Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has called on members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) to support the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his quest to make Nigeria a better place for all.
The Governor made the call on Friday in his remarks while flagging off the Nigerian Guild of Editors National Biennial Convention 2023 in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The Convention effectively brought to an end the tenure of the Mustapha Isa-led NGE executive to usher in a new one.
Governor Uzodimma reminded the Editors that they are partners in progress with the government, hence they must professionally play their constitutional role in the interest of the society.
The Governor commended Mr Isa-led executive and members of the Guild for their efforts so far in ensuring that the good stories about Nigeria are brought to public domain without compromising their professional ethics, reminding them, however, that the country is making steady progress in her democratic journey since the return of democracy in 1999 despite obvious hiccups.
He also lauded the choice of the theme for the Convention: Post 2023 election: Promoting Professionalism for Enhancement of Democracy and Good Governance.
He said: “Your theme for this conference, “POST – 2023 ELECTION: PROMOTING PROFESSIONALISM FOR ENHANCEMENT OF DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE” is rather apt given the divergent opinions that trailed the conduct of the recently concluded general elections, and how the media reported the fall outs. As the saying goes, opinions are free, but facts remain sacred. Without preempting the guest lecturer in his interrogation of the topic, let me state that I am of the opinion that the traditional media discharged their duties creditably during the 2023 elections.
“I am impressed that you have chosen this path of self examination, which I consider germane in our collective bid to enhance good governance and strengthen our democracy. The last time you were here, I harped on the need for journalists to embrace developmental journalism in our quest to sustain and strengthen our democracy. While the media have the responsibility of holding public officers to account, they should, in addition, encourage the government through constructive criticism and well-intentioned suggestions on how things could be done differently to achieve better results. The ultimate goal should be the development and unity of our country and nothing else.
“It is a thing of interest that even among politicians could be found many media practitioners and even members of the clergy. It is no gainsaying that the political class, the clergy and the media are quite instrumental in determining what happens in most countries, including Nigeria. Therefore, it is in the interest of all of us because we are involved, to work for the sustainability of our democracy and our country. That means we must all work in synergy for our collective survival.”
He welcomed the editors to Imo State, particularly for their choice of Owerri for the Convention and thank the NGE President profoundly for his kind words and observations about his person and our dear State.
“I also welcome the Guest lecturer, Dr Chido Nwakanma of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos. On behalf of the government and good people of Imo State, I wish to express our gratitude to members of this august body for finding Imo State suitable to host you twice in less than one year – just some months after your Annual Conference which held last year. It is indeed an honour which we do not take for granted,” the Governor said.
Governor Uzodimma’s remarks continued: “As experienced media practitioners, I believe you are familiar with the hypodermic theory which posits that “information is shot into the receivers’ mind and readily accepted”. This theory was largely influenced by the postulations of an American Writer, Reporter and Political Commentator, Walter Lippmann, who noted in the 1920s that citizens have limited personal experience with government and the world, therefore the media, through their stories, place ideas in their minds, and these ideas become part of their frame of reference and, consequently, affect their decisions.
“These postulations and theories appear very apt in the present day Nigeria. We have a huge, complex, and relatively naïve populace who “have limited personal experience with government and the world”. Therefore, whatever stories and ideas that are filed by the media becomes their reference point for decision – making. This position sits well with the theory that the media “shoots” information into the mind of citizens and they readily accept and act on such information.
“This is why media practitioners must be ever conscious of what flows from their pens, because what it “shoots” into the minds of the citizenry, can make or break both our democracy and our country. After all, it is not for fun that a school of thought holds it to be true, to date, that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. The president of the Guild said in his address that you have come to use your own election to teach politicians how to conduct peaceful elections. Let me first of all congratulate the President for serving his profession and his nation faithfully and passionately. I want to also commend him for electing to serve for only one tenure, although the constitution of the Guild allows him to seek a re-election to enable him to serve for a second term. This is indeed very noble of you.
“However, with all due respect, I do not think that conducting an election among a few hundreds of guild members can be compared to the general elections in our county. The complexities of size, population and logistics far outweigh your modest election which will be conducted in one room. And of course, the stakes are far higher than the stakes in your guild elections. I remember someone saying that conducting an election in Nigeria is like running an election in the entire West African coast. This may seem like an exaggeration, but it is true in a way, and that is why INEC appears to perform better in staggered elections.
“As for our politicians, we are products of the Nigerian society. And as I already noted, some of the members of the fourth estate, are also active and prominent members of the Nigerian political class. The truth is that we can hardly rise above our environment, and this applies to both journalists and editors. But that is not to say that we are not improving or that there is no need for improvement. As a matter of fact, our democracy is a work in progress. I believe that in the last 24 years, we have not only performed creditably, we have surpassed the expectations of many critics and pessimists. The transformative ingredients of our democracy are being refined daily. For example, we have achieved the peaceful transfer of power at the centre on at least four different occasions. We shall surely get there.
“I believe you should know that our democracy is still at its infant stage. Thus, we should not judge it harshly. Judging from the stage of our democracy, most of the hiccups we currently experience in our electoral process are to be expected. For the records, the developed countries of the West experienced similar “teething pains” before attaining the standard of democracy which they currently enjoy.
