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18.11.2008 Feature Article

Ogbonna Nwuke & The Saving Of Journalist's Life

I still remember on Thursday August 28 2008 when the Information Commissioner of Rivers State, High Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, called on Christians to condemn the abduction of an Israeli, Mr. Ehud Arny, residing and doing business in Port Harcourt, saying that Israel and the Christian community in Nigeria has a lot to share in common because Israel was the birthplace of the Christians Lord, Jesus Christ. Nwuke opined that how somebody could abduct an Israeli without considering the implication, of people who did similar thing on Israelites in the bible. Opining, Nwuke called on all Christians to win through on the abductors to set Mr. Arny free. Nwuke abhors the trading on human beings, and says it is sinful. He calls on those engaged in the business to desist, which he calls unholy act. Nwuke said the state government was on top of the situation to bringing those involved to book. He later expressed how the government doesn't appreciate the predicament of the Niger Delta people for years of deprivation.

But upon the call by the Honourable Commissioner asking those involved in senseless kidnapping of people to change their ways, some people in the State are now re-entering the society by not allowing intellectuals, especially journalists with capacity, to engage in dialogue, fight for the development of the Rivers State. And this is shameful and regrettable.

During an induction ceremony, this August, into the Student Union Government (SUG) Hall of Fame and launching of N500m welfare fund and Development Centre held last at Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, Nwuke said “when dialogue takes the stage, it becomes necessary for leaders of tomorrow to raise matters that affect the society”.

But upon that, Rivers State phase of militancy has taken another dimension. Just some days one Ms. Uzoma Okere was battered by some uncouth men of the Navy in Lagos, the Port Harcourt Bureau Chief of the Punch Newspaper, Mr. Ibanga Isine, would have been dinning with his ancestors by policemen in Port Harcourt. The equivocal policemen, according to reports, intercepted Isine while retuning from a restaurant where he went to eat and nearly horsewhipped him to death less than 100 metres to his residence in D-Line area of the city.

This took place some minutes after 10 PM that day, when he had gone to Westend Restaurant at Abeokuta Street beside NITEL. Accompanied by a fellow, on their way to the restaurant, they passed cops. And they did not talk to each other. But on their way back, Ibanga said the policemen now stopped him. They asked him where he was coming from. Telling them that he went to eat, sparked beating him by the cops after they demanded his identity card, which he replied that he was a journalist.

“What kind of nonsense journalist are you?” the cops asked, and descended on him with horsewhip. They kept beating him and lacerated all his body. They laid him down and he obeyed but when he told them that they should allow him to call the Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Rita Abbey to identify him if they were in doubt, they started afresh to beat him mercilessly and fractured his finger in the process.

After they were satisfied with beating him, they asked him to stand up and the Sergeant leading them told him he was lucky they did not find any incriminating thing on him or he would have sent him to where he belong. To the grave? Then they asked him to stand up and run.

According to Isine: “I went some distance and called the PPRO but she did not pick before I called Spokesman of JTF, Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa who responded promptly and came to the spot. Later I called the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ogbonna Nwuke who also came and took me to the hospital”.

Can anyone imagine the “climate of fear” we Nigerians are living in, in our own country? Police kill people without the verdict of the court of the law. People die in our country without any reason why they should have died in the hands of these uniform men whom we pay tax for to protect us.

Especially the cops, they use Nigerians the way they want and are ever ready to cook up stories against their victims even when the person was innocent, in their various police stations. The case of Isine was why people now see policemen and jump into the next bush, even when they are innocent of any crime, just that they do not want any sight of the police because of the fears police have created in the minds of Nigerians.

Notwithstanding, asking the available authority to bring the caterwauls to book would not yield any meaningful issue. Have we not read on the pages of the newspapers where the IG Mike Okiro says that all road blocks by the Nigerian cops dismantled, yet we see cops on the roads demanding for their usual N20 or more than from motorists and motorcyclists alike, and this has become a culture among the Nigerian cops. What a shame!

Well, it does not surprise me that Nwuke would answer that distress call, because Nwuke Rivers people know is a man of peace, love and unity. But some fools like the cops who descended on Isine do not subscribe to Nwuke's statement, “when dialogue takes the stage, it becomes necessary for leaders of tomorrow to raise matters that affect the society”.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. +2348032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2008

This author has authored 586 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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