Governor Udom Emmanuel.

By Ekemini Simon

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment- Benjamin Franklin

Public speaking is one of the most sensitive arts ever known to man. This art, like two edged sword can make or mar those who are involved in it. In fact, it has served as a ladder for many as leaders and has also plummeted a manifold.

Among other imperatives, one of the keys to come out successfully during public speaking is usually the ability to discern the setting and your audience then tailor your message around it.

On Saturday, February 15, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, had the opportunity to address an array of eminent personalities drawn from various states of the federation and beyond. It was his dear father’s funeral. A solemn moment it was.

When the Governor took to the podium, in attempt to eulogize his late father, he gave insight to the kind of fathers that exist and of which he has had encounter with.

While speaking positively about the character shown him by his late biological father, the support he enjoyed from his spiritual fathers and the mentorship he relished from his economic father, the Governor brought to the fore a disturbing narrative about one who he described as his political father.

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In comparison, he noted that the former are those with character while the latter is gifted with mere charisma. “Character bears fruit, and the fruits that character bring out are sustainable. Charisma is only what people see, what people applaud, it has no substance, it is not sustainable,” the State Governor said.

Our dear Governor did not stop there. With a mien expressive of opprobrium, Governor Emmanuel mentioned the unforgivable crimes of his political father. He stated, “Of course, there’s another category of fathers, those ones they call political fathers. Well, those ones, you see them today, tomorrow you will not see them again.

“But it doesn’t mean they are not there. These are categories of fathers that can also mentor you politically. They are those who only bring you into a political platform. Most especially are the biological and spiritual fathers. These are the people we stand here to honour.”

Admittedly, the Governor may have stated a known fact that his political father had abandoned him at some point in his political sojourn. Yet, was it really necessary that he single out other three categories of fathers to honour while making snide remarks at the other? There’s no gainsaying that the four categories are men who at certain point in his life played significant roles. If he chose to honour any, then it would be a sheer act of ingratitude to leave one out or worse disparage him.

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What is more, that was a solemn occasion that required solemnity in choice of words. If it were to be a political rally, considering our clime, it may have passed the test of some sensibilities. Needless to mention that the wife of the said political father so vituperated had found it necessary to honour a man who once found them to be his political parents. Availing herself on that occasion was clearly a signal for peace, little wonder she was greeted with the longest applause from the audience when she was introduced. The level of hurt and regret she must have felt when she heard with her own ears the light in which her husband was described in an occasion she swallowed her pride to attend can only be imagined.

Moreover, this was an occasion which drew people across all party lines. That was clearly a gesture towards bridge-building and the message should have been tailored towards it. By discovering that we are yet to have an occasion that may serve as a melting point for our differences, one can only imagine the impression these visitors left the State with.

Glaringly, the Governor has lost the opportunity of such a grand measure to prove to the world that he can act in accordance with the Dakkada creed he initiated to “Rise to the faith that as a people, we can move beyond biases… and rise to togetherness”. Although very sad, It is the hope of Akwa Ibom people that another opportunity will beckon for matters to be corrected.

While the people await such opportunity, the image managers of the Governor must step up their game to keep the Governor in check during public speeches. So many questionable remarks have been noticed in his speeches over time. A change from this direction is a task that must not be taken for granted. What the Governor says has a bearing effect on the image of the State.

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Be that as it may, Governor Emmanuel is the man with the greatest role to play. While it seems he is yet to get over some disappointments, it is essential he takes to heart the words of a Motivational Counselor and Speaker, Dr Roopleen, who advised, “Don’t let mental blocks control you. Set yourself free. Confront your fear and turn the mental blocks into building blocks.” It is time he learns lessons and leave what has passed in the past.

When this is done, any time Governor Udom Emmanuel addresses his people, he will not only put to action the charge by one of the Founding Fathers of the United States quoted at the beginning of this piece to “remember to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.