I don’t consider myself a radical – Eyo Akpan

Eyo Akpan

Could you introduce yourself

I’m Eyo Akpan. Close friends also call me by my pet name – Teddy. I’m a trained broadcaster. I actually read Political Science at the University of Lagos. I graduated in 1982. However, I had been appointed by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria as a trainee announcer, a month before graduation.

I started out with Radio Nigeria, Lagos and was posted to Radio Nigeria 2, Martins Street, Lagos. shortly after completing training at the training school. From there, late Otunba Bode Alalade gave me the opportunity to join the Nigerian Television Authority.
I also had a stint with Okada Airline in the Public Relations unit. 

I later went into private media practice as a consultant and I have worked for local and international organizations designing and presenting radio and television programs. Perhaps the most exciting being AIDS ONLINE – a twin broadcast of an enlightenment on HIV/AIDS radio and television. It was done to address issues of stigma and discrimination, access to anti-retroviral drugs, mother-to child transmission, support group networks, etc. It opened my eyes to how international develo[pment agencies tend to care more about vulnerable groups in low income countries while their governments care little or not at all.
It, most importantly, opened my eyes to some of the insincerity behind the efforts at intervention by some of the international agencies. For instance, a lot of funds go into the paying of wages of expatriate staff, accommodating them in hotels and sundry luxury as against what finally gets to addressing the challenges they are sent there for . 

What’s your nationality?

I, unfortunately, am a Nigerian.  Unfortunate in that it gives me no pride to be one.

What was growing up like?

It would have been helpful if you could have been more specific. But since you had not, I will speak in general terms.I grew up in Lagos, first at Tejuoso area of Yaba, in a family of four at the time. My father worked as a junior staff at the Central Bank of Nigeria in the administrative department. By self development, he became a chartered accountant.
My early education was at Ladi Lak primary school, Yaba and continued at Ireti Primary school, Ikoyi, when we moved there in 1968.

My childhood was fun. We played a lot with friends we made in the neighborhood and at school. The friendships brought our families together. Nigeria was a great place to grow up in at that time. There wasn’t any type of identity culture we’re having today, where people must be defined by their tribe, religion, or political party. Parents looked for all children irrespective of who their parents were and disciplined them whenever they went wrong with love and a sense of duty to set them on the right path, with no ill intent whatsoever.

All children belonged to the community and were raised by it. That is lacking today and has been identified as part of what is responsible for the waywardness in the younger generation. 
My mother was a textile dealer at the popular Balogun Market.

I started secondary school at Anglican Boys Grammar School in 1973 where I did my O’ levels..  I later went on to St. Gregory’s College, Obalende for my Higher School Certificate. 

It is interesting that my set was one of the sets.where students were admitted as Lagos Angliucan Boys Grammar School students and passed out as C.M.s. Grammar School graduates. I made great friends there and they remain my trusted friends till date.

Next stop for me after St. Gregory’s College was the University of Lagos where I read Political Science and graduated in 1982. 
It’s important to mention that my adventure into broadcasting aws made possible by people of tribes different from mine, unlike what obtains today, where one is identified or considered for openings or opportunities, based on tribal, religious and other crass considerations. 

You’ve had opportunities to travel outside your country, can you compare the situations?

I always dread this question because it reminds me of a chance meeting I had with an old English lady at a bank in London. She made a prediction about Nigeria, which is the hell we have been living under bad leaders while the led are themselves not any better. 
I went with some friends to a bank. They wanted to withdraw some money for the weekend. That must have been in either 1978 or ’79.

My friends, if I remember correctly, may have withdrawn about 100 pounds each. They then started arguing whether that would be enough for She had come to the weekend considering the fact that they had a party outside London. For the party, they needed to hire the right ‘wheels’ to turn up in.
Meanwhile, there was the old English lady who was a pensioneer – I suspected she was. She had come to withdraw about a pound or so for the weekend.

I still remember like it was yesterday, her turning to the cashier and asking, who the young men were. On being told we were Nigerians, she chuckled and said, ‘Nigerians, Oh they’ll burn themselves out’, and we have, haven’t we?
This explains why I said I find it unfortunate being a Nigerian because there’s nothing to be proud of for being one.

But to answer your question, what we see overseas is very possible except for the lack of capacity of leadership to commit to investing in infrastructure and social development/.welfare.

