Pastor Umo Eno, PDP governorship candidate, Akwa Ibom state. (Credit: Facebook – Aniefiok Macaulay)

Abasifreke Effiong

Umo Eno, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State is standing trial for alleged falsification of his academic credentials and birth records. Beyond managing the huge reputation damage the trial has hung on his neck, the pastor’s team will be going to the electioneering later this year with a burden of managing Eno’s huge political communication baggage, a liability the public and the ominous opposition parties will catch-in on.

Eno speaks distinctively with a near-perfect British English accent. But he speaks very fast in many of his public presentations, mostly the ones he has done without written speeches. In six of the extempore presentations recorded and analysed by this writer, he spoke at the pace of over 200 words per minute (wpm), depriving himself and his listeners some prestige break – a short moment of silence allowed by a speaker between one statement and the next, which allows his message sink. Global speech rate guidance for English language shows that people speak 140 wpm at normal rate, 110wpm (slow rate) and 160 -200 wpm (fast rate). Going by the U.S Center for Voice and Speech rating, an over 200 wpm speech rate is suitable for auctioning and running sports commentary, not political communication which must be conversational.

Buried in that not-fantastic speech rate are pockets of surly, inelegant, hurting remarks which are already precipitating anger and conflict, and will ultimately shut doors to support and his acceptance ahead of the elections. The publics have started profiling Umo Eno’s statements. Each time he would give a speech, a lot of fact-checking will be required. Also, many of his statements are clearly in contradiction to his wish political image – a man who will unite the state and further the course of peace. Some of his statements are provocative, disuniting and callous than healing, assuring and inspiring. This is typical of what might become entrenched after the elections.

This piece, as part of a leadership assessment and accountability demand, has datestamped some of these immoderate remarks his team will have to deal with ahead of the elections. His team will need to satisfy the strong desire of decent thinkers in the state who crave for a governor who can be accountable in words, actions and otherwise.

On Friday 22nd October 2021, during the inauguration of Urua Odiong Ndiya, in Nsit Ubium local government area, Eno who was then barely few month old as commissioner said, “anyone in government who complains that there is no money is a thief”. This statement stirred up negative reactions and the commissioner through his media handlers denied it. Fact is, he made the statement. Majority of Akwa Ibom people holds the impression that Governor Udom Emmanuel is not only selfish but tightfisted. There is hardly many elected or appointed officers in Emmanuel’s administration who haven’t complained that the governor micro-manages finances and limits access to money to very few persons. That was a surly remark from Eno. It was callous of him to have called his fellow office-holders who complained about the governor’s minginess thieves. More so, the barefaced denial of his statement after journalists and netizens reported it raised a huge accountability question on the character of the man seeking to be governor. The public expects from anyone seeking to lead very high moral standard, courage, and the ability to take responsibility for words, actions and deeds, not verbal flippancy.

READ : Umo Eno did not lobby for any appointment – Gov Emmanuel

In the build up to the governorship primary in May, Eno botched up a last-minute chance to market himself to councillors across the state. In a short video which trended online, Eno was heard asserting that none of the councillors currently serving bought nomination form to contest election into the local government councils. In that video, he was heard saying that, “…it is by the benevolence of the Governor, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel that you are here today. You did not buy a form to become a councillor…” (While delivering a goodwill message at a- two day retreat for councillors on 14th May at Ibom Icon Hotel). That sycophantic remark elicited jeering from the councillors. What was the aim of such provoking fluff? Was it just another tactless blunder that would be blamed on his speech speed? Though the councillors didn’t vote in the party nomination after all, did the statement by Eno seek to intimidate the lawmakers and stop them from making individual decision ahead of the primary? Was he not aware that political parties don’t give nomination forms free to aspirants?

In the last 30 days, the publics have been whipped by two mind-tearing lines contained in Eno’s responses to his certificate forgery allegation. The first was an SMS credited to him, served up on social media by aides to Governor Emmanuel. In the text message, Eno described those questioning his credentials as desperate, stating that ‘on a one-on-one, none of them can stand (him)’. Assuming that Eno sought the governorship of the state without Governor Emmanuel’s endorsement, can he beat his chest that he would have been able to stand the array of aspirants who sought the ticket? His comment smacks of audacious arrogance, haughtiness, presumptuousness, and lacked sportsmanship.

Again, in a special interview granted the trio of Michael Bush, Itoro Columba and Rose Akai on Thursday 23rd June, broadcast on Comfort F.M, Eno was quoted as having said that, ‘… other politicians in Akwa Ibom who contested governorship primary with (him) have a false sense of entitlement…’

Umo Eno has a huge responsibility. He will have to manage himself, emotions and pay attention to his speech count, so that he can reduce the number of times he gives himself out in speeches as tactless, inaccurate, intolerant, incoherent, proud and disrespectful. Eno was fortunate to be the Governor’s preferred. He obviously may not have been the most qualified by human estimation as he has repeatedly averred. However, it was immoderate to have dismissed those who contested the governorship ticket with him and their supporters as lesser beings (people who have false sense of entitlement) and himself a bit much human than them. Politics must not suddenly change the simple, humble, soft-spoken and warm posturing of this senior pastor and founder of the All Nations Christian Ministry International.

Indeed, nothing must change about what Eno told us at the NUJ press centre on February 11, when he came consulting. He said, “I will further peace and prosperity… I have no scores to settle with anybody. We do not have baggages (sic) around us. I am a human being, but I do not have hatred for anybody. There are some people, the day they become Governor, some of you must leave town…”. Lately, his statements are not pointing to a man who is humble in spirit, who will bear long-suffering and vituperation for the sake of unifying and furthering the course of peace in his party and the state – one of the pillars upon which his campaign is rested. The concerns are, will those who contested the governorship primary against Eno have to leave town with their supporters if he (Eno) becomes Governor? Will journalists have to run away from the state? Will ‘bloody civilians’ have to run away at the sight of the ‘barrack boy’?

I think the Senator Effiong Bob led PDP reconciliation committee in the state will have the tall task of tending, soothing and healing more pains from the bleeding wounds cut by Umo Eno’s surly statements than parrying the disaffection caused the party primaries.