Governor Soludo: A Jolly Good Friend Of The Press

By Christian ABURIME

The recent claims by the Anambra State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Dr. Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, that Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR, is an “enemy of journalists” could best be described as an unfortunate accusation, completely far from the truth.

Indeed, it is an unfair accusation that casts a shadow over Governor Soludo’s respectful relationship with the press, and it also fails to recognise the governor’s little but notable gestures in the past. While Dr. Odogwu’s concerns deserve a hearing, a closer look reveals a governor dedicated to general progress, not alienating journalists.

It would be recalled that Governor Soludo inherited a complex situation when he assumed office two years ago. Aside confronting multifarious challenges of insecurity, economic straits, infrastructure deficit and so on, state resources have also been relatively lean and needed stringent, prudent management. Of course, this led to the rationalisation of the National Light newspaper, which unavoidably impacted its staff, but reflected a broader effort to streamline government operations. Thus, a focus on streamlining should not be misconstrued as an emasculation of the press.

By the way, it is unfair to judge Governor Soludo’s commitment to the fourth estate of the realm based solely on his nascent two-year tenure. Transforming a state is an arduous undertaking that demands a stepwise approach and prioritization, as indicated above.

The governor has initiated groundbreaking policies like free education, free antenatal care, construction of over 450 kilometers of roads, enhanced security, urban renewal, employment of 5,000 teachers with more 3,000 to be employed soon, 5,000 youth empowerment grants, employment of 1,000 doctors/nurses and other medical personnel among several other developmental efforts.

These are no small feats for a young administration under the weight of competing demands.

Meanwhile, Dr. Odogwu highlights the positive treatment journalists receive in other states. While such initiatives are commendable, the comparison game is unnecessary. Governor Soludo’s priorities are clear: rapid development across the state. Of course, even as the focus towards long-term, state-wide development goals is more compelling, the Soludo administration would never ignore journalists in the state. That is why, last Christmas, his administration distributed rice palliatives to journalists as a gesture of support during challenging times when food inflation shot through the roof.

This action, no matter how small, clearly demonstrated the governor’s goodwill and concern for journalists’ welfare. How can a leader who extended such gesture be branded an adversary? Responsible governance is a delicate balance of addressing myriad needs with finite resources.

A responsible leader systematically tackles problems, not ruling by impulse or sentiment. So, the accusation that Governor Soludo prefers his TV station over mainstream media is also misplaced. A leader’s use of communication channels to disseminate his vision and development strides does not preclude collaboration with traditional outlets. If anything, journalists should embrace such initiatives as expanded avenues to share the government’s good works with the public.

While Dr. Odogwu’s call for training, appointments and infrastructure for journalists are understandable and valid, it is pointless to turn entreaties into impatient vilifications. As the Soludo administration is still evolving, his track record demonstrates a willingness to prioritize critical needs as circumstances permit.

Addressing the NUJ’s needs can certainly be part of the plan moving forward. Vilifying the governor as an “enemy” is counterproductive and will only strain the bridges he has built. Patience is most advised.

In all, Governor Soludo understands that a vibrant, well-equipped press serves democracy better. Rather than trade accusations, the state NUJ should explore constructive dialogue to convey their grievances and needs respectfully.

A mature leader like Governor Soludo will undoubtedly lend an ear to reasonable requests that uplift the state’s civic institutions as partners in progress. A forward-thinking governor committed to holistic progress can hardly be called an “enemy.” The fourth estate would be wise to embrace him as an ally.

By working together, the Governor and the NUJ can ensure a thriving media landscape alongside a flourishing Anambra State.

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