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Opinion

When Did Journalists Become Police Enemies?

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The pathetic story of John Bibor, a credible Journalist with the Rivers State Government-owned The Tide Newspaper, on the sadistic  brutality meted to him by a detachment of the Nigerian Police from Umuebele Divisional Police Headquarters stationed  at Umuakoru road, Igbo-Etche on Thursday, March 4, 2024, leaves much to be desired.
According to John Bibor, the victim of the police brutality, “I closed from work, got to Igboh Junction and boarded Okada to go to my house at Umuchoko Igboh Etche.
“We got to C S S, Igboh Etche and the Okada man asked me to disembark as the police had cordoned off the road leading to Eze Nweke Palace.
“I stepped down, raised my hands as others were doing without knowing why.
On my way, one of the police officers accosted me, asking me who I was, I disclosed my identity, as a good Nigerian resident in the community.
“On further probing about my identity, I told him that I’m a Journalist but live there. He said journalist, so you are here to tell lies about us and started flogging me with the rubber pipe in his hands.
“He even threatened to shoot me and calling on thunder to fire my generations”.
It beats my imagination to hear that some police men see journalists as potential threats to  them and their duties. The question begging for answer is: Is it because they are not doing the right thing? Is it because the policemen are involved in shady deals, hence, the presence of journalists poses a discomfort to them? I ask because it is said that an innocent person fears no accusations. Journalists as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, constitute the watchdog of society. They hold Government accountable to the people, and remain the conscience of healthy society. The services of the journalist are so sacrosanct that Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was one of the world’s earliest political leaders to declare his admiration and advocacy for media governance.
Writing from Paris to Edward Carrington who he sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786-1788, on the importance of Free Press to keep Government in check, the media-friendly Jefferson said quite clearly and with utmost sincerity, “If I had to choose between Government without Newspapers (Media) or Newspapers without Government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the latter”.
Rather than seeing the journalist as an enemy, a spoilsport and unwanted, the Nigerian Police should see the journalist as a veritable partner in building a society devoid of crime.
The police and the media are like the snail and its shell. They are inseparable pair, separate them they will languish for want of the other. In fact, the professionals the police needed most to collaborate with them to check the spate of crime and criminality in our society, highlight the exploits, achievements and challenges of the Nigerian police are the journalists. The Nigerian Police cannot fight crime and criminality in its complex and multi-dimensional operations, to the exclusion of the media. Journalists remain a strong voice for the police. They share in the pains and gains of the police. The media in a modern society driven by technology is the channel through which the police communicate its activities to the society. And more often than not, journalists have whipped up positive sentiments about the police. The upward review of remuneration of the rank and file of the Nigerian Police cannot be dissociated from the vociferous and resilient reportage of journalists on the plight, hazardous nature of the police encumbered by a peanut and paltry takehome which was a derogation of their essential and invaluable security services to the society.
Perhaps, why some police men hate journalists is because the latter had refused to give a blind eye or look the other way in reporting the excesses and acts of the police that are inconsistent and counter-productive to their service demands.
The Nigerian Police should know that when journalists write against anti-social behaviour, criminal activities and acts inimical to their duties, they are veritably discharging their constitutional and statutory mandate and obligation. It negates code of ethics for journalists to write in favour of the Police when there is a clear failure  of the men of the Nigerian Police to justify the confidence reposed on them. Truth is the pillar of journalism, to act otherwise is an unpardonable error.
John Bibor is a seasoned journalist of over 20 years in practice, who has always adhered strictly to the principle of objectivity and fairness. He is conscientious, and God-fearing. A diligent and hardworking, John Bibor was twice the “Best Reporter” awardee of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, printers of The Tide Newspapers. The annual Corporation’s Award scheme is designed to enhance productivity by recognising  and motivating hardwork.
So, it must certainly be a case of mistaken identity to identify patriotic and ethics-compliant journalists like John Bibor, to unethical and unprofessional practices.
No doubt, with fairness to my conscience the journalism profession like every  other profession, is fraught and replete with the challenge of quackery. Quacks or gate-crashers are on the prowl, their nefarious activities seem to have overwhelmed the quest for  sanity and respect for ethical conduct and professionalism.They are virtually everywhere like the octopus whose tentacles are spread beyond imagination. Their activities speak volumes of who they are: Sensationalism is their hallmark, their reportage lacks fairness, objectivity and balance. For  them, the end justifies the means; integrity and honesty are alien in their practice.
The presence of the quacks and counterfeit in any profession lends credibility to the fact that there are originals and patriots.
The Nigerian Police should know that the Judas Iscariot in Jesus’ team is not enough to make other apostles suspects or susceptible to insults. It will amount to a fallacy of generalisation when the Nigeria Police treat innocent members of the society on the basis of their haunt for criminal elements of the society.
Trained and professional journalists are good people, they are not criminals. They are help-mates to the Nigerian Police and other security outfits of government.
A synergy with journalists will enable the public appreciate the sacrificial roles of the police. But acts of antagonism, will inevitably strain a good relationship that had existed over time. And the Nigerian Police will suffer loss because “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
The Rivers State Police Command should prevail on the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Umuebele Police Division to call his men to order and render unreserved apology to John Bibor, The Tide Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Rivers State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for dehumanising an innocent citizen and a patriotic journalist.
The Police Command should commit to build a sustainable synergy with  journalists, so much so that injury to one will be deemed injury to the other. Nation building, crime detection, crime prevention and crime fighting are a function of unalloyed synergy.

Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Rivers Desire Genuine Leadership 

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In the realm of political leadership, the true measure of a leader lies not in the ability to wield power but in the capacity to exercise restraint and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the common good of the led. This requirement, which of course is  not  without a cost, is critical for fostering a stable and prosperous society. In politics, leaders do not die, but work tirelessly to remain relevant in the scheme of things; this is as they would cherish beyond everything else, an enduring political structure upon which the embers of their relevance is consistently fanned. However, this can only be achieved when they  choose  to exercise restraint and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the common good of the led.  The transient nature of power is the reason the society is inundated with leaders, meaning that once any has controlled the baton of authority, the same becomes automatically enlisted among the roll of leaders whether he remains or ceases to be in control eventually.
The quest for relevance among political leaders has on many occasions, led to clash of interests betwee the formers and their successors with each trying to protect his own, sometimes at the detriment of the masses calling to mind the story of when elephants fight, the grasses suffer. This scenerio can only lead to a breakdown of  trust, respect and tolerance for one another which if sustained over a period unchecked, could nosedive into public discord and animosity, wooing sympathetic followers or public into taking sides. This deterioration, which is usually symptomatic of a broader issue within political leadership where personal grievances often eclipse the collective interests of the populace, can only be healed not with time, but also by sincere dialogue and  setting aside of personal grievances for the benefit of the state they all  pledged to serve.
Leadership, at its core, no doubt, involves engaging in sincere dialogue. Thus, leaders are  required  to transcend personal differences and focus on the common good. Unfortunately, the relationship between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and the FCT Minister, Nyesom  Wike, has been characterised by a public power struggle rather than constructive communication, a situation that has hindered their ability to collaboratively address the challenges facing Rivers State. A genuine commitment to the common good should supersede individual ambitions and personal vendettas. Could it be wrong to hyphothesise that the ongoing conflict between the two hitherto friends  is an indication of personal grievances  being prioritised over their pledge to serve the state?. This approach to leadership is counterproductive, as it shifts attention away from policy implementation and governance to personal disputes, no matter how the saner mind struggles to handle it.
Exercising restraint is a cornerstone of effective leadership. It involves acknowledging the importance of unity and prioritising the collective welfare of the people. Real leaders must not at any point demonstrate  a  lack of this essential quality. Public altercations and confrontations can only  deepen political divisions within the state, making it difficult to achieve meaningful progress. For Rivers State to thrive, its leaders must adopt a more collaborative approach. This necessitates Fubara and Wike putting aside their personal differences and working together for the state’s development. Engaging in sincere dialogue and showing a genuine commitment to the common good can pave the way for a more stable and prosperous future for Rivers State.
The unhealthy political relationship between Governor Fubara and his predecessor also highlights a broader issue within Nigerian political culture. Often, political offices are viewed as avenues for personal gain rather than platforms for public service. This mindset contributes to the kind of power struggles seen among political leaders of our time, where personal interests overshadow the responsibilities of leadership. Setting aside personal grievances for the sake of the state is not just an ideal but a necessity for effective governance. Leaders must prioritise the needs of their constituents over their own ambitions. In the context of Rivers State, this means Fubara and Wike must recognise the detrimental impact of their conflict and take concrete steps toward reconciliation and cooperation.
The public expects leaders to work harmoniously towards their  common good while a looming  discord between them  puts  this expectation at risk.  Citizens of Rivers State deserve and desire  leaders who can rise above personal animosities and focus on the larger goal of state development. This is the essence of true leadership – putting the people first. The political instability resulting from their feud has tangible consequences for the state’s governance. Development projects stall, administrative efficiency declines, and public trust erodes. These are serious repercussions that harm the very fabric of society and undermine the progress that Rivers State desperately needs.The resolution of this conflict requires humility and a willingness to engage in honest conversations.
Both leaders must acknowledge their roles in the dispute and commit to a path of mutual respect and collaboration. Only through such sincere dialogue can they hope to restore stability and foster an environment conducive to growth and development. Moreover, the political culture in Rivers State, and indeed Nigeria, must evolve to emphasise service over self-interest. This cultural shift is imperative for nurturing leaders who prioritise the common good and exhibit the restraint necessary for effective governance. Fubara and Wike have a unique opportunity to set a precedence in this regard. Their reconciliation could serve as a powerful example of how leaders can overcome personal differences for the greater good of society. It would signal a commitment to the values of democracy and the principles of good governance, thereby inspiring confidence among the citizens and setting a positive tone for future political engagements.
The media and civil society also have crucial roles to play in this process. By holding leaders accountable and advocating for dialogue and cooperation, they can help create an environment where political conflicts are resolved constructively. Public pressure can compel leaders to act in the best interests of the state. In conclusion, the unhealthy relationship between Governor Fubara and his predecessor, Wike, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of true leadership. Leadership that is not about wielding power but about exercising restraint, engaging in sincere dialogue, and demonstrating a commitment to the common good. For Rivers State to achieve its full potential, its leaders must embody these principles and work together towards a shared vision of progress and prosperity. Only then can the state overcome its current challenges and build a brighter future for all its citizens.