“Voter intimidation and a sundry other electoral misdeed, including violence and even rigging, used to be common in these countries until the early 19th century. I am sure that all of us believed that one of the world’s oldest democracies, the United States of America, had perfected their electoral processes to the point that it was considered impregnable. But what did we see on January 6th, 2020? American democracy almost crumbled. Critical institutions such as the Congress were effortlessly assailed. These sad events only remind us that no democracy is actually perfect. This does not mean that we should celebrate whatever shortfalls we experienced in the last general elections. Rather, it means we should be patient and work to encourage the populace to also be patient and realistic with their expectations. As a matter of fact, expecting a perfect electoral process at this stage is not a realistic enterprise.
“Yet, I dare say that I share your optimism of a better electoral process. As I said earlier, we shall surely get there only through incremental progress. More importantly, we must all work to preserve, protect, and celebrate whatever progress we have already recorded, so we do not fall back. This is where your professionalism comes handy in post – election management.
“Now, the sacred fact is that elections have been held and winners have emerged in accordance with our electoral laws. I expect the professional media to stand by this truth and to encourage aggrieved losers to explore all available legal opportunities for redress.
As you know, I sought redress from the courts when I felt I was robbed of victory, and, to the glory of God, my mandate was restored by the Supreme Court.
“It is important to state that when media practitioners wittingly or unwittingly discredit the electoral process and the outcome of elections, or ridicule the institutions empowered by law to interrogate the process and come up with binding judicial pronouncements, then such practitioners have lost the salt of professionalism, and have become part of the problem of our democracy. I believe that professionalism further demands that you should be seen to stand by the lawful winners of elections, help them with agenda setting and, where possible, make inputs that will ensure the hitch-free, take-off of the new administration. When you discharge this sacred obligation, you are better placed to offer needful criticism when the time comes. For me, this background of first acknowledging the fact and helping it thrive is part of what makes criticisms constructive.”
Governor Uzodimma also used the opportunity to rap the editors about his government and what he has been able to achieve in the past three and half years despite all odds.
Hear him: “I also share in your frustrations regarding the economy as it affects your businesses. I am not immune from that challenge for I am also a publisher. When I came into office, the state-owned newspaper,The Statesman, was on its way to extinction. But today, it is being published daily in spite of the economic challenges of the moment. It is the same story with the Imo Broadcasting Corporation. In addition to sustaining the operations of the media houses, media workers, like other workers in the state, are not being owed any salaries by the government.
“Apart from the prompt payment of salaries and pensions, my administration has religiously pursued our prosperity agenda encapsulated in Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. After your annual conference last year, our dear former President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, was here to commission our flag ship dual carriageways that connect the State capital to the major cities of Orlu and Okigwe. We have also completed the MCC -Uratta -Toronto road while the Owerri – Mbaise – Obowo – Umuahia road and Orlu – Mgbee – Akokwa – Uga road are nearing completion. These are among the more than 100 standard roads built by this administration within a space of 40 months. This is in addition to equally significant progress recorded in various other sectors like education, health, industry, youths empowerment and social services, which my administration identified as priorities.
“In this respect, I will not fail to use an auspicious occasion such as this to inform you that Imo State is the first and only State to have fully embraced the age of digital economy by establishing the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government. Through this ministry, we have commenced a Skill up Imo project that targets to train 100,000 Imo youths in different digital skills every year. The first set of 5000 youths trained in this programme graduated last month, and are now working in different High tech companies or have set up their own shops, through our assistance. The next batch of 15000 are expected to graduate in a few weeks’ time.
“It would gladden my heart if you would all find the time to go around and see things for yourselves.
“I believe it is equally important that I highlight some of the projects that we have attracted from the federal government. These include the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, which has been upgraded to Federal University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Owerri, and the Naval Base at Oguta. Recently, the former Vice – President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was in Imo State to flag off the dredging of Oguta Lake to Orashi River to Degema and the Atlantic Ocean. This is one project dear to my heart because it is at the heart of the economic development of the entire South East region of the country. When the project is completed, with the expected River Port, the economy of Imo State and that of the entire South East will start breathing again. I am once again grateful to the federal government for the approval granted to us to execute this historic project.
“You would also have noticed that the issue of insecurity in the State has not featured in this address as it did the last time you visited. Yes, this is because through the federal government and the security agencies, the monster has been tamed and subdued. What we are now experiencing are pockets of crime reminiscent of the last kicks of a dying horse. I told you last time that the perpetrators of the heinous crimes would not prevail. Their sole aim was to distract me from the act of governance so they could whittle down my achievements. But they failed woefully because you can not use your bare hands to cover the moon. And to the glory of God, in spite of all the distractions, Imo State is looking up in every sector.
“Finally, let me assure you that the APC – led government both at the State and federal levels will never do anything to impede the work of journalists. I believe I have a very cordial relationship with both the labour unions and the Nigeria Union of Journalists. I believe we have enough laws in our statutes to check the excesses of some misguided media practitioners. The setting up of the National Media Complaints Commission is welcomed by me. Those who are aggrieved by the actions of the media can always approach the Commission to seek redress. I charge the Commission to find a way of bringing the social media to account also. Nobody denies the fact that we need the media to strengthen our democracy. Both the government and the practitioners must therefore work together to ensure the protection, survival and development of this democracy.
“Once again, I welcome you all to Imo State and assure you of your safety and the legendary hospitality of my people. I thank you for your attention and wish you a successful biennial Convention.”
Former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, two Members of House of Representatives from Imo State Canice Nkwachukwu and Akarachi Amadi, former Managing Director/ Editor-in-Chief of Sun Publishing Limited, Dr. Tony Onyima (Chairman of the occasion), foremost businessman, Chief Tony Chukwu, among other dignitaries graced the occasion.
Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to the Governor