By Paulinus Nsirim
Our attention has been drawn to the Editorial of Daily Independent Newspaper, on November 5, 2020, titled: “Oyigbo, Governor Wike And Blood Of The Innocent.”
Beyond dismissing it as the now fashionable campaign by all manner of relevance seeking commentators and publications, professional courtesy however demands that the usual misleading and highly opinionated allegations associated with such enterprises, be addressed for record purposes.
First of all, we note with a huge sense of disappointment, that the photograph which accompanied the story and was wrongly captioned Wike, is in fact not the photograph of the Rivers State Governor and this, sadly, is not just a glaring reflection of professional laziness by a publication of the seeming pedigree of Daily Independent, it is also an unfortunate reaffirmation of the bastardization, which the basic norms and ethics of our noble Journalism profession has progressively been subjected to over the years.
Against this backdrop therefore, it follows logically that if a highly regarded publication like Daily Independent does not even know what Governor Nyesom Wike, a prominent Nigerian Governor, looks like, then whatever story associated with that ignorance must have been crafted and penned with half-baked or outrightly ignorant references.
This conclusion is succinctly buttressed in the very first lines of the Editorial which reads thus: “Unconfirmed reports of brutality and killings in Oyigbo community of Rivers State following siege by the military should ordinarily come across as shattering.”
Without trying to undermine the morphology and snytactic capacity of whoever heads the Editorial Board of Daily Independent Newspaper, simple common sense is bound to wonder how the “unconfirmed” reports of very sensitive information like ‘brutality’ and ‘killings’ will be ‘shattering’ to a top Newspaper like Daily Independent, whose primary professional responsibility should be investigative journalism, and in this instance, to inform and educate the general public.
The fact that the Editorial then proceeds, on the basis of this “unconfirmed reports” in Oyigbo, to reel out a lengthy and utterly warped profiling of Governor Nyesom Wike’s personality as well as the pragmatic responses to the recent events in that community, leaves much room for the interrogation of Editorial integrity and objectivity.
Be that as it may, it will only be proper and magnanimous for us to recognize and accept the praise and commendations which the Editorial rightly expressed in its appreciation of Governor Nyesom Wike’s firm, pragmatic, committed response to the carnage that was visited on Oyigbo by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), as well as the warm, compassionate, humane and empathetic embrace of the Rivers State Government to the hapless and bereaved widows and children of the slain soldiers and policemen, whose lives were cut short in their prime.
While it is easy to pontificate from wherever this editorial was crafted, one apparent disconnect which bedevils many commentators, is the pedestrian assumption that governance must always accommodate the reactive restraint of pandering to the whims and caprices of agents of destruction and destabilization like IPOB, at the expense of endangering the lives and property of innocent citizens in the long run.
With the benefit of hindsight however, one can excuse the Editorial on the ground that it must have been written before the real profiling of IPOB in Oyigbo, which it referred to as “the ill-advised profiling of indigenous community,” was brought to the public domain by comprehensive and intensive intelligence, in Governor Nyesom Wike’s widely reported state wide broadcast and meetings with the leaders of the Non-indigenes and which, quite irreversibly, led to the imposition of the 24 hours curfew, which too has since been reviewed and relaxed by the State Security Council.
We also take considerable exception in the expression contained in the Editorial that: “It is obvious the Governor’s apparent determination to engage in confrontation with members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of IPOB beclouded his sense of judgment at the peril of overwhelming majority of community dwellers who may not share the ideology of IPOB or approve of the tactics of the secessionist group.”
Let us state categorically that nothing ever beclouds the judgment of a proactive, fearless, administratively astute, strategically brilliant and politically conscious leader like Governor Nyesom Wike.
Those who read and listened to his state-wide broadcast will know that IPOB had already been designated an outlawed terrorist group, even rejected by the South Eastern Governors where it claims to derive its illegal separatist mandate.
