By Amby Uneze
About one year ago when Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha barred two prominent journalists- Chidi Nkwopara of Vanguard Newspapers and Amby Uneze of THISDAY Newspapers from covering his activities, the earth was not shaken to its foundation. Goings-on at the Imo State Government House remained the same. Some may argue that it went down to its lowest ebb, making the place very unattractive to journalists.
A local tabloid quoted the governor saying he would not rescind his decision to ban the two journalists when the State Chairman of Correspondents’ chapel, Steve Uzoechi pleaded with him to lift the embargo.
Okorocha said “the two correspondents are in the habit of giving negative coverage on my government.” The governor alleged that “Nkwopara’s anti-government posture started with the demolition of Ekeukwu Owerre market.” The journalist, according to the governor, wrote damning reports on the issue and incited people against his administration.
The governor turned down the request to lift the prohibition of the journalists, stressing that they always bear animosity towards him. “Their coming to Government House is repugnant to me,” he said.
Imo State Government House popularly called ‘Douglas House’ and rechristened ‘Peoples’ House’ by Okorocha, is not the private property of Okorocha. Every Imo indigene or visitor has the right to it. As a journalist in a prominent media organisation, I am entitled to visit the Government House in the course of duty. The governor does not have the right to ban any journalist from covering activities in the government house, expect such a governor has a skeleton in his cupboard.
Okorocha’s ban has not affected my duties in the state. I am effectively covering the activities in the state, Government House inclusive. It is, however, important to state that most of the journalists in the state do not have any business in government house because that place is ‘dead’. No meaningful programme goes on there.
For the governor of a state to say that the presence of some people is repulsive to him, simply means he is not worthy to be the servant of the people. He does not understand the oath of office which is predicated on ‘doing good to all manner of people’. The governor’s attitude to governance has indeed earned him ‘disrespect’ and makes the state a ‘laughing stock’.
I cannot celebrate a man who keeps malice against his subjects and does not follow due process. Okorocha’s major achievement in seven years is the continuous empowerment of his family members. He has kept the people under excruciating agony under the disguise of urban renewal.
The governor seems to be succeeding with humiliating journalists in the state because of the ineffectiveness of the leadership of the Imo State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The union should have risen to the occasion by calling his bluff.
I commend the leadership qualities of the state Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Steve Uzoechi for pleading with the governor unban the two journalists who were humiliated for writing the truth about some of the unpopular policies and activities of the state government.
It is also pertinent to bring to the notice of the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command and the general public the threat to my life which is being orchestrated by the state government and its agents. I recall the last phone call put across to me by the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Uche Nwosu expressing anger about my stories that were not favourable to the state government. He threatened that if I would be made to face the wrath of the government, if I did not me to desist from writing such stories. Recently, a group of thugs emerged from the APC state office at Okigwe Road and converged at a joint. The subject of their discussion was how to deal with me for daring the state government over some of my reports. I also urge the state government and her agents to stop threatening my life.