It is rather painful that the same media, which is generally accepted as the fourth estate of the realm, from where she exercises her mandate to serve as the conscience of society, is now ganging up against the same society they’re supposed to protect. (This is about Governor Hope Uzodinma’s award by The Sun Newspaper in Nigeria).
The media that is expected to conscientiously interrogate and expose the ills bedeviling our society have now deteriorated to become willing tools in its very destruction. It tells a story of a terrible reality that will get all the more pathetic.
For a newspaper like The Sun, it is even more heart-wrenching because its motto is ‘the Voice of the Nation‘. How well has this been reflected in its actions?
Many Nigerians are yet to recover from the shock that they were subjected to by the media organisation’s decision to award a rogue Governor, Hope Uzodinma, as ‘Governor of the Year’.
One of the most disturbing trends that has emerged since 1999 in Nigeria is the practice of newspapers or groups of journalists shamelessly handing out questionable performance awards to politicians.
Today, it is no longer uncommon for individual newspapers or shady groups of journalists to issue awards such as ‘Governor of the Year‘ or ‘Best Minister of the Federation‘ ‘Humanitarian of the Year‘, and most recently, ‘Most Supportive First Lady‘. It is common knowledge that incompetent governors are all-too-willing to spend outrageous sums of money to finagle these awards for bragging rights or to hide their ineptitude.
The reality before us is one where the Nigerian masses are already doom-struck and are beginning to be desensitised to the horrors of everyday happenings in the country. It probably explains why the outrage after the announcement was made. Simply put, most people are now so well acquainted with ‘crazy‘ happenings that they are no longer bothered by them.
In Nigeria today, the ‘fourth estate’ has been denigrated to the ‘first slum’ and nobody seems to care anymore. When journalists, whose duty it is to scrutinise the activities of occupants of public offices, simply turn around and take up the stinking act of peddling prizes to governors, ministers, and other politicians, one can only help but weep for Nigeria and her future. Where is the hope? Where is the future? The rot has been deeply imbibed in virtually every facet of society, and it keeps getting worse.
Last weekend was one many Imolites would find hard to forget. Putting them through the torture of watching their governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, who has put them through so much pain, being decorated by The Sun Newspaper as the Best Governor of the Year must have pushed many to tears. Not tears of joy, but those of deep pain and disappointment. Ironically, what emerged from there was a picture of a society at war with its own conscience.
That particular development drove home the message of how journalism has now gone from bad to worse in Nigeria. At this point, the decay that has pervaded the mass media in Nigeria also appears quite irredeemable. If a governor could be awarded for doing nothing for his state, then what is left of the moral fabric of the media? Sincerely speaking, if this award had gone to personalities like Governor Umar Zulum of Borno State or Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, it would be a better pill to swallow. Handing it to Hope Uzodinma is simply the height of absurdity.
Under Uzodinma’s reign as the Governor of Imo State, the state has grown notorious for poor standards and bad examples. It is not surprising that virtually all the rating boards, both nationally and internationally, have asserted that the state occupies the top position in all the indices of social misery.
The economy of the state is in shambles, and health prospects in the state are at their lowest ebb, and this is reflected in the life expectancy in the state, which is 53 years—presently the lowest in Southern Nigeria. Unemployment has just hit 82% in the state for the first time in its history, even when the national average is 54%. So what was the yardstick the Sun Newspapers used in arriving at that morally inept position?
According to recent studies, one in every five women in Imo is prone to cancer, and two out of every eight Imo residents are prone to kidney diseases resulting from poor living conditions in the state. Yet, Uzodinma has not thought it wise to build one single cancer-screening center, nor does he have any nephrologist on the over-bloated payroll of his administration.
Just like his fellow ‘Efulefu’ in Enugu, Uzodinma has simply committed the lives of Ndi Imo into the ‘hands of God.’ Yet, The Sun Newspapers could, without recourse to sensitivity, award him the ‘Governor of the Year.’ How crazy!
Yes, it is true that Nigerian governors and political leaders are grossly underperforming and largely abusing their respective offices. But Uzodinma shouldn’t even enter the conversation at all.
The last two years under Uzodinma have seen the financial fortunes of Imo State go from bad to worse. Despite being an oil-producing state, there is almost nothing on the ground to justify the billions of Naira that have continued to accrue to the state. One would hardly find any 10km road which was tarred by Uzodinma that can withstand one rainy season without developing potholes. It is hard to point to any worthy state infrastructure built by the Uzodinma administration that can pass any standard quality test, yet, the accidental governor has continued to borrow endlessly to squander. In the last two years, recurrent expenditures have swallowed a sizeable chunk of every billion that has accrued to the state.
With records obtained from the debt management office, by the end of the first quarter of 2022, the debt profile of Imo had ballooned to N205.7 billion. Most of these funds have been spent shuttling Uzodinma between Owerri and Abuja on chartered flights, playing the useless politics of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and brazen misappropriation. Uzodinma has managed to sustain his wicked borrowing spree that has now become quite worrisome to every indigene of the state with an active conscience. He has continued to borrow funds without any effort to redraw the state’s industrial landscape and create opportunities for the teeming youths who are all over the place, taking refuge in Internet fraud and other maladies.
So one would like to ask again, on what basis did the Sun Newspapers arrive at such an award?
Painfully speaking, Imo State has remained a killing field and a theatre of war for over one year, yet the only solution Uzodinma could come up with was to politicise the killings. On the 3rd of January this year, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran away after promising Ndi Imo that he would name the sponsors of terrorism last December. Uzodinma further sees insecurity as an opportunity to frame perceived political foes and mark them out for possible elimination. The self-styled Ben Johnson has never seen the need to develop workable solutions to end the killings. His words and actions have continued to fuel the restiveness rather than douse it. Apart from Anambra State, Imo State can be rightfully described as the most insecure state in the Southeast region, with well over four hundred thousand people currently internally displaced in several parts of the state, particularly the Orlu zone where he comes from. Yet, according to The Sun Newspapers, Uzodinma is the best thing that has happened to Nigerians this year after Agege bread. It’s sad.
Finally, a possible justification for the undeserving award could be image laundering because Uzodinma’s image in Imo State still stinks to high Heavens and he knows it. That could be the reason he probably didn’t mind paying several million Naira to clinch it. But the truth remains that a million awards cannot change the minds of Imolites towards the governor they didn’t vote for.
The biggest losers here, however, are the management of The Sun Newspaper, who allowed their heads to be used to break the proverbial coconut.
Allowing a stinking and sinking Uzodinma who is gasping for political and moral breath to drag their establishment’s reputation to the mud for a few million would haunt them forever.
It has become imperative to say that journalism in Nigeria needs empathy, depth, integrity, rigor, and uprightness. Only a few platforms can boast of these qualities, and that should be a source of worry to every right-thinking Nigerian.
The new reality is painful. The euphoria around Uzodinma’s unmerited award would fizzle out in a matter of days, but the dent it has left on journalism would be around for a very long time.