By Nehru Odeh
Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has charged media leaders to take conscious and constructive actions towards nation building.
He made this remark on Friday while delivering the keynote address at the event tagged, Afternoon of Tributes: Honouring the dead, Inspiring the living, which was organized to celebrate the life and times of departed media leaders that had played significant roles in our nation’s history. The event held at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
The distinguished media practitioners celebrated were: Malam Ismaila Isa, OFR; Malam Wada Maida; Mr. Bisi Lawrence; Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo; Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah; Mr. Eddie Aderinokun Mr. Ben Egbuna; Prince Tony Momoh; and Alhaji Lateef Jakande.
Osinbajo tasked media practitioners because of the enormous powers the media wields in the society, which he says comes with a huge responsibility. He enjoined them against the backdrop of the threat which social media pose to economic and socio-political stability as a result of the dissemination of fake news. “There is a reason why the media is described as the fourth estate of the realm in terms of its sheer ability to influence acts and minds and direct the public imagination,” he said.
Osinbajo also said media leaders must take constructive actions because we are at yet another defining moments in history, the age of technology where once the dissemination of news was the preserve of state and corporations the information revolution has completely democratized the media environment.
“The very meaning of the term ‘media owner’ has changed. And no longer refers to people in focus, of course that is why we are here. In this era of citizen journalism everyone now has a voice, whether through blogs, websites, and online publications.
“The democratization of information unleashed by information age has also introduced rare related risk with serious implications on economic and socio-political stability. A difficult and private interest now controls means of information dissemination that were once the exclusive preserve of corporations and governments which we could easily call to account. These capabilities are increasingly used now in all sorts of harrowing ways by those who harbour ill intents
“I believe that as media leaders you must use the considerable influence that you have to seek ways of achieving a consensus on the response to use of social media,” he maintained.
The Vice President also said all hands must be on deck to create the kind of society we desire, adding that nation building is not the sole preserve of politicians and governments but also the civil society, which includes the media. He maintained that the country is fractured along positive and negative polarities, between those with beneficial intent to create and build and those with malicious intent to destroy the nation.
“These developments converge with this period of turbulence in the life of our nation. There is really no question at all, that what should occupy our minds. It is whether we are building up our country or whether we are tearing it down. This is a question that we must ask ourselves in every sphere of human endeavour. It is the yardstick by which history will judge our generation. Because really there is only one divide at this point. It is the line between those who are committed to constructive actions and those who are pursuing a destructive purpose.
“Today, we too must embrace the quest before us, make common cause with progressive nation-builders across all divides, take ownership of our country and build a sustainable future for our children,” Osinbajo admonished.
He also said: “Debates over our country’s future will always be intense and passionate but they need not be toxic or polarizing. The media can help to promote a climate of civility in which even the most contentious national issues can be discussed in full and frank terms without degenerating into chaos. Let us reject the temptation to fracture our society and chose instead to elevate those constructive elements in our midst that can promote justice, healing and togetherness.
The Vice President displaying a rare grasp of the history of the Nigerian media, the historical role its practitioners played and continue to play in nation building, played glowing tributes to the media leaders being celebrated; describing them as remarkable and outstanding.
Osinbajo also displayed a rare knowledge of the information about the media leaders that are not in the public domain. “The deep and rich history of the Nigeria press is unknown to many. The Nigerian press has deep roots going back about 150 years. Indeed, the Nigerian press came into existence before the Nigeria itself and was instrumental to the birthing of this nation.
“That we have a democracy today owes in large part to the sacrifices of the media …The media leaders in whose name and memory we have gathered today are giants precisely because they understood the struggles of their times and embraced their roles in them. In so doing, they wrote their names in gold and remain reference points for succeeding generations.”
It was indeed an afternoon of tributes, an intergenerational meeting point, in which the dead were not only honoured, but also the living were inspired. Distinguished media practitioners paid glowing to their departed colleagues by going down memory lane and unearthing exemplary and inspiring stories about them and their contributions to journalism and the nation. This session was moderated by two distinguished journalists, Ademola Oyinlola, Deputy Editor In Chief, TELL magazine and Kadaria Ahmed, former Editor, Next, Nigeria.
Oyinlola described Malam Wada Maida as a very kind person and a gentleman, while Nduka Obaigbena, FNGE, Publisher, Thisday, described him as a quiet operator. He also spoke about how Maida was the media aide to both President Shehu Shagari and his successor, the then military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari and his contributions to the development of journalism in Nigeria.
Tony Akiotu, General Manager, DAAR Communications said Bisi Lawrence was exceptional and, a man of many parts, a king among men and an enigma. “There was hardly any dull moments with Bisi Lawrence. He was a man of courage, integrity and honour. With him, there was no time for cutting corners, ” he said. He also said Lawrence had a great intellect and knowledge of vast issues.
Ladi Bunuola, Consultant, Guardian Newspapers, said Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was very good at intercollegiate debate when he was a student in high school but later took to writing which he made a great success of. “He (Ogunsanwo) was an impressionistic writer. He wrote with severity to put politicians on their toes,” he recalled, adding that not only did he write powerfully, he had a great sense of humour.
Gnenga Adefaye, Provost, Nigerian Institute of Journalism, read the tribute written by the publisher Vanguard Newspapers, Sam Amuka, in honour of Malam Ismaila Isa. The Vanguard publisher said Isa was a blessing to the Nigerian media who spent his life serving other people’s lives and organizations.
Azubuike Ishiekwene, Editor in Chief, Leadership Newspapers, described Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah as a self-effacing man, who avoided drawing attention to himself. “He was a man of big ideas, a man of infectious zeal and energy… He spoke truth to power, a gift he inherited from his father who was also a journalist, Ishiekwene said, adding that he was a bridge builder, a down to earth pundit.
Ishiekwene also said it was Nda- Isaiah who arranged the first meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. A staunch member of the All Progressives Congress, a party, he contested in the Presidential Primaries of the APC, which saw the emergence of Buhari as its presidential candidate. “Though he lost but his ideas were not defeated… He was not just a politician and loyal party man, he also made friends across party lines,” Ishiekwene added.
Lanre Idowu, CEO Diamond Publications Ltd, paid glowing tributes to Eddie Aderinokun, whom he described as multi-talented and was at home in journalism as well as many other fields of endeavour. “He was a noble soul who understood his own limitations,” Idowu said.
John Momoh, was also full of praise for Mr. Ben Egbuna, whom he described as a thoroughbred journalist and a visionary. “He believed in doing the right thing and doing things right,” Momoh said, adding that Egbuna was not only honest and loyal, he breathed news, ate news and loved news. “He was a man devoid of guile.”
Ray Ekpu described Prince Tony Momoh as a man of dignity and simplicity, who was meticulous and thorough.. He also spoke about how when Momoh was asked which religion he professed, he said he was not an atheist but a Christian when they did things right and also a Muslim when they did things right, but neither of them when they did the wrong thing.
While paying tributes to Chief Lateef Jakande, Olusegun Osoba said, judging from what Jakande achieved in the Nigerian Tribune, how he made the newspaper one of the most respected and feared in the country, as a journalist he was everything.
Osoba also bemoaned the fact that Jakande did not document his contributions to the development of journalism in the country before he died, adding that he had a huge library in his house. “He (Jakande) did not have the time to document what he has contributed to the media profession,” he lamented, and enjoined that efforts should be made to document his contributions.
The highlight of the event was when the families of the media ladders being honoured were recognised and asked to move up to the podium to take a group photograph with the Vice President, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekitu State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. Osinbajo then presented a plaque to a representative of each family.