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UDUAGHAN'S WEB EMBATTLEMENT: CRITICISM OR BLACKMAIL?

By NBF News
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In recent weeks our e-mail address has been inundated with a flood of reports, comments, allegations, and outright abuse of the Governor of Delta State Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. It is particularly noticeable that he has been targeted by web commentators who have only now discovered, according to some of them, that he is not performing effectively as Governor.

However many of the postings on the web suggest that this upsurge in critical commentary against the Delta State Governor might also be influenced by the predicament of his predecessor James Ibori. In most of the articles that have been sent to us the link between the two men (Ibori is said to be his cousin) is continually alluded to, and in some of the most bitter pieces it has been alleged that Uduaghan is hardly more than a surrogate for his predecessor.

Any objective observer can easily debunk such allegations.  Uduaghan has a totally different style of operation from that of his predecessor. One of the most often heard criticisms, especially from some of his political collaborators who regret his refusal to spend freely, is that he has reversed the perception of profligate spending that Ibori was known for. Some of the attacks against him on the web allege that he has ignored the basic developmental needs of the state. According to one particular piece that has been widely distributed he has initiated no major project since he took office.

This is patently untrue but the web has become a source of opinions and comments that need hardly be checked for either accuracy or intent as long as they are sensational enough to attract attention. It is now becoming increasingly clear that this build up of anti-Uduaghan web commentary is based on a concerted campaign of calumny rather than on an objective critical study of his performance as Governor. The material that we have seen is uniformly negative in its content and cannot be regarded as being either objective or properly researched.

This exposes the fundamental flaws of modern social networking on the web. It can hardly be doubted, based on the content of the material distributed through web postings, that there is a conspiracy afoot to undermine Governor Uduaghan's credibility. The Governor who has initiated the most far reaching educational support programme in the state is accused of not having any interest in the welfare of the common man. The same Governor having initiated an extensive expansion of the rural road network is accused of having ignored basic infrastructural needs.

The impending commissioning of the Asaba International Airport, and the establishment of two key development projects the Koko Freeport, and the Warri Industrial Park will create the foundation for enhanced economic growth in the state for several decades to come. These are all initiatives originated by the Uduaghan Administration over the last three years but the web contributors either ignore them or raise issues of political disenchantment in connection with them. They are also fond of making allegations of financial misappropriation that they say they have evidence of but which when closely examined seem to be based on speculation rather than on investigation.

One of the most interesting reports that we have seen was authored by someone offering advice to Dr. Uduaghan over the plethora of endorsements being announced in favour of his second term. In that piece he was virtually accused of encouraging the enshrinement of sycophancy among the people of the state both young and old. According to the subscriber all that was needed for anyone to make a fortune was for them to stock a bus with scores of praise singers and drive up to the gate of Asaba Government house singing the praises of the Governor.

This is clearly an exaggeration but having been posted on the web it takes on the cachet of truth.

The growth of web based criticism against Uduaghan coming at this time is clearly linked to the approach of the campaign season as the interests of both his supporters and his opponents come into play. Unfortunately for now it appears that the weight of contributions on the web concerning his performance of his duties is falling overwhelmingly on the side of his detractors but our own quiet investigation of his record indicates that this is unfair. It is certain that any defence of Governor Uduaghan against his cyber community antagonists will attract vehement responses from the noisemakers of the web.

They have no obligation to deploy objective content or decent language in their contributions. Very often the allegations that they have made against the Governor includes falsehoods that cannot be denied by the official organs of the administration without giving the impression of defensive reaction. The tendency to distrust government defence of accusations of impropriety or inefficiency is widespread in Nigeria and often for very good reason. At the same time though it is very easy for dissident sentiments to be expressed against governments that are genuinely attempting to create a new order of public accountability.

This is the problem that the Uduaghan Administration is now faced with. Many of the sentiments being expressed in opposition to the operations of his Government sound like personal disenchantment rather than genuine criticism meant to generate more effective service to the people of the state. For example wherever his major initiatives are mentioned the genuine expansion of economic opportunity that they will provide is never discussed. By the same token the impressive record of regularity and improved compensation packages that his government has provided for wage earners in the public service is never acknowledged.

The introduction of active programmes of development in the agricultural sector in pursuit of the diversification of revenue sources in the state is one of the Governor's most effective initiatives. He has shown a personal interest in the revival of community based cooperatives and has also promised to restore farm settlements wherever feasible. It is usual that in developing such objectives there will be some resistance from various interest groups and government must work to overcome such resistance. However a study of the web-based reports shows that many of those who claim to be monitoring government activities in the state are reluctant to see any good at all in the government initiatives.

They are unable to judge these initiatives objectively and unwilling to admit that they are worthy of consideration as being useful efforts in the process of building the state. As a result most of the contributions that we have seen tend to encourage dissent rather than cooperation. This encourages the assumption that most of these postings are meant to undermine the Government rather than to advise it and promote service, which most of the subscribers claim to be their intention.

It is difficult not to conclude that the sudden upsurge in anti-Uduaghan postings is being subsidised by persons interested in challenging him in the forthcoming election. The real issues that should engage genuine social critics and about which the Uduaghan Administration has provided ample reason for discussion concern the sustenance of the vital initiatives that he has put in place. Ironically this challenge has created the basis for the attacks against his person and his vision on the web. Sadly it appears that because Uduaghan has been zealous in establishing new parameters of governance in his state he has become a target for blackmail rather than genuine criticism.