- Charges journalists on responsible media practice
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has said he is not critically ill or flown abroad for medical attention as has been widely reported by a section of the media, particularly online news publications and the social media.
Okowa also wondered why some media professionals would take delight in peddling rumour or publishing rumour without making any effort to verify information given to them even by mischief makers.
The governor spoke at the Government House Chapel, Asaba, during the morning prayer session yesterday, which was attended by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, top government officials and political aides as well as some members of the public.
Sporting a deep grey caftan with light grey stripes and black shoes to match, Okowa joined the congregation to clap, dance and sing praises to God during the morning prayer session at the chapel.
Okowa, who thanked God for His guidance and protection always, however, advised media professionals to imbibe the culture of responsible journalism, which demands adherence to journalistic ethics including thorough investigation of issues and information before publishing.
He said the “blatant falsehood” published by a section of the social and even mainstream media suggesting that he collapsed and was flown abroad for medical attention was surprising to him beyond expression.
The governor, who said he has been consequently inundated with phone calls and messages inquiring about the state of his health from relations, friends and associates around the world in the last couple of days, said there was no justification to resort to publishing sheer falsehood especially about the health and life of a fellow human being.
According to Okowa, “It is unfair and uncharitable to disseminate false information. It is very unfortunate at this age and time that people will intentionally misinform others when there are opportunities to find out what might have happened.
“I am told that certain sections of the social media reported that I have been flown abroad for medical treatment. When and how did that happen, when I have been very busy treating hundreds of files on my table?”
Giving reasons for his seeming disappearance from public glare for nearly one week, the governor said he had actually spent more time at his office desk and treated more files during the week than he usually did when he was busy attending numerous official functions in and outside the state.
Okowa said: “The truth is that, last Wednesday, I entered the washroom in my office and one of the tiles fell off from the wall and I had a minor cut on my head and I had two stitches. It was treated, and I was ok.
“People know I am a workaholic and that is why it didn’t stop me from working. I am hale and healthy!”
The governor also wondered why anybody would question the fact that his deputy, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, would represent him at public functions even when it is clear that the Office of the Governor and that of the deputy are one.
“Why would anybody query why my deputy, Otuaro, should represent me at public functions when my deputy is part of me?”, he said, adding that Otuaro has often represented him at public functions before the fictitious stories in the media.
Okowa, however, said he would restrain himself from “placing a curse” on the masterminds of the false reports about his purported illness because of his faith in God who holds the life of every human being in His hands, adding that there was nothing unusual about anyone falling ill as anybody who is human could take ill.
He therefore challenged media practitioners to always seek and disseminate only truthful information at all times, noting that money that might be got from such sensational and false information spread would be useless to the media person as it is akin to blood money.
Among dignitaries at the morning prayer and thanksgiving service at the Government House Chapel, Asaba, were Otuaro and his wife, Mrs. Ebeirin Otuaro, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Festus Ovie Agas; the state Commissioner for Economic Planning, Prof. Eric Eboh, and the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu.
Online and social media have particularly been a washed in the last three days with reports of the purported illness of the governor.
The rumoured report claimed that the governor, a medical doctor, had allegedly collapsed in the bathroom of his office and was immediately rushed overseas for medical attention while another version said he was believed to be suffering from some blood disease.