The alleged attack on Precious Nwadike by Uche Uzodimma and the unanswered questions
By Lancelot Obiaku
On Wednesday February 10, 2021, a publication on Facebook by one Mr. Collins Opurozor, in which Precious Nwadike, the publisher of Nigerian Watchdog Newspapers, was quoted as saying that Mr. Uche Uzodimma, a brother to the Governor of Imo State, personally assaulted him and went further to order thugs to manhandle him, went viral.
As soon as Opurozor’s report was published, it was widely shared by social media users with many online platforms carrying the story and condemnations from various quarters raining on Mr. Uzodimma.
As if that was not enough, on Thursday, the story made headlines in several local tabloids. A few national dailies published it too quoting Nwadike. The story has also become a topic for discussion on radio. It is easy to observe that Mr. Nwadike’s account has been bought hook, line, and sinker by members of the public who must have read it with emotion.
After reading Mr. Nwadike’s account of what transpired between him and Mr. Uzodimma, I took steps to ascertain its veracity in order to take the right stand. I said to myself that should I find out that the Governor’s brother actually assaulted him, I would, like many have done, write to condemn his action. But it is wrong for one to deliver a judgment on such a matter without listening to both sides of the story and, maybe, a neutral account as well.
Later on Wednesday, I reached out to the man accused of brutalizing Nwadike who gave me his own side of the story. Mr. Uche Uzodimma told me that he didn’t know Precious Nwadike, either as a journalist or as a newspaper publisher before now. According to him, he had neither heard about Nwadike nor met him before the incident on Tuesday.
But he confirmed that he was on Port Harcourt road on Tuesday evening where he supervised the ongoing reconstruction of the said road, just close to the Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) office, when Nwadike, driving in his own vehicle, had a mild disagreement with labourers at the site. The workmen in Mr. Uzodimma’s account had directed Mr. Nwadike to reverse and use an alternative route as asphalt laying was ongoing at the time and he had already driven his vehicle beyond the caution tape placed around the newly asphalted portions of the road to prevent motorists from having an impact on them.
Mr. Uzodimma told me that after Nwadike reversed his vehicle, he parked by the roadside before walking up to him and the contractor Mr. Nnadozie Uwajumogu whom he (Mr. Uzodimma) was interacting with and complained that the labourers insulted him and called his vehicle rickety. He confided in me that Nwadike told him that he could take insults from the labourers but cannot accept that he (Mr. Uzodimma) stood there as the contractor and watched the labourers call his vehicle rickety.
Uche Uzodimma stated that it was at this point that he found out from Nwadike that he was headed for the OCDA office which is only a foot from where the asphalt laying was going on. According to him, he told Nwadike that he could have simply parked his vehicle by the other side of the road and walked into OCDA without exchanging words with the labourers.
Mr. Uzodimma informed me that he watched Mr. Nwadike walk peacefully into the OCDA complex moments before he (Mr. Uzodimma) drove home. No body touched Nwadike talk more of beating him to unconsciousness he said.
Unsatisfied, I reached out to members of staff at OCDA to see if anyone could confirm if there was any altercation leading to a group of thugs beating someone to temporal unconsciousness the previous day, a treatment Mr. Nwadike alleged was meted out to him which, according to him, resulted in him being flown to Lagos for intensive medical care.
One of the OCDA members of staff at the NIN department who happens to know Nwadike revealed to me that he walked into their office at 5:10pm on Tuesday hail and hearty and that Nwadike was attended to. This corroborates Mr. Uzodimma’s account that he saw Nwadike move into OCDA unhurt. The staff member said Nwadike left the OCDA office in good state of health after about 30 minutes. The source revealed that he overhead Nwadike telling a staff member that he intended to travel to Lagos the following day and needed to complete the NIN enrollment as it was to be useful to him in Lagos.
However, in Nwadike’s account, the incident between him, Mr. Uzodimma and the alleged thugs occurred on his arrival at the construction site and before he could gain entrance to the nearby OCDA complex.
Nwadike said, “I had visited National Identity management office, which is located along Port-Harcourt Road, by Ebere links fuel station to enroll for National Identity Number. Upon arrival to the office, I was given a form and referred to OCDA office (still at Port-Harcourt Road) for data capturing. Knowing that it was already getting late, I pleaded with the lady to accompany me to OCDA so she could make case for me and she obliged me.
