Right of Reply
By Oguwike Nwachuku
OCHEREOME Nnanna’s column in Vanguard – “People & Politics” – is widely read. Often, the author is taken seriously by his audience because of the regional sentiment he injects into his pieces.
It is believed he does that deliberately. Writing in his column on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, Ochereome asked the question: What is Governor Uzodimma’s game? In the media sector where he has plied his trade as a columnist since 1994, he is respected for his age and perhaps, his ability to provide leadership and direction for those who look up to him.
Many in the industry also believe he has the experience to canvass views capable of engendering peaceful coexistence, good governance, harmonious relationship, unity and generally, the overall well being of the people he writes for – the public. But it does appear he has betrayed that trust. Very often, Ochereome has gone off tangent, refusing to follow what his conscience tells him is the right thing to do based on available facts.
More often than not, he writes like one who sympathises with a particular camp with a particular interest or simply put, derives joy in writing what he knows is an outright falsehood and capable of causing more damage to the society. As often as Ochereome has written of late, yours sincerely has read and evaluated such works and has come to the sad and regrettable conclusion that he has done more to tweak, rejig and repress the psyche of most of his followers with the views he has espoused on his column.
Let us return to the issue in question. What is Governor Uzodimma’s game? Ochereome hid under extraneous hypothesis to deliberately blame Governor Uzodimma and President Muhammadu Buhari over the insecurity that is sadly associated with Imo State of late. Such a conclusion could only be reached by an author with a hate inclination and anyone who read the piece in question between the lines and has been reading him will readily conclude that Ochereome has a certain disdain for the Imo State governor, his party and his government.
Governor Uzodimma has not hidden his views on what Imo State is passing through in recent times as regards insecurity. In a remark he made during this year’s Easter celebration he reiterated that much when he noted that the state is passing through a “trying period”. The Owerri Correctional Centre jailbreak that took place last year and saw nearly 2,000 prisoners being illegally liberated threw up security challenges that exacerbated the already difficult security situation in the country.
It is a known fact that the governor was one of the victims of the criminal actions of the escaping prisoners as his country home was attacked last year. The damage to government facilities, particularly what the police and Owerri Correctional Centre lost following the jailbreak is not only huge but an act that hurts the soul each time it is remembered. Nonetheless, Governor Uzodimma has risen to the challenge of protecting the lives and property of the people in line with the oath of office he took.
His government has made deft moves in partnership with security operatives that resulted in the arrest of most of the runaway prisoners and intelligence received from them. In the circumstances Imo found herself last year as a result of the jailbreak and the corresponding killings and attacks on innocent persons and their homes, all believed to be linked to the escapee prisoners, it was by the special grace of God, the lion heartedness of Governor Uzodimma and his strategic moves that saved the situation. I do not know any chief executive who would take an oath of office to protect the lives and property of the citizens and allow himself to be cowed not to do the needful so that the likes of Ochereome will not paint him black.
When Governor Uzodimma sought the help of security agencies from President Buhari and got one, it was with the intention to return Imo to the path of peace, unity, progress and development, in sync with his 3-R mantra of reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery. But alas, the good intention of the governor was turned into a brand for propaganda, aided by write-ups by the likes of Ochereome who sided with interested politicians in Imo and environs to sell such propaganda that the security operatives were brought to kill Imo people.
Rather than condemn both individuals and groups, regardless of who they are, and their intention to instigate insecurity and make Imo State ungovernable as most of the politicians swore to do, Ochereome would prefer to use his views to give a fillip to the ungodly and evil machinations of those who do not like the face of Hope Uzodimma.
That is exactly the way the opposition politicians behave – treat attacks by bandits on APC members and their homes as nothing and resort to finding faults in Governor Uzodimma. Like the politicians we strongly believe are enjoying the insecurity, Ochereome sounds like the spokesman of either the IPOB/ESN or the opposition political parties, as his views in the write-up in question, tallies with those of IPOB, the opposition politicians and their parties who, Governor Uzodimma has always had reason to say, are culpable of the insecurity ravaging IMO.
