By Friday Adakole Elijah
I am very optimistic that the title of this article will catch many panting or tongues wagging. This is because the title was borrowed from the work of late Justice Acheme Paul Anyebe. A.P. Anyebe as he was fondly known had penned down some of his frustrations as a public servant in a book he titled “Agony of a Patriot”. Though, the subject matter here is a sharp departure from his literally work, there are elements of similarities shared in this work even though, this piece has to do with our society’s refusal to accord minimum respect to journalists in terms of elective positions.
To begin with, I make bold to state that without journalists or press men, we wouldn’t have what we called Nigeria today. Our independence came via journalistic struggles. The likes of Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Maculay and Anthony Enahoro who moved the motion for Nigerian independence in 1953 in faraway London.
Some of these journalists who were also patriots and nationalists were subjected to torture, incarcerations including other inhuman treatments because of their quest for our independence. They were self-sacrificing. They were unwavering. They were unswerving. They owed their allegiance to the Nigerian people and not the imperialists. They fought for our emancipation and liberation which led to our independence.
In the same guise, during the military interregnum, it was the Nigerian journalists that fought for democracy which we are enjoying today. In the course of crusading for democracy, some journalists were brutalized while others were annihilated. Despite this, journalists via the instrumentality of the press were able to chase away the military with its tail tucked in between its legs from the corridor of power.
After chasing away the military from power, journalists themselves were not only chased away from the “kitchen” by the political jackals but were completely relegated to the back burner. Some of the reasons for this malfeasance may not be far from the public perception that journalists as critics are not good managers. Journalists are also not rich and can therefore not compete in the field of politics where money is supreme.
But the assertion that journalists are not good managers cannot stand. This is because evidence abounds about journalists who were given opportunities as public officers and they all excelled. For instance, Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe remains one of the most patriotic leaders to have administered the country. When Chief Lateef Jakande was elected Governor of Lagos state, he outrivaled his contemporaries. Professor Terhemba Shija and Mrs Ada Mark were the few shinning lights in the National Assembly during the botched Babangida’s diarchy. Former President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Senator Smart Adeyemi is excelling. Senator Chris Anyanwu remains one of the best legislators in the countryup till this moment. At the local level, we have had great journalists like Otse Otokpa, Sunday Orinya amongst others that have perfomed creditably well. Currently, Bem Ngutyo of the Benue House of Assembly, Steve Ayua and Joseph Asawa Chairmen of Ukum and Ushongo Local Government Councils respectively are living up to expectations.
One journalist that is doing very well and who need the total supports of journalists in the state and beyond is Dr. Francis Agbo Ottah. When Francis Ottah Agbo appeared on the political turf like a comet from the blues some years ago in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, pessimists and doubting Thomas’s dismissed him with automatic rapidity. Dr Agbo First tested the hot water of politics by contesting the only House of Assembly Seat for Ado Local Government Area known as Ado State constituency but lost. In 2015, Agbo commonly known as “pen man” by his admirers ventured into the race for Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo House of Representatives seat but was prevailed upon not to dislocate the then existing zoning arrangements in place. He backed down and allowed the continuation of the zoning arrangements to flow uninterrupted. He exhibited imperturbability and worked industriously for the success of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in his local government of Ado in particular and Benue – South in general.
Like a Trojan horse, instead of recoiling back to his cocoon and quitting politics because of the ill treatment on him as hoped by his traducers and trampulators , Agbo thronged further and expanded his political coast.
As a professionally certificated communicator, Agbo took advantage of his media experiences to harness home what he saw in other climes. It was in this guise that he gave out scholarship to indigent students from Ado Local Government Area and beyond. He also graded the hitherto impassable Ekile roads. And that was the first time the people of that locality were drinking from the cup of humanism occasioned by one of their own.
All the aforementioned efforts predated his election. Some of them were not done with election in mind. They freely sprouted from his milk of kindness. Peradventure, Dr Agbo’s victory at the last election was a precursory benefit of his kindness to humanity.
But like the saying, “in whom much is given, much is equally expected”, the people particularly his constituent’s expectations of him were expectedly prodigious. And he seems combat ready to tackle this horrendous challenge. Of recent, he appeared to have enjoyed generous mentions in the media – positive and negative. Unlike non – journalists who perceives criticisms as invectives, Agbo sees criticism as the necessary oil that could fuel him to success.
First, he gave out his salary for the entire duration he will be representing his people in the green chamber as his corporate social responsibility, CSR, to the constituency. He set up a committee that will manage and administer the fund on behalf of the People. This is novel in our political history.
After xeriscaping the problem and plight of his people, he discovered that the people needed some form of empowerment. And the season was ripe and favorable to agricultural development hence empowerment in this area seems a noble cause. Agriculture remains one of the best platforms of empowerment of the rural dwellers. If you doubt the pedigree and efficacy of Agriculture in empowerment of the rural folks, ask Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian President.
Dr Agbo who as a journalist had churned out several development communication articles did not hesitate to encourage cassava farming in his constituency. He saw how farmers became milonnaires in some states in South-West and South-West East Nigeria and had dreamt of his people replicating same feat. To this effect, he procured tons of improved cassava stems and distributed them free of charge to desiring farmers.
Though, this gesture had been misconstrued as lack of priority by pessimists and political jobbers who rechristened him as “Cassava Man, the truth remains that Agbo is in the right direction. Agriculture, apart from serving as a critical pillar in the chain value of the Nigerian economy today, has the potential of contributing to food security of not only the individual farmers but that of the nation as a whole. Agbo, by this token could change the narrative of our rural dwellers by extricating them from extreme poverty which is the Hallmark of empowerment – poverty alleviation. This feat remains the first in the history of our representative democracy.
The most humane aspect of Dr Agbo’s political benevolence so far was his prompt response to the yearnings and cries of the stranded Benue students at the Federal University, Wukari, during the recent crises between Tiv and Jukun communities in the area. During the crisis which was said to have “deliberately consumed” some Tiv students and staff of the varsity, the Benue State government sent some buses with armed security escorts to evacuate the students. But regrettably, many students were left stranded. Dr. Agbo immediately filled the vacuum by donating more buses to evacuate stranded students to Benue state. As far as Dr Agbo was and is still concerns, Benue is Benue irrespective of tribe Creed and religion. That is the Hallmark of a patriot. And only journalists that could think like this.
From the above, it could be agreed that journalists are true patriots who are genuinely committed to the emancipation of the masses and should therefore be given the opportunity to steer the ship of governance in Nigeria. Once that happens, Nigeria will regain its lost glory.
Dr. Elijah writes from Otada – Otukpo.
Categories: James Ibechi