Ndigbo, The Punch Newspapers And Correspondent Chidiebube Okeoma By Ori Martins

As you read this, Okeoma is now the new face of citizen journalism in Imo State. Through his stories, widows, the poor, orphans and the less privileged have been rescued from death and hunger

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The fact must be made clear that Ndigbo do not patronize hatred, failure or backwardness. From a significantly disadvantaged position of having contact with the Europeans last because of lack of nearness to the seas, Ndigbo came from behind to champion not just the crusade for independence, but also dramatically taking the driver’s seat in virtually all aspects of Nigeria’s growth and development.

That was why the Great Zik of Africa emerged as Nigeria’s greatest political evangelist ever, and effectively led the country to Independence.

Between 1959 and 1966, Ndigbo were in the commanding heights of Nigeria’s life and activities. Zik was the president. Nwafor Orizu was the president of senate. Aja Wachuku was the speaker of the house of representatives. Another Igbo, a complete gentleman, General Ironsi ( later the first military head of state) was the army chief.

In sports, an Igbo boxer, Dick Tiger Ihetu put Nigeria on the boxing global map following his astonishing performances at the global stage, though he was the second Nigerian boxer to be bedecked in international boxing. Wonder boy, Dan Anyiam worked hard to be the first certified indigenous football coach and so he was the first Nigerian to handle the national team. Stepping into his shoes, Chris Udemezue qualified the country for her first ever appearance in any FIFA organized competition when he took the Flying Eagles to the 1983 Mexico U – 20 World Cup Finals. And Christian Chukwu as captain led Super Eagles to the 1980 Nations Cup glory for the first time on home soil.

Even in the 17th century, the South West and South – South zones had had lawyers, doctors, and teachers, yet the first Nigerian vice chancellor of a university was Igbo, Prof K.O. Dike who transformed University College, Ibadan, from a mere affiliate college to an internationally acclaimed university. Most Igbo of this generation may not know that it was thier icon, the erudite Prof Eni Njoku that made University of Lagos aka UNILAG what it is today. Njoku was UNILAG’s pioneer vice chancellor. It was Njoku who worked assiduously to make UNILAG a university of international repute. Before then he was the brain behind what used to be known as NEPA but he served there when it was called National Electricity Commission (NEC).

And the Nigerian Stock Exchange was designed and put in motion by the man who could easily be described as the richest Nigerian of his era , Sir Louis Ojukwu. He also served as the NSE’s first director general.
There are many other accomplishments of Igbo wards in other fields of human endeavour that may not bear repetition here for lack of space.

Yet, the Punch newspapers which came into being in 1970 and stabilized in 1975 has never associated the Igbo with anything good. The Punch loves celebrating Ndigbo in bad light. In the successive impeachments of Igbo senate presidents during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration that lasted between 1999 and 2007, The Punch newspapers played vital roles in the removal of Senators Enwerem, Okadigbo and Wabara.

When a Lagos based Igbo, Clifford Orji, a confirmed mentally retarded destitute was discovered under the flyover linking Oshodi and Murtala Muhammed Airport in 1999, The Punch newspapers known for its thorough editorial jobs based on investigative journalism , joined the motley crowd of mob actors that portrayed Orji as an “Igbo man eating fellow men”. Orji’ s former landlord at Mafoluku then confirmed that Orji was issued a quit notice because he behaved like a madman most times. That accounted for the reason he was never convicted despite being held till 2012 when he allegedly died in detention. The Punch does not believe in the marginalization cries of Ndigbo or their lamentation on Nigeria president of Igbo hue.

Ndigbo certainly hated The Punch newspapers and whatever it represented. Nevertheless, The Punch is the best edited, best structured, best managed and best organized newspaper in Nigeria. Most of the professional misdeeds you point out in the other newspapers are hardly seen or felt The Punch. Its biggest minus is its anti Igbo stand and it is understandable. Thus, almost all Igbo newspaper buyers and investors totally disregard The Punch newspapers. Only few Igbo patronize The Punch newspapers.

However, the fortune of The Punch newspapers has improved tremendously in the past four or five years in Imo State. The paper’s sales have drastically appreciated. This is due to the efforts of The Punch newspapers correspondent in Owerri, Comrade Chidiebube Okeoma. Okeoma has made the Punch newspapers a must read in Imo State because he works to make the paper better, bigger and brighter. Crime, Sex and tragedy make the best of headlines and Okeoma is a master of all three. Again, the young man knows that editors love swift actions on stories and so he sends stories on time.

Surely, Okeoma practically understands that The Punch newspapers suffers no fool so he is always up and doing. He is workaholic, tireless, ingenious and ever poised to break boundaries. Ekeoma is fearless – he combines the courage of the late Dele Giwa, the instinct of Yakubu Mohammed and the tenacity of Ray Ekpu.

Okeoma does what some other journalists dread doing. He drives his car to wherever the news is breaking, be it in the lions’ den, kidnappers’ corner, or war front. There was a robbery incident in Zenith Bank in 2017 where a mobile policeman was killed in a shootout with the robbers. It was Okeoma that did a comprehensive story of the attack, going into the family of the dead policeman and interview the widow and kids. Okeoma practically stood by the civil servants and pensioners who Imo State government labeled “ghost”. A few weeks ago, Otulu in Awomamma, Oru East was attacked and 14 youths allegedly killed. Okeoma was around to dig out the facts and he interviewed the young man who had wedding.

As you read this, Okeoma is now the new face of citizen journalism in Imo State. Through his stories, widows, the poor, orphans and the less privileged have been rescued from death and hunger. Through his stories many who couldn’t afford hospital bills were bailed others had their businesses resuscitated.

For his journalistic high marks, I addresses Okeoma as Enterprising, no matter his flaws. After all, he is human.

Martins is a seasoned journalist and writer

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