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Serving Personal Interests

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Serving personal interests was a statement which started some heated arguments at a conference held at Friends International Centre in London, December, 1980. Happily, the tactful moderator of the conference, a Buddhist monk from Afghanistan, brought the arguments to a halt. Among other issues of vexation was a trending television documentary in the UK, Squandering of Riches, which depicted how Nigeria’s wealth was being spent in lavish flamboyance by the political class and leaders. That was how statements from two Nigerians at the conference sparked off arguments. “Serving Personal Interests” was followed by another statement by a Nigerian: “Our problem is not money, but how to spend it”. Juxtaposing these two statements with the trending television documentary: Squandering of Riches, one other Nigerian raised an objection at the conference, on the ground that a particular section of the country was being vilified and put in bad light. The deep insight of the moderator of the occasion saw the need to steer the discussions on a neutral line. But the point had been made in 1980, that insolvency was looming!  Current trend is how to continue with lavish and flamboyant spending even when the country is laden with huge debts, borrowing here and there, to service old debts, buying exotic cars for political office holders, while the masses are hungry and gnashing their teeth. It is not that concerned Nigerians are not speaking up against these insensitive frame of public policies and programmes, rather the truth is that “serving personal interest” is a vital driving force in Nigerian politics.
What economic sense does it make that billions of public funds should be spent to buy a yacht for the luxury of those who enjoy political comfort, build a befitting house for a vice president whose dignity would abhor occupying a “tukumbo” house? The same culture of vanity and hedonistic interests makes it difficult for political office holders to inherit and use facilities which served their predecessors. Even if more debts would be incurred to be able to provide such obscene luxuries, the Nigerian senate would approve the budget! So, it came to be that Nigeria is so prone to lavish and profligate squandering of the nation’s wealth, that fatuous habit or culture cannot be curbed. Several honest studies have indicated that insensitive leadership is usually a primary cause of mass revolts. Such insensitive leadership is always made possible by the fawning attitude and self-interests of a political class that seeks to short-change the masses. The sure result of this scenario is usually the fall or economic collapse of a country.
How would an insensitive and profligate leadership expect deep loyalty, patriotism and sacrifices from the masses that have been deliberately impoverished and browbeaten to a state of stupor? it is sad that state security organs of government are not seen to serve as impartial eyes and ears of the nation’s leadership, thus creating a scenario where those in power banquet day and night, when the nation is burning and bleeding. Security apparatus, like the mass media, should serve the purpose of putting a check on excesses of the masses, as well as the leadership class. Dancers rarely see their back! Someone must draw their attention!  The fact that several Nigerian professionals are leaving the country for greener pastures, should serve as an indication that the leadership and political economy of Nigeria are faulty. Neither must we wait until there is a mass revolt before it would dawn on our leaders that the masses are very hungry and sad. What led to the intervention of the military in Nigeria’s politics in 1966, were far less disturbing than the current situations. The truth is that the military and the entire security organs of government are in a dilemma; who to support: the leadership class, or the long-suffering masses?
There is little doubt in the minds of many Nigerians, who the real destroyers and problems of this country are. In the evolution of a viable political system, efforts by money-bags to form an elitist governance, known as an oligarchy, can produce a stable polity. But this is so only where the money and elite class are not predators, serving personal interest under the guise of governance. In the case of Nigeria, the evidence is clear that politics, even under the false name of democracy, is a self-serving engagement; an investment gamble! Many Nigerians are now aware of “serving personal interest” component of the nation’s political industry. The masses become ready tools and accomplices in the self-serving political shenanigans, especially those who can be used and discarded at will. It is quite a dangerous game to play, but it works, because of the use of money as a juicy lubricant. Part of the game plan is to create misery, poverty, divisions and political structures serving vested interests, such that the hungry masses look for where to find “palliatives”. Those who offer such palliatives win mass support.
Surely, this kind of political game plan is not only risky but also destructive. Perhaps the foundation of this faulty political system was laid by past military administrations since 1970, whereby the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta zone, became the bases of Nigeria’s political economy. Practical meaning of political economy is simply the use of political strategies to determine who gets what quantum of the national “cake”, with little input but maximum benefits. This is where the issue of “structure” counts in politics, which serves personal interests; faulty, self-serving structure! The ripples effects of the monopoly of the oil and gas resources of a section of the country for the maximum benefits of a chosen few, are beginning to manifest in current state of the nation. Late Bola Ige gave some hint long ago that some blacklash would follow, because “it is a sin to plunder the resources of the Niger Delta People”. Turn and twist the issues as political power merchants may, the truth remains that Nigeria’s political economy is a booby-trap, cleverly designed by some master strategists, as if “marching to war”!
The aforementioned heated arguments during a conference in London, 1980, involved five Nigerians, each in favour or against a political economy that would use gangsterism and blusters, to legitimatise illegality. Thus, the basis of Squandering of Riches was the availability to easy wealth provided by the oil and gas resources of a “conquered zone”. Someone at the conference raised objections at the statements “serving personal interest” and “conquered zone”. Maybe hate speech, 1980!.

Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer of Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Lagos-Calabar Highway  Must Wait

