Eze Illomuanya and Rochas Okorocha: The Celebration of Journalistic Naivety

By Chuks Osuji

Without any doubt, as we live in a society of development and civilisations, sometimes, the press continues to compound our societal problems. On the other hand, we cannot underate or underestimate the significance of the press in our society. This belief can be reinforced by a celebrated statement credited to Thomas Jefferson, the third American president when he said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” This pronouncement by a former great  American President to a multitude of pressmen (Journalists) in our society and we, members of the Public is both instructive and regularly advising. Because more often than not, the most permanent and consistent confusion in our society today is often brought about by misinformation, under-information or over-information.

Unfortunately, given the explosive presence of the social media,  things are gradually becoming so bad. Because the speed with which information and news travel on internet with a break neck speed is becoming dangerous to the society and must be checked and controlled.

I was one of those who opposed seriously the attempt by the Federal Government to regulate social Media. Untill today, I have not changed my decision to that response. 

However, the attitude of some of our journalists and editors in handling some of the state or national issues gives credence to such suggestion and invitation to regulate the media whether social or regular. I still remember vividly what prof. H. L. Tames, my Doctorate Director often told us in the class and it goes this,”Remember that the value of your education is for you to use it for the society and humanity.” If you are on the path of the truth all the time, you are giving value to your education. What these means is that when a journalist either in the course of interpretation of an issue or in the course of reporting the issue injects bias or prejudice, such a journalist is not serving the course of the society.

However, I can quickly remember a statement by Malvine Kabb, a former press secretary to Richard Nixon who said,”In the profession of journalism, one event, one story or one issue may get several interpretations by different journalists because people don’t think or behave alike.” In this instance, what is important and what should be the guiding principle should be to be as factual as possible.

Now this brings me to the title of this analysis. 

Few days ago, specifically on  Sunday the 27th of March went viral with an incident reported to have happened on board of Airpeace Airline. It was reported that His Royal  Majesty, Eze  Cletus ILomuanya attacked the former Governor of Imo State,Senator Rochas Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha with his walking stick. About two tabloid and two papers had different headlines for the same event. Fortunately, Comrade Ethelbert Okere had graphically mentioned upto  five different captions of the same story. 

But for me as one who deals in Public Opinion Processes, Research and Analysis, I decided not to join the fray of different reportage. Rather as a public Relations practioner, I know that His  Royal Majesty, Eze ILomuanya is press friendly so I put a call across to him to tell me exactly what happened. He kindly obliged and gave me the narration of his own version of the incident. Having heard from him, as I do always, I drew my own conclusion from my conversation with him. From that conversation, it was clear to me that “He did not attack Senator Rochas Okorocha with his walking stick”, point blank. What is clear is that he and Senator Rochas Okorocha had hot exchange of words on board to the effect that since both of them were about to sit together and such hostile arguments arose between them both, it was incumbent on the captain of the aircraft to change their seats. However, with the raging of such exchange of words according to some reports in some newspapers, His Royal Majesty lashed out on the former governor saying, “You’re an Enemy of Imo people. No amount of Media washing can cleanse you of your iniquities.”

Admittedly from all indications, both ILomuanya and Senator Rochas showed a lot of dignity and maturity by not extrapolating their anger to physical confrontation. 

ThankGod this did not happen because of the position which these two great sons of Imo State have held in the society. It was pleasurable to hear from Eze ILomuanya himself that he did not raise up his royal and traditional walking stick to hit the former governor because if he had done that, it would have amounted to cultural desecration of his Ezeship. Of course, he knows this hence this did not happen. Eze ILomuanya is one that has attained alofty height within the armbit of leadership, traditionalism and culture in this country. He is one that has wined and dined with top traditional rulers in the society like the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, Oba of Ife and other traditional rulers in this country. He quickly understood what it would have been and how it would have been reported in the Media houses at home and abroad that the “Obi of Obinugwu fought the former governor.” On the other hand, Senator Rochas understood what it would have been to have the obinugwu and respected himself not to have cursed the Eze. The main thrust of this article is to show that the Press particularly the local ones over exaggerated the incident which would amount to celebrating Journalistic naivety. After all, no matter the fact that during his tenure as the governor of Imo State, Rochas treated Eze ILomuanya with hostility and disdain to the point of dethroning him. An action that did not hold water among the people of Imo State and beyond. ILomuanya should not carry that venom with him whenever he see Rochas Okorocha. For one thing, he will ask himself this pertinent question,”today, my honour and prestige among traditional rulers in Nigeria are still in tact and lofty. He is still the Chancellor of Federal University of Kebbi. 

One more point, it is wrong, absolutely wrong to link this incident with Rochas Okorocha’s travail with the Imo State Government which is trying to recover state property alleged to have been appropriated to himself(Rochas) and his family. These are two different things. Indeed, over 20km apart. The general opinion (Normative and not Imperical opinion) of the generality of Imo people is in support that the government of Imo State is on the right course to use legal means to accomplish such recoveries, after all, it is not and cannot be a quarrel between Governor Hope Uzodinma and Senator Rochas Okorocha. Definitely, it is not between the governor of Imo State and the former governor of Imo State. 

But it is to exaggerate  the incident on board coz of naivety-and most of them over dramatise it which almost amount to killing a fly with a den gun. After all, these two great sons of Imo State deserve Public respect at all times.

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