*As NUJ Advocates For Peaceful Election In Rivers
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, has challenged the Nigerian media to make politicians accountable to the citizens.
This is as the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Rivers State, called for a violent-free atmosphere before, during and after the forthcoming general elections in the state.
Cole spoke on Friday night during a dinner organised by the Correspondents’ Chapel, as part of activities marking the 2023 Correspondents’ Week, with the theme: ‘Media Vigilance Ahead of Peaceful 2023 Election In Rivers State.’
The dinner, which was chaired by the Head, of Corporate Communications, Indorama-Eleme Petrochemicals Limited, Dr Jossy Nkwocha, was attended by the General Manager of Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Chief Ernest Chinwo and several other journalists and non-journalists.
The APC governorship candidate, who was represented by the spokesman of the party’s campaign council in the state, Sogbeye Eli, a legal practitioner, regretted that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Governor Nyesom Wike in the state has been doing everything possible to stifle the voice of the opposition in the state.
He said: “The constitution says there should be a multiparty democracy. In other words, we are not running a one-party system. But here, some politicians say Rivers State is a one-party state and they do everything possible to stifle the voice of the opposition. That is not correct.
“I am challenging the media to hold politicians accountable. I wouldn’t stand here and say PDP does it and that we, APC don’t do it. I said so because we are in an era where politicians are moving from party A to party B easily. I think the media has a role in defining the borders of political parties.
“Politicians should be held accountable. You don’t say A now and next time you say B. No! You must be held to account for the thing you do and say. With that, we can have a system that looks like you are being held accountable by the people.”
In his goodwill message, the immediate-past Commissioner for Information and Communications in the state, Paulinus Nsirim, commended members of the Correspondents’ Chapel for their untiring efforts in ensuring that the activities of the state government were brought to public light.
Nsirim, who was represented by the Director of Publications in the State Ministry of Information and Communications, Celestine Ogolo, said:
“Congratulations to the entire executives and members of the Correspondents’ Chapel for holding this all-important week and for the theme of the week, which is very apt as we move to the election in a few weeks from now.
“I commend the executives of the chapel for their untiring efforts in ensuring that activities of the government of Rivers State are brought to public light.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel, Amaechi Okonkwo, said Journalists in the state desire a peaceful election going forward, pointing out that the state has had a lot of election-related violence.
Okonkwo said: “We desire a peaceful election in Rivers State going forward. We have had a lot of election-related violence. We want to experience the other side, which is having a peaceful election.
“That was why part of our programme was to invite candidates of political parties, especially the major ones, to come, take their time and tell us about their programmes and make a commitment to us, to their peaceful disposition to the election this time around. Unfortunately, many of them couldn’t come, we understand, they are at the peak of their campaigns.
“But we want to make it public that we as Journalists and the rest of us that are in this hall, are demanding that politicians, this time around should please, in the name of God, make elections in Rivers State very peaceful.
“We don’t want the destruction of lives and property that characterized past elections. We don’t want the destruction of our social and economic life like in past elections. We want a peaceful exercise and INEC has said it will do everything possible to ensure elections are free and fair, hinging on the new Electoral Act.”
He regretted the death of two of his colleagues, the late Joe Ezuma and Obed Mpiagbulem.
Okonkwo also said that the movement of members has been quite challenging since armed robbers stole our Chapel Bus donated to us by the state government.
He appealed to the government, corporate bodies and public-spirited individuals to assist the Chapel with a bus to help monitor the forthcoming general elections and media duties.