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It was Wednesday, January 4, 2017. The day management of Radar Newspapers fixed as the resumption date for workers in its employ. And so, it was a stressful day in the office for me. After the day’s tasks, I decided to sleep earlier than my normal sleeping time which is 2am. Hence, by 10pm, I shut down all activities and retired to bed. But by 10:42pm, my mobile phone rang with a strange number and I picked the call.

Hello! Who is it? I asked.

Caller: “Good evening Franklyn.”

Me: Good evening, please who am I speaking with?

Caller: You are speaking with Emmanuel, the Personal Assistant to the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Me: Oh! Emmanuel how are you doing?

Caller: I am fine, and you?

Me: I am fine, thank you.

Caller: My boss wants to speak with you, please hold on the line for him.

Me: Okay!

Sen. Akpabio: Franklyn, Happy New Year!

Me: The same to you Distinguished Senator.

Sen. Akpabio: How is everything; how is the media industry in Akwa Ibom?

Me: The industry is doing well, Sir.

Sen. Akpabio: Okay! I just call to say Happy New Year to you.

Me: Oh! Thanks so much Sir. That is so kind of you.

Sen. Akpabio: I used to read your Radar Newspaper very well when I was the Governor. I am sure you never thought that I had time to read all the local newspapers in the state when I was the Governor (laughs). But I used to read them.

Me: Glad to hear this from you.

Sen. Akpabio: On the article you wrote about my coming late to the Solemn Assembly.

Me: Okay! I remember the article.

Sen. Akpabio: It is on your Facebook and other online news platforms.

Me: Okay! I think I have read a couple of some online reports made from the article.

Sen. Akpabio: I want to have an interaction with you, so that you can also know the reason of my coming late to the event, because it wasn’t intentional. I will give you an example; when the government had the (2016) carol night, I was in Port Harcourt for an event; the Governor (Mr Udom Emmanuel) called me to say I should come to Government House so that we can attend the event together.

But, when I got to the stadium in Uyo, I said to myself supposing on my way to Government House, I run into traffic and I miss the Governor, would I be able to make it back to the stadium without arriving late after the governor? So I decided to enter the stadium and wait for the governor instead.

I had to disguise myself with a Toyota Corolla vehicle. I changed my cloths and put on a face cap, so that the people won’t see that I am the one and then, start shouting. I went behind the DStv and entered inside the VIP lounge, but the lounge was locked so I had to use a public toilet by the left hand side of the lounge to change my cloths before they came and opened the VIP lounge for me to stay and wait for the governor to arrive.

When the governor arrived, I went in between the VIP seats to take my seat and the Governor said; ‘when did you arrive?’ I said I was here before you arrived. You see, I was there 30minutes before the governor, because I am not unmindful of the fact that it is important to respect the institution of government.

So such breach of protocol does not happen every day. Coincidentally there were also a few former and serving senators who came after me (at the Solemn Assembly), but that did not seem to attract your attention.

There are two things here: you can come early for an event and you can come a bit late for an event depending on personal reasons. For instance, if you are coming in and the governor has already entered the event, your vehicle could be blocked, because of traffic.

But that is not an excuse, the reality is that it was an unfortunate incident and for me, I will make sure it doesn’t reoccur. And secondly, I also had to show humility, that’s why I did not work to the centre of the event. That’s why I tried to take the back of the canopies to get to my seat, so that I won’t be noticed by the cameras covering the live event.
So when I heard the ovation when they saw me come out of the car, I did not know that the event had already started, what would have happened is that, I would have gone back into my car and sat. But I didn’t know the event has already started until somebody brought to my notice and said Sir, ‘the event has started,’ and I said, oh! My God; I raised my hands and try to calm people down from shouting; and I went through the back and tried to calm them down but, they didn’t want to calm down.

So, I sat behind the women. I refused to move. I said to the women, if you people don’t stop the shouting, I will not move from here. Then, when I wanted to move, unfortunately the ones in front now saw me and began to shout also, I then sat again amongst the paramount rulers.

I was very unhappy with the situation and I said to the women, please, please, the event has begun why are you people shouting nah!?

The security people also helped me to control the situation. So for me, knowing who I am; I thank the people for their love, but I assure you that I won’t ever try to come late to an event again, so that there will be no question of breaking protocol again.

N/b:
Don’t miss this Tuesday’s Radar Newspaper for the full exclusive interview Senator Godswill Akpabio granted the Publisher of the Newspaper on this and other sundry matters.

– Franklyn Isong is a Public Affairs Commentator

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