As the play, Ufok Ibaan, opened at the famous Ibom Hall yesterday, the elites of Akwa Ibom came out in their numbers.
Everybody was there. From top politicians to media executives, to academicians and world-famous businessmen,
The hall was glitzy, and the absence of the First Lady didn’t even dampen the enthusiasm and energy the hall was radiating.
As I moved to welcome my guests to the all-VIP show, something strange was evolving.
I must seat at the front. I am the protocol officer for Mr. Xxxx and he is coming with his wife and four in-laws, and they normally seat at the front.
Welcome to Akwa Ibom’s top society, I told myself.
Now we have finite seating in front. At best, 50 seats were at the outer limit, and here I was struggling to seat 200 people. A group of citizens who mostly lent their support in the front lines.
In frustration, I went to my brother Tony Ndah and said, “I will run away.” I couldn’t take it any longer, and he said, “This is a COVID-compliant event; people must sit in the front.”
As I was begging and pleading, one protocol officer walked up to me and asked, “Are you the Duke of Shomolu?” I said yes, irritated by this point, and he said, “My principal is coming, and he usually sits in front.”
I say, “Who is your principal?” and he mentions his name. A top academician I wonder if he has a protocol officer too.
Isn’t he somewhere negotiating an ASUU strike or something?
“I’m sorry he has to sit behind,” I said. In the second row, The protocol man says no. He usually sits in front of me, and I always say, “No sir.”
Was I going to ask the man who gave me N2.5m to stand up for an academic who didn’t take my calls for 3 months to soothe his ego and save the job of this hapless protocol man?
I’m sure you know my answer. There was no seat for HIS Excellency Gov. Udom’s representative, the Hon. Commissioner for Culture, Oman Esin, when he arrived.
I begged him. He, being a paddy man, understood and took me outside, ‘Edgar, you don’t work with us, make sure we give you protocol people. This thing is very important in Akwa Ibom. Your protocol list is very key for things like this.
By this time, I was almost done. I was tired of fighting and begging. This was just a play, albeit a very powerful depiction of a strong story. I shouldn’t be fighting protocols.
Then it gets worse-the Duke, who is the brother of the Emir of Kano, must sit in front. I just gave up and shed tears.
Finally, by some miracle, everybody sat in front. The whole two hundred of them, and the show started, and we had a wonderful time.
Then I went to my hotel to sleep and was woken by a text from a young TV CEO whose station had supported the play.
… I was irritated that I was forced to sit two seats back from the front row, on a red chair rather than the black chair on which other VIPs were seated, and even beside the drummers…
This was the next generation, and she had already imbibed the egotistical posturing of our elders.
I told her I was sorry and next time I would ask Senator Udo Udoma, whose family was being celebrated, to stand up from his seat for her.
Akwa Ibom, this was an experience.
Despite this, I still thank you all for the wonderful show of love and support. It’s good to be with your people. Irreplaceable.
The Duke of Shomolu