Place of Imo Journalists In Uzodinma’s Era

By Henry Ekpe

By the end of November, Senator Hope Uzodinma would have completed his first term as the Governor of Imo State, yet he has not met Journalists based in Imo State in any interactive session.

He had several times met with Journalists from outside Imo State, but he has not deemed it necessary to have an interface with the Media Men based in the State he has operated in for nearly four years now.

Whatever is the reason, I cannot fathom, but certainly this was not how I knew Uzodinma with the Press People.

By 1999-2000 when he had not even participated in any elective position, but a strong financier of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, his Omuma home in Oru East used to be a regular Mecca for Imo Journalists.

Then, despite the distance, and very bad road , we all always hit Omuma, any time we hear he was in town. And unannounced, he would open his gates for us.

He hardly slept in Owerri and all our meetings were in his palatial home in Omuma, with two Gates: one at the front, another at the Back.

No matter the amount of visitors in his House, Uzodinma must see us.

And that was the time Journalists in Imo State were regarded as real Stakeholders. Today, those budding politicians then are the once  incharge reaping the rewards, which we all contributed in building together.

The likes of Chidi Nkwopara(Vanguard) late Euginia Okwara  (Source Magazine) Late Ben Obinna, Ben Duru (Daily Independent) Usoro/Clara (Punch) Kelechi Mejuobi (New Age) Chris Isiguzo, the Current National Chairman of NUJ (Thisday) Gerry Ogu, (National Interest), Bright Chimezie (National Times) Lamber Ojukwu (Statesman) Damian Opara (Sentinel) Henry Ekpe/Kennedy Eweama (Announcer) Chidiebere Iwuoha (Anglican Voice) Emma Ogu/ Chris Nwobi (Champion) etc and those unattached, known today as Konjas.

However, our relationship with Chief Uzodinma continued until he became a Senator. And the meetings stopped.It became difficult to track and ambush him like before.

We  still kept the rapour with him, remembering the old times. His his stories began to come through Press Releases from his Media Office. No more contact.

The same pattern continued until Jan 14, 2020 he became Governor.

While he ran for Governor, those of us in TRUMPETA got his stories through Hon Mbadiwe Emelumba, who usually call at midnights when we had already closed shop. But we must come out to pick the story.

We had thought that the relationship would continue and even blossom, since there are too many things to do for a Governor and Government. But that was how it ended till date. To them, now in office TRUMPETA is history.

Unfortunately most painful is that the act has been spread to nearly all the Media Houses in the State and to the Journalists themselves.

It sounds ridiculously incredible, that Governor Hope Uzodinma has never, for the first time, since three years, addressed Imo Journalists in a Press Conference. How he thought that all those his Media Friends who used to pally with him in the early twenties have all left Imo State, or died is still a mystery.

Fortunately most of those budding politicians have all, by the grace of God, and support of Journalists here today become Governors, Ex- Governors, Senators etc.

The small Journalists are also moving up by the grace of God in their chosen careers.

Chris Isiguzo who used to be the Correspondent of Thisday in Imo then, is now the National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ.Ekpe later became  CPS and now Publisher, Bright Njoku, Gele Agbai, Kelechi Mejuobi, Gerry,Ojukwu are all publishers. Ben Duru today is a Pastor winning souls for God. While Euginia Okwara, Ben Obinna and some others too are no more.

Therefore, it will be a bad record that Uzodinma led Imo State for four years and never made out time to speak with Imo based Journalists.

During the Udenwa Era, Journalists in the State enjoyed a lot, despite the fact that the State was just coming out from the hangover of Military regime.

It was then the reign of Chief Val Okechukwu and later Dr Fidel Onyeneke as Chairmen of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Imo State Council. Fidel worked for NAN then.

It was Udenwa’s administration that introduced “Stipends” for Journalists in the State, to at least help them  offset some of their daily expenses.

Dr Vin Udokwu, who was then Chief of Staff and Sir Bright Nwelue who was the Chief Press Secretary really pushed Imo Journalists to the front burner of welfarism.

During Weddings, Child dedications, Burial ceremonies, House Warmings etc, Government usually came to the rescue of Journalists.

Nwelue, with the Government House crew was in my father’s burial (Dr Hilary Ekpe). The Governor approved one cow for me. While Dr Mrs Gloria Chukwukere, the Commissioner for Education, where my father worked as a Permanent Secretary, represented the State Government. And I was just a Reporter with ANNOUNCER Newspaper!

And the Journalists were partners in progress with the State Government, but must publish the truth without harassment or quarrel. No matter whose ox was gored.

The only time there was trouble was when Kelechi Mejuobi, Correspondent of Newage, reported that Governor Udenwa slumped in  Mbeiri during the burial of Senator Amah Iwuagwu. But the matter was also sorted out amicably.

