Uzodinma: The unending war on free press
By Collins Opurozor
Dictators, tyrants and despots have one thing in common: their determination to gag the press. Since their ultimate aim is to close up the civil spaces and command absolute powers, a total war on the mass media is a necessary condition. From Hitler’s Nazism to Mousolini’s Fascism, from Maoism in China and Stalinism in Russia, the story has always been the same. The absolutism and arbitrariness that come with undemocratic rule demand the dismantling of every structure that ensures political accountability, and so the media, which is the bastion of accountable stewardship, must unfailingly be victimized.
This is the situation in Imo state today. Under the watch of Chief Hope Uzodinma, the efforts to stifle the opposition, conscript the public sphere and gag the press are in full swing.
In mid May, last year, a some strange human creatures were spotted around the office of Trumpeta Newspapers in Owerri. They were seeking to confirm that they were at the right place. A few days later, the building housing that indigenous media organization was marked for demolition by the regime of Chief Uzodinma. A few months after that, the building of Zanders FM became targeted and got boldly marked for demolition. Before the second month of the third quarter of last year could reach its full span, the management of Nigeria Watchdog, a local tabloid, got a notice from the regime of Chief Uzodinma, demanding that they pay over five million Naira in taxes or risk being shut down.
The management of Darling FM once got threatened by the regime, that the radio station would be shut down if they did not disclose the source of the news they had aired. The management complied, even against the ethics of journalism, to save themselves from being consumed in the raging war against the press in Imo state. A nursing mother, staff of Imo Broadcasting Corporation, Vivian Ottih, was fired for tearfully begging for her many months of unpaid salaries! She had pleaded with an appointee of the regime close to her to intercede on their behalf. The regime turned around and fired this innocent mother who had a tender infant in her arms, whose only offence was that she requested for her salaries to enable her take care of her child.
Last week, the publisher of Nigeria Watchdog, Comrade Precious Nwadike, was almost beaten to death Chief Hope Uzodinma’s brother. He is yet to be discharged from the Lagos hospital where he had been taken for treatment. Yet the regime of Chief Uzodinma, in all cruel audacity, engaged a band of hack writers to pull wool over the people’s eyes and blatantly lie that the incident never occurred. The regime-controlled newspaper called The Statesman has been deployed for the filthy, sinful, shameful and atavistic misinformation. When the issue was discussed this Monday on Hot FM’s popular program, People’s Assembly, many callers quickly cried out that they had also been brutally assaulted, beaten to a pulp, by the very same brother to Chief Hope Uzodinma.
Imo is a step away from full-blown dictatorship. Once the conquest of the press is accomplished, everyone in Imo will become a vassal to the infernal forces from Hell who are bent on hurting livelihoods, suppressing everyone, destroying every social institution and remaking Imo after the image and likeness of Beelzebub. Imo people must therefore resist this ill-fated agenda. The people must never cower before the feet of a petty tyrant, and never shall they submit to the rule of Herod.