Journalists in Abia State under the aegis of Correspondents Chapel held their maiden Media Week during which games, professional, political and social issues were blended to make a pot pouri of fun. Emmanuel Ugwu captured the high points of the fun filled weeklong activities
Working like bees, journalists hardly find time to engage in recreational activities. But when the members of the Correspondents Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abia State Council decided to hold its maiden Media Week there was no stopping them. In the course of the weeklong event the gentlemen of the press not only enjoyed the world’s most beautiful game of football but also engaged in introspection. Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel, Emmanuel Ugwu explained that it was indeed time for journalists “to press the pause button to reflect on our challenging profession, do a self-appraisal and set goals for optimum performance”.
It was fun all the way. Not even the rather disappointing outcome of the novelty football match with the Abia Police Machine FC could dampen the enthusiasm. Yes, the Correspondents Pen Pushers FC fell 0-4 to the police team captained by the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Leye Oyebade. The journalists had held their own in the first half of the encounter only to buckle in the second stanza of the exciting match following constant barrage by the police frontline.
In fact there was high hope among the journalists and their supporters at the Umuahia Central Police Station field that the match would be “inconclusive” like some recent elections conducted by INEC. But shortly after the break the home side turned the tide against the visitors. Nonetheless the Correspondents players held on to minimise the damage. Both the players and supporters of the losing side did not brood over the crushing defeat by the police team as the journalists held their head high and forged ahead to end the maiden press week on a high note.
The grand finale of the press week turned out to be the icing on the cake. While the event which was held at the Aguiyi Ironsi Conference Centre provided opportunity to delve into the issue of adherence to professional ethics it equally provided platform to review recent crucial political developments in Abia. The journalists also used the event to honour those considered to have made positive impacts on the socio-economic and political life of Abia. Former Vice-president of NUJ Zone C, Sir Ambrose Nwachukwu took the journalists on a voyage of self-appraisal of their knowledge and attitude to their professional ethics in the discharge of their duties.
Nwachukwu, who is both journalist and teacher of journalism refreshed the minds of his colleagues on the code of ethics for Nigerian journalists and emphasised the need for any journalist worth the name to adhere strictly to the creed. He said that “journalism ethics is such a hacky issue that demands intensive and extensive discussions and deliberations”. Nwachukwu insisted that “it is imperative for media professionals to be truthful, fair and comprehensive in their account of events as such is the precursor of justice and foundation in democratic governance”. But he pointed out that even as journalists strive to keep to the ethical demands of their profession they are buffeted by enormous challenges including economic hardships, political and economic interests of media owners.
Abia State Commissioner for works, Mr. Eziuche Ubani in his assessment of the journalists in Abia said that their commitment to professional ethics was not in doubt. Ubani, who was an accomplished journalist and columnist in THISDAY before his crossover to politics, was on a familiar terrain when he put Correspondents in Abia on the scale. He noted that with the volatile political crisis that has been the lot of Abia for over a year running, “it is difficult for journalists here” to do their job without falling into the trap of partisanship. But he noted that by sticking to their professional ethics journalists have helped to keep the political crisis in Abia below boiling point. Chairman of Abia Council of NUJ, Comrade John Emejo said that journalists in Abia State have remained steadfast in discharging their duties and urged the political class to place the interest of the state above their personal interests.
The Correspondents Chapel chairman in his welcome address also harped on the need for strict observance of professional ethics and not use the power of the pen to cause havoc in the society. “We must be agents of development, not destruction; growth not retardation; education, not mind pollution; cultural revival, not cultural imperialism,” he said.
Abia politics came into focus as the guest speaker took the stage. There was no sidestepping it as the journalists themselves have been witnesses to the events and personalities that have shaped the politics of God’s own state. And of all the political developments witnessed in Abia since its creation the emergence of an Ukwa/Ngwa man as Abia governor in the person Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has been adjudged as the most remarkable. It was made possible because of the political will mustered by the former governor of the state, Senator Theodore Orji which led to the implementation of the Abia Charter of Equity. The Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Martins Azubuike, who was the guest speaker, lauded Senator Orji for resisting the intense pressure mounted by selfish politicians in the state to ensure there was power shift in the state.
Speaking on the “The imperatives of equity and fairness as initiated and implemented by the former governor, Senator T.A. Orji’s administration in Abia” Azubuike noted that Abia has become the better for it by embracing inclusive politics. According to him, the emergence of an Ukwa/Ngwa man from Abia South zone as governor after years of marginalisation was a master stroke by Orji in his desire to bequeath equity and fairness in Abia politics.“Today, Abia is in peace,” he enthused, adding that the Abia electorate saw the emergence of Ikpeazu as PDP flag bearer in the 2015 general election as healthy development” hence he was able to emerge victorious at the poll. He said: “Because Senator Orji stood on the solid ground of conscience and truth, the PDP both at the state and national level supported him. The people of Abia State, especially the majority of them that have not killed their conscience because of quest for power and materialism evidently gave their support for Senator T.A. Orji’s commitment to equity.”
