He almost died of boredom for the eight years he represented Oru West State Constituency in Imo State House of Assembly. The activities in the House were boring, a direct opposite of his restless mien. A man with boundless energy and creative zealousness, he needed real action compatible with his training as a political scientist and professional calling as a journalist. It is really exhilarating that almost two decades after he left active practice, Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba is returning to the battlefield again, this time as the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Imo State.
If Governor Hope Uzodinma had assigned him to any other ministry, many people would have dubbed it an aberration. Not that he cannot effectively function in other areas, but Emelumba, who cut in his journalism teeth in The Guardian and Vanguard and reached his professional peak as an editor and general manager in Champion newspapers perfectly fits as information commissioner for he eats and breaths news. The excitement of nosing for news, the joy of hitting the headlines and the caressing allure of juggling words for effect are all in his bloodstream. That is why journalists rose in one accord to hail Uzodinma for putting the proverbial round peg in a round hole.
Those who have followed his trajectory in the profession hardly believe that this holder of a master’s degree studied political science as his first degree at the University of Benin. Because he is not only cerebral but also a born writer, Guardian snapped him up. He fitted well into that newspaper’s style of harvesting fresh graduates with limitless intelligence and training them afterwards to become the great stars of today.
However, no newspaper could hold him down for long. As the ideas poured from his head, so did the head hunters who wanted the best in the field. As Emelumba moved from one newspaper to the other, his destiny led him to Championm, which eventually posted him to its subsidiary, National Post, in Owerri, the Imo State capital. That movement was to change a lot of things in his life. Nobody knows whether he would even be the present information commissioner if he had not moved to the East when he did. Nobody also knows if he would have represented his people in the House of Assembly if he had remained in Lagos.
But one remarkable thing that happened when he was eventually made the general manager of Post Communications Ltd. (publisher of National Post) was that his managerial skill was put to test. Newspapers were not breaking even in the East and he was given the task to make the National Post not only the leading newspaper but an economic success. He had prolific writers like Dan Onwukwe (now of Sun) and Ifeanyi Mbagwu (now of FUTO) to help beef up the editorial side of the newspaper. But an economic success? A tall order. Somehow, he managed to break the jinx. With Bibian Dike as marketing manager and Kate Anunuso as personnel manager, the management team led by Emelumba performed a miracle and exorcised the demon that held newspapers down in the East.
Indeed, within three months, he raised a substantial amount of money that enabled the company to purchase three distribution vans as well as other work tools. He signed MOUs for National Post to print Abia State Newspapers as well as other regional tabloids. National Post became a must-read in the old Eastern Region, spreading its tentacles to Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa, in addition to the Igbo states. That singular act proved to many that Emelumba did not just write well, but also possessed managerial acumen.
However, since a goldfish has no hiding place, Emelumba soon departed the National Post. By 2001, Governor Achike Udenwa appointed him Special Adviser on Media. He was in that position for only two years before the clamour by Oru West people for a capable representation, moved him to the House of Assembly. I remember vividly his first year in the House. The budget had just been presented and he assembled experts to do a critique of the document for him to make insightful contributions before the passage of the bill. Lo and behold, the experts were still at work when the bill was hurriedly passed. Emelumba was shocked. But that awoke him to aspects of governance he was previously ignorant of.
While he did his best for the constituents within the eight years, Emelumba focused his attention on social projects that would elevate mankind generally. Twice, he sought to represent his people in the House of Representatives and, twice, he was betrayed by the very people he thought would help him actualise that goal. Those who know him closely are not surprised that he still associates with these people. The man does not keep malice. Nothing is also beyond him to seek forgiveness when he offends others. That free spirit and the prayers of his quiet, loving and dutiful wife, Adaobi, are what have kept him going.
He has also put his intellectual fecundity to good use by authoring two internationally-acclaimed books, namely: Reinventing Nigeria: The Plebisciterian Option (2016) and Election Finance and Corruption in Nigeria: An Investment Theory Approach (2017). He also taught part-time in universities. Being a scholar, journalist, political scientist and now technocrat are the kind of challenges Emelumba accepts easily.
Why again he will succeed in his present assignment is that Emelumba is very conversant with his principal. As far back as 1997, the new commissioner was doing one or two things for Uzodinma. And in the last eight years, when the governor was in the Senate, Emelumba served him faithfully. Indeed in the run-up to the general election of last year and up to the Supreme Court judgment of January 14, 2020, Emelumba had been in the trenches with the governor. The frustrations and challenges were so overwhelming that I was one of those who played Job’s friends by asking Emelumba to jump ship. I am happy today that he rejected that satanic advice.
But one advice, which other aides of the governor, especially those in charge of security, should not reject is for them not to curtail Emelumba’s access to the governor when he is on a legitimate visit. He will never brook that for he is a journalist and commissioner with a difference. If they are in doubt, let them ask Ben Igwe, the former ADC to Governor Udenwa. For now, let me just say congratulations, Honorable Commissioner. As Achebe would say, it is still morning on a creation day.
•Kalu, a veteran journalist, writes from Umuahia, Abia State