By Kelechi Mejuobi
March 29th 2019 marked another turning point in the political history of Imo State in the transition programme of the Federal Government as states with new governors were sworn-in. In the State, Chukwuemeka Nkem Ihedioha was handed reins of power as the 6th civilian governor of Imo after Justice Paschal Nnadi, the Chief Judge of the State undertook the swearing in and oath of office exercise.
Ihedioha needs no introduction in the politics of the state. The only interesting development about the Mbutu, Aboh Mbaise born politician is that he has migrated from the legislative arm to the executive class.
A check at Ihedioha’s background has it that he spent twelve years at the National Assembly as a Reps member culminating in the Deputy Speaker position he grabbed.
In 2015, Ihedioha ran the governorship race using PDP ticket. Luck was against him but the tide changed on March 9th, 2019 election when he emerged victorious.
A significant aspect of Ihedioha’s victory was that he brought PDP back to power after the tenure of Rochas Okorocha. PDP had left power in 2011, when Ikedi Ohakim who dumped PPA for PDP failed to get a second term.
Another pronounced outcome of the victory of the PDP candidate was the careful frustration of the desire of the immediate past governor, to have his preferred choice, Uche Nwosu, who is the son in-law, as successor.
The ovation that heralded Ihedioha’s victory was not only resounding, but a clear statement that people of the state want a feel of fresh air other than what they experienced in the hands of the Okorocha brand of Rescue Mission administration.
When it became clearer that Ihedioha was coasting home with victory after the March 9th governorship election, everywhere in the state, especially the state capital was ignited with electrifying jubilation and ecstasy from the masses. All known outward publicities bearing Okorocha and his son in-law in the state quickly evaporated.
Despite efforts made by two suspected agents of the immediate past government who went to court to stop the March 29 event, Ihedioha finally became the number one citizen of the state.
Let me at this juncture humbly seize the opportunity to congratulate the new governor and welcome him on board as the Chief Executive of the state fondly called the Eastern Heartland.
This piece is necessary to herald the new governor considering what the media, especially Trumpeta newspaper experienced in the hands of Okorocha.
In view of the house style of Trumpeta newspapers, where I function as a co-publisher and editorial staff, Ihedioha definitely will be within the radar of the medium’s searchlight.
If there was a newspaper, the immediate past governor, his media aides and sympathizers could easily point out as “enemy press”, it was Trumpeta. Reason is not far-fetched. Because of the unflinching desire of the editorial content designed to present reports the way it was during the Okorocha tenure, the newspaper earned a blacklash from the Rescue Mission team.
Trumpeta, its publishers and editorial staff suffered untold hardship in the hands of Okorocha government for maintaining ethos of the profession.
Apart from outright banishment within the precincts of Government House, Owerri, occasioned with constant lock out from the governor’s interactive sessions the media aide to the Okorocha handed Trumpeta persona non grata for not becoming an agent of propaganda, purveyor of falsehood and carriers of skewed truths in favour of the regime.
Apparently poised to stifle life out of the newspaper and its publishers, several attempts were made to eliminate our lives including several reports to security agencies to not only gag the medium but also incarcerate the editorial staff in detention. A particular case in point was the bulldozing of New Market (spare parts) on Douglas road. Reports had it that when Okorocha came to inform the traders of desire to move them to another location two years ago, pure water sachets were flung at his convoy. As a responsible medium with knack for dishing out information they way it is, Trumpeta rolled out the interesting scenario that characterized the outing. But the Okorocha government felt offended and had to write the Directorate of Security Services, DSS, and police to arrest Trumpeta publishers. We spent hours in DSS enclave before freedom came.
The apogee of the anti Trumpeta stance of the Okorocha era was the inglorious fatwa, the irascible Chief Press Secretary to Okorocha, Sam Onwuemedo placed on the newspaper by asking government officials not to patronize the printing outfit. Despite recalling sad reminders of the military era where press freedom was forbidden, Onwuemedo told the Trumpeta crew how a Journalist head was shaved by a military administrator of old Rivers State, disappearance of a crime reporter of Lagos based national daily and unimaginable folklores targeted at threatening our continued posture of the Independence of the medium. On a good day, I will welcome Onwuemedo back to the beat since he thought Government House, Owerri, would be his everlasting abode forgetting that the office of the CPS is “Oche Barber” Today another official is warming the seat, which he is out ranting like a starved mad dog.
Irrespective of the harsh stance of the Okorocha regime, Trumpeta thrived and never cared if the immediate past governor, his media aide and appointees existed. The watchword for our survival remained presenting information the way it was.
As Ihedioha takes over the mantle of office, the newspaper won’t relax its stand at playing the role of a watchdog of the society as the fourth estate of the realm. The newspaper cannot ignore unfounded stories and half baked lies tied around its existence, the background of owners and editorial style.
The newspaper is happy that the new Imo State governor is a thoroughbred politician if his rich pedigree in partisan politics is considered. It is expected that Ihedioha will understand the role of the media in politics by noting that politics is a media game and can’t be divorced from the entire system.
Trumpeta can’t renege in pointing out ills observed in governance of any administration, even as it values information dissemination on government activities as a signature project.
It is expected that the regime of Ihedioha should develop the knack to absorb media tackles whenever it derails or found wanting in the course of discharging their duties. The governor is also expected to institute machineries for proper media relations and image management.
I am optimistic that the personalities appointed to take charge of the governor’s media outfit, Steve Osuji and Chibuike Onyeukwu; Special Adviser Media and Chief Press Secretary respectively, would service the appetite of the ever inquisitive media family in the state. One is also hopeful they will depart from the poor tactical finesse and retrogressive brand of press relationship skills agents of the former government practiced. They are also expected to eschew the inglorious divide and rule tactics of the Okorocha/ Onwuemedo era that pitched a section of the media in the state against Okorocha. Today, the centre can no longer hold in Imo State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, as the one bubbling one family has been factionalized courtesy of Okorocha/Onwuemedo. There is no gain saying the fact that Imo ranks among the states in the federation with a robust local newspapers’ industry that can’t be overlooked.
Once again, hearty cheers to my boss and former editor, Osuji. Osuji has been a role model and mentor in the media sector having served as my editor at defunct New Age newspapers. As the pioneer state correspondent of the newspaper in Owerri, Osuji, was the pioneer editor too and further brightened my media horizon with rare ideas about types of stories and features to undertake. I still recall how Osuji asked me to get the “other side” of the stories during the Achike Udenwa administration as a state correspondent. He made me to go solo and chase “scoops” that was a different brand of media practice in those good old day. In 2007, I was appointed Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly. Osuji, incidentally was appointed Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to ex governor, Ohakim. We had synergy and continued the New Age newsroom fraternity. I wish him well in the new designation as Special Adviser Media. I know he will understand how the “boys” behave and will tolerate if I continue the tactics he thought me in the new dispensation.
Onyeukwu has been one “correct” media aide that won the fancy of operators in the state. A bossom friend and compatriot, his appointment is well deserved. I wish him well as he transverses the murky waters of managing “restless” gentlemen of the press in Imo State.
Kelechi Mejuobi, an Owerri based journalist is a regular commentator on social and political issues in the state