I MUST clarify from the onset that I am a lawyer, not a journalist. So, I do not have any background in the journalism profession.
But it is one which fascinates me because of the services and sacrifices made by its professionals. Again, I must also confess that I respect newspaper columnists because of the courage of some of them and their analyses. Those of them who investigate before they write make delightful reading because they spice their analyses with hard, verifiable facts.
I am told that in journalism, they say that “comments are free, facts are sacred.” That freedom to express their views is lost when some columnists turn facts upside down. Such articles or canvassed views immediately lose their souls because they are founded on falsehood, deliberate or accidental.
As the conscience of their channels, it is, therefore, incumbent on such opinion writers to write with certain decorum and not toy with facts like opposition politicians out to discredit their electoral conquerors.
People who write these columns are, therefore, challenged to write with some level of authority on the strength of the facts, not fallacies which are available to them and which they so disseminate.
I have read few columnists pass their verdict on the absence of the governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime. To be fair, some wrote out of their personal convictions; others did not hide their emotions. But as a lawyer, I am more interested in constitutionalism, not emotions or morality.
For every worthwhile lawyer, the questions to ask are simple. Did Governor Chime act within the confines of the Nigerian constitution by transmitting a letter to the House of Assembly that his deputy would act in his absence? Is his deputy acting? Did the constitution stipulate for how long a president or governor must be on vacation? Did Chime breach any section of the law?
Some have even called for the Doctrine of Necessity and it only shows their ignorance or mischief on what led to it during the days of late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Chime transmitted a letter to the House of Assembly that his deputy would assume the duty of Acting Governor in his absence. That did not happen in the case of Yar’Adua. But of all the columns that I have read on the Chime matter, none came close to one I read last week.
The author, a refined gentleman sounded like a broken tongue. This is no attempt whatsoever to discredit him because he is also one of the best hands in the land. What one found quite curious was that he seemed to have accepted the falsehood that an officer of government in Enugu State was inhibiting the performance of the Acting Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi who hails from my own part of the state.
Having worked as a commissioner not too long ago, the columnist knows the powers of an Acting Governor. Besides, those who peddle such cheap rumours must show the Acting Governor some respect which he richly deserves.
From my interactions with those in the system and from what I observed during my yuletide holidays in Enugu, he is so well respected and feared that no officer can stand on his way. Not the least the concerned officer whose duty, till today, has been to convey approvals by the Governor and in this instance, the Acting Governor.
For our brother columnist who writes with so much insight to now call on the latter to sack an imaginary foe is making an extreme incitement.
I do not work for the Enugu State Government neither do I intend to work there but from my investigation, the State Executive Council is intact. The House of Assembly, at least on the basis of constitutionalism, has no justification to begin any impeachment move as some opposition politicians have been clamouring for.
The other day, Igbonekwu Ogazimorah and Ray Nnaji, two former key officers in the administration of Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani teamed up with others and issued a statement as Save Enugu Group, patterned after the Save Nigeria Group but lacking in the latter’s ideals and drive. Save Enugu Group gave a two-week ultimatum to the Acting Governor to tell the people the whereabouts of Governor Chime or they would occupy Enugu city.
The threat came at a time that the organized labour, traders, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) Enugu State chapter, the clergy and the entire masses were all expressing their support for the government and the governor. That ultimatum had since elapsed and they are yet to occupy Enugu! Today, they have taken their campaign of calumny to the pages of newspapers, writing articles with pen names and all that.
Recently, newspapers have been awash with stories on what they have now termed absentee governors, referring to the governors of Enugu, Cross River and Taraba states. Of course, none of us, the readers, has any say on what the papers choose to publish on a daily basis. We owe them patronage but they, in turn, owe us dissemination of factual information. The Nigerian media have done well, right from the days of colonialism to the ugly days of the military. A lot of the journalists paid the supreme price for the democracy that we all enjoy today. Therefore, the above is not an indictment in any way. It is just a call to duty, a call for eternal vigilance so that we, the vulnerable readers are better armed to appreciate issues the way they are.
For a fact, Enugu State has been hugely transformed by Governor Chime, a fact that even his sworn enemies have not failed to acknowledge. He may not be media savvy as some people may wish but it was a choice he made from the onset to be silent about his accomplishments. The only encouragement we can give to such silent achievers is not to toy with facts about them in a mischievous manner.
•Uchenna Nwodo, a lawyer wrote from Lagos.