Reviewing parallax view of heroism
This piece which may be viewed as a review of Ray Ekpu’s column in Newswatch edition of November 2, 1987, got inspiration from separate actions recently taken by two group of persons that tend to refute thematic message conveyed in that column. They are Ukanafun Professionals’ Association, otherwise called UK-Pro, and Uyo Book Club.
Peopled by few indigenes of Ukanafun local council residing in some Nigerian cities and in the Diaspora, the Uk-Pro is making quest through advocacy and socio-cultural orientation for commensurate, comprehensive and sustainable development of Ukanafun community, where Ekpu hails from. Founded by Udeme Nana, a Mass Communication scholar with passionate drive for advancement of intellectualism, Uyo Book Club is on speedy drive to rejuvenate reading culture, which is dangerously speeding on reverse gear.
On August 6, Uyo Book Club put together a “special reading session” in honour of Ekpu, whose birthday anniversary was due that Sunday. The modest gathering was intellectually stimulating and socially hilarious.
Almost everyone in the Shakespeare Room at Watbridge hotel where the event took place took pride in having certain unique identification with Ekpu. This writer, who was accorded a privilege to read some excerpts of Ekpu’s published works, got a marked recognition not because of doing anything spectacular but only on account of being the only person at the event that attended one of the two primary schools that Ekpu passed through – Qua Iboe Church Group School Ikot Akpa Idem in present day Ukanafun.
Given the fact that he has not appeared in his weekly column in The Guardian, Daily Independent and Daily Sun in recent time, what probably would have been Ekpu’s take on the trending issue of “let the poor breathe” has been missed at the moment. But as timelessness, if not prophetic, as the works of every creative and inspirational writer remain, Ekpu’s position resurfaced that Sunday and gave a soothing balm to readers who have been flipping pages and searching website of newspapers for his view on how those who are rich through political offices think of the “poor” who have been the worst hit from pangs of anti-people policies and the prodding of those in power.
“Nigeria’s New Religion” in Newswatch issue of November 16, 1987, which I read some portions not unconsciously, dwelt on the plan by the Ibrahim Babangida-led federal government “to jack up the prices” of petroleum products through subsidy removal.
The column’s currency remains intact: “As the cost of these services go up, so as the frustration of lower income Nigerians, a. k. a. the poor. The poor, regrettably, have been at the receiving end of ministerial jokes. Poor bashing has, in recent times, become the favourite pastime of some ministers who have, in the public profile and statements, managed to exhibit suffocating arrogance of colonial administrators by putting their ministerial feet in their ministerial mouths.”
He added that government “is about the welfare of the people, rich and poor alike.” Asserting that the poor and the weak constitute Nigeria’s largest population, Ekpu sermonised that “it is more of the poor and the weak that any sensitive government ought to cater for, since the rich and the powerful can adequately cater for themselves.” The column concluded: “if nothing can be done to reduce the present suffering of Nigerians, nothing should be done to accentuate it.”
While Uyo Book Club has had a very successful outing, the UK-Pro chaired by Prince Ekong Udom, which, early this year, mooted an idea of commemorating Ekpu’s 50 years in journalism with a colloquium on the place of our villages in the global village, has started moving the plan from drawing board to its proposed site. By the time the UK-Pro’s initiative comes into full implementation, it would add impetus to that of Uyo Book Club and other organizations and persons in refuting, to some degree, Ekpu’s column of November 2, 1987, which had the headline, “Parallax view of Heroism.”
Although Parallax view of Heroism appeared to be in remembrance of Dele Giwa, Ekpu’s friend and first Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch, whose column, Parallax Snap, was suddenly restricted to achieve following his assassination on October 19, 1986, the piece was bemoaning African nations’ attitude of “the proverbial cow that does not value her tail until she loses it.” Ekpu mentioned Thomas Sankara, whom he said was “manifestly honest and manifestly committed to the liberation of the black person”, Obafemi Awolowo, whose “political sagacity and economic pragmatism were virtually lost to most Nigerians while he lived” as well as Samora Machel, first President of Mozambique.
In the category of living legend then that the Nigerian society did not consider worth of honouring, Ekpu mentioned Wole Soyinka, Bala Usman, Gani Fawehinmi and Balarabe Musa. He concluded by decrying that our society “tends to have parallax view of heroism, the kind of view that permits the acknowledgement of a man’s contribution to the society only when he is six feet down.
The renowned journalist from a remote village called Ikot Udo Ossiom in Akwa Ibom could be said to be one of the few persons that has not been caught in the cobweb of proverbial scriptural saying that prophets lack honour at their hometowns. When he was awarded 1987 International Editor of the year, the authority of his native local council in Ukanafun caused the people to roll out drums.
The Mass Communication department of Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic at Ikot Osurua is named after him. In 2021, Inoyo Toro Foundation, an exceptional NGO that has been pushing for eradication of poverty through empowerment of teachers and other professionals, endowed Ray Ekpu Award for Investigative Journalism in Akwa Ibom.
Until Nana came up with “Rare Ray”, a tribute to Ekpu at 75, so many people were of the view that Ekpu has only been a thorn in the flesh of some Nigerian power brokers, who, in turn, used to pay him back by putting him in docks and behind bars time and again. From Nana’s revelation, there have been other casualties on account of Ekpu’s celebrity status in journalism.
This category of casualties, like victims of rape, may find difficult to narrate their ordeals. One of such person has been a final year Mass Communication student who was then glowing with freshly accoutrements of girlishness and joy of about bagging a college degree, as well as having a husband in-the-waiting. In pre-marriage interview by her suitor, she did not know anything about Ray Ekpu. The marriage proposal crashed abruptly.
From a source worth relying on, one of the reasons Udom Inoyo, former Vice Chairman of Exxon Mobil companies in Nigeria and founder of Inoyo Toro Foundation, was coldly treated in the build-up to 2023 general elections by political establishment led by Udom Emmanuel was the foundation’s institution of award in honour of Ekpu. The envy and contempt trailing that lofty gesture got worst in that the maiden edition of the award was won by Uyo-based journalist called Ekemini Simon, whose investigative reports sometimes brought alleged illicit act of the Akwa Ibom State government to public attention.
Notwithstanding few exceptions, Parallax view of Heroism still holds sway in many instances. Although he played substantial role in the creation of Kogi State in 1991, Yakubu Mohammed, another highflying journalist and co-founder of Newswatch, seems to be given identification of an outcast by the powers-that-be in the state. At a certain time, Ekpu himself was once given some sort of pariah recognition by certain persons at top echelon of societal scheme of things in Akwa Ibom.
Ekpu has been attributing his relative success and professional accomplishment to God, and not any extraordinary actions of his. It could be added that God or divine power functions most times on humans through instrumentality of other humans or other earthly beings. Let the instruments of such honour keep functioning.
Ekanem sent this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org
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