“AKBC has gone 80 Percent digitalisation- Pastor Ukpe

By Emmanuel Uffot

Pastor Anietie Ukpe, the Director General of Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation is a well-bred Journalist who put in decades in the newsroom with a couple of media houses including Concord Newspaper of late MKO Abiola before his sojourn in government circle when he was appointed Senior Special Adviser on media and later Chief Press Secretary to Governor Godswil Akpabio. His vertical movement in the ladder has landed him in his current portfolio as the DG of AKBC. Ukpe who is also an ordained pastor of Insight Bible Church and holds a PhD in Business and Organisational Communication spoke with Emmanuel Uffot on his input to transform the state Radio/Television station, the emergence of many private FM stations and its attendant competition, the FOI Act, the need to regulate the social media, implication of the suspension of twitter and how Governor Udom Emmanuel has fared in governance among others Excerpts

How challenging has been so far as the Director General of AKBC and what value have you brought to the station in terms of news content and programming?

Ukpe: Well, the challenges are not so much given the fact I am not really in an unfamiliar terrain given my professional background and previous image making positions I have held before now in the state.

However, in terms of what value I have brought into AKBC, we have done a lot. So there is no need to over emphasized on that. Whatever we have done, our aim is to make sure we leave behind a better place than we met it and most importantly, we live up to the expectation of his Excellency who graciously gave us the appointment. But i most say that the most important thing is that AKBC has reached an acceptable level of digitalisation. Perhaps you last met AKBC when it was just 40 percentage digitalisation, but right now I would say confidently that we have reached 80 percent digitalisation. And this has impacted positively on the news content and programing.

Since Akwa Ibom state was created, AKBC has not got a befitting headquarters, what efforts have you made to get government build a befitting headquarters for the state Radio/Television station?

Ukpe:  The government did promise us that and we are hoping and believe in His Excellency that this will come to pass as Pioneer Newspaper and other government MDAs are in their headquarters. So, I believe it will be done.

How are you coping with the competition from the legion of private FM radio and television stations operating in the state?

Ukpe: It is a welcome development. The competition is good as the landscape is better for it. But it is not really the number of broadcasting stations that come out to offer that competition that is the problem, the problem is the quackery that has infiltrated the Journalism profession in the state. We have so many quack journalists coming into the system and this does not augur well for the image of the profession because of their conduct and antecedents. The private radio stations are manned by those that are trained and understand the rudiments of the profession. So, we have no problem in whatever competition posed by the private radio and television stations in the state. Like they say the more the merrier. The stations are not the problem, but some of those parading themselves as journalist who are not trained journalist.

What is your reaction to the insistence by the minister of Information that there is need for the social media to be regulated?

Ukpe: It is absolutely needful because public communication should not be abuse by people and taken to a level where they construed that slander and libel are acceptable norms in the society. I am talking as a thorough bred journalist. It should be control. So, because it is internet, many people feel they could write and post whatever they like and get away with it.

You know the difference between the person who studied journalism or mass communication with one who did not is that a trained journalist knows how to handle public information bearing in mind the ethics and the compelling need to avoid libel and slander but this is not so with an untrained journalist. So, the difference between a journalist and non-journalist when it has to do with handling communication is like comparing a trained medical doctor with a road side nurse. I support some form of regulation. There should be decorum.

What about the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government over the yanking off of the President tweet, would you say that was right?

Ukpe: No, that was not right at all. Infact it is a different ball game from regulating the social media whereby some mischievous persons just sit down in the comfort of their homes or office and fabricate stories and post on social media platforms.

Operators of Twitter like a responsible and credible entity have every right to take off a post of anybody which they consider offensive or don’t meet their ethical standard. They even took off President Donald Trump tweet even when he was still president and American government did not react badly. But for you to suspend twitter operation in Nigeria and deny millions of Nigerians from accessing the platform because you felt insulted by the taking off of the president tweet which the owners of the platform considered offensive and inciting was not right. It is not compulsory that you be on twitter. You can choose to be on the platform or not. After all many educated Nigerians are not even on Facebook or WhatsApp that are the most popular ones. Like I said it was wrong for the federal government to suspend Twitter because President Muhammadu Buhari tweet was removed.

How would you access the impact of the Freedom of Information Act in respect of helping the media in the dissemination of information?

Ukpe: The Freedom of Information Bill which was signed into law has not been effectively utilized by journalists. The bill was aimed at giving journalists in particular the latitude to request and demand for information from government and the agencies for the purpose of clarification of significant issues that has public and country interest which government and its agencies would ordinarily not want to divulge. So, journalists have not sufficiently put the FOI Act to test for an onlooker to determine how effective the Information Act has been.

What is your opinion on the stand of the Minister of Information dismissing the EndSars panel report of Lagos state government as a fairy tale?

Ukpe: That was expected. The reaction of the federal government through Information Minister Lai Mohammed was because it falls on the pattern of this government always having nonchalant attitude towards injustice and heinous acts of killings and destruction of properties perpetuated across the country by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and bandits which has worsened the insecurity situation in the country.

One would have expected the federal government given the sensitive nature of the issue which bothered on alleged shooting and killings of unarmed protesters by federal government security agencies notably soldiers at Lekki toll gate, to have launched their investigation to unravel the allegation and condemned the killings, but when a state government did theirs and came with the report which indicted the military the Minister came out to dismiss the report as fake. It is not right. Like I said, it is customary with the pattern of the federal government treatment of the worsening insecurity in the country with kid gloves. For some of us, we did not expect anything contrary.

After six years, how would you assess the government of Governor Udom Emmanuel given the view of critics that his achievements as reported are over hype?

Ukpe: Governor Udom has done a lot for Akwa Ibom people. I believe history will be kind to the governor for his achievements. He has devoted his time and energy to make sure he delivers on his pre-election promise of delivering dividends of democracy to the people.

The many road projects some completed, some ongoing and the industries are there for people to see. He has done extremely well in the past six years to make Akwa Ibom a better place.

Those that say his achievements are mere media hype are not fair in their judgement. The projects are there to see. The industries are there to see. If you could recollect as part of the programme for the 34th anniversary of the creation of the state, many roads were commissioned, prominent among them being Uyo- Ikot Ekpene road and roads in Uyo metropolis. Also commissioned were Ikot Oku Ikono Flyover and the 21 storey Dakkadah Towers which is to provide office spaces for multinational companies doing business in the state. Other major roads like Ekom Iman -Etinan road and Etinan -Eket road work is going on.

At least you have been hearing of industries like the Syringe Manufacturing Company, Electric Metering Company, Coconut Refinery and Flour Mill. The health sector, most of the hospitals have been equipped with modern facilities and given facelift. In the education sector a lot has also been done. His achievements in the past six years are there to be seen.

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