By Simeon Nwakaudu
I am surprised that it took Punch Newspaper so long to make their declaration against Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. So when I saw their editorial of Sunday, December 1, 2019 taking a position on Rivers State, I took it as one of their promotional activities for those that sponsor them.
Imagine a newspaper and the day it chose to make the declaration: "Rivers State is not a Christian State, Wike." They carefully chose a Sunday and the very beginning of the Christmas Period to make their Hypocritical Declaration. It is an editorial laden birthed in negativity, with virtually nothing to do with social good.
For the Punch, their courage is usually politically targeted and aimed at pleasing specific sections of the country. They are also always intent on satisfying a particular political party.
In the editorial where Punch Newspaper "boldly " lambasted the Rivers State Governor, it failed woefully to mention states that have declared Islam as their official State Religion. They failed to mention states that officially practice Sharia as approved by their Respective State Houses of Assembly. They merely played the Ostrich in this regard, as their goal was obvious.
Earlier this year, Punch Newspaper was compelled by public outcry to sack its daily and Saturday editors because of the Newspaper's ugly foray into the issues of Christianity.
It strategically published on its back page a cartoon of a man desecrating the Bible with urine. All the Newspaper focused on was to denigrate an entire religion, simply because there was a scandal involving a cleric. They ate the humble pie after leaders of the Christian Faith protested vehemently.
The declaration that Rivers State is a Christian State is within the purview of Governor Wike to make as the elected leader of the state with the mandate of the people.
This declaration does not in any way take away the rights of other Rivers people and residents to practice other religions as they deem fit. On several occasions, Governor Wike personally explained this fact.
The hypocrisy of Punch Newspaper is both nauseating and provocative. To say the least, it is unfortunate. The intent is clear. To pitch Governor Wike against other Nigerians of other faiths, while pretending to be engaged in social advocacy.
Indeed, the Punch Newspaper's Editorial of December 1, 2019 is in bad taste and was clearly politically motivated and orchestrated to serve ugly purposes.
When it comes to a declaration that Rivers State is a Christian State, Punch Newspaper jumps to assume a Non-Existent Jurisdiction to declare that it is not. In one breadth it quotes a section of the constitution to say that Nigeria is a secular country and in another breadth the same Newspaper declares that the Nigerian Federal Government recognises two major religions.
Embedded in the Nigerian Constitution is the right to freedom of religion. That right is promoted and protected by the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Wike. It is still under this constitutional right that an overwhelming majority of Rivers people are Christians.
Punch Newspaper in its usual politically motivated bias refused to highlight that the Rivers State Government operates Rivers State Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board to cater for the pilgrimage needs of Muslims in the State. A Rivers Indigene, Alhaji Abdulrazak Deprieye is the Sole Administrator of Rivers State Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board .
We are already accustomed to Punch Newspaper's partisanship. When the falsehood on the alleged demolition of a Non-Existent Mosque was circulated by some politicians, Punch Newspaper was one of the newspapers that celebrated the concocted and misleading report. When the truth came to the fore, Punch Newspaper made no attempt publish declarative reports about the truth.
Whenever there are security infractions in Rivers State, Punch Newspaper celebrates as if Rivers lives don't matter. If cultists clash in a community in Khana LGA for instance, Punch Newspaper would scream "Rivers of Blood". If there is an issue of security breach in a village in Emohua LGA, Punch would scream "Rivers Violence ". Majority of Punch Security reports on Rivers State are geared towards de-marketing the state. Of course, they have Rivers APC leaders as their collaborators. Rivers reports that make front page on Punch are usually the reports deliberately placed to de-market the state.
But if similar stories break in other states of geo-political zones that are aligned with their political inclination, Punch Newspaper becomes professional.
When the developments are positive about Rivers State and the State Government, Punch Newspaper usually looks the other way. If the attention of her representatives are drawn to this ugly development, they insist that it is the paper's policy.
It is that partisanship that has led to this misadventure by Punch Newspaper's Editorial Board. On what premise would an editorial board declare that Rivers State is not a Christian State?
Has the Punch Editorial Board become the Rivers State Executive Council or the Rivers State House of Assembly or even the elected Council Chairmen of Rivers State? Are members of Punch Editorial Board now elected councillors of Rivers State? On what platform can they counter Governor Wike who holds the mandate of Rivers people?
So Punch Newspaper is comfortable to say that the country is a secular state where there are constitutionally recognized Grand Khadis and Sharia Courts in different parts of the country? Governor Wike's Declaration that Rivers State is a Christian State is the REALITY. The truth of the matter. Governor Wike is a frank politician who believes in the truth.
Personally, I see the editorial by Punch Newspaper as a failed attempt at political correctness.
But I want to suggest to the Editorial Board of Punch Newspaper to take deliberate steps to be balanced in their coverage of all political parties and geo-political zones. For now, the newspaper is far from getting it right when it comes to balanced reporting. You cannot shut out positives on certain political inclinations and sing the praise of others.
Most importantly, Punch Newspaper must desist from this outdated mode of profiling politicians not within their political group. It is impossible for everyone to belong to one political movement.
In all, the ill-conceived Punch Newspaper's Editorial of December 1, 2019 is dead on arrival. It is a political effort that has failed like several other negative media campaigns against Governor Wike.