I dare say that the people too are a hindrance. That’s because even if the leaders have the capacity to do these, we would then have to contend with the people themselves who are crooks- in- waiting, ready to shortchange  the system and steal it blind if given the opportunity. We are well aware of how some of them behave abroad, accessing the social welfare system even as non-citizens and drawing welfare cheques under multiple identities enough to render the program bankrupt.

The Nigerian doesn’t realize that citizenship places some huge responsibility on them to protect the name and image of the country, wherever in the world we may find ourselves.

Tell us your feelings about people fleeing their countries.

I can understand that at the core of this, is desperation and a need to stay alive, in situations of terrible dislocations in the countries where conflicts break out like war. Yet, I change my mind when I ask myself why it must be from Africa that the conflict must break out from and cause the people to flee.  What is it about Africa that we can not seem to manage ourselves and keep presenting ourselves to the world as a burden to others. 

The same thing applies to economic migrants. Why is it that Africa can not manage its resources such that it can provide a good life for its people? Why is it  that our story is always about strife and conflict? For decades, in the midst of plenty as regards resources, what the continent gets attention for is poverty, starvation, disease  and misery. Why are we always going round, cap in hand, begging for handouts , when we are not supposed to be poor? Can you imagine what Africa would have been if it had been inhabited by whites, knowing the immense resources the continent is endowed with?  I try to be honest with myself and brutally so when communicating with others, because there is nothing to be nice about what a failure Africa has been among other continents of the world. Africa is the least developed and it has the least prospects in all areas of development.

You hold some radical views about social issues, particularly governance.What’s responsible for this?

Interestingly, I do not consider myself a radical. I only try to be honest with myself when confronted with issues around the problem with Nigeria which is, to me, a matter around the dishonesty of the political elite seeking power without any idea of what to do with it for the general good. They would rather use it to promote their selfish ends. The elite are only interested in power grab and so rather than contest for office, they contest for power. It explains why they will do anything to subvert the democratic process just to grab power and when they do grab it, are only interested in the privileges and not the responsibilities that go with it. In fact, they rewrite the rules to favor themselves and put the same people they claim they are serving at a disadvantage.

Don’t you think Nigeria could do with people like you in positions of authority?

I have never considered getting involved in public service. It simply is not worth it as the rules can be changed right in the middle of the game. The average Nigerian politician has no respect for rules and observes only those rules that favor him or her. You are well aware of the federal character principle and the rotation of political position among the zones. It was an agreement between gentlemen to entrench fairness and equity to promote a sense of belonging groups. But true to the Nigerian character, when a section got its chance at rotation, it then wants the rules changed so it can continue to enjoy the power of the office. It suddenly remembers that democracy is a game of numbers and should be allowed to determine who emerges as president because it knows the system has been rigged in its favor

What’s the problem with Nigeria?

The structure Nigeria is built upon is not sustainable but some section wants us to continue with it. That’s because it keeps the section in charge and by so being, it can allocate more resources to itself while contributing little or nothing to the national purse.Nigeria has therefore become its meal ticket. But as long as they wish to retain the structure, for so long will agitations to separate continue and get louder. 

I therefore find it more satisfying in serving the people of the Niger Delta region in achieving a separate nation than in a Nigeria built on dishonesty and one section seeking to exploit the others in what was deliberately rigged to carry it on for eternity.

Could you tell us your happiest day?

Lastly, I do not have any event I can point to as having given me the happiest moment in life as a Nigerian as I speak. However, what will give me immense joy shall be the day, this country as presently structured and constituted  will eventually dissolve to allow its people with aspirations to pursue same  according to their capacities and capabilities rather than being held back by those who sow nothing but crisis yet expect others to keep picking the bills for the conflicts  they keep planting. 

Without a doubt, Nigeria’s problems are primed to increase by a section which invests nothing in replacement. However, they expect those who have done so to generate what keeps them in indolence and waywardness. Our fathers paid the bills of that section of the country, we – their children – have paid the bills too.

Now, they expect our own children to continue paying their bills. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen and will not happen. I look forward to that day when it will be made clear that we owe it to our children not to have them pay any bill for a section of the country that imagines it can hold us all to ransom and believe we will keep paying.

4 Responses to I don’t consider myself a radical – Eyo Akpan

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