Constructive criticism is one of the pillars of any promising democracy. All over the world, critics are regarded as the third eye of the community, state, nation or group. They are the watchdogs and guardian angels that constructively put the government on the hot seat, just like Frank Edoho on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? In this case however, the stakes are higher- the state of an entire state.
The history of political criticism could be traced to the western nations, especially the country that is now calling us terrorists. Throughout American political (and governmental) history, the citizenry are allowed to hear divergent views from different angles, with which they decide whose report to believe- the incumbent, or the opposition? The issues are neccesary, the arguments are fierce and the winner, in most instances, takes it all. The United Kingdom is another place where qualitative arguments are the driving force challenging every action, wrong action, and ‘no action’.
In the House of Lords and Commons, the English Prime Minister is constantly subjected to strong litmus tests by the members of the House, especially those in the opposition who will always endeavor to discredit his steps, while profering better and more effective plans their party would take if voted for at the next elections. Another medium is the media.
The role of the members of the print and electronic media in nation building cannot be overemphasized. The American Success Story is incomplete without making reference to the country’s numerous news network channels that constantly invite analysts to review matters arising. In Nigeria, the dividends of good journalism cannot be overemphasized.
Many Nigerians cannot forget fearless journalists like Dele Giwa who constantly asked pertinent questions in his articles, and several others, past and present, that are scattered across our media houses. The message is simple – let the truth be known.
But how do you explain a situation where instead of getting enlightened, readers become more confused than at the outset? This is the hallmark of the ongoing Guardian- Imo state government face off.
When I read article that was published in The Guardian, I couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the writer’s desperate attempt to discredit the Imo State Government which forced me to ask what happened to the seeming perfect relationship between the state government and the media houses? Be that as it may, let’s face the facts.
One of the issues raised by the writer is the numerous road dualization projects which he (or she) claimed are abandoned. Firstly, I will like to say unequivocally that the writer’s background research was quite shaky, a feature that in recent times is fast becoming synonymous with The Guardian Newspapers. How will be you be blaming the state government for a federal government project? Moreover, did the writer ply the Owerri- Onitsha road that is being dualized? I always marvel at the awesome work that Julius Berger Construction Company is doing there.
Another erroneous assertion by the writer is putting the blame of frequent traffic jam around Assumpta Avenue on the state government.
As a visitor to the city, the roundabout is one of the biggests that I’ve seen. Moreover, this is a major route that links most parts of the town together, talkless of the mammoth crowd that beseech the catholic church in the area. These point to the fact that traffic jams are expected, and relevant agencies should be assigned to this area. However, this is the responsibility of The Nigerian Police Force, Federal Road Safety Commission, and the likes, all of which are federal government- owned agencies, and posing the situation of the nation as a notion, I think they are doing their best.
The ‘journalist,’ in the article, also mentioned several potholes dotted around the state’s major roads. This is also another colossal waste of page and ink owing to the fact that potholes are not peculiar toroads in Imo State. As awesome as Guardian Newspaper’s Man Of The Year, Raji Fashola (Lagos state governor) is, Lagos state still has several potholes and numerous ecological disasters; yet, he was still named The Man Of The Year. So what does the writer (and newspaper) have against Ohakim, and his cabinet?
He also wrote copiously on the governor’s attitude of wasting state resources on adverts- billboards, magazines, and other publications. Although this is true, I believe the governor is not the only one. Go round the country- from the east to the west; north to south, you will see that it is a national phenomenon- from the handsome ones like Fashola and Ohakim, to the likes of my Governor Akala.
There are also good sides to this as the state is promoted in good tones to visitors and this can promote tourism. The governor also has a handsome face,and bewitching smile topped only by Barack Obama. If the writer is so annoyed with ordinary posters, only God knows what the reaction will be concerning Cross Rivers, Delta and Rivers state governments that pay foreign artistes several millions to sing for few minutes.
The State Commisioner For Information also showed that something is amiss in his advertorial published in The Sun Newpaper on Sunday and probably in other newspapers. He used the introductory paragraphs to castigate the writer writing for an establishment ‘he once worked for.’ He could have saved us the tales of how the journalist was invited, fed, and accomodated (he even mentioned the hotel), and address the issues raised.
The saga further examplify situations where our so called highly revered journalists failed to understand the problems of the citizens, preferring to write scripts, instead of thought- provoking articles. It doesn’t take a Yale law degree to fathom what the people of Imo state want from the government. The writer would have hit the government below the belt if he (or she) was patient enough to sample the opinions of Imo state residents.
An issue that is getting attention in the state is the proposed strike by the Academic Staff Union of the state-owned university- Imo state university, as a result of the government’s reluctance to pay outstanding salaries, allowances, and remunerations. How can a sane journalist miss that?
Another challenge is the blockage of drainages in the state capital, especially along the major roads. This makes the stagnant water to ooze very offensive odours. This makes one wonder whether the journalist suffered from acute catarrh when he came to town, or rode in an air conditioned state-of-the-art car!
Like the federal government, the national newspaper is also not getting it right as fairness, truth and professionalism were relegated to the background in the unprofessional quest to discredit Imo state government without following the rules guiding the art of journalism. This is another show of shame to the newspaper in this age where Nigerians are gradually going back to the reading culture.
Like most readers, every time that I open the pages of the dailies, I want to read unadulterated truths that will help me make my judgement without any publisher or writer making such for me. But that is not what The Guardian is doing. It is the accuser, the lawyer, and at the same time acting as judge. Very soon, if cautionary steps are not taken, it will be serving governments at all levels quit notices, then we won’t need any tier of government as The Guardian will be all that we need.
If the writer wants to write on non- performing governors, let him go to my state, Oyo state, where Alao Akala is only active when given chieftancy titles, and not in places where the foundation of democracy seems to be well layed when compared to other parts of the country.
Personally, I love the diligence of PHCN as Works Layout (my area of residence) enjoys stable electricity supply, the Water Board is also awesome as I’ve only fetched water thrice since 2008! I’m satisfied with the State Waste
Maintanance Agency for disposing our refuse daily, also with Imo ENTRACO for making Okigwe, Wetheral, Douglas and Bank Roads beautiful and befitting. Oguta Wonder Lake is also a budding tourist center and the state library where I spend most of my time is equiped with some expensive medical textbooks, a feat that is quite unusual for most state libraries.
On matchdays, I go to the refurbished Dan Anyiam stadium to see a rejuvenated Heartland FC which made it to the CAF Champions League Final play, although some spectators urinate indiscriminately and with reckless abandon around the premises of the stadium. In essence, If a resident can enjoy all these from a state government, I think such citizen should be thankful, while expecting more to be done.