FOR quite a long time now, it is obvious that the activities of the Abia State government have been getting negative publicity, most times fabricated or twisted for selfish and mischievous purpose by a particular national daily owned by a former governor.
As a regular and avaricious reader of the national dailies, I do take my time to dissect the editorial contents of each to en able me judge their objectivity, balance and fairness.
I have observed that for a while now this national daily has not reported any positive news about the state and it has always been about allegation, criticisms or condemnation of the state government’s activities or policies.
The question begging to be answered is has nothing positive happened or happening in the state or does it mean this particular national daily has an axe to grind with the state government. This becomes worrisome as positive news report about giant strides by the Abia State government have been reported in other national dailies and even in the electronic media. For example, it was reported recently that the State government empowered 4,500 youths by employing them in the council areas.
These unemployed youths were engaged and are being paid monthly, while they still have time to engage in other activities to improve their lot. What a step in the right direction given the unemployment challenges across the nation.
Apart from this, the government had also released millions of naira for the settlement of the arrears of pensioners in the state, introduced radical reforms in the civil service. The government has repaired some federal roads in the state and has promised to do more if the Federal government is not forth coming. There are so many completed and ongoing projects across the state now and contractors are being mobilised adequately to ensure speedy completion.
None of these above -mentioned giant strides of the State government which had been reported in the other national dailies in the country, was reported by this particular national daily. Within the month of January this year alone, I had read two prominent stories carried by the national daily aimed at castigating and maligning Governor Theodore Orji and his government.
On Wednesday January 25, 2012, the newspaper in its page 3 carried a story titled “Group Faults Orji’s Appointment of Permanent Sec”. In the story was an alleged opposition by a faceless group called Umunneochi Consultative Forum against the appointment of Dr. Johnson Uzuatuegwu as permanent secretary from the council area by Governor Orji.
It is a faceless group because a member representing Umunneochi in the State Assembly Prince IKedi Ezekwesili the next day denied the existence of such group in the constituency. So who are the members of the group and who is its sponsor and have provided a platform for it to play to gallery. Their alleged opposition or protest was not that nobody was appointed from their area as permanent secretary by the State government, but that they do not want Uzuatuegwu to be appointed. Have they and their sponsors forgotten that civil service has rules and procedures?
As if that is not enough, the same national daily on Monday January 30, 2012 carried another story against the state government titled “Abia Health Sector In Shambles-NMA”. In the story, one Dr. Godwin Iheanyi Uzoma acclaimed chairman of Aba zone of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) alleged that apart from Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), that there were no other specialists hospitals anywhere in the state.
He claimed that there were only 28 doctors in the state of about three million people and that it was only in Aba North council area that there is a doctor. Uzoma alleged that the difference between the salary of house officers in the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia and state government teaching hospital in Aba is N80,000 and the difference between the salary of a consultant in FMC and ABSUTH is N200,000 and that is why doctors do not stay long at the latter.
Though I am not from the state, but I have seen on Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) a new specialist and diagnostic hospital built in Umuahia by the state government which has been now extended to Amachara General Hospital and has been upgraded. The governor had on several occasions made it known that his government inherited a decayed health sector that was moribund when he assumed office. But presently, the governor has constructed hospitals in all most all the local council areas. If Dr. Uzoma allegation that there are only 28 doctors in the state and it was only in Aba North that there is doctor, so where are the other doctors? Does it mean that he is the only private or government doctor in the whole of Aba as he would want the world to believe? What an unethical and false allegation in attempt to paint the state government effort in health sector in bad a light.
On the issue of disparities in the salaries of doctors as alleged by Uzoma, it is clear to a layman that there is always a disparity in the salaries of workers in the state and federal establishments. Comparing the salary of a staff in Federal Medical Centre Umuahia and ABSUTH is the highest level of hypocrisy shown by Dr. Uzoma. Even with the new minimum wage, federal workers and their state counterpart do not earn the same salaries and allowances, so why and how could a right thinking person equate or compare a federal civil servant with a state civil servant.
Besides everybody cannot work in federal establishments as being canvassed by Uzoma and his sponsors. As a medical officer, what should be uppermost in the mind of Uzoma and his allies is how to save life first and not how to acquire material wealth. That is why some doctors no longer concentrate on their job which has led to careless death of patients.
No matter the political differences between a publisher and the state government, such should not be allowed to affect the editorial contents of the newspaper, rather extra efforts should be made to ensure balance and objective reporting of events across the country without minding whose ox is gored.
DENNIS JAMARU, a christian cleric, wrote from Bauchi road, Jos.