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 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 were partners in progress with the government; hence they must professionally play their constitutional role in the interest of 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 the 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 apparent hiccups.
He also lauded the choice of the theme for the Convention: Post 2023 election: Promoting Professionalism for Enhancement of Democracy and Good Governance, stating that the topic was apt given the divergent opinions that trailed the conduct of the recently concluded general elections. He believed 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 joint 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”.
He thanked the NGE President profoundly for his kind words and observations about his person and the State.
Relating to the hypodermic theory as espoused by the American Writer Walter Lippmann in the 1920s, Gov Uzodimma agreed that the postulations and views appear very apt in the present day Nigeria where a vast, complex, and relatively naïve populace have “limited personal experience with government and the world”. Therefore, whatever stories and ideas are filed by the media become their reference point for decision-making. This position sits well with the theory that the press “shoots” information into the mind of citizens, and they readily accept and act on such information.
He insisted that this was 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, strengthening the adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
The Governor used the opportunity to laud the conduct of the President of the Guild in the ongoing elections and in overseeing a peaceful elections process.
“As for our politicians, we are products of the Nigerian society. And as I already noted, some of the fourth estate members 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. Our democracy is a work in progress. I believe that in the last 24 years, we have not only performed creditably but also surpassed the expectations of many critics and pessimists. The transformative ingredients of our democracy are being refined daily.
“I believe you should know that our democracy is still at its infant stage. Thus, we should not judge it harshly. This does not mean we should celebrate whatever shortfalls we experienced in the last general elections. Expecting a perfect electoral process at this stage is not a realistic enterprise.
“More importantly, we must all work to preserve, protect, and celebrate whatever progress we have recorded so we do not fall back. This is where your professionalism comes in handy in post-election management.
“It is essential 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 of the new administration.
“I also share 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 despite 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 flagship 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 is nearing completion. These are among the more than 100 standard roads built by this administration within 40 months. This is in addition to equally significant progress recorded in various other sectors like education, health, industry, youth 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 other High tech companies or have set up their shops through our assistance. The next batch of 15000 is expected to graduate in a few weeks.
“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, upgraded to the 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 the entire South East will start breathing again. I am once again grateful to the federal government for the approval granted to us. Again, I am grateful to the federal government for the approval we granted 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 the monster has been tamed and subdued by the federal government and security agencies. We are now experiencing 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 God’s glory, Imo State is looking up in every sector despite all the distractions.
“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 have a very cordial relationship with 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. I welcome the setting up of the National Media Complaints Commission. Those aggrieved by the media’s actions can always approach the Commission to seek redress. I charge the Commission also to find a way of bringing social media to account. Nobody denies that we need the media to strengthen our democracy”.