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    Ihedioha, Obi and Media Role

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    BY Austin Uganwa,

    The reports carried by some of the social media platforms on the outcome of the town hall meeting, former Imo State Governor, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha had with his kinsmen in Accra, Ghanaian capital manifestly fell far short of standard journalism practice. The reports were unmistakably heavy on sensationalism, half-truths and frenziedly slanted to distort Ihedioha’s message to his people. The aftermaths of the reports, forlornly, are the unfolding political drama and name-calling that have in the past couple of days enveloped the cyber space.

    It is indeed common knowledge that there is no love lost between Obi and Ihedioha. Ihedioha’s governorship bid in 2019 which he won was enthusiastically supported by Obi and Ihedioha likewise gave his best to Atiku and Obi’s presidential race at that time. Obi personally attended Ihedioha’s governorship inauguration and gave thought-provoking speech at the inauguration lecture, May 28, 2019 that immensely helped to set desirable tempo and tenor for the new government. The two are among the few best brains in the nation’s political horizon

    Evidently, Obi and Ihedioha fall within the circle of most outstanding brands and visionary leaders of Igbo extraction. They demonstrated their love for the region when they served at various times as Governor. Ihedioha’s speedy push for Igbo cause, elevating Ahiajoku Lecture into a full institute making it a first rate cultural and intellectual resource center on Igbo culture, world view and civilization is believed to one of the hidden reasons that thickened the gang up for his removal as Governor .

    However, what’s known to be the defining pivot for Obi and Ihedioha’s affinity is the wonderful ideology they share on how to rescue the nation. Ihedioha reaffirmed this in his statement now trending across the social media platforms with a note that he has a lot of respect for Obi and shares in his political philosophy of taking back Nigeria from the draconian stronghold of the failed ruling APC government. Ihedioha therefore cannot afford to let either Obi or his supporters down

    It is also important to acknowledge the fact that Nigerian democracy is embedded in a multi-party system which inherently echoes diversity of opinions and tendencies. This explains why Afenifere, the major Yoruba socio-cultural organization would abandon Bola Tinubu in preference to Obi and no significant dust has been raised in the South West region

    As one of the frontline leaders of PDP in the country and state leader of the party, it is politically just and rational for Ihedioha to engage his kinsmen of PDP hue in order to seek their support for his party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Doing otherwise when he has not renounced his membership of PDP would empirically amount to political absurdity, even though he hails from the same tribe with Obi .

    This finds substantiation in Ihedioha’s clarification that he entirely referred to his party members when he made allusions in the speech to saboteur

    It’s therefore compelling for media particularly social media handlers to operate within the ambit of Social responsibility media paradigm and Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended to guard against a repeat of similar worrisome reports.

    One of the critical demands of the social responsibility media model is for media handlers to bask at all times in accurate, truth cum fact-based reports devoid of sensationalism.

    In setting the standard, the protagonists of the media norm recognize latent backlash intrinsic in journalists lowering or jettisoning the established journalistic norms in their operations which has evidently resonated in the social media reports on Ihedioha’s town hall meeting in Accra. For instance, Sahara Reporters screaming headline on its major page on September 27, contained: “You must not support Peter Obi, unless you are saboteur, ex-Imo governor”. Some other social media platforms equally pegged the report along this line.

    This manifestly distorted slant taken by some of the social media platforms that reported the event informed the basis of the reactions that have been emanating from Peter Obi’s supporters.

    For those who have been able to watch the complete video clip that originated from the Accra stakeholders meeting which is also making rounds on the social vents, there is nowhere Ihedioha in his speech mentioned Peter Obi or his Labour Party, either explicitly or implicitly; what’s more, to even refer his supporters as saboteurs .

    The two political parties he clearly spoke about were, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), his party with a note and rightly too that they are the two dominant parties in the country.

    The underlying question is; where did the social media handlers who ran the story frenetically and celebrated Obi’s name on their headlines manufacture the name from? This fuels mischief theory being bandied by many.
    Ihedioha underpinned the mischief theory in a statement used to debunk the slant taken by the social media platforms on the Accra meeting.

    He stated that it was unfortunate that his well-intentioned speech in Accra aimed at addressing specific party issues was manipulated by “fifth columnists to suit their mischievous scheme of bringing him on collision course with Mr. Peter Obi” and even his supporters. This is understandable. Primary and general elections’ seasons are usually not the best of times for politicians, in a number of ways.

    Some political detractors and mischief-makers typically cash in on this season to undermine their political opponents and or perceived political enemies especially those with high political rating and command enormous political followership. Not a few consumers of social and conventional media outputs know that Ihedioha has in recent times fallen immense victim in the hands of the known and unknown political hecklers.

    Given the peculiar nature of the media as a veritable tool to reach a wide spectrum of heterogeneous people simultaneously, the political detractors find the mass media largely potent to use. This is on the rise with growing climate of citizen journalism and social media accentuated by the advancement of digital technology

    This is where the issue of responsible media practice as enunciated in the social responsibility media model and section 22 of the Nigeria Constitution comes into play.

    The media handlers should be more accountable in their operations in order to barricade the political mischief-makers to ensure the growth and development of democracy.

    • Austin Uganwa, PhD, is a public affairs analyst

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