Re- Probing Deadly Stadium Stampede In Uyo: A Misleading Editorial By Punch Newspaper

The attention of the Akwa Ibom State Government has been drawn to an unfortunate and misleading editorial of The Punch Newspaper, in its Wednesday, 12th November, 2014 purporting to be canvassing for a probe of a clearly fictitious ‘death(s)’, on account of a purported “stampede” during the unveiling of the 30, 000 capacity ultra modern stadium named, the Nest of Champions in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Ordinarily, we would have elected to ignore this spurious and obviously biased commentary, but for the fact that, unsuspecting members of the public may be misinformed and could entertain this false report as truth, given the time honoured tradition of objective reportage and incisive analyses the Punch, as a medium is known for.

We are however at a loss, as to how this level of compromise and degeneracy infected the medium for such false and unfounded story to earn the prominence of an editorial comment on this otherwise respected medium.

It is sad to note that, the editorial was not written from a position of strength and authourity, as betrayed in the opening paragraph, to wit, “… According to media reports, at least two people died and over 20 were injured at the opening of the Akwa Ibom International Stadium in Uyo, the state capital.”

The editorial further reads, “The disaster was said to have been orchestrated by overzealous security agents…bla..bla..bla”
It is curious to observe that, a medium of the reputation of the Punch would base its editorial on, MEDIA REPORTS, and HEAR SAY, and goes ahead to accord same, such a generous dose of credibility without painstaking investigation to ascertain the rumours making the rounds from competent sources.

This anomaly becomes more worrisome, when matched against the fact that, the Punch correspondent in Akwa Ibom State, Etim Ekpimah, Iniobong Ekponta of the Union and his News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) counterpart, were among many other accredited journalists at the stadium and interacted with the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Emem Bassey, who cleared the air and assured them there were no deaths whatsoever arising from the said “stampede” in the stadium. Sad to note, no reference whatsoever is made to cite any input from the Punch correspondent who was on ground.

This untoward development leaves a bitter taste, as we are wont to believe, the editorial is laced with bias, subtle blackmail and a part of a larger scheme and script to ridicule the Akwa Ibom state Government and cast a shadow of gloom over what was in all ramifications, an historic colourful event and most remarkable in its elaborate celebration globally.

To any discerning reader, the haste by the Punch to dismiss the rebuttal of any reports of death in the stadium by the state Police Commissioner, Mr Gabriel Achong, and the disguised, but careless insinuation that, the so called tragedy which occurred only in the mischievous imagination of the authour, happened because,” …sport is mixed with other unrelated things like politics or religion…” No neutral mind is left with an iota of doubt that, this editorial is seriously flawed, and skewed to achieve predetermined end of scoring cheap political point and seeking to tarnish the true intentions of a people and government whose only goal was the justifiable celebration of success and achievement, uncommon in our clime.

We challenge the Punch to furnish her readers and indeed Nigerians and the international community, the names of those who allegedly lost their lives in the “stampede”. It will do their credibility more good to also highlight the names of the bereaved families and pictures of those who died. It will also be interesting if the Punch can come up with detailed information on which hospitals the deceased were taken to and which doctor or medical personnel certified them dead and perhaps, when and where they were buried. This is the minimum standard we expect of a medium of the public evaluation of the Punch.

It is also amusing to further point out that, the Punch in delivering their one-sided editorial deliberately blacked out , the earlier official press statement separately issued by the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Aniiekan Umanah and his Health counterpart, Dr Emem Bassey, which explained the true situation report on the minor incident at the stadium. Turning such a blind eye on the said press releases is another clear indication that, the editorial was ill motivated and done in bad faith.

For the umpteenth time, we hereby restate that, there was no single loss of life at the opening/inauguration ceremonies of the Nest of Champions which attracted the esteemed presence of three transformational African leaders, led by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in company of Their Excellencies, President Alassane Quattara of Cote’de’Ivoire and President John Mahama of Ghana on Friday, November 7, 2014.

Whereas citizens, residents, tourists, sports enthusiasts, friends of Akwa Ibom state from all walks of life trooped out in their numbers to be a part of that unfolding of history, such that, there was need to restrain some people in order not to over stretch the capacity of the stadium, the excellent crowd control measures was not breached to the level that could cause a tragedy. Besides, a compliment of over 500 medical personnel were on ground to attend to any emergencies whatsoever and so was other crisis response initiatives put in place to forestall, arrest and manage any unforseen circumstances.

The Punch rather than resort to concocting dark clouds over a colossal achievement which has earned the visioner who berthed the dream, His Excellency, Chief Dr Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, the deserving accolades of world leaders and goodwill across Nigeria and the African continent, should join the jubilant throng and swell the song of triumph called the Uncommon Transformation story of Akwa Ibom State, championed by Governor Akpabio. It will not be asking too much, if we equally demand an unreserved apology and a retraction of this unfounded editorial which is an attempt to embarrass Akwa Ibom State Government in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

Let it be on record that, regardless of what smear campaigns and falsehood detractors and cynics may muster, the Nest of Champions will be agog yet again, come 19th November, 2014 as the Super Eagles of Nigeria trade tackles with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the last qualifier match for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. It has also been confirmed that this spectacular edifice will play host to the Brazilian National team as they play the Super Eagles on 23rd March, 2015.

This uncommon feat accomplished by the government of Akwa Ibom state, and which is a pride to Nigeria and the African continent, as well, a big leap for sports development in this part of the world should attract the commendation and endorsement of the Punch. It only amounts to a regretful antithesis of her proud history for the Punch to lend her weight to voices of disgruntlement, who are sworn opponents of whatever is good and praiseworthy.

The Akwa Ibom State Government under the able leadership of Governor Akpabio, however remains focused on her avowed commitment to the total transformation of the state and is resolved not to be distracted by the few dissenters whose stock in trade is to cry wolf where there is none.

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