“The lady and one other woman who came for the enrollment got into the vehicle and we drove to OCDA. On getting to OCDA office, a man hit on our car bonnet and asked us to reverse. At first, I thought it was one of those thugs around OCDA office. It was when the other person who was flanked by two policemen instructed us to reverse the vehicle, introducing himself as the contractor of the Port-Harcourt Road project, that I realized that they were renovating the road and I obeyed even when I didn’t know their reason for ordering us back. It was later discovered that the said contractor is actually Senator Hope Uzodinma’s brother, Mr Uche Uzodinma. While I tried to park, the same man began to deride me, describing our vehicle as rickety, threatening to deal mercilessly with us if we wait any further.
“We eventually parked across OCDA and attempted to cross over the other lane, when the same man who threatened to deal with us held me back and started beating me. Thereafter, he ordered some thugs who were with him to deal with me. He stood by to watch his thugs beat me to stupor. I lost consciousness when one of them hit me on the back of my neck.
“It took the intervention of two aides of Engr. Ikpamezie, the MD of OCDA, to prevent them from killing me. The OCDA boss upon sighting me shouted my name. Mr Uche Uzodinma entered his black Hilux Toyota Hilux and zoomed off with his convoy loaded with stern-looking men. I could not move any further. I fell down.”
The above account by Nwadike shows that he was allegedly brutalized before he made his way into OCDA. That is to say that after he must have been mob-beaten to unconsciousness as he alleged, he ordinarily couldn’t have proceeded for the data capturing at OCDA. In such circumstance, the hospital ought to have been his destination. But contrary to this, a staff member at OCDA said Mr. Nwadike walked into the office unscratched and unscathed, and successfully enrolled for NIN.
This raises questions such as who assaulted Nwadike and why? Where was he assaulted? Was Nwadike really assaulted?
Assuming that Nwadike was actually assaulted, the main issue for determination here is whether it was the Governor’s brother who did so either by himself or through his subjects. Did Mr. Uzodimma actually beat up, order and supervise the ill treatment allegedly meted out to Mr. Nwadike?
It seems unlikely that Mr. Uzodimma did so since he said he drove home as Mr. Nwadike walked into OCDA where workers at the agency confirmed that he (Nwadike) walked in healthy, did the NIN enrollment, and left without a any record of an issue with anybody at the agency. If Mr. Nwadike was ever manhandled, then chances are that he may have picked a fight somewhere upon leaving OCDA which had no connection with Mr. Uzodimma who had gone home long ago and could not have participated in, ordered or supervised the attack on Nwadike.
While one cannot rule out a disagreement between Nwadike and the people he met at the road construction site, it is unlikely that the mild arguments degenerated to a fisticuff. From information gathered by both players in the soap opera, Mr. Nwadike being beaten to coma as he claimed and as the images shared by Opurozor which showed bandages strapped around his arms, neck and head portrayed, is improbable and implausible. This is because the narrative Nwadike pushed to the public is that he was pummeled to unconsciousness before he could find his way into OCDA.
The fact is that he was enrolled, as according to the NIN personnel at OCDA, Nwadike was without any bleeding or bruises at the time he was captured. Two things are possible here. One is that Nwadike may have been desperate to rope in the Governor’s brother, hence the Nollywood-like bandages to curry sympathy from the public and/or blackmail Mr. Uche Uzodimma. Another is the possibility that Nwadike, knowing himself as a media practitioner, decided to play the victim’s card, cash in on the little disagreement for publicity purpose, knowing that many will fall for it and lash out at the government without interrogating the issue. The infamous case of Ohakim and the Catholic priest comes to mind.
Therefore, the posers are:
Was Nwadike deliberate not to have informed the public if he proceeded to enroll for his NIN after the alleged beating that saw him lose consciousness?
Did he still not proceed to Lagos the following day, which was the main reason why he came for the NIN enrollment?
Why would the governor’s brother zoom off on sighting the MD of OCDA who is also an appointee of the state government?
Why has Nwadike not reported the matter to the police for assault, attempted murder and threat to life?
Furthermore, it was at the scene that Nwadike got to know that the man was the governor’s brother. Both men apparently met for the first time there. Why then was Nwadike in a haste to paint the picture that the state government is clamping down on the press in Imo?
I wish that Mr. Precious Nwadike bounces back sooner than later as there are certain questions that require answers from him as men of good conscience go out of their way to unearth the whole truth in this disturbing saga. Until then, it would be fair that people consider the story from the both sides and look at it from the other angles.