Even when I was kidnapped by an Onuimo LGA Chairman about a story carried in Announcer, Udenwa ordered his Deputy, late Eng Ebere Udeagu to immediately resolve the matter.

When DSS Arrested me and my Boss, late Joe Anyama with late Chief Sanfor Nwankwo/Publisher of National Question) over Biafran Story, the same Governor sent Rt Hon Chuma Nnaji, then Deputy Speaker, and Chief Boni Ebili, then Transition Committee Chairman of  Ideato South LGA to bail us. Though we spent four days in detention by order from above.

So, when Governor Ohakim succeeded Udenwa and by God’s grace, I became the Chief Press Secretary CPS, that relationship between the Government and Imo Journalists got more boost.

Ohakim could call the names of all Journalists in the State. He invited them for every personal functions in Okohia,Isiala MbanoLGA. He was their delight because he was ever ready for any question.

The Journalists’ personal close relationship with the Governor made my job easier, since they would be hurting their friend if they published what was unpalatable and unfounded.

My office was the meeting point for all Journalists.  My fridge was filled with water and other drinks every day. They sent their stories through my office as there were no Wasap, Facebook and other information technology then.

Gov Okorocha  despite his “Stubbornness” and unorthodox ways of doing things  never spent a month  without interacting with Imo Journalists.

Sam Onwuemedo,his CPS was Combative,ready and honmebased. He made Okorocha interact frequently with Imo Journalists.

The occasions held either in the Bush Bar in Government House, his Spidat private Home in Owerri, Ogboko his village home, or NUJ Press Centre,  Owerri.

During Christmas or the Stakeholders meetings held every New Year, Udenwa, Ohakim and Okorocha invited, not only NUJ hierarchy, but Publishers in Imo, and other Senior Journalists.

Not any More. Today Journalists in Imo are not Stakeholders, including Publishers.

Even the seven months Ihedioha spent in office, he met Journalists in his Owerri residence once, and his Mbaise home. To interact with them.

Unfortunately, since the Uzodinma era, to see the Governor for interaction becomes a problem. Either those managing his image prefers “Outside Media” or don’t want the “Home Based” Journalists meet their Governor Or the Governor himself don’t want to meet them.

Ironically those managing the Uzodinma Media could be described as “Home Boys”. Hon Mbadiwe Emelumba, before he was appointed a Media Aide by Udenwa, was the Editor of National Post, Published by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, based in Owerri, Imo State.

Emelumba later became House of Assembly member for Oru East. So, he knows nearly all the Journalists in Imo.

The Chief Press Secretary, Oguwike Nwachuku has been an old friend of mine, and he is from Mbaise. I met him when I was CPS to Ohakim and had to go to Lagos to see the Press there. He and his erstwhile colleague Ikechukwu Amaechi instantly became my brothers and friends, and my eyes in Lagos axis throughout my stay as CPS.

They worked in Daily Independent then.

But I was the Imo Newspaper Publishers Chairman when God made Nwachuku CPS. But till date, he does not know my office. Not even the Commissioner for Information does. I am aware the same  is applicable to other Newspapers based in Imo and the Correspondents chapel.

You may say why not visit them first? No,that is not how we do. Journalists know what I mean.

Imo Journalists are not carried along  under Uzodinma Government. May be those in Government owned Outfits.

The same treatment also to  Home based Publishers and their owners. Apart from Imo Government, the next highest employer of Labour  in Imo State is the Media.

No “Local Newspaper” in Imo employs anything less than Fifteen Staff or more.. And they are all graduates, including the Typists.

In Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers, Lagos, etc our colleagues get their due respects and support from their Governments because they are recognized as “Stakeholders”. Government even gave land allocations in Abia State. We all went to Umuahia to celebrate with Isiguzo when he “washed his House”. About 10 years ago.

It is unfortunate that professional colleagues, Media practitioners, are the once incharge  of the Uzodinma Media Team. “Home Boys”, yet they believe they have nothing to tell the Governor about their mates in the Field in Imo and Government relationship. Or is that Imo Journalists don’t matter any more?

No Government ever succeeds without the Press. Yes, Uzodinma has done good in the Area of Roads, yet it is still through these Journalists and mainly “Local Newspapers” Imo people get to know what he is doing.

In a short time now he will face another election. His Minders see it as a walk in the park because of various stories of Endorsements still published through the abandoned Imo Journalists and “Local Newspapers”

No election is easy and November 11 will be tough but will end in peace for Imo people.

Gov Uzodinma should cultivate Imo Journalists because he may need them tomorrow. There is always a Post Governorship period for every former Chief Executive of a State.

He can ask Udenwa, Ohakim, Okorocha and Ihedioha.


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