high ground rather than keep quiet," Silas said

Igbokwe not quiet:
The Igbokwes appear never prepared to keep quiet as Chief Edwin has reacted to the press conference, describing it as "falsehood on my family by Akpabio men." He denied that the machine was refurbished as alleged but admitted that due to delay in installation occasioned by AKNC bureaucracy, the machine became rusty.

He also denies that the cost of the machine was N200million, but declined to mention the real amount. "If they were not only trying to be very dubious and mischievous, one would not know why they have to crop up such figure without showing payment vouchers or contract papers. What are they trying to justify or prove?"

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