According to the Abia House Speaker, prior to the birth of God’s own state, “the founding fathers of the state had intrinsically agreed within and among themselves that their perceived state would be run on best global standard application of equity, fairness and justice”. He explained that “the synopsis of Abia Charter of Equity was, and remains that every geopolitical zone or segment in the state when created would not be marginalised in any of the state administration but rather would be given adequate sense of belonging”. Azubuike travelled the memory lane and recalled how Abia “was devastatingly torn into factions” before the emergence of Senator Orji as the third democratically elected governor of Abia state in May 2007.
He named the major gladiators then as the home based politicians and the Abuja domiciled Abia politicians. “There was no love lost between the two. The result of this avoidable rancour was that the state became the victim. But Senator T.A. Orji being a seasoned technocrat and bureaucrat did not need to consult any oracle to realise that such cat and dog relationship, if not radically resolved, would continue to constitute clog in the wheel of progress of the state.”
Vice-president of NUJ Zone C, Christopher Isiguzo said that it would not be proper for the journalists to limit the event of the day to stock taking without adding their voices to draw attention to the deteriorating infrastructure and security problem in the South-east zone. He called on the federal government to take urgent action and rehabilitate its roads that have totally collapsed thereby disrupting smooth movement of people and goods in the South-east. He specifically asked the federal government “to declare a state of emergency on federal roads in the South-east”, notably Enugu-Port Harcourt, Enugu- Onitsha, Onitsha-Owerri, Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene and Aba- Ikot Ekpene highways. The conditions of all these roads have become so parlous that they are largely death traps.
The NUJ zonal leader equally expressed displeasure at the insecurity situation in the South-east as herdsmen spread death and destruction. “We’ve been asked to embrace farming, yet people cannot have access to their farms due to the murderous activities of herdsmen,” he lamented. Isiguzo regretted that the governors of the South-east zone were not helping matters as they are working at cross purposes due to their different political affiliations hence they could not adopt a common approach to solve a common problem.
To further underline the urgent need for concerted efforts to tackle the herdsmen menace in the South-east, Correspondents chairman, Ugwu warned that since Enugu State has witnessed frequent bloodsheds by herdsmen and Anambra has also witnessed such attacks there is every likelihood that the other states (Abia, Imo, Ebonyi) in the South-east zone would eventually become easy targets “if nothing is done to put a final stop to the marauding herdsmen.” He therefore called on the federal government to give definite directive to its security agencies to stop herdsmen from terrorising the zone, destroying lives and properties. “The infirm of purpose approach and paying of lip service to the issue of herdsmen has been going on long enough. It is time to do something positive,” he said.
Having been scanning the Abia environment like orbiting satellite over the years the Correspondents have followed the political, social and economic developments of God’s own state. Therefore they saw the need to express their observations by recognising and giving awards to some individuals that have made remarkable impacts on the socio-political affairs of Abia. Senator Orji was honoured with the Hero of Equity award for keeping his word to ensure the implementation of power shift to Abia South zone after the North and Central had taken their turns in occupying government house for eight years each.
“By recognising a man who has kept his word and stood for the enthronement of equity in Abia State, the Correspondents Chapel has indelibly underlined the need for total abolition of marginalisation at every level of governance in Nigeria,” the Chapel chairman said, adding that “without equity and justice our democracy is doomed to asphyxiate”. Orji, who was represented by his media adviser, Mr. Don Norman Obinna, said that he was deeply convinced that it was a matter of natural justice that every section of Abia must have a sense of belonging.
The Abia Central Senator called on the State House of Assembly to give legal backing to the Abia Charter of Equity to ensure that every successive government adhered to it. Hon. Uko Nkole, a young promising federal lawmaker, who represents Arochukwu/Ohafia federal constituency, was honoured with the Quality Representation award for the positive impact he has made on the lives of his constituents through his empowerment programmes since he was elected into the House of Representatives last year. In fact, Nkole was already deeply engaged in putting smiles on the faces of people before becoming a federal lawmaker last year. “This award will spur me to do more in empowerment of people and facilitating rehabilitation of rural roads,” Hon Nkole said, adding that he would continue to be good ambassador of his constituency and Abia state in general.
The third recipient of the awards caught the attention of Correspondents after he partnered the state government to build a very important road connecting some communities in Umunneochi local government. Prince Chris Odinaka Igwe, a businessman and philanthropist, who received the award of Development Catalyst, contributed 40 per cent or N400 million out of the total sum of N1 billion spent on the rehabilitation of the 6.5km Amauda – Isuochi cluster roads while the state government paid the balance of N600 million. In all the three awards brought out the salient ingredients of successful democratic governance – equity, quality representation and citizen participation in governance and development.