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01.04.2009 Feature Article

Ogbonna Nwuke: The Prince of Journalism in Niger Delta

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She was either loved or hated. Molly Ivins was a political commentator with what was described by her admirers as a sharp wit – a take-no-prisoners critic of what she considered silly, outrageous, or unfair. She was based in Texas. She was quoted saying: "There's never been a law yet that didn't have a ridiculous consequence in some unusual situation; there's probably never been a government program that didn't accidentally benefit someone it wasn't intended to. Most people who work in government understand that what you do about it is fix the problem – you don't just attack the whole government.” But without doubt, in the case of Prince Ogbonna Nwuke, he is attacking the whole problem of information management in Rivers State, under the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State.

During the 2nd Matriculation ceremony of the International Institute of Journalism at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Port Harcourt, on March 14th 2009, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Prince Ogbonna Nwuke re-directed journalists across the divides of the state to entrust themselves to the confidence of the society through their well-behaved manners, so that the society would continue to see them as its watchdog. He said this owing to his view that journalism was a good profession which ethics and practice should not be thrown to the winds. He said that the men of the media were once known as being truthful and people of integrity, but the bad eggs in the profession today has characterized as churlish.

But Nwuke was not left alone in that opinion. The chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, Mr. Opaka Dokubo, also said that the NUJ was set to establish-in-office a keep an-eye-on committee to monitor the actions of reporters in the state. Mr. Dokubo in his speech said that the council would ensure that bad eggs in the profession were curbed. Against that backdrop, Nwuke did not fail to commend the board and management of the International Institute of Journalism. He commended them for raising the customary of future journalists in the state, which were through exhaustive training. And he wished that NUJ would give its prop-up to the intensification of the school.

It is without doubt that Nwuke has been a mainstay of reorientation of information management in Rivers State and indeed in the Niger Delta region since he was appointed the czar of information management in the state in the early months of 2008. He has always solicited for both government, public and private support in providing apt information environment in the state. He has always noted that information and journalism go hand-in-hand, and that journalism was a noble profession that needed to be applauded and held in the acme.

Like the USA. that mourns for every men in the army service that was killed in war, Nwuke always expressed shock over the demise of the Bureau Chief of Tribune Newspaper in Port Harcourt, Mr. John Ogbedu, who passed on in January this year. He has always expressed shock that Mr. Ogbedu died when his services were mostly needed.

In Nwuke's words: “Ogbedu was a journalist with an exceptional knack for investigation and an activist who contributed immensely to the growth of the labour movement in Nigeria….We underscore very vividly how his depth of journalism has aided the development of the state and we will miss him greatly.”

Like Ivins was also quoted thus: “The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood.” Nwuke has broken some information pariah or jinx in the State by standing on the truth. He has always said that government is now anxious to handle the issue people were afraid to discuss.

But while Nwuke is bent on doing a good work in the information angle of the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State, it perturbs one that while government is fighting very tenaciously to restore peace and tranquility in Rivers State, a lot of people in the state still see the attainment of peace as a thing very hard they would support, by plotting to bring Nwuke on their altar for a reason best known to them. The traducers said the Commissioner was “not carrying people along”. What ever that means! But that was undermining the amiable Nwuke who loves humanity, equivalent to the love nature had for mankind.

Rivers people and indeed Nigerians could bear witness to this that one of the statements of encouragement Governor Amaechi made to all the Commissioners when they were newly sworn-in and to all holding public offices in the state was that he would not treat anybody who was found abusing his or her office for the betterment of his or her own purpose inlure of what the office was meant to serve with the kids glove.

After that statement, Governor Amaechi has been showing a good example of his own office. At least, he opened himself for investigation by that single act of appearing before the Justice Eso-led TRC. Governor Amaechi has not stood foolhardy on any issue that concerns the state without consultation of the stakeholders.

This is the same way Hon. Nwuke has informed the Rivers State that the Rivers State Executive Council has directed the Commissioner for Energy to take necessary steps within the law to ensure compliance, following the reduction in pump price of Petroleum Products recently, and the attendant sharp practices engaged by marketers. This has resurrected the Energy Ministry Task Forces in the state, who now mobilize security agencies to monitor the operations of filling stations in a bid to checkmating hoarding of Petroleum Products and selling above approved pump price.

Even as briefing newsmen on the outcome of the State Executive Council meeting in Port Harcourt, the Commissioner disclosed this and said, The Executive Council reviewed actions of petroleum marketers before taking the position to protect residents from hardship caused by their attitude. On the government's efforts on automated salary payments, Nwuke agreed that the new system posed challenges in some areas that need to be corrected, particularly the mix ups that resulted in salary delay of some workers.

According to him, the Exco has directed top officials of the state to crossing point with the bank officials to ensure that all the bottlenecks identified were corrected to enable its workers benefit maximally from the automated salary payment. He has talked on the Council approval of building of a 250-Bed Mother and Child Hospital. He has also talked about the18 storey Adolphus Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital construction and said it will commence within the year. He did not deceive the people when he stated that, though the site for the hospital is being tested to accommodate the gigantic structure, the design is ready, and soon the plan would be translated into reality as funds has equally been set aside for the project. On security, he said, the security situation in the state has greatly improved. There is every need for proper dissemination of information that concern Rivers State, Information is power.

Nwuke, as far as the Information Ministry was concerned, is doing his best to carry every Rivers person along as confided or enshrined within the rules and regulations that govern the ministry. This could be why during the 2nd Matriculation ceremony of the International Institute of Journalism at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Port Harcourt, on March 14th 2009, Chief Lawrence Amapipi called the noble Commissioner Nwuke, “The Prince of Journalism in the Niger Delta.” This would prove those calling him names as being ignorant of who Ogbonna Nwuke is. Just giving Nwuke a name, is like giving a good dog a bad name to hang it. Is anybody listening?

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. 08032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2009

The author has 587 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OdimegwuOnwumere

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