Despite, the station owner’s claim, insiders said the station got a sudden instruction from officials of the Akwa Ibom state government urging it to block Senator Etok from speaking on the station
A senator representing Akwa Ibom North West in the Senate, Aloysius Etok, said Planet FM, a private radio station in Uyo, barred him from featuring on the station.
Mr. Etok told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that he was invited for a live interview on the station on January 1, but just as he made to enter the studio, the programme was aborted.
Investigation shows that the national lawmaker was invited to feature on a programme, “Score Card,” a live radio show by an independent producer, Pat Rueben.
But Mr. Etok said he arrived the station and met Kufre Etuk, a member of the state assembly from Uruan, shortly before the commencement of the show.
Being a gentleman, he said, he allowed the state lawmaker, Mr. Etuk, to be interviewed during the first interval which ended with a commercial break.
Before the commercial break, Mr. Etok said the presenter told listeners he was already at the station and would come on air after the break.
“I was about going into the studio when the programme manager came in and told us that there was a technical fault and begged that the programme be discontinued to allow for repairs to be carried out on the faulty equipment.
“I don’t know whether there were some other issues but that was what the technical manager told me,” Mr. Etok said.
Ibom Forum is a popular discussion forum for Akwa Ibom indigenes at home and in the Diaspora.
When Mr. Etok’s attention was drawn to a post on the forum, where the Managing Director of the station, Tony Afia, stated that the show had lapsed when he (Etok) entered the studio, the lawmaker fumed.
“Well, Tony has the right to say whatever he wants to say,” Mr. Etok said. “It was announced while I was there that they were going to have an interview with me after a member of the state House of Assembly from Uruan was interviewed.
“If he went on to say that the time had lapsed then it was his own. Clearly, one could see the contradiction. When he called me for discussion, he apologised and said he will explain what happened to me. He never told me I arrived late for the programme because I arrived at the station before the commencement of the programme.
“I met the member of the state house of assembly representing Uruan at the station and as a gentleman; I agreed with the producer that he should go in first because he was there before me,” Mr. Etok narrated.
Asked whether he felt he was ill-treated because of his frosty relationship with the Governor, Godswill Akpabio, Mr. Etok said he had no issues with the governor.
He, however, insisted that since Planet FM is a private station, his relationship or otherwise with the governor should not interfere with the operations of the station.
Mr. Etok continued, “I cannot see any reason why he would play funny. Since he is running a private station, he should be willing to provide alternative to the government broadcasting stations.
“One would have at least understood if it were a government broadcasting station. But for a private station to do what happened, it means Afia is not ready to provide the alternative platform for the people.”
When contacted, the producer of the programme, Mr Reuben, said he had put whatever happened during the ill-fated programme behind him.
In a despondent tone, Mr. Rueben said, “I don’t want to dwell on what happened that day. I have decided to go on with my life.”
But in a telephone interview, Mr. Afia insisted that the time for “Scorecard” had lapsed at the time Mr. Etok was invited to the studio.
He noted that the radio station would not do anything to hurt any of its clients including Mr. Etok, who he said was well-known to him (Afia).
“The show, ‘Scorecard’ is not our in-house programme,” he said. “The producer paid for 30 minutes and had brought in the two lawmakers.”
“The show started at 2.30pm and I was listening when Mr Kufre Bassey Etuk was interviewed. At 3.03pm, it was announced that the senator would feature after a commercial break.
“At that time, the producer had exhausted the 30 minutes he paid for and we had to stop the show in order not to interfere with other scheduled shows on the station.”
Mr. Afia said he called the federal lawmaker and explained that the station was not responsible for what happened on January 1.
He noted that the problem that led to Mr. Etok not featuring at the station was caused by the producer of “Scorecard.”
“The producer paid for 30 minutes but on that day, he had exhausted his time but still wanted the senator to come on air. If he had wanted the time to be extended, he should have contacted us a day earlier.
“For instance on Tuesday, he came and paid for additional one hour and yesterday (Wednesday) he brought two commissioners to feature on the programme and we didn’t stop him.
“If he had paid for the programme to be extended, nobody would have stopped him from going ahead to interview the senator. We want the senator to come to our station,” Mr. Afia said.
According to him, Planet FM is a private radio station and would continue to open its doors to all those who require its services.
But despite, Mr. Afia’s claim, insiders in the station told PREMIUM TIMES its officials got a sudden instruction from officials of the Akwa Ibom state government urging it to block Senator Etok from speaking on the station.
When contacted, the state commissioner for information and communications, Aniekan Umana, absolved Governor Akpabio or the state government from blame in the matter.
He said the state government does not control private media organisations.
He insisted that whatever happened at the station had nothing to do with the government of Akwa Ibom State.
“Planet FM is a private radio station and we do not control what they are doing,” Mr. Umana said. “So there is no question that the government was involved in whatever took place at the station.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story has been updated with the correct name of the station involved [Planet FM]. We initially wrongly indicated it was Atlantic FM. We sincerely apologise for the mix-up.