BY: SAM ONWUEMEODO
I know Barr. (Mrs) Vivian Ottih. Very tall. Well built. Very beautiful. From her head to her toes, you won’t have any negative thing to say about her. If you ask me, she is a complete woman. She is what an ideal woman should be. A career Journalist of many years’ experience. I won’t forget to add that she is fair in complexion. And indeed, outspoken. Married with children. I admire her to a very large extent. I am not talking about lust here. The truth is that when you see a good thing or a good product, you say so and rebuild the nation. And also admire it. All to the glory of God.
However, I am not on this journey to praise Mrs. Ottih. That is to say, the spirit behind this navigation is not to eulogize the woman, but to remind her and her fans where they got it wrong, in her media outburst over the non-payment of salaries in the state owned Radio Station, the Imo Broadcasting Corporation, IBC or Orient FM. Then, the query given to her and her eventual suspension, vis-a-vis the attendant outcry.
In case you do not know, Mrs. Ottih is not just a staff of IBC, but a very senior one. She is also the Chairman of the State Chapter of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ). A very Senior Lawyer too. So, she is expected to know the civil service rule. Or, the rule of engagement, as a Civil Servant. She should be a mentor or model or Counsellor to the younger ones in the establishment or in the profession. She ought to have known better. As a staff of IBC, the state government is her employer. And all over, there is an old and serious Caveat for Civil Servants with regard to media outings. She knows that. And if she knew that rule and also decided to breach it, then, it calls for concern. And a lot of interpretations could also be given to that her media voyage.
I read her post on one of the platforms. Talking about the government owing the workers of IBC three months salary arrears. And painted a very sympathetic and inciting picture of the situation, that was ultimately not a good stuff for the government of the day, no matter the way one may look at it. In the post, she also drew the attention of the governor’s media aides to the ugly situation in IBC because of the non-payment of salaries. Mrs. Ottih knew what to do if she wanted to talk to either the governor’s Chief Press Secretary or to the Commissioner of Information. She would have made a personal contact. She is respected in the state and moreover, among the pen handlers. It is very difficult to allude or conclude that she meant well with that action.
She also had the option of using NAWOJ as a body to make her point. Or, even use the state chapter of NUJ. Or, the State Branch of NLC. Or even the IBC chapter of NUJ. And the State Chairman of the State Branch of NLC, Comrade Austin Chilakpu had earlier made serious case for the payment of the salaries of the workers in the state owned parastatals, where IBC belongs. It is for Mrs. Ottih to explain what she wanted to achieve by going solo and by taking to the media, knowing the implications, thereto and therein. She misfired. And she must have known that by now.
Having peed on the Civil Service rule, and having played into the hands of the state government or the Management of IBC, they decided to act accordingly. The IBC Management issued her query, which was also leaked to the media. A private query became the item on every social media network. Then, her suspension. Both her query and her suspension were all expected in the circumstance. And also normal. It does not matter from which angle opponents of the government or any other person may see or look at it. It is possible that Mrs. Ottih must have been carried away or deceived by the kind of awkward or absurd Journalism that is being practiced in the State today. In Imo, the most invaded and abused Profession today is Journalism. It has become all comers’ affair with no solution or panacea at sight. Blackmail and extortion appear to have become the rules, instead of the exception. And some of us have begun to doubt if this was the same Profession, you would introduce yourself at a function, and everyone would be looking at you in admiration. Today, out of twenty people you see on the street of Owerri, at least, twelve must be “Journalists”. And the social media has worsened an already bad situation. I suspect that the ugly trend must have begun to have a toll on some of the real practitioners including this outstanding female Journalist, Barr. Mrs. Vivian Ottih. The moment I read what she dished out, I became worried. My worry steamed from the fact that she was not supposed to do that, by virtue of her Status as a Civil Servant. Governor Hope Uzodinma didn’t make that rule. Achike Udenwa had also sacked one of the broadcasters at the same IBC who also threw caution to the wind and was too partisan in favour of Ezekiel Izuogu then. It took the magnanimity of Rochas Okorocha to bring the man back. IBC staff should stop “playing politics”. They won’t like this, but they must be told the truth. They always cry louder than the Chief mourner. Some of them on social media networks and platforms were posting all sorts of things as if they were part of the PDP media team in the State. That was too bad of them.
