Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has described as wild allegation, the claim by the Federal Government that members of the opposition are sponsoring the disbanded Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
He warned that it would be dangerous for Nigeria if the ongoing clamour for political restructuring, fiscal federalism, state police, guarantee for free and fair elections, is ignored.
Wike spoke on Thursday in Port Harcourt, the state capital when he opened the 13th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
The governor said that “Nigerians of goodwill must tell the country’s leaders to stop fanning the embers of disharmony and division in the polity with their irresponsible utterances and wild allegations against members of the opposition political parties, to the fact that opposition is the one sponsoring IPOB.”
He asked: “Who are those being affected by the activities of IPOB? Are they not those in the opposition states? In the hay days of Boko Haram, does the Inspector of General of Police (IGP) mean it was the opposition then that was sponsoring Boko Haram just to distract the government then?
“Today, the clamour for political restructuring, fiscal federalism, state police, guarantee for free and fair elections have never been this determined across the country and will never go away. It is becoming clearer by the day that to ignore these calls is potentially dangerous to the unity and peaceful coexistence of this country,” he warned.
Wike stated that Nigeria is in crisis because of poor governance, nepotism and marginalisation, stressing that the country needs forthright leadership and consensus building to steer the ship of state from the wrong direction it is heading, to a safer ground.
In the words of the governor, “acts of impunity, political intimidation, election rigging and abuse of power are wrongs not only against Rivers State, but they are wrongs against the entire country. We are only pretending when we feel that all is well with the country.
“The country is in crisis because of poor governance, nepotism, marginalisation and state-sponsored repression continues to bring violence to national unity and cohesion. At times like this, the country needs forthright leadership and consensus building to steer the ship of state from the wrong direction it is heading to safer place,” he stated.
The governor also appealed to all well-meaning Nigerians to call on the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, to stop stoking the embers of disharmony and divisions in the polity with his irresponsible utterances and wild allegations against members of opposition political parties.
He pointed out that by Mohammed’s unguarded utterances, the minister had implied that it was the then opposition (APC) that was sponsoring Boko Haram’s operations.
He said: “For some of us, therefore, there is nothing nobler than being counted on this path and as long as God gives us breath, we shall remain in the trenches fighting for our democratic rights and freedoms until victory is ultimately achieved.
“But, we also believe that this is a fight that should and must be led by the media for full effect and agenda-setting. This calls for greater vigilance and courage in giving effective voice to the contending issues and taking personal responsibility for factuality. It can’t be otherwise,” he said.
Governor Wike regretted that despite the monumental achievements of his administration, the opposition in the state had continued to undermine him, with tacit support from the Federal Government and a politically-inclined police.
He said: “Therefore, when a supposed opposition goes beyond the bond of decency in conjuring lies to rubbish and undermine every effort of ours to serve and advance the progress of the state, then the media owes the society the duty to investigate and expose their mischievous intentions with the facts at their disposal.
In her address, the NGE’s President, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, said that this year, the editors would focus on how to reinvent the journalism profession and make it profitable for practitioners and the society.
Egbemode said: “Ours is a besieged and beleaguered industry. Both the profession and the professionals are not in good place right now. The recession may be receding in other sectors but in the media, hardly so. Indeed, our recession predates the nationally recognised one.
“We have been in a bad place for a long time and right now, we all can feel the ground shift under our shaky legs. We take care of everybody else’s interest. We watch out for everybody and we have always done that for years.
“Other sectors get intervention funds and bailouts but what do we get? We are constantly reminded of our social responsibility and our roles in national security. We are watchdogs of every sector. And I ask: who watches our back? Who bails us out when we run into storms, like now when Hurricane Recession is battering us?”
The Chairman of the Conference, Mallam Ismaila Funtua, urged the Editors to promote professionalism in Nigeria’s interest.
The Publisher of Thisday, Mr. Nduka Obiagbena, called on media managers to develop strong brands to overcome the challenge posed by the existence of the social media.
The All Nigeria Editors Conference has as its theme: “Balancing professionalism, advocacy and business.”
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said that the National Assembly is ready to partner with NGE to give the media the needed support.
France denies funding Biafra group
Meanwhile, France has denied the allegation by the Nigerian government that it is hosting the financial headquarters of IPOB.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday told State House correspondents in Abuja that the financial headquarters of IPOB, which is clamouring for an independent state of Biafra in South East Nigeria, is domiciled in France.
However, in a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, the Political Counsellor of the Embassy of France in Nigeria, Claude Abily, said he was shocked by the statement attributed to Mohammed.
The embassy added that it has no knowledge of IPOB’s presence in France and that the Nigerian authorities never got in touch with it on the matter.
France cooperates with Nigeria in the field of security and strongly supports its unity, the statement pointed out.
Abily said: “The Embassy of France was surprised by the statement made yesterday by the Minister of Information and Culture, indicating that the “financial headquarters” of IPOB were in France.
“We don’t have any knowledge of a particular presence of IPOB in France and the Nigerian authorities never got in touch with the Embassy on this point.
“We stand ready to examine any information which could support this statement.
“Furthermore, we would like to reiterate that France actively cooperates with Nigeria in the field of security and that we strongly support the unity of the country.”
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