How careless could Ochereome have been writing that the governor’s security response team caught and extra-judicially murdered Ikonso? Does he have the evidence or he was just writing to please some interests with the intention of causing more panic in the system? Is it not regrettable that someone of Ochereome’s calibre would write that scorch security operations were routinely mobilised to invade homes, and schools and pluck the youth and murder them extra-judicially or haul them into detention in unknown places? Ochereome is a leader in his right.
He has also come of age to know when and how not to use his space to undermine the system. He is expected to be part of the solution to the problems of insecurity bedevilling the society not to be the problem itself. In his quiet moment, would he beat his chest and say he has contributed fairly, using his views, towards creating an enabling environment for peace, unity and development to thrive in our society?
I do not think Governor Uzodimma needs Ochereome to remind him that the security situation in Imo is dire and peculiar.
Therefore, when the governor takes peculiar steps to deal with them Ochereome should not be the one to be consulted because he is not an expert on security matters.
So, why would what the governor said, re-said or refuse to say at all, based on available security reports on security matters, give him goose pimples? It beats the imagination that Ochereome would write that the governor has been “pointing at different directions and creating confusion” when in actual fact he is the one deceiving his readers with unfounded tales based on his personal biases?
Obviously, if he had had cause to speak with security agencies involved in the Imo (in)security saga, he would have been better informed before writing, but it is a pity he chose to write based on hearsay and personal biases. Governor Uzodimma has called six stakeholders meetings in Imo State since coming into office, all geared toward a properly governed state where peace, unity, love, progress and development will reign. His is the only government that meets with stakeholders every quarter on how to collectively provide good leadership.
The governor has repeatedly used the stakeholder’s meetings to appeal to those frustrating, derailing and stalling whatever efforts his government is making to develop Imo State to sheathe their swords in the interest of the children and unborn ones. The least that can be expected from Ochereome is to be that unseen stakeholder who would use his own voice to preach political inclusiveness, collective efforts on peace, unity, to achieve good governance, progress and development in Imo after electioneering and not to allow himself to be blackmailed into believing that Governor Uzodimma is the problem of insecurity in Imo.
Incidentally, Ochereome was part of the media team that was in Imo State in January this year to see for itself what the governor and his government are doing to rail-road Imo from darkness to light.
It does not matter that Ochereome has not seen reason to write a line since that trip, four months down the lane, but what is important is that he was able to corroborate most of the things he heard about the efforts of Governor Uzodimma to pull Imo State out of the brinks despite the challenge of insecurity. I am sure many of Ochereome’s readers would have loved to read his experience in Imo after the outing, particularly as he was one of the media executives who expressed surprise at the huge infrastructure projects going on in Imo. Now, to answer Ochereome directly on his question, Governor Uzodimma’s game is that he has the capacity to deliver on the mandate Imo people gave to him.
His game is encapsulated in his 3-R mantra- Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. By the grace of God, Governor Uzodimma has demonstrated his game on the Owerri/Orlu and Owerri/Okigwe roads, among others that are now wearing a completely new look. President Buhari is expected to flag off the two signature roads hopefully next month. Governor Uzodimma’s game, contrary to what Ochereome thinks, is finding expression in the 135-kilometre rural roads going on simultaneously in the 27 local government areas of Imo State. His game is going on in the health centres being instituted in the 305 Electoral Wards in Imo State.
If Ochereome is not aware, the perennial flood that used to be a symbol of Owerri every rainy season for years has been decisively dealt with and that is Governor Uzodimma’s game. He did not do any magic other than creatively engaging a technology that uses balloons to fight stubborn floods. Those who came before him saw the flood as a problem that defied a solution, the way they were overwhelmed by the erosion ravaging Njaba and other places in Imo. But Governor Uzodimma has confronted the challenges and a solution has been achieved.
Wait a minute. Does Ochereome know that work has fully commenced on the Avu-Etekuru-Ohaji/Egbema road (Adapalm road) awarded by NDDC but abandoned by the contractor 14 years ago? Ochereome already has enough information on the capacity Governor Uzodimma has demonstrated in road infrastructure, urban renewal, health sector, agriculture, education, water resources, including security, and he should stop asking about his game. I challenge him to use his column to inform his audience properly.
Nwachuku, Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to Governor Uzodimma, wrote from Owerri