By Emeka Oraetoka
"Good evening my noble brother, Emeka Oraetoka,
My name is Julius ------- ------ (---------) one of the applicants for PTDF scholarship scheme 2022 for PhD from CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU UNIVERSITY ULI CAMPUS (FORMALLY KNOWN AS ANAMBRA STATE UNIVERSITY) I was shortlisted for PTDF scholarship interview on June 2, 2022 at Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS) University of Port Harcourt. Hence, I write to state categorically that South/East were not disenfranchised from the scheme.
Engr Julius -------- ------ (-----) from Anambra State".
(Text message from my caller on June 5, 2022).
At exactly 7:20 pm, I received a call from the above named person. Our conversation lasted 4 mins 27 secs. As his phone number was not in my phone, I sought to know how he got my number. He told me he saw it at the byline of the article I wrote about Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) in 2019. He told me the material was good one. I thanked him for the commendation. He then sought to know the State of origin of the Executive Secretary (ES) of PTDF. I told him the ES is from Zamfara state.
I then asked him to clarify very disturbing news about how South East (SE) was excluded from this year’s PTDF scholarship programme. He told me nothing like that happened. He told me the only thing that happened was that the interviews for shortlisted applicants from SE were moved to Port Harcourt. I then asked him how many of them were interviewed, but before he answered, I said up to hundred (100)? He said, what is hundred, apparently, insisting they were much more than the number I mentioned. There and then, I told him to text what we just discussed to me. Thereafter, I put off my phone and went to sleep. It was in the morning I saw his text message which I reproduced above.
When I asked my august friend, if he could tell why PTDF shifted the South East interview venue from the region to Port Harcourt (SouthSouth); he said it was because of insecurity in the region. These were his exact words in the text he sent to me later “I write to state categorically that South/East were not disenfranchised from the scheme”. Obviously, there was clear misinformation on the part of Abia Media Forum, said to be an organisation of senior journalists in Abia State. It could be recalled that on May 30, 2022, Punch newspaper carried a story captioned: Group faults South-East exclusion from PTDF scholarship interviews.
Here is the evil in the misinformation from this supposed “senior journalists” in Abia state as reported by Punch: “The Abia Media Forum calls on Nigerians of good conscience to join us in our request that the Petroleum Technology Development Fund stop its injustice and insult to the people of the South-East excluded from the lucrative PTDF scholarships and come to the region to do its interviews as it did for other regions. “The Petroleum Technology Development Fund shocked rational and fair-minded Nigerians last week with its claim that it could not hold interviews for its scholarships in the South-East but did so successfully in the North-East and North-West. If the claim of exclusion had emanated from any other organization, this writer would have ignored it, but coming from “Senior Journalists” in Nigeria, the record must be put straight, since senior members of the forth estate of the realm, had elected to misinform Nigerians with respect to what actually happened with respect to PTDF scholarship interview, as it concerns South East zone. If Abia Media Forum had limited their accusation to moving away the interview from South East zone to Port Harcourt in the South South zone; their argument would have held water, but mischievously adding exclusion of the zone from the scheme, was elevation of mendacity to the highest point. Honestly, before the phone call this writer received from Julius Nnmdi Ndibe, who told me he is from Anambra State and the discussion we had on PTDF saga, I had been misled by Abia Media Forum’s press statement captions.
Yes, there is insecurity in the North-East and North-West, yes, there is insecurity in the South East as well; but who can say which one is more severe? The answer to this question lies in politics and misinformation. When a supposedly intelligent group starts talking about insecurity in terms of “the insecurity in my region is less than that in those regions”, a discerning mind will quickly know that politics is involved. Abia Media Forum was abinitio not interested in the wellbeing of South East, they were probably procured to de-market Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau-led PTDF, for the reason this writer don’t know. Civil servants' fear of the dimensions of insecurity in the SE region is a case in point here. There is no doubt that what is being witnessed in the South East is urban based insecurity. Here, the elites are being targeted and so it will be difficult to get civil servants to go to the region for the conduct of interviews. It is even impossible for non Igbos to go to the South East for this purpose, because of the urban nature of the insecurity there.
We must know that Policemen and their stations are being attacked in the South East. Now, who will provide security to those conducting the interview? The Police, right? This writer is not in any way trying to paint the South East as the most insecure place in Nigeria. What I am simply saying is that if insecurity was the reason for shift in venue, Abia Media Forum should have written to assure PTDF of the safety of their personnel, as well as shortlisted applicants for the interview in the region. But trying to paint the picture of, “their zones are more insecure than our zone” is not good enough for a group of senior members of the fourth estate of the realm. Alternatively, Abia Media Forum could have activated Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to find out the stakeholders from the SE, PTDF claimed to have interfaced with before the interview venue shift. If your zone is safer, what is/are the proofs? Honestly, I expected a better and polished delivery from the so-called senior journalists that make up Abia Media Forum, on the issue of shifting the interview venue from South East to South South.
At this point, what PTDF cited as reason for shifting the venue of interview for South East applicants to South South, is worth looking at critically. In a response to Abia Media Forum’s allegation of exclusion of SE zone from PTDF’s interview, here is what Mrs Timilayefa Nwajueboe of the Press and External Relations Unit said: “As we have stated in all our correspondences, it was not a deliberate attempt to remove South East (Enugu) as one of our interview centers for the conduct of the 2022 Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS) selection interview exercise. The decision to maintain five centers which include Port-Harcourt, Abuja, Bauchi, Kaduna and Ibadan instead of six, was basically due to the “sit-at-home” that might affect the mobility of our potential scholars, as was established by the Head of OSS. Candidates were also given the choice to be interviewed virtually from anywhere. “The candidates who indicated South-East at the time of the application process were asked to pick any convenient venue from among the five centers, which they complied with and are currently undergoing their interviews at the center of their choice. “We have noticed the reactions to the misleading captions in the media and wish to reassure the public that our potential scholars from the South-East are among the shortlisted candidates participating in the ongoing selection interview process.”
It is no more news that in the South East, there is “sit-at-home” every Monday. As of today, the “sit-at-home” order purportedly from the leadership of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has different versions. It will be recalled that the original order from IPOB leadership was willingly obeyed by the people of SE, but subsequently, reports have it that criminal elements hijacked it to commit all kinds of atrocities. From here, it could be said that the management of PTDF elected to err on the side of caution by shifting its interview centre from South East. It is my considered opinion that Abia Media Forum orchestrated the misleading caption in the media to attract negative reactions from Nigerians, particularly, from the people of SE, to comprehensively to de-market Dr Bello Aliyu Gusau-led PTDF. If Abia Media Forum was not commissioned by the enemies of Dr Aliyu Gusau, it should not have misled the people of SE and Nigerians, in general with its incorrect and mischievous press outing on PTDF’s overseas scholarship interview.
(Oraetoka, Information Management Consultant & Researcher, Wrote in from Abuja. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. GSM: 08056031187 09039094636)