On Tuesday, May 30, a day after the swearing in of new Governors in Nigeria, the new helmsman in Akwa Ibom State appointed Mr. Anietie Usen as the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in his office.
Usen is a multiple award winning journalist. He is an Alumnus of Harvard Business School, Oxford Business School, Manchester Business School, Lagos Business School, among others. He had served briefly as a Special Assistant to former Governor Akpan Isemin in 1991 and moved on to serve as the General Manager of the Akwa Ibom State Newspaper Corporation, Publishers of the Pioneer Newspaper. Before then, Usen had worked in Newswatch Magazine, where he rose to become the General Editor. He was a one – time Senior Political Analyst/Editorial Board Member of This Day Newspaper as well as the Regional Editor in charge of West Africa for the London based Pan-African magazine, Africa Today.
Mr. Usen also served as a Director of Corporate Communications at the Niger Delta Development Commission and retired as the Director of Administration of the intervention agency about two years ago. His latest appointment immediately became popular street talk revolving around why a man so well decorated should take such a lowly post. An Abuja-based journalist and a concerned friend of Mr. Usen wrote
“This appointment, to say the least, is humiliating. It is not worth any celebration. Anietie Usen is bigger than this and deserves a better and more challenging appointment.
“Anietie is my mentor in specific aspects of journalism. I feel belittled for anybody to make my boss more of an errand boy in the office of the CPS. Or how else would you describe the job of an SSA, Media? I am annoyed and disappointed.”
Although literature, mostly conceptualized as creative writing captures momentous and small events which may have happened or are anticipatory, it also seeks to interpret the finer details of occurrences. This means that literature is not only tales of village boys, girls, their dresses, dances, love affairs, men and women, happy marriages, Chiefs, hypocritical religious folks, corrupt politicians, leaders and unhappy relationships.
William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Wole Soyinka, Wale Okediran, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda, Joseph Ushie, Martin Akpan, Uboho Bassey and other great writers have, in their literary exertions, attempted to unveil the character of people and their motivations for the roles they play in the society.
According to an outstanding Indian literary critic, Janani Ramanathan, ‘we need to delve deeper into the context, circumstances and individual character of the players to discover principles and forces that are concealed by the veil of chance and accident.’
If one looks beyond politics and tries to reflect deeply, one is most likely to chance on a connection, a meeting and marriage of souls who were lost but found themselves in Anietie Usen and Pastor Umo Eno. The Barracks Boy; Umo Eno and the Village Boy, Anietie Usen, were forged by their early childhood deprivation occasioned by the loss of their biological fathers, their struggles through life fired by hope and stories that touch the heart. These experiences have served as motivation to push them to an ultimate pedestal in the klieg lights. Their personal stories have touched their emotional chords and resonated with their spirits. They are most likely to see themselves as kindred souls.
A further scrutiny would yield a commonality in their philosophical centres of existence which includes the Church and a subdued crave for genuine love, acceptance and fun.
In his prefatory review of “Village Boy,” a literary portraiture of the early childhood of Anietie Usen, a Professor of General Stylistics and Literary Criticism, Joe Ushie, wrote ‘the storyline in Village Boy is built around Akan ( Anietie Usen), a fragile but curious village boy who, having tragically lost his father at the tender age of two in an automobile accident in Lagos, is relocated to Afaha Akpan Iman Ibom village, where he comes, not just into the warm care and protection of his grandmother but the harsh realities of poverty.….a world without clocks or wristwatches, and where encounters with ghosts are perhaps real and the world of lizards, owls, toads, frogs, monkeys, and other neighbours of the wild, is in close communion with that of humans.”
In his own account captured in his inaugural address to the people of the State after being sworn into office as the fifth democratically elected Governor of Akwa Ibom on Monday, 29th May, 2023, Umo Eno noted, “I was born in the police barracks and had lost my father at a very young age and the burden to raise my siblings and I, fell on my late mother….Life in the police barracks back then was drab and dreary and all around us, were things that were designed to bring out the worst instincts in us. No one gave me a fighting chance to succeed…I could have fallen through the cracks of life, and be swallowed by the gaping hole that we daily encountered; I could have surrendered to some negative tendencies associated with peer – pressure, but I summoned hope and kept my head above the murky waters of despondency.”
Sometimes in 1975, the Ghanaian playwright, Efua Sutherland wrote the Play – The Marriage of Anansewa which explored the concepts of poverty and ambition. That Play is about Ananse’s ambition to improve his lot in life and the main character used his energy to turn from poverty to affluence. The shared childhood experiences of Anietie Usen and Umo Eno who started out in life as paupers have made them survivors and strikes a chord. These have also imbued in them survivalist tendencies through life. Their identical backgrounds and psychology would make them to connect, predict each other correctly, engender a strong bond of brotherhood critical in the effective discharge of their responsibilities.
* Dr UDEME NANA, a former Media Adviser to Governors Attah and Akpabio is the Founder of the intellectual hub, Uyo Book Club.