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Had the Presidency not responded to the allegations of the former Vice President, Atiku Abukakar, concerning the process of awarding of the contract for the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, it would have been most surprising. People must do the job for which they were employed and that includes ensuring at all costs that their principals and their families are constantly blameless and spotless.
Atiku, through  his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, had alleged that President Bola Tinubu’s son, Seyi Tinubu,  being a board  member of one of the firms  owned by Gilbert Chagoury, the owner of Hitech, the contractor that was awarded the contract  constitutes a conflict of interest; that the contract was awarded in contravention of the procurement laws, that it is being done in a hurry purely because of the business relationship between President Tinubu and Gilbert Chagoury, that the project is  expensive, ill timed  among others.
But in a swift response the presidency through a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, countered Atiku’s claim, saying that as an adult Nigerian, Seyi has the right to do business in the country and that his membership of the board of CDK in no way constitutes a conflict of interest.
Onanuga went down the memory lane, recounting how the former Vice President had revealed that he formed Intels Nigeria with an Italian businessman when he was serving in the Nigeria Customs Service, which in his view is a clear breach of extant public service regulations; how, as Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, Atiku approved sales of over 145 State-owned enterprises to his known friends and associates and openly said during his failed campaign for the presidency last year that he would do the same, if elected.
The Special Adviser dwelt so much on Atiku’s past that he probably forgot to address some other key issues raised by the former VP about the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project which had also been harped on by several other Nigerians. First is the issue of the contract’s awarding process and priority. Nigerians needed to hear directly from the presidency whether this huge project went through a competitive bidding process as required by law or not.  Section 16 (1) (c) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 provides that “All public procurement shall be conducted by open competitive bidding.” Section 16 (1) (d) stipulates that all public procurement shall be done in a transparent, equitable manner to ensure accountability. Was the contract awarded in compliance with this and other relevant laws?
There is also the issue of the highway project not complying with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act. The Pan-Yoruba Socio-Political Organisation, Afenifere, had through Prince Jide Faloye of its Publicity Department joined some other groups and individuals to raise concern about the serious issue. The organisation said, “The Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project must be re-examined, for not only breaching competitive tendering stipulations but for also contravening the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, as stipulated in EIA Decree No. 86 of 1992, which places the project type in Category 1 and affecting the natural environment, making an ESIA report mandatory before commencement.”
Afenifere also noted that, “the $13 billion Lagos-Calabar project is not only environmentally and economically destructive, but also irrationally replaces the 1,400km $12 billion Lagos-Calabar railway project along East-West Road, adjudged to be the single most important economically empowering infrastructural development project in Southern Nigeria in over 100 years, commissioned by both the Jonathan (2014) and Buhari (2021) governments.”
