Asaba 2013: Between Uduaghan and Akpabio – By Ebere Wabara

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GOV UDUAGHAN INSPECTS FLOODED VILLAGES 4

I should have concluded last week’s topic, Obasanjo’s leadership fantasy (1), today, but this is a more critical matter that cannot wait. So, hopefully next Wednesday the Ota farmer’s leadership delusion would be rounded off.

Last week, editors from both the print and electronic media nationwide converged on Asaba, the Delta State capital, on the platform of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) for the ninth edition of the All-Nigeria Editors’ Conference which lasted four days.

I am yet to understand the Guild’s definition of who an editor is. Last year in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the 8th version of this same conclave took place amid a superfluity of quintessential transformations by Governor Godswill Akpabio. At the gathering, I saw people who possibly could not have been editors at any point in their careers! Yet, we all intermingled without any discrimination! We numbered slightly above 200. In Asaba, between Wednesday, August 21and Saturday, August 24, the number had hit almost 300! Is this a measure of the exponential growth in the number of media publications and broadcast managers in the country or resurgence of passive emeritus editors like me?

I have gone through the NGE document as regards membership criteria. They are ambiguous and admit all manner of journalists into the forum. Working for some years in the editorial department of any news medium weirdly confers membership on such practitioners. There are no entry points, no training, no certification, and no enforceable code of conduct hence the business of journalism in Nigeria is regarded by the public as an all-comers’ affair!

At the gala night late Saturday at the magnificent events centre in Asaba, I saw “editors” who lacked basic culinary etiquette and could not even handle cutlery correctly! Some of the chaps could not engage in cerebral exchanges as I overheard a lot of infantile and shallow discussions by supposedly intellectual and enlightened professionals whose forte is to inform the public. If you are not knowledgeable, you cannot be a purveyor of robust information. The NGE must sanitize this exalted confraternity and weed out impostors. Some of the audacious delegates I saw in both Uyo and Asaba could not have been editors in the real sense of the title. There is no way that in the past one year or thereabouts we would have had about 100 editors (serving and retired) joining the fold. And for broadcast colleagues of ours, the NGE membership qualification fluidity is even worse because of a multiplicity of managerial positions and titles that do not necessarily imply “senior cadre” or equivalence to newspaper title editor. Some of the claimants are not up to line editors (let alone assistant, associate and deputy editors) in newspaper houses. Such bogus nomenclatures are peculiar to the electronic media. I am sure that by the next convention, we may have up to 500 delegates or more, all “editors” and of course, excluding fellows! Our exclusive membership cannot be doubling every year: the NUJ is there for all practitioners and fresh entrants—not the NGE.

Should recognition be accorded to purported publishers or editors of provincial, mushroom and ragtag publications and all sorts of managers in broadcasting that are not even registered by the regulatory and supervisory bodies in the industry? If a retired (or resigned) or sacked reporter goes into publishing and becomes “editor-in-chief”, does that make him eligible for subscription to the NGE? I see a lot of them at the NGE conferences as its members! It should not be so—other professions do not tolerate quackery. It is easy to isolate the fake editors because they lack dignity, requisite training, scholarship, professionalism and fraternal candour. Their intellectual vacuity, appearance and carriage in most cases give them out. From mere interactions or random visual assessment, I identify them!

The hardworking NGE secretariat shares in the foregoing culpability. Once any quack, reporter or nondescript media manager arrives in the secretariat and pays the statutory fees (which enjoy paramount reckoning), he is immediately admitted to the event without any membership proof or verification. There should be a forensic membership inquest and audit even for those already registered, before the issuance of the new identity card. At least a fellow and two other members (one an NGE executive) should endorse a prospective Guild applicant.

The speech by the conference chairman, a fellow of the Guild and former two-time governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, was, as usual, quite captivating and instructive. His passion and commitment to journalism growth remain unequalled. Also enthralling were the goodwill messages by the president of the NPAN and publisher of Thisday, Chief Nduka Obaigbena and the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, an apostle of NADECO (according to Aremo Osoba), who was the special guest of honour.

This miscellany cannot be complete without the mention of the chief host of the conference, Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan (CON), a prospective fellow of the Guild. The few days we spent in the state were not enough to capture the enormity of accomplishments of his visionary and purposeful administration. This humble governor and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart are just on the same pedestal: leadership excellence and public service redefinition in a clime where most of their colleagues are kleptomaniacs! On a parting note, the simplicity, hospitality and superlative spirituality of delectable Mrs. Roli Uduaghan speak volumes—all issues for another day.

As I reluctantly (because of the lavish reception and meaningful governance) departed Asaba Sunday morning, I underscored the encomiums on Tourism Commissioner Richard Mofe-Damijo by most Deltaic folk for his interventions in their lives and contributions to the state uplift.

In case you did not know, the next governor of Delta State is the current Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei. My unassailable assertion is informed by the realities on ground state-wide, his unparalleled pedigree and favourable political permutations. It has even gone beyond the issue of ‘incumbency anointment’, a fait accompli. If this declaration fails, I will quit my membership of the NGE in 2015!

Contributed by EBERE WABARA (ewabara@yahoo.com/08055001948)

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