By Jideofor Igboamaka (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If I were Uche Ezechukwu, I would look at myself in the mirror and tell myself the inconvenient truth – that if I continue in the current trajectory of my career, I would leave my children a legacy of journalistic falsehood. I would look at my flourishing career as-a-column-for-sale journalist and pull the brakes before it is too late. And this is just the beginning.
Truth be told; for years now, Uche Ezechukwu has cut the appalling image of a merchant in journalism. But not even that prepared me for his trashy piece titled “If I were Governor Willie Obiano” published in his column in The Union last week. In this article, Ezechukwu who earned a name as a metaphorical cattle egret; hanging around politicians, took his journalism of the stomach to a new high. He tried without success, to demonize the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano on one hand while applauding his predecessor, Chief Peter Obi to high heavens, on another. The piece is vintage Ezechukwu – pointedly partisan and hollow; lacking in guile or subtlety, devoid of nuance.
Indeed, that is how any piece that is written under the influence of filthy lucre should read. And this is understandable. However, what must disgust anyone who abhors bad taste is Ezechukwu’s tragic inability to elevate any conversation beyond his narrow canvass. For him, column writing has not progressed beyond a simple exercise in narcissism – “I said this, I said that, I am this, I am that, I am politically exposed…” and such cant.
In the said piece, Ezechukwu failed as he often does, to paint a convincing picture. None of the flawed analogies he deployed in the opening sequence of this pathetic piece came off the canvass. Who does not know that in power-politics, any man in office would also want to be in power? Yet Ezechukwu devoted four lengthy paragraphs educating his presumably naïve readers on how “a new king” detests sharing the limelight with another. He would probably have imagined that in so doing, he was establishing sufficient grounds to situate the grave “wrong” done to his paymaster, former Governor Peter Obi, as the normal thing that happens to extra-ordinary people who have occupied extra-ordinary positions in history. However, what Ezechukwu failed to establish is the ultimate motive for Mr. Obi’s “persecution” by his political “godson.” The question that any discernible reader would ask Ezechukwu is why should Willie Obiano turn against Peter Obi? What motive would drive him to raise his gloved hands in combat against Obi? Ezechukwu’s attempt to lend weight to his false analysis by dragging in the squabbles between Chris Ngige and the Ubah brothers into the picture failed to convince because you don’t compare apples with oranges. The tastes are fundamentally different.
Having failed in his effort to establish the motive for Obiano’s presumed affront against his political benefactor, Ezechukwu progressed to launch a full attack on his subject of hate with dismissive generalities. Showing disappointment that another cattle to whom he had played the role of an egret had failed to make the cut at the APGA primaries that produced candidate Obiano, he whimsically dismissed Obiano as “a total outsider in the political affairs of the state.” It is a fitting dirge to Ezechukwu’s decaying mind, that, stricken with blindness from the hefty sum he receives in compensation from his financier, he failed to see that Mr. Obi was also “a total outsider” before he joined APGA and drank greedily from the good graces of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Indeed, everybody is on the outside until they come inside. So, what point has Uche Ezechukwu truly made here? That Obiano should not preach about party loyalty because he joined party later than Peter Obi? Oh come’ on!
A wandering egret, perpetually in search of a cattle, Ezechukwu showed his frustration at not getting the attention of Governor Obiano in his miserable piece when he wrote “Even as I write this, I have neither ever met with nor spoken with Governor Obiano, as strange as that would sound, being as politically exposed as I am.” While we may indulge his endless search for “stomach-infrastructure,” his boastful claim to being “politically exposed,” smacks of misplaced arrogance and childish ego-trip. Must the governor of Anambra State open his flanks to every “politically exposed,” cattle egret looking for the thrill of a ride on the hump of new cattle?
Ezechukwu’s futile efforts to stand logic on a fractured limb came out as a poor job once again when he claimed that Governor Obiano has been struggling unsuccessfully to “break out from the huge shadow thrown over him by the larger than life image of the former governor.” If Uche Ezechukwu were not a pitiable hireling, which columnist worth his salt would be comparing an eight-year record with the achievements made in seven months? Where is the sense of balance? By the way, the jury is finally out on the so-called legacy of the Obi years in Anambra State. Under close examination, it is becoming clearer that a well-oiled propaganda machine of which Ezechukwu is a vital component, may have succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of many people in Anambra State. It is becoming obvious that in reality, apart from a handful of rural roads and some refurbished general hospitals, the substance of Peter Obi’s eight straight years in office might in fact be his propaganda machine. But I digress.
