A swindle of public opinion

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A response to a three-part article written by Dr. Dele Sobowale.

Dele Sobowale, the syndicated columnist of Vanguard and National Life newspapers, is fast gaining notoriety today as the ultimate patriarch of journalistic inconsistencies in Nigeria. Column-writing is surely a sacred privilege which, in turn, demands of the writer to constantly bring to bear the ethics of the trade: objectivity, fairness and accuracy.

But Sobowale seems to operate on a different frequency.
Those familiar with Sobowale and his writings attest to the fact that he has this tendency of raising issues he has scanty information about and, therefore, never able to sustain an argument on them when taken on.

This is most probably what was at display in the last couple of weeks when Sobowale in his column in the Sunday Vanguard raised some issues about Imo State government and even the governor. It was more of a deliberate mischief than ignorance because, the issues he raised about the state are those, as I will presently demonstrate, he is very familiar with.

That being the case, the most reasonable conclusion is that Sobowale was handed that topic to write on but not having enough facts, he ended up writing the fiction he did in his three parts series that ran from November 14, 2010 through November 28, 2010.

In the first two parts, Sobowale dwelt on issues that have long been trashed out and forgotten. These include the minor brush between Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s convoy in Lagos over two years ago and the allegation by one Samuelson Iwuoha that he was personally manhandled by the governor in the latter’s office.

Then, writing under the topic, “Is It Imo Swindle?”, Sobowale, on Sunday November 28, 2010, accused the state governor of “… asking prospective job seekers to pay N10, 000.00…”  Sobowale knows that on the matter of job offer to Imo youths, there was nothing like asking unemployed youths to pay 10,000 Naira for jobs.

Unfortunately, the tragedy, really, is that the members of the public that were swindled by that article are likely to take Sobowale seriously based on his previous articles on the same Imo State government and the governor. To say the least, Governor Ohakim got the shock of his life with Sobowale’s N10, 000.00-for-job allegation.

This is a fellow who had once written about Governor Ohakim in the most glowing language and had even gone ahead to establish a personal relationship with the governor. This is to say nothing of the fact that Sobowale has, at least, one close aide of the governor as a colleague and personal friend. Did he ask for clarifications from these (close) aides?
The answe

r is a glaring ‘No’ as is evident from the tone and language of the article(s). Sobowale had to dredge up old issues that had long been dwelt with and forgotten and merely added his own fatal imagination to colour his writing.

An editorial commentary, which is what a column really is, should have a news peg. They are supposed to dwell on recent issues. It is doubtful if any columnist, young or old,  has the professional liberty to rake up any issue and from the blues begin to inundate the reading public with trite allusions.

Agreed, old issues could be raised in a cumulative manner to establish a trend but the interesting thing in the instant case is that Sobowale’s “Is It Imo Swindle?” addressed an issue that has been laid to rest.

Is Dele Sobowale not embarrassed to realize that he is talking about the N10,000 job matter at a time when successful applicants are already collecting their letters of appointment? Where was Sobowale when the media was, admittedly, agog with criticisms over the N2,000.00 scratch card that applicants were asked to purchase to offset administrative costs incurred by the consultants?

In spite of the vehemence with which opposition to the administration, through orchestrated media campaigns, criticized the N2,000 for scratch card, the ever discerning Nigerian public soon realized that it was a misplaced strategy; to rubbish a very noble and innovative programme that is the first of its kind in the whole Nigeria.

The criticism went thus: Why ask jobless youths and their parents or guardians to pay N2, 000.00?; from where would the money come from? And our explanations? One, the N2, 000.00 for the scratch card was merely to offset the administrative cost of the consultants.

Two, this was highly necessary because of the logistic implications of having to conduct the examinations in three centers, namely, Owerri; Lagos and Abuja. The decision to have the examinations in three centers instead of one was to minimize expenses and other forms of inconveniences for applicants, their parents and guardians.

Three and arising from the above, it meant that those applicants who resided in Lagos or Abuja did not have to travel all the way to Owerri for the examination. Four, the N2, 000.00 was paid straight to the banks for onward transfer to the consultants, KPMG, one of the most renowned human resource consulting firms the world over. Which means that not a kobo accrued to the state government? The facts are verifiable from KPMG.

It is important to mention that the orchestrated media campaign against the 10,000 job programme was less of an attempt to protect the youth against extortion than an attempt to stop the administration of Governor Ohakim from performing yet another feat; something some of those who once had the opportunity to preside over the affairs of the state thought was impossible.

The 10,000 jobs for youths programme, which is now almost concluded, came amid an eighteen-year old embargo on employment in the state civil service.

To be sure, Governor Ohakim and members of his administration had expected such distractions but we never imagined that the so-called opposition could be so undiscerning as to raise such non-issues as N2, 000.00 scratch card.

Many keen readers must be wondering today why Sobowale has suddenly turned his venomous pen against Governor Ohakim, the same man he had christened the ‘Napoleon of Imo’ only yesterday on account of the great job in transforming Owerri from a filthy city of pre-May 29, 2007 to an alluring garden such that in another six months the Federal Ministry of Environment could not but declare it the cleanest city in the whole federation.

The big question then is: when exactly did music stop for Sobowale?
To be sure, there is usually a tide in the affairs of man. One may be a Napoleon yesterday and become a Sobowale today. That’s what life is all about. Besides, there is nothing inhibiting anybody from changing his or her mind about anything or anybody, especially in an ever changing environment like ours.

But for a Dele Sobowale, who has worked so hard to create a reputation, it would amount to ending a promising career on a tragic note by allowing himself to be used against Governor Ohakim.

*Okere is Special Adviser (Public Enlightenment & Documentary) to Governor Ikedi Ohakim..

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