By Joe Iniodu
Dr. Tony Iredia is easily presumed an honourable man. At least his age, educational attainment, offices occupied and profession he belongs to bestow the attributes of honour on him. But “tonnie Iredia” as he fancies to be addressed in his column in Vanguard has over the years developed character flaws that put this deserving honour in dispute. He has consistently put his reputation at risk in a manner that suggests that he has scant regard for it and even self honour. This is the tragedy of the Edo born broadcaster who lost his job with Radio Nigeria but was to emerge as Director-General of NTA.
His capacity for atrocious conduct became even more brazen when NTA embarked on the establishment of zonal stations. Iredia having successfully wooed the then minister of information, Frank Nweke Jnr. re-assigned the EDS, Zonal Directors and General Managers. The Zonal Directors are said to have been mostly women who shared amorous pacts with him. He did not only give these women the latitude for profligate use of funds, he also assisted them to access mouth-watering sums from banks in the name of loans. For instance, the MD, TV Enterprise was given a take off grant of N500m borrowed from the banks while he at the same time denied the EDS their N12m subvention approved by the Board but which he slashed to N3m arbitrarily. Dr. Tony Iredia is also alleged to have borrowed N500 million from properties department with over N100m converted to his personal use.
His penchant for abuse of office was also made manifest when during a promotion by Peugeot Assembly of Nigeria, the then Director-General in the person of Tony Iredia purchased 150 brands of Peugeot under the condition of one free out of every ten purchased. Iredia failed to account for the freebies which summed up to about 15 in addition to 12 others he forfeited from the fleet. It was alleged that he opened a car shop in his home town of Benin. In a barter arrangement that was also struck with major corporate organizations, Honda CRVS, BMW X5, Camry Vehicles also accrued. The CRVS were given to the EDS, Iredia took the X5, Grace Egbagbe touted to be the mistress the Camry while the remaining Honda CRVS are said to have been absolved by Iredia’s car shop.
Tony Iredia’s sins in public office are legion and not easily exhaustible. It is obviously from this mindset of lucre that our morally deficient Iredia attempts to evaluate government and public officers. This mindset also seems to combine with inducement to bear falsified comments, deliberate distortions and outright untruths. As one commentator said, “Tony Iredia is becoming difficult to ignore with his penchant for falsehood and illogic”. I can not agree any less with this remark. Having murdered his character as a public officer, Iredia seems ready to sacrifice the journalism profession on the altar of falsehood all in search of pecuniary recompense.
Recently, his mercantilist searchlight was beamed on Akwa Ibom. As usual, lies, blackmail, falsehood and unverified claims took centre stage. The results constitute a further flag of what was left of him as honour and a question mark on a profession that has a moral avowal to uphold the sanctity of truth at all times. So the society is witnessing with rude shock one of the foremost practitioners of the profession egregiously desecrating truth in a shambolic manner with scant regard to integrity. How does one explain this shame, the damnation of a profession by its very custodian? This is proof that this society has for long been breeding wolves in Sheep’s clothing. For years this sheep has used grandstanding to lull the unsuspecting members of the public into deceit with his Point Blank that gave the impression of altruism.
Tonnie Iredia’s piece in Sunday Vanguard of January 3, 2016 sarcastically entitled, Uncommon governance: The Bane of Akwa Ibom State, typifies an intent towards deliberate mischief. The piece which sadly contains a myriad of illogic, falsehood and innuendoes also exposes the mercantile proclivity of the author. The narrative is not only at variance with reality, it is also a public relations disaster having brazenly betrayed his purported friendship with a certain Etim. Iredia’s claim of 5000 decampees from PDP to APC in Obot Akara is not only overly exaggerated; it is part of the grand propaganda to undermine PDP in the State while promoting APC. Iredia seems to be an anointed member of this cowardly scripted plot to take Akwa Ibom at all cost with attendant danger to the Nation’s democracy.
As part of that widening plot, Iredia appears to have been co-opted to use the media platform to discredit the PDP led administration in the State and that way prepare the stage for what many view as forceful take over. Many believe that the article of Sunday was in service to that disingenuous quest. In that piece, Iredia took a swipe at all efforts at governance in the State. Even the innocent Christmas Carol Festival that is hailed the world over was condemned with unbridled gusto by Iredia using uninformed premises like funding, government empowering the people to own television sets and access to electricity as issues that stood on the way of that event. He scoffed at the annual event which started in 2008 and has remained one of the most viable marketing tools for the State. In Iredia’s warped view, the Christian programme does not reveal itself as having a pro-people policy and so should be scrapped.
On the night of that Christmas Carol, the Uyo Township stadium was filled to capacity with overflow thronging the environs and yet somebody is alleging that the event is not pro-people. These were people who attended the event willingly with joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces. One could see the palpable enthusiasm as they sang and danced at the venue. The accusation of how many people government has empowered to own television sets is not only absurd but also very laughable coming from a man of Iredia’s pedigree. It depicts his desperation to inflict maximum damage on the administration of Udom Emmanuel and indeed the people of Akwa Ibom State. The insinuation that even people with television sets could not have had light to watch the event shows his shortage of knowledge of the State. The State today enjoys about 18 hours of electricity and its people had since liberated themselves from the shackles of servitude Iredia knew and which may have led him to think that they must need government to own television sets.
Tony Iredia must be told “point blank” that Akwa Ibom people have a right to celebrate their God because He has been faithful to them. They do not need his permission or that of his sponsors to honour and worship Him. His allegation that the event was sponsored with billions of Naira by the State Government is proof that he failed to seek appropriate information that would have afforded him facts on notable corporate giants like GLo, UBA, ZENITH and others that were on hand to sponsor the event. He also failed to acknowledge the fact that Governor Udom Emmanuel is an accomplished corporate player who is bringing over 25 years of finance management experience to bear on the affairs of the State and that with such asset, he can not easily yield to profligate behaviour.
His abandon repudiation of a project of faith that would reinvent our moral health stirs great curiosity in many people. Would Iredia have preferred obscene celebrations like carnivals where women walk around literally naked? How many times has Iredia condemned the Lagos carnival that is sponsored by the Lagos State Government or the Boat Regatta that some State Governments sponsor? But a programme that has a potential to cultivate values that would improve our collective wellbeing is at the butt of attack perhaps because it is undertaken by Akwa Ibom State. The criticism is a gambit aimed at the politics of taking over. It is just an aspect of an organized coup against the State by the APC led central government.
One of the most incorrigible lies told in that piece and which betrays its sponsorship is one assertion cast in a satirical remark, “in the midst of all these uncommon things, the government is unable to accomplish the most common issues of governance”, insinuating that doctors are being owed 15 months salaries. Haba, Oga Iredia, what has the State done to you? This report is not only misleading, it is an egregious falsehood. Doctors are not owed any salary in Akwa Ibom State. Even the allowances of House Doctors which was the only knotty issue had since been cleared. Akwa Ibom State Government is one of the few States that has continued to honour salary obligations to workers despite the downturn in financial fortunes that has affected the entire Nation. But Dr. Tony Iredia will never know that.
Well it is sad that the former Director-General has allowed anger to take the better of him. He seems to be on a vengeful mission. We understand he had approached the State Government and sought for a media consultancy job. Unfortunately the job could not coast home. The miffed Tonnie Iredia has decided to become a nightmare to the State since it can not meet his dream. This, they say is the collision path. But Oga should know that in our father’s house, they are many mansions and that if you no chop today, you go chop tomorrow. Let him not take up roles that are beneath him for a man’s worth is not in material opulence but the content of his character.
Iniodu is a public affairs analyst