WITH the wind of the 2015 general elections already blowing across the country, politicians are increasingly scheming for relevance. Some of them will stop at nothing in bringing whoever they see as a stumbling block down. Where they feel they cannot do it themselves, they use their hatchet men, including emergency journalists without a known or registered medium.
They specialise in blackmail and readily extort from unsuspected individuals or government officials who fall prey to their antics.
It is a development which has given the journalism profession a negative perception in the public. These armchair critics who claim to be journalists or public affairs analysts but lack factual information on issues and events, often appear on television stations to do the bidding of their paymasters against whosoever they were commissioned to run down.
For more than three decades, I have followed the Nigerian media and journalists. They have done very well in sustaining, promoting and deepening our country’s democratic governance despite some minor and major hiccups. But most annoying of it is that some jobbers and quacks are trying to invade the scene.
Recently I was opportuned to watch the Channel Television’s morning programme tagged SUNRISE. On the stage was one Don Norman Obinna who claimed to be a journalist and was discussing developments in Abia State, especially in the education sector.
Having been conversant with Nigerian media for years, I know that Obinna is a not journalist by practice, because I cannot recollect reading his stories in any national daily or listening to him in any radio or television station. I listened to him as he criticized the present government in Abia State for non-performance after six years. When I searched internet Obinna was addressed as the publisher of the Spokesman Magazine that was about to debut.
It was alleged that he had tried to do business with the Abia government but failed in his bid. It could be recalled that before Obinna, there was one Odimegwu Onwumere, a self-acclaimed poet and author, who has been busy attacking the Abia government on the pages of newspapers, blogs and internet. He was also a praise singer of the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu.
Being an indigene of the state though residing in Lagos for more than 20 years now, I was convinced that the acclaimed journalist was hired to do a dirty job which was to run down the state government. Unfortunately the anchors of the programme did not give opportunity for listeners to ask him some salient questions and there was nobody from government’s side to balance the issues. So he had a field day.
He did not deny that there are many ongoing and completed projects in the state such as the State Judiciary Complex, New Workers Secretariat, the Renovated Old Workers Secretariat, New Government House, New International Conference Centre, Abia Dialysis Centre, 250 health centres, many roads constructed and renovated and others still ongoing and several other projects scattered across the state, including the revival of the education sector which Obinna alleged to have been abandoned. Constructive criticism is a good tonic to spur government into action if the need arises. But the problem today is that most people criticise government out of sentiment, hatred and malice devoid of facts and figures.
In his criticisms of the state government’s performance so far, the critic, Obinna, did not inform Nigerians what were on ground in the state in the area of infrastructure when the present government came into office in 2007. He did not state the number of schools or roads built or reconstructed by successive governments in the state before now, especially between 1999-2007 when the state witnessed uninterrupted democratic governance. What was the state of the commercial city of Aba then and now? Another issue is whether what the present government inherited in the area of debts and infrastructural decay were commensurate with the monthly allocations that accrued to the state before they came into office?
Was there any laid down road map for the development of the state by Orji’s predecessor which Orji’s government did not sustain? Who was responsible for the politically-motivated kidnappings that turned the state into a pariah that only ended following Orji’s government intervention? Billions of naira spent in tackling the menace would have been used in developing the state, but there will be no development without adequate security.
He did inform Nigerians that the Orji government was held down during his first term in office by the now estranged godfather of the state politics.
A development which was made possible by the tactical alliance between the godfather and the Presidency under the auspices of the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s Government of National Unity, GNU. For almost four years, Abia State’s monthly federation allocations were kept out off the reach of the state government. The council areas’ monthly allocations were also hijacked by the same godfathers who took it upon themselves to appoint all council chairmen in the state and other key members of the state executive council.
The consequence was that the Orji administration inherited a debt of N29.9 billion on assumption of office.
So, considering what Governor Orji has achieved within a short time in spite of the antics of a desperate godfather, it is quite clear to all and sundry that his government has done pretty well.
It is true that the considering the enormity of challenges the present government inherited due to neglect of the infrastructural sector by successive governments in the state, the government cannot magically fix or tackle all of them within this short period of liberation of the state. It is just the same way some people are criticizing President Jonathan’s government without taking into cognizance the state of the country when his government came into office.
Despite his government’s giant strides in the area of infrastructure development such as the ongoing rehabilitation of Oshodi-Apapa expressway which is unprecedented. No government has ever rehabilitated the road the way it is being done to check the menace of flooding that often take over the road during reason and make it impassable. The Enugu/Port Harcourt expressway has been completed and it take less than one hour, forty minutes to move from Enugu to Port Harcourt now.
In Lagos, despite all the razzmatazz about Governor Babatunde Fashola’s sterling performance, the roads leading to Ejigbo, Ikotun, Isheri Oshun and Ijegun have remained impassable for years now. That is not to say that Fashola’s government is not doing her best in the face of daunting challenges. Obviously, government especially in the state has too many responsibilities at a time, even when the Federal government corners the chunk of the country’s resources.
That is the defect of our democracy. So critics and journalists should always gather their facts and figures right before running people or government down for selfish reason. That is my worry when recently I read that FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed has served notice of his intention to slam a Five Billion Naira (N5,000,000,000:00) on the Kaduna based Desert Herald newspaper and its publisher, Alhaji Tukur Mamu for defamation and libel following series of damaging publications against him by Mamu through his newspaper and two others.
Again two journalists were recently docked for allegedly duping their fellow journalists. Two former leaders of a journalists’ union were on Tuesday docked for duping their fellow journalists of over N14 million.
Timothy Elerewe, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Correspondent Chapel,Abuja, and Adegbuyi Ayodele, former secretary of the chapel, were remanded in Kuje prison by Justice Suleiman Belgore of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. They were arraigned on a 5-count charge that borders on conspiracy and criminal breach of trust preferred against them by the EFCC. The duo was alleged to have in 2006 informed their members of 33.32 hectares of land purportedly allocated to the NUJ Chapel by the Nasarawa State Government.
In a bid to secure the land, 111 journalists were alleged to have each paid the sum of N350, 000 per plot, totalling N14, 146,000 to the suspects. Since then, the victims, members of the chapel, alleged that they neither got the land nor had their money refunded to them. It is a wakeup call for the leadership of the NUJ to separate rice from chaff both in practice and behaviour. All Dick and Harry cannot claim to be a journalist. It appears to be one profession without professionals.
Mr. GODDY UWABUKO, a computer scientist, wrote from Lagos.