I met a Case on ground when I became the Chief Press Secretary to Owelle Rochas Okorocha as governor. There was no relationship between Owelle’s government and the leadership of the NUJ in the State, with an IBC Staff too, being the State Chairman. I am talking about Sir Innocent Igwe. A very brilliant fellow. A gentleman to the core. That time, he had already been transferred to Aba. Just to incapacitate him. I came and investigated the matter and discovered that the Chairman and his people were only not happy with the ignoble way they were being treated. And Owelle was given the impression that they were against him and his government, in favour of the opponents, which was not true. That was not the Case. And I not only built a very formidable relationship between Owelle and the NUJ in the State, but made the Union an unavoidable part of every government’s activity, involving Owelle, as the governor. For three times, Owelle was at the Press Centre to address Journalists in the State. And in each Case, he spent not less than four hours. And there was no trip NUJ Imo made outside the State the government didn’t sponsor. With that spirit, we hosted the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE). Hosted National Media Merit Award. Hosted NUJ National Leadership, etal. They enjoyed Owelle and Owelle enjoyed them. The climax was that Owelle built a befitting Secretariat for Imo NUJ. And on the day of the handover, they gave me Service Merit Award. I will soon catalogue my achievements as CPS to Owelle, so that opponents won’t write for me.
Still on Journalist Vivian Ottih. I got more worried when known media personnel of the government’s opponents began to hail Mrs. Ottih. Telling her, how wonderful she has been. I nodded in disapproval. When the enemies of your biological father began to praise you, watch it, something must have gone wrong somewhere. Your father’s enemies must automatically or instantly be your “enemies”. Anyhow. They won’t love you. Government’s opponents too, were the ones who began to Circulate the query to the Madam. And equally marketed her Suspension. At a point, they began to raise funds for her. These elements in question can’t eulogize you when you are doing the right thing, as long as it does not benefit them. But they clap for you even when your action is wrong but serves their lopsided interest.
Even in private establishments, you do not raise the issue of non-payment of Salary in your Company or firm where you work as an individual. Your Union does that or should do that, when the need arises, as a body. In that Case, nobody would be singled out for punishment or reprimand. It must be a Collective Venture. Not an individual enterprise. It is also possible that Mrs. Ottih does not know that most of the Correspondents in the State have not been paid by their establishments for several months. They complain, but not in the media, unless that particular Correspondent has made up his or her mind to quit. These are truths one must be forced to know. It is not good to owe workers’ Salary, whether in the Civil Service or in the Private outfits. Very ungodly to owe Salaries. But it cannot be ruled out, at times, owing to certain exigencies or idiosyncrasies. But the debate here is one playing safe or not doing the right thing, in the wrong way.
I have always told journalists especially those very close to me that they should not over-rate or be carried away by any relationship they have with Politicians or those in Power. They respect the medium you are working for and not you as person. They are dealing with your medium through you. And when you call them on phone, they would answer. But any day you are out of that establishment, after receiving your call perhaps to hear from you that you are no longer with the medium, the Second call or subsequent calls won’t be answered. The government should caution Mrs. Ottih, and allow her to Continue her job. She has paid her dues in the Profession. And has also sacrificed a lot as a Staff of IBC.
The traditional ruler of Mbutu Nwenkwo Autonomous Community where Chief Emeka Ihedioha and myself come from, on his own, conferred on me the Chieftaincy title of Okangaoziri, (someone that says the truth), of Mbutu Nwenkwo. But he stripped me of the title because he believed that I was a serious threat to Ihedioha’s governorship. But, once Okangaoziri, always Okangaoziri, and the truth must Continue to be told, not minding the cost of doing so.
The fact remains that being a Journalist does not exempt you from Punishment or penalty when you err. Just like, being a lawyer, doesn’t prevent one from being prosecuted when his or her action is in conflict with the relevant laws and ordinances. The first question, to say the least, is whether Barr. Mrs. Ottih acted well her part as a Civil Servant with her media out-burst over the issue of non- payment of the Salaries of IBC Staff? The answer is in the negative. The Second question, is whether the query issued to her and her subsequent suspension by the management, were proper? The response would be in the positive. Then, should she be sacked in the final analysis because of that? The answer is No, on the premise that to err, is human and to forgive, is divine. Her Career should not be punctured at this time. Some would say, temper justice with mercy. This should be the Case, to the glory of God. While, we shall Continue to Clap for Jesus.