What happened in Oyigbo was not the first time IPOB had bared its destructive fangs in the community, but it crossed the red line this time, by hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protests, to kill four policemen and six soldiers, burn down all the Court buildings and police stations and threaten the lives of other innocent Nigerians and bonafide residents in the community.
If the curfew had not been imposed comprehensively and in the nick of time, it would have exploded into a full blown ethnic war in the community and across Rivers State.
That said, it is now left for you to judge if the unavoidable yet necessary inconveniences of a few days of temporary curfew was not worth the immediate removal and cessation of the threats and dangerous activities of a terrorist group and the futuristic preservation and security of lives and property in Oyigbo.
Let us place on record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the IPOB attack was against the twin institutions of the State government/Police and the Nigerian Army. Governor Nyesom Wike responded as the head of the state government by reinforcing the proscription of IPOB and its activities in the State through a legitimate Executive order and imposing a curfew on the community to save lives and secure property, after the first carnage unleashed by IPOB.
Unfortunately for IPOB however, its second attack was against the Nigerian Army, which constitutionally reports only to the Chief of Army Staff and the President of Nigeria. Not only was it confirmed that the IPOB hoodlums killed some soldiers, it was also reported that they stole some military rifles too and the leadership of the Nigerian Army, acting independently, instructed and directed the response and recovery operation of its stolen arms on its own mandate and authority.
Ironically, the Editorial exhibited intellectual laziness by failing to see that its own poignant examples of Odi and Zaki-Biam only exposed the fact that Governor Wike is indeed a good student of history and it was rather the IPOB that exhibited a crass ignorance of history for which they not only placed the lives of innocent indigenes and residents in Oyigbo in danger, but may also have paid a heavy price of their own too, according to the “unconfirmed reports” that has ‘shattered’ the Daily Independent Editorial board.
Let us also place on record again, that Rivers State was the most peaceful and best organized state, amongst all the flashpoint states and in spite of the various social media provocation, during the #EndSARS protests, until IPOB and its hoodlums hijacked the peacefulness of the process.
Governor Wike supervised the protests successfully not only by his astute management of sensitive information, excellent collaboration with security agencies and direct participation and identification with the protesters, but also for the simple fact that he had already anticipated a day like #EndSARS long ago and cried out early, but no one listened to him then.
Now, again with IPOB, Governor Wike has also taken the courageous step as arguably the only Governor in Nigeria, who has reinforced the proscription of an already designated terrorist group, whether in the North or South of the country and this, in conjunction with initial curfew which has now been relaxed, has again demonstrated the extent to which he has kept faith with his primary responsibility to protect the innocent civilian population of Rivers indigenes and residents, from unwarranted intimidation, brutality and possible deaths from the agents of destruction and carnage.
One would therefore have expected the Daily Independent Editorial, whose caption does not even reflect the primary agent, instigator and perpetrator of the shedding of the innocent blood of 10 soldiers and policemen and the burning of courts and police stations, to blame the necessary culprit in this matter, and it is this constant unprofessionalism in our Journalism, which also deliberately refuses to call out and chastise the real troublemakers in our society, that worries all discerning Nigerians.
We are not sure the Editors of Daily Independent saw the faces of three-month and six-month babies that lost their fathers to the barbaric act of IPOB at Oyigbo.
What will be the fate of these babies and the widows that will suffer to raise them? Yellow journalism did not think this is important.
What a sad development at a time when well-meaning people are lamenting that these innocent babies will face a turbulent future.
To be sure, calm, peace and normalcy has returned to Oyigbo community with the relaxation of the curfew and the reinforcement of the proscription of IPOB, which no doubt, has sent a clear warning to its leaders and members that they are no longer welcome in Rivers State and there is no place for them in Oyigbo, Ikoku or indeed anywhere in the State, in that outlawed, terrorist nomenclature.
Governor Nyesom Wike deserves praise for living up to his leadership responsibilities and Nigeria would indeed be a better place with leaders like him setting the standard and constantly raising the bar for firm, proactive, fearless and courageous leadership, which always puts the welfare and interest of the people first and above everything else.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State