By Ukpong Uke

It is imperative to begin by raising an alarm and alerting the public to a sponsored character assassination that hovers in the media horizon against the person of Engr. Etido Inyang, immediate-past Special Adviser on Technical Matters to former Governor Godswill Akpabio. The sole aim of this hate campaigns against the man which dates back to the early
days of the last administration is to run him down at all cost.

Etido must be buried aground, away from public space at any cost for he is considered a threat to their continued political relevance. In this latest, pending plot that is to go particularly on print media, a faceless youth group with fictitious membership identities was paid few days ago in Ikot Ekpene to sling mud on the name of Etido Inyang. Interestingly, the man Friday who is paid to deliver the job is the only member of this “youth group”.

Huge cash has been made available from the age-long sponsor of the “Etido must be extinguished and cleared off our path campaign” to his media hatchet man for the execution of this dark project that is so dear to them. More cash, as usual, is to be committed into the project as expectations heightens on who will make the cabinet list of the new administration.

A communiqué that is media-bound already has been drafted by this one-man youth group to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on and question the political value of Etido especially in the last elections. But the man, having gotten acclimatized to such desperate shenanigans by his traducers is the least bothered. Falsehood sold in monumental proportions may battle
with the truth for believability for a while, yet the durability of truth will eventually stand.

The youths of Ikot Ekpene and indeed all bearers of truth would agree less. Etido’s contributions, alongside that of Don Etim in the last governorship and other elections were documented and aired. His sole sponsorship of almost all the 11 wards for the elections is a fact nobody can deny. He moved into the opposite camp, discussed, negotiated and won over converts to the Peoples Democratic Party. For the strategic role he played, he was accorded public and warm commendations by the youths and elders of Ikot Ekpene. In the eight years of Akpabio’s administration during which he served, he expanded his generous heart beyond the limits of Ikot Ekpene. The entire state was his constituency. He gives not in trickles but in torrents. His generousness flows effortlessly
because that is the very creed upon which his living depends.

The claim that he “did nothing” either as a cabinet member or in the last elections is mischievous, malicious, and ignorant. Or it isn’t the people of Ikot Ekpene speaking. Etido would not run to the pages of papers to prove a point he has already established for years and counting. Not now, not later.

Doing so would be attempting to negotiate with arrant and blatant falsehood. It would lend a modicum of credibility to the lies. Etido’s foray into politics is disturbing to his traducers. Yet the
man himself has never set out consciously to plan his ascension in politics.

The height he has attained in this regard is correlative to his forthright and decent character. It is inextricably linked. This inherent virtue in him is what shoots him out from the rest. But those bent on piercing through the dagger have refused to come to terms with this fact.

Like he once admitted; “I wasn’t used to politics initially when I found myself in public office but I gradually learnt the ropes and I now have a grasp of the game. It doesn’t mean I will play dirty. No. what it means is that I have to be careful in the way I give out my trust”.

He is in politics yet different from a politician. Any genuine efforts to unravel his personality will remain an interesting mission anytime.

The hard thing would be trying to confine him within a uni-perspective space by way of expressing the essential nature of the man. The reason? He is made up of myriad positives that strikingly overwhelm his zero-level minuses.

Tough yet meek, firm yet bending, strict yet liberal; he is in the words of Everett Dirksen, “A man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times”. Indeed, Engr. Etido has constructed his reputation into a puzzle whose pieces are difficult but fun to unriddle. For “leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character,” (Lewis Lapham); and composure is the first rung of leadership.

My path first crossed that of this topnotch professional and cerebral leader when I was editor in the local press community. After that first meeting, the impression he imprinted on me has stuck. Before our maiden meeting, there was no affinity of any kind. For me, he was just one more government guy on the speed lane of my job.

One of my reporters had the story while I was producing the week’s edition.
He had dashed into the office at first and then sauntered about for less than a minute when he let it out in hard copy. I went through the story and found out that something was missing in the report. It was one of those series of malicious campaigns against him as I eventually came to understand better. I held back and search through my phone contacts unsureif he was in my list as I had never interacted with him. He was. I sent him a curt sms on the story on my table. Approximately thirty minutes later, Etido called to explain that he was outside the country and would have responded sooner to my message if he wasn’t busy when the messaged dropped in his phone. He did not swear threats. He didn’t threaten to
unleash the DSS or police on me. Rather, he spoke with utmost humility, not a feigned one. No! Such humility was at first strange and I was to discover it is his trademark.
Two weeks after, in the dead of the night, at an hour when even the night birds have retired to their haven, my phone rung. I ignored the incoming call at first ring but pressed the answer button the second time. It was this amazing character. He was back in the country in the state precisely.

He offered deep apology for the late call and scheduled a meeting.

That was the meeting that erected the foundation for our friendship though it wasn’t without moments of fierce but honest arguments. He defended the Akpabio administration without a glint of sycophancy. He insisted that his arguments shouldn’t go on the pages of newspaper as he was speaking more from his convictions. This guy is an exception of the pack, I concluded.

When it was time for the Udom governorship deal, his zeal burned bright and clear. He had found his kind….a distinctive and distinguished professional like himself. His commitment went beyond whatever expected gains there were, if any. He was simply infected by the vision. Quietly, he went about the task. In between these moments, I had interacted with him, Etido wasn’t interested in impressing while multitasking for the fruition of the project. This stoic character seems to have developed a tough skin for blackmails.
He understands that the race of life requires composure and calm; not all who starts a race brace the tape. Some miss the mark because they veer off track. Very few men in public office can lay claim to the virtues of Etido Inyang. Now, if this isn’t character, then nothing else is.

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