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Imo commissioner on fire for disowning journalist

….Dictating press release for a helpless Akaraonye to sign can’t give you legitimacy

….Chidiebube Okeoma, remains a bona fide member of Imo NUJ

The latest release by the Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Declan Emelumba which was as usual signed by Mr. Chris Akaraonye, a retired photographer and an active pensioner in the same Ministry of Information, is nothing new in the chain of events designed by the Imo State Government to hijack and dominate the NUJ in Imo state.

The fact that it was also published in some newspapers said to be on the payroll of Emelumba is also not news, as the state government continues to dig-in and take advantage of the impoverishment of the people of the state. Poverty, as always, is a potent weapon wielded by the rich against the inherently poor populace.

It would have been assumed that the Information Commissioner had by his press release and utterances confirmed to Imo people that having left the practise for so long before his appointment as Commissioner, he now knows little or nothing about the roll call of active journalism practitioners in Imo, hence his reason for describing the Punch Reporter, Chidiebube Okeoma, as a non-journalist.

But we know it goes beyond that; Emelumba represents the Imo State Government’s bid to control the media and news contents emanating from Imo state in the hope that it could subtly arm-twist practitioners into reporting Imo state only on their terms.

But unfortunately, Emelumba and his sponsors chose to execute their sinister mandate with a crowd peopled mainly by non-practitioners and spearheaded by the weak-link impostor, Mr. Chris Akaraonye who has further degenerated into a rubber stamp for Emelumba’s many mendacities.

The Union read with utmost dismay the  sponsored publication in some local newspapers – Announcer, Lead Express and Newsbreak newspapers – in which they averred that the Punch Newspaper Reporter who was manhandled by security personnel at the Imo Government House is not a registered journalist.

This, no doubt, is in a bid to justify the criminal assault unleashed on an innocent journalist by policemen and hoodlums from the Imo State Government House.

Chidiebube Okeoma’s only sin was that he covered a protest organized by street sweepers, mainly widows who are being owed their sweeping stipend for upwards of six months. .

We do not intend to educate Emelumba on the rights of citizens but let it be known to him that it is the right of every citizen to protest. It is also the right of Imo citizens to observe such protest if they so wish, and the right of any practising journalist as Comrade Chidiebube Okeoma, to cover and report the protest.

If the news platforms that published your tissues of lies had even the slightest modicum of conscience or the least knowledge of their mandate as journalists, they would have known that their responsibility is not just to the Government alone but to the public especially the oppressed members of the public.

The least they could have done is to join Chidiebube Okeoma and other practicing journalists to report the abuse and dehumanization meted out on the poor widows sweeping the streets of Owerri.

They can choose to publish whatever they like for gratification or convenience while others publish for humanity and posterity, one thing is sure, a day of reckoning awaits us all.

As a professional body therefore, we sympathize with Emelumba while warning that he should stop impersonating the Union by hiding under a non-existent Imo NUJ faction to discredit core practitioners in the state.

We are also not unaware that Emelumba may be making a ‘huge kill for himself’ while pretending to be leading the charge for government against practicing journalists in Imo state.

What we had expected Emelumba or any reasonable appointee of government to do under the circumstance, would have been to address issues surrounding the unfortunate plight of the widows and further advise the government to pay the arrears of six months stipends which is the crux of the matter.

We are of the opinion that if the money and energy dissipated in carrying out this failed ‘damage control’ for the government is channelled towards paying the widows’ stipends, they won’t protest again and no journalist will be seen around Government House covering their protest. That’s the most reasonable thing to do.

As a matter of fact, if Emelumba is worth all he claims in journalism, he should have known that he can’t get good press by his strong-arm method, neither can bullying or intimidation earn him favourable news reports. All he needs to do is to make visible the good works done by government (Which he hardly does) and urge government to engage in people-oriented projects that effectively impacts positively on the lives of ordinary everyday people in Imo state. With that, there will be no bad press to report.

Nevertheless, we shall hold Mr. Declan Emelumba responsible for any violent attack on any practicing journalist in Imo state going forward, as he has not hidden his deep-seated animosity against those core practitioners diligently discharging their duties without recourse to him or his handouts.

Since the violent attack on Okeoma, Mr. Emelumba has deployed all manner of false labelling, frame-up and malicious name-calling all in a bid to diminish Okeoma’s person and credibility thereby making him vulnerable to more vicious attacks by their rampaging hoodlums.

Without any iota of prevarication, we shall hold Emelumba and his associates responsible if anything untoward happens to Mr Chidiebube Okeoma of the Punch newspaper.

Much as we do not wish to further join issues with the Information Commissioner, having made our position known to the Governor through our letter dated June 4, 2021, it is important that he is cautioned to retrace his steps and stop issuing press releases on behalf of Imo NUJ, and creating inexistent faction in the noble professional body.

We maintain that Mr Akaraonye, a retired photographer and active pensioner in the Ministry of Information and Strategy, is not lettered enough to script such releases. If he says otherwise, we challenge him to appear on a radio program and debunk all of the issues we have raised regarding his questionable claims to journalism practise, with emphasis on the media house he worked and works.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Punch Newspaper Reporter, Chidiebube Ekeoma is a bonafide member of the NUJ. His membership is not in doubt as he is up-to-date financially and otherwise. As a matter of fact, Chidiebube is among those who have contributed financially in the renovation of NUJ secretariat which was almost sold by the duo of Akaraonye and one Innocent Igwe with tacit support of some extraneous elements.

We understand their frustration, having been mandated by the buyers to refund the N20 Million they already collected as part payment on the multi-million Naira NUJ Secretariat. We are happy that the practitioners in Imo State now know the fraud that these unscrupulous men committed against the Union.

A word is enough for the wise.

Signed:

Comrade Precious Nwadike

Chairman, Caretaker committee

Comrade Austin Okoro

Secretary

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