By Collins Opurozor
If the first sign of tyranny is coming to power without an election, the second sign is gagging the press. No tyrant is tolerant of free press. By orientation, the mass media cannot but mirror societal tribulations and pangs, and align with the hoi polloi. And this compassion for the people earns the media the enmity of the tyrant. This is now the case with Imo State under Chief Hope Uzodinma.
Today, the correspondent of The Punch Newspaper in Imo State, Chidiebube Okeoma, was reportedly ambushed, beaten to a pulp and dragged away by agents of the regime in the state. The grouse of the regime is that the journalist has continually given publicity to the plight of the poor women, some even widows, employed as road sweepers but have been left unpaid for the past one year.
For many months, hardly does a week pass by without these poor women flooding the streets of Owerri to protest the nonpayment of their salaries. To understand the plight of these women, we must see them as our mothers, our wives and our sisters. They wake up before the first crow of the cock just to give us a clean city. Yet Uzodinma rewards them with obstinacy, neglect and with tears, and they are condemned to a fate of penury and allowed to drop dead out of starvation. And now whoever that reports their plight is pursued and attacked by agents of the regime in Imo.
Since Uzodinma accidentally became the helmsman of Imo State, there has been a deliberate effort to obliterate every outlet for the expression of political dissent. To be sure, media practitioners have had it rough and bitter. Mrs. Vivian Ottih, a nursing mother, was fired from the state-owned radio station for demanding her unpaid salaries so as to take care of the newborn. The publisher of Watchdog Newspaper, Comrade Precious Nwadike, was beaten almost to death by Uzodinma’s younger brother, Mr. Uchenna Uzodinma, just for his tabloid’s critical disposition to Uzodinma’s patently destructive policies.
The Imo State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists was balkanized by agents of the regime for the Union’s refusal to be hijacked by the regime. The election of the National Association of Women Journalists in Imo State was disrupted by heavily armed men just to stop the popular candidate who was believed not be malleable and also unsupportive of the regime from winning the election. Today, that association has two factions.
In the desperate bid to sustain his unpopular reign in Imo, Uzodinma has wrought severe injuries on the mass media. The condemnable attack on the correspondent of The Punch today only shows that the regime has not repented from its penchant for violence. When violence and acts of brigandage have received the seal of state authority, the entire society is in a serious danger; nobody is safe!
May this veil of shame be lifted from Imo State!
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