Convincing explanations to their salient concerns are what Nigerians want from the presidency, the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi and other relevant authorities instead of them resorting to name calling and describing the views as “ intrinsically superficial, baseless, self-serving and politically motivated to imprint malice in the minds of unsuspecting members of the public, especially the gullible”, as the Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Works, Orji Uchenna Orji did in a statement a few days back.
Government is all about the people. Fortunately, Nigeria is operating a democratic system of government widely known to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore, the leaders put in power by the people should listen to the people and should always prioritise the interest of the people.
And talking about priority which was among the issues raised by Atiku, is the Lagos-Calabar highway the most critical need of the country right now? Yes, the road when completed will be of immense benefit to the coastal states and the country in general. Economic growth, easy transportation, improved quality of life will be assured, but is that what we need now in Nigeria?  Two weeks ago, Rivers State and the entire nation were thrown into mourning as a result of the vehicular accident that happened in the Eleme axis of the East-West which claimed several lives and damaged property. The lamentation of many people, including the State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, was that the accident and the great losses could have been avoided had the road been fixed.
The about 328-kilometer road which was awarded in 2006 by the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and meant to be completed in 2010 is yet to be completed despite the billions of Naira that has gone into it. The Enugu-Onitsha road, Makurdi-Enugu road, Port Harcourt-Enugu express road and many other federal roads across the country have long become death traps. People have protested, demonstrated, appealed to the authorities to have them fixed, yet little or nothing has been done on most of them.
Could it not have been better to fix these roads before embarking on a new road that will cost nothing less than N2.8 trillion? A ready answer by the works minister and other government functionaries might be that N300 billion was provided in the 2023 supplementary budget to address the poor federal roads but how far can that go?
There is undoubtedly nobody in Nigeria that is not feeling the pinch of the current harsh economic realities in the country. Prices of food and other items in the market keep skyrocketing every day. The cost of transportation has quadrupled since May 29 when the announcement that “subsidy is gone” was made. For some weeks, there has been fuel scarcity in Abuja and other parts of the country which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) blamed on “logistic issues”.
The NNPCL keeps shifting the goal post on when Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries will become operational. The latest being that the Port Harcourt Refinery will start functioning by the end of March. In the second week of March, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the (NNPC) Mele Kyari, reportedly told the senate ad hoc committee investigating the various turnaround maintenance (TAM) projects of Nigerian refineries that, “In the next two weeks, production will start. We did mechanical completion of  Port Harcourt Refinery, that was what we said in December 2023,”
“That means we are done with our rehabilitation work, now you are to test if this completion is okay.” Has this happened?
The point is that the federal government should suspend the massive, flamboyant Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project pending when the economy is up and running and some critical infrastructure in the country are adequately attended to. If part of  this huge sum could be used to build new refineries and make the old ones bounce back to life, Nigeria will be on the way to achieving energy security which will impact positively on every sector of the economy and the lives of the citizens. Efficient and transparent use of the nation’s scarce resources is an important quality that our leaders must imbibe.

Calista Ezeaku

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