17th September, 2010
Over the years, the Nigerian media have remained in the vanguard of nation building. It isÂ on record that the Nigerian media all through the colonial era and post independence, moreÂ than any other profession, have been in the vanguard of raising the conscience of the peopleÂ towards socio-political and economic emancipation.Through the military era, the mediaÂ remained steadfast on the side of the people. The media shaped the political landscape andÂ made the Nigeria political class accountable to the people. The Nigerian media have not forÂ once shied away from the cardinal objective of entertaining, educating and informing theÂ citizenry. However, it is rather unfortunate that the immense contribution of members of theÂ fourth estate of the realm has not been appreciated by the Nigerian state and people in itsÂ 50 years of existence. Many journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty.Â It wasÂ on this basis that an organisation known as the Nigeria Media and Friends was established inÂ 2008 to identify and honour key members of the pen profession in Nigeria. Chris KehindeÂ Nwandu is the founder and president of the association. He spoke on the rationale behind theÂ formation of the group, its aims and objectives as well as those to be honoured in thisÂ year’s edition coming up on Saturday, 18 September at Lagos Sheraton Hotel
Can you give us a brief background of yourself and the objective behind the NMF?
I am a 1990 graduate of the Lagos State University. I started my media career at the LagosÂ State Television as an intern before moving into advertising, entertainment, cableÂ television, information technology and now the CEO, The Gavel Media.
The Nigeria Media Friend group under my leadership could be called a child of circumstance.Â It was established in 2008 due to the lopsidedness we noticed in the annual Nigeria MeritÂ Awards. To our surprise, we noticed that either deliberately or due to an oversight, membersÂ of the NigeriaN media who over the years, have been in the vanguard of nation building haveÂ always been relegated to the background.
Take a look at the pre-independence era, from the days of iwe irohin (1st newspaper to beÂ established in Nigeria in 1859), to the West African Pilot and the virile and robust mediaÂ of those days which brought into limelight the likes of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief ObafemiÂ Awolowo, etc.Â Nigeria’s independence wouldnâ€™t have been possible without the doggedÂ contribution of the media. This has been sustained over the years by the present crop ofÂ young journalists. Some of them like Dele Giwa, Bagauda Kaltho and the like lost theirÂ precious lives while performing their duties.
In all of these, how many times have you seen members of the pen profession being honouredÂ or celebrated either by the Nigerian government or within their own constituency?
Which of the sector in Nigeria can survive without the media? It’s the only profession thatÂ knows a bit of everything and everybody. From politics to labour, law, education,Â entertainment, sports, crime, name it. It was on this basis that we decided to take it uponÂ ourselves to identify and honour our colleagues who have distinguished themselves in thisÂ profession. If the nation failed in 50 years to recognise our contributions and effortsÂ towards national development, we will do it ourselves. The best form of honour is the oneÂ that comes from your own constituency.
How come it took thisÂ long in coming and who is qualified to be honoured?
The journey of a million miles takes a single step. That has been the question we have beenÂ asking ourselves, why this long? This is a profession that is good at celebrating otherÂ professions but fails to reccognise or celebrate its own. I’m a graduate of the school ofÂ journalism and there is nowhere in our books of ethics where it was stated that we shouldÂ not honour ourselves. I believe itâ€™s the conservative nature of the profession that hasÂ brought us this far, but we have resolved to change the trend.
The minimum qualification to be shortlisted as a honoree is the position of an Editor or itsÂ equivalent in a media organisation or related field of communication .Then we look at yourÂ pedigree, contribution to the growth of the media industry, integrity as well as otherÂ criteria which we review from time to time. Thereafter, the selection committee goes throughÂ the names and decides on who is qualified to be so honoured.
So far, we have honoured t least thirteen individuals cutting across board.
Who are the honorees for this year and where will the event take place?
This year will be a bumper edition in commemoration of 50 years of Nigeria’s independence.Â We have subdivided the categories into four main areas: print media, electronic media,Â communications & marketing as well as service to the industry. Over a thousand applicationsÂ were received and shortlisted. At the end of it all we will prune down the least to sixteenÂ of them. We are not saying they are the only one eminently qualified, but that is the muchÂ we can take this year, so that we donâ€™t lose the value of what we are doing. Those to beÂ honored are, Reuben Abati (Chairman, Editorial board, The Guardian); Tosin DokpesiÂ (MD,Africa Independent Television), Babafemi Ojudu (Managing Editor, TheNews/P.M.NEWS);Â Ijeoma Nwogwugwu (Editor, Thisday on Saturday), Mike Effiong, (Editor, OvationÂ International); Cyril Stober (NTA), Tokunbo Modupe (CEO,TPT International), Funmi IyandaÂ (Ace Broadcaster); and Declan Okpaleke (two times CNN African Journalist of the Year AwardÂ winner).
Others are Bode Opeseitan, (Communications, Globacom); Akin Adeoya (CEO, Marketing Mix);Â Emeka Oparah (Head, Communications, Zain); Ranti Akerele (Commissioner for Information, OndoÂ State); Ibim Semenitari (Commissioner for Information, Rivers State); Nathan EgbaÂ (Commissioner for Information, Bayelsa State and Kola Ologbondiyan (Special Adviser, MediaÂ to the Senate President).
The event comes up on Saturday 18 September 2010 at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel starting from 7Â p.m.
Who has been sponsoring the event since its inception?
It is rather unfortunate that three years down the line, we have not secured a singleÂ sponsor for the event. That is the general apathy towards the media industry in Nigeria.Â When each and every one seeks a voice, the first place they seek assistance is the media. OnÂ a daily basis, press releases fly around, people asking us to use them.
We cover and broadcast major entertainment events where corporate organisations sinkÂ billions of naira but when it comes to celebrate those behind these major media, theyÂ renege. We have decided not to go cap in hand to beg anyone to sponsor the NMF. We have alsoÂ refused to lower our standard because journalists deserve nothing but the best, which is whyÂ for the third year running, itâ€™s going to hold at the five star Lagos Sheraton Hotel withÂ all its five star studded hospitality.
Last year, one of Nigeriaâ€™s foremost entrepreneurs (name withheld) was so overwhelmed by theÂ calibre that graced the show we put on that he agreed to sponsor the next five events.Â However, all efforts made to make sure he fulfills his promise have been abortive. This isÂ why we are having a one month delay from our traditional August. The event as of the time ofÂ conducting this interview is hundred percent borne by The Gavel Media and IkengaÂ Entertainment Inc which I head.
After this yearsâ€™ edition, what next for NMF?
One of the things we wanted to achieve this year was to identify key indigent veterans inÂ the industry and give them some monetary assistance to carry on with their lives, since theÂ nation has refused to recognise their efforts and contributions to the growth of the nation.Â Same with families of some of our colleagues who lost their husbands during the course ofÂ duties.
Journalism in Nigeria is a non pensionable job. Once you leave the profession, you will haveÂ nothing to collect as gratuity except for some in government establishment. Even at that,Â how much are they paid? What is the average salary of a journalist if I may ask?
But as the Yoruba adage goes, arambada, owo oje (the lack of means has stopped me fromÂ showing off).
Hopefully, with enough support next year, we will achieve our desire. For emphasis, theÂ Nigeria Media Friends’ nite of honour is not an award event, neither is it a pressure group.Â The Nigeria Media Awards, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Union of Journalists andÂ Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria are fully addressing those issues.
Ours is purely a professional social group out to identify and honour our colleagues acrossÂ board and we intend keeping it at that.