Offoaro in Uzodimma
BY DECLAN MBADIWE EMELUMBA
Friday May 04, 2012

Godson Offoaro’s piece on page 19 of Daily Sun edition of Monday April 30, made quite an interesting reading. A good piece one must admit and coming from a veteran, it was only expected. Offoaro incidentally is a good friend of mine. Apart from having met severally with him as a colleague, we also met most recently in Imo State when he journeyed from the United States to Owerri for a political stint that, if I remember correctly, went sour.

As a member of the Board of Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC), Offoaro had the traumatic experience of being part of a team that had a disastrous and rancorous outing resulting in the dissolution of the Board less than ten. (10) months after it was inaugurated. I suspect that the foul stench of that fiasco has wittingly or unwittingly taken a toll on the usual thoroughness and indepth research that used to mark out Offoaro’s works.

Overtime, I have followed Offoaro’s column with the passion and tenacity of an old friend, and I dare say that the professional knack for clinical details that usually characterized his writings was particularly wanting in last Monday’s write-up. It is possible too that having stayed in the United States for a long time, my friend has not quite adjusted to the realities of our present times, or for that matter, the fact-driven columns of e-journalism of today.

Two issues are of crucial interest to me on the instant topic of Offoaro’s column of April 19, titled “Uzodimma’s fight over First Class flight. And I pick interest in these issues ostensibly in sympathy with a good friend who appears to have lost his bearing, even if momentarily, and, in defense of a Leader that Orlu people, which I am one, are very proud of.
The first issue of interest is the prognosis on student unionism as a foundation to effective National Political Leadership, wherein Offoaro posits a correlation between the two.

The second is his warped analysis of the activities of Senator Hope Uzodimma, with the curious conclusion that the Distinguished Senator is an Aristocrat and out of touch with ordinary Nigerians and their needs.
I presume that my good friend Offoaro was out of the country recently. He obviously was not around during the National drama that became of the Hon. Haman Hembe led House of Representatives Committee that attempted to probe the Capital Market. I am almost certain that if he had been around, he would never have missed the shame of the Hembe Chairmanship of that probe Committee.

That Hon. Hembe demonstrated crass immaturity in the handling of a grave National Assignment, even as a second timer in the House of Reps, was so clear for even a toddler to see and behold. Yet Hon. Hembe is reputed to have come from the Presidency of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to the House of REPS. So where is this correlation between student Union activism and effective National Political Leadership?

Lateef Jakande and Sam Mbakwe in the Second Republic were rated among the best Governors. None was a Student Union Activist. In the present dispensation, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State comes handy as a performing Governor. There is no evidence that he was a Student Union Activist either. Other examples abound. The fact of the matter is that all over the world, there is no conclusive evidence of any correlation between Student Unionism and good leadership or vice-versa. I believe this point should not be over laboured.

Because Offoaro was in faraway U.S. for a better part of the twelve years of this Republic, his unabashed ignorance of the pedigree of Sen. Hope Uzodimma can be excused. Or can it?
Well, he was honest enough to admit his ignorance, to wit, “I do not know much about Hope except that he has been in the news …”, But a columnist of Offoaro’s caliber, should know what to do, to overcome ignorance before going to press. And this is more so because the admission of ignorance alone does not confer journalistic license to goof as irredeemably as Offoaro did on Sen. Uzodimma.

A good columnist knows and appreciates the import of background research. Facts about Uzodimma’s background could have been gathered from many sources including Media Libraries and the internet. And facts must be sought after fervently, because as we know, facts are sacred. Had Offoaro done that, he would have found out so easily, and contrary to his wild baseless, and fallacious submissions, that Hope Uzodimma has been around Nigerian politics for too long.

The problem with replacing facts with fiction in journalism is that it unleashes a fatal damage on the reputation of those so misrepresented. It is akin to a grave medical error wherein a doctor decides to prescribe drugs for a patient on the strength of symptoms, without reference to proper diagnosis and medical history. Such baseless prescriptions often result to irredeemable medical fatality.

Contrary to his inexcusable ignorance, Offoaro would have found out, if he had put in efforts, that Uzodimma was a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He would have also found out that he was one-time Chairman of Imo Marketing Board under Evans Enwerem administration, was Chairman of Federal Mass Literacy Commission, and was Chairman of Nigerian Wrestling Federation. He also contested the Governorship of Imo State in 2003 with Ikedi Ohakim, who later became Governor of Imo State, as his running mate. In 2007, Uzodimma came a close second to Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume in the Governorship primaries of the PDP and was poised to clinch the ticket had there been a run-off between him and Ararume in line with the PDP Constitution.

Even more interesting is the fact that Uzodimma has been a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BOT) since 2007 till date. What other political training or tutelage does one need to be a Senator and a good one at that?
Offoaro again goffed when he said he never saw Uzodimma mount the soap box. I was personally involved as an Orlu son and I can say without any fear of contradiction that Uzodima mounted the soap box during the electionary period no less than fifty times in the twelve Local Governments of Orlu.

The records are there at Sen. Uzodimma’s campaign office in Orlu. All Offoaro needed to do was put in a little effort and he would have had all the facts he needed.
It is unpardonable for Offoaro to say he never heard Uzodimma’s talk of graduate unemployment. This is both embarrassing and surprising because the very first motion moved by Sen. Hope Uzodimma on the floor of the Senate was on graduate unemployment. This was on July 27, 2011. Infact the motion was adopted and the Senate enjoined all Federal Government agencies to attend to the unemployment problems of the country with the urgency it deserves. Had my friend checked through the library of the Senate or the internet, he would have had this information at his beck and call.

It is on record as of fact, that Sen. Hope Uzodimma was among the first public officers to talk on the need to cushion the effects of the oil subsidy removal.
As early as December 2011, when the fuel subsidy debate was raging, Uzodimma in a statement advised the Federal Government to ensure that proceeds from subsidy, if it must be removed, were deployed towards providing basic amenities for the poor. This statement was published by many Dailies, which I believe are at the disposal of my good friend.

Offoaro’s next fallacy was that Senator Hope Uzodimma never spoke about unmotorable roads in the South-East. Perhaps he should know that the Senator was inspired to sponsor the Bill on Erosion Control in the South-East, not only because of its devastating effect on the ecosystem, but also for the damage it has wrought on most roads in the area. These points were clearly outlined in both the motion on erosion which the Senator sponsored and the Bill that followed therefrom.

Beyond that, the Senator physically inspected the bad roads in Orlu zone, followed up with a survey paid for by him, and used information gathered to make inputs into 2012 federal budget. Virtually every Orlu man can attest to the fact that Uzodimma is a man of benevolence and compassion. Even before becoming Senator, he was known in Orlu Zone as the man who is ready to put in his last kobo and energy in defence of the poor and helpless. Only last December in his constituency thank you outing, he distributed close to 200 motorcycles to Orlu Youths in the twelve (12) Local Governments in the zone.

Emelumba, former member of Imo State House of Assembly, writes from Abuja

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