In truth, I am gobsmacked by Uche Ezechukwu’s apparent naivety in this flawed piece. Uche must have been scratching his head for something profound to say but betrayed lack of rigor when he seemed to make a mountain out of the molehill of Peter Obi’s pretend modesty. His attempt to fetishize Obi’s stage-managed humility as often displayed by his carrying his own bag and buying his own air ticket, shows just how simple Uche’s mind actually is. Evidently, it is beyond Ezechukwu to grasp the deeper meanings of the symbolisms of power. For him, a leader’s humility and good breeding lies solely in how well he performs menial jobs to public adulation. Ezechukwu enjoys the public drama of seeing a sitting governor drag his luggage around airport ticketing desks and smile impishly at every passenger in pretended humility. He sees any attempt by anyone who has a better understanding of the Igbo philosophical statement that gidigidi bu ugwu eze as flamboyance. Flamboyance-kwa? Odikwa egwu o! Perhaps Uche’s warped interpretation of the glory of a gubernatorial office will improve if he were to pause for a few seconds and ponder why in most advanced democracies, the state house is usually built to dwarf and outshine most private properties. Why is the Whitehouse such an iconic architectural landmark? Why are the palaces of ancient monarchies in Africa and elsewhere outstanding in opulence and splendor? Why do kings and queens in ancient history wear royal robes and sit on royal thrones instead of appearing in the rags of a peasant? I doubt that a columnist whose views have been distorted by a bagful of cash can see beyond the surface of things. Not Uche Ezechukwu. And he assumes that everyone is deceived by his master’s “self-effacing lifestyle” which has been cultivated over the years for the camera.
If Ezechukwu failed to read and understand the significance of the leader carrying himself well in a manner that makes his exulted office aspirational to his followers, he failed even more as could be seen in his inability to detect the shifting paradigm in the approaches to governance in Anambra State. He has yet to realize for instance that Anambrarians have since seen through the web of lies that they were fed by a regime that made it seem as though their beloved state needed divine help to retrieve it from the vice grip of criminals. He has yet to know that the people have since moved from utter unbelief hoisted on them by the immediate past administration to realize that Awka can actually shrug off its rustic looks for cosmopolitan glamour. Ezechukwu has also failed to see that most Anambrarians would rather have a sincere governor whose gregarious lifestyle is more in synch with their own than a cleverly contrived image of a puritan that dissolves into a hideous pulp when placed under the harsh light of objective scrutiny.
So, his puerile innuendoes about “champagne guzzling” are totally infantile as they are despicable. The puzzle however, is that after all these years; Ezechukwu has not been able to elevate his column-writing craft beyond the titillations of the once popular Onitsha Market literature. He picks up fragments of gossip from the social media and presents them as irrefutable facts. Ezechukwu is too engrossed in the sensations of hearing that Governor Obiano might indeed be human enough to share a drink with his friends in the privacy of his sitting room to ever wonder whether that has any real effect on his solid performance in office so far. Inebriated with the cash from his paymaster, Ezechukwu has no patience to see that Obiano is not plagued by any anxiety to outshine his brother and successor who made him the governor of Anambra State. After all, he ran for office on a “continuity” ticket which acknowledges that some work has been done that must be continued.
The danger of not putting people like Uche Ezechukwu where they belong is that they often carry on with the erroneous belief that no one is deep enough to see the patchwork of deceit they dish out to gullible readers. His assertion that Obiano’s media team has failed to package another Peter Obi for Ndi Anambra is one of those arrogant comments that could only have come from someone who has taken self-adulation too far. Ezechukwu thinks that just because Margaret Obi was silent and unobtrusive in eight years, Ebelechukwu Obiano must be neither seen nor heard. He thinks that because Peter Obi’s time in the Amawbia Governor’s Lodge carried a thick pall of a funerary atmosphere, Willie Obiano should wear a garment of sorrow and walk around Awka with drooping shoulders. Surely, this line of thinking cannot be ascribed to anyone who hopes to get the ears of any serious leader.
Again, Ezechukwu demonstrated just how helpless he obviously is in the hands of his paymaster when he injected what would pass for a classified intelligence into his piece. He felt obliged to use tidbits of information he gleaned from a private conversation to enhance the “saintly” image of his master when he wrote that “church leaders on last August 24 reportedly invited the two to a reconciliation meeting at which Obiano was said to have abused Obi thoroughly and told him to leave their party and go to hell.” Ezechukwu obviously lacks the sophistry to figure out that he had just been told one side of the story. And so, he goes around, parroting what they had programmed him to say. Poor Ezechukwu! What they would never tell him is that if not for Willie Obiano’s sagely investment advice, his paymaster would have largely remained the low profile trader he was, buying spices and beverages from Europe and selling to retailers in the domestic market. He would never have cultivated the high-profile of a corporate investor had he not been advised to spruce up his image by buying the stocks of a certain Nigerian bank and perhaps too, he would never have aspired to lead such a great people as Ndi Anambra either. But once again, I digress.
Now, if I were Uche Ezechukwu, I would pause and ponder how well I have used my gift of writing. I would worry whether I have indeed left a name that my progenitors would be happy to live with or whether my pseudo-intellectual posturing has left huge gaps in my personal narrative. I would also worry whether anyone who looks closely enough would detect that my writings are actually, the thinly disguised rants of a man writing under the influence…
Igboamaka writes from Uruagu, Nnewi.