In the last couple of years, I have been involved in the media imbroglio between two prominent citizens of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Chief Theodore Orji, both past governors of the state. Although I am not an indigene of Abia State, my interest in the matter goes beyond my understanding of the limit to which media practitioners can allow themselves to be used by politicians to settle personal or group scores. I shall return to this particular point – the perfidious recruitment of journalists for personal wars – but I think it is important to state that my interest arose first and mostly because I happened to have worked with the two ex-governors at a certain period.
That was when Orji Kalu was governor with Chief T. A. Orji as his Chief of Staff. I was not a formal appointee of the administration but I was sufficiently close to the governor, and inevitably the Chief of Staff. I did a lot of media errands for Governor Kalu especially at the period he was having problems with some members of the Abia political elite. I stood behind him when some highly respected citizens of the state took advantage of their closeness to the media to harass him. For example, let me repeat my narrative of my encounter with Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who was then a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Maduekwe, to the chagrin of many, had the habit of always taking on Governor Kalu on the pages of newspapers nearly on a daily basis. And it got to a stage when I had to do an article with the title, “Minister of Orji Must Go”. Of course, the article received ovation at the Government House, Umuahia but, conversely, did not go down well with the minister who promptly complained to our mutual friend, Chief Hope Uzodinma, now a senator. Uzodinma called me on telephone and had the following message for me: ‘If you love yourself, you must see me immediately.’ I had to travel with a night bus from Owerri back to Abuja to see Uzodinma and the same evening, we went to see Maduekwe, who was then the minister of transport in Central Area, Abuja.
I had known Chief Maduekwe, who remains today a role model for me, long before Kalu became governor. Naturally, he expressed surprise that I could “be used” to make life uncomfortable for him. I reminded him of how much I regarded him but politely told him that he was the one making life uncomfortable for Kalu who many of us, especially from Igboland, had so much admiration for. I told him that we (I) felt that he had better things to do as minister than to always descend on Kalu as he was fond of doing. To cut the story short, we agreed on a truce and I make bold to state that that was the end of Maduekwe’s attacks on his governor. Anybody who is in doubt should go and ask both men.
When Governor Kalu had problems with his deputy, Eyinnaya Abaribe, I was there and I did an article under the title, “Abaribe Should Resign”. I remember, Hon. Eziuche Ubani, who was then serving the then speaker of the House of Representatives, calling me to advise that I should not enter Umuahia if I loved myself. I can go on and on but one thing to note most importantly is that when we were doing all that, Kalu had no newspaper of his own. It was for that reason that I admonished our colleagues who got recruited to work in the newspaper he founded years later to take it easy once the fight between Kalu and his erstwhile friend, T. A. Orji, began. Some of them heeded the advice and some did not. One of those who did or has not is Ebere Wabara.
Two years ago, at the heat of the media fight, Wabara issued a press statement on behalf of Kalu and signed off as the latter’s media adviser. While reporting the story, the newspapers referred to him as an Associate Editor and member of the Editorial Board of the newspaper Dr. Kalu is publishing.
I did make an intervention to ask whether it was professionally correct for one person to be special assistant to a politician and at the same time be on the highest editorial decision making organ of a newspaper published by that same politician. Of course, the matter on which Wabara made the statement concerned Kalu (his political boss and professional employer) and his quarrel with Chief T. A. Orji. I got several responses from colleagues as well as politicians who agreed that I was making a good point. But because the Nigerian media is wrought with more impunity than we even have in the political parties, Wabara continued with his antics.