New book on media excites Ogunshola, Adesina

Dignitaries from various fields joined leading lights in the Nigerian media industry on Tuesday at the presentation of ‘Nigerian Media Leaders: Voices Beyond the Newsroom’, a two-volume book published by the School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, in conjunction with the Nigerian Guild of Editors.

Among the top media executives were the former Chairman, Punch Nigeria Limited, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, and the Special Adviser (Media) to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina.

In his remarks, Ogunshola, who chaired the event, expressed his satisfaction with the publication of the book, which was edited by media scholar and consultant, Richard Ikibie.

According to Ogunshola, ‘Voices Beyond the Newsroom is a significant addition to the general knowledge of media practitioners and treasure of future generations of Nigerians, with regard to the events of the period that they cover.

He said, “The volumes, Voices Beyond the Newsroom, constitute a significant contribution to the literature and understanding of the volatile and important field of media management. What has been documented here, and indeed in the magnum opus that will emerge after the remaining two volumes shall have been published, will be a significant addition to our knowledge and to the treasure of future generations, on the events of the period that they cover.”

He noted that he had had the opportunity of reading some of the interviews and could vouch that apart from their research and scholarship value, they also contained elements that would produce some flashes of humour and surprise, not only to media practitioners, but also to other readers.

Ogunshola said, “You will read about where, in what circumstances and in whose office Dr. Doyin Abiola, then as a spinster and intrepid journalist, met her future husband; how Uncle Sam Amuka got into journalism; the revelation of the name of the writer in the rested New Nigerian newspaper column, ‘Candido’. The man behind the mask is revealed as Mallam Adamu Ciroma.”

Ogunshola added that Voices Beyond the Newsroom also sought to address even issues of corruption.

He added, “When Nosa Igiebor was asked a question about the brown envelope syndrome that is said to be plaguing the media industry, part of his response, while explaining the reason for it, was, ‘When you talk of journalists taking brown envelopes, what colours of envelope do judges, police, legislators and customs officials take?’ Igiebor also went on to condemn what he described as ‘franchise journalism’. This is an expression, I believe, that is new to our vocabulary.”

The book, Ogunshola added, also revealed the reason why the Guardian newspaper reviewed its policy on prefixes for men, as well as how former Governor Lateef Jakande became a follower of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

He said, “In his own interview, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole tells, for the first time, the inside story about why The Guardian newspaper had to drop its early policy of addressing men simply as ‘Mr.’, instead of the usual titles of Chief, Dr, Alhaji et cetera, despite the objections of Cole and other editorial staff. That was because the publisher had to yield to family pressures of his brothers and in deference to his lawyer, the pre-eminent late Chief Rotimi Williams, who could not be addressed as ‘Mr’.

“If Ben Lawrence is to be believed, Alhaji Lateef Jakande was closer to Chief Samuel Akintola than to Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he started. Around 1959, Akintola was Jakande’s hero. He taught him how to write editorials and all sorts. Jakande became close to Papa Awolowo later because the latter earned his trust.

What is Dele Cole’s final verdict on military rule and the pressmen who served in the military? He said, ‘Many pressmen served the military, perhaps, in the mistaken belief that to do so would ameliorate the disastrous impact that military rule would inflict on Nigeria and even Africa. We are mistaken and we owe Nigerians an apology for not seeing what we see now. No good can come out of military rule. The patience needed for persuasion and the essential element of democracy has been lost in the politics of Nigeria. It will take a very long time to undo the damages the military unleashed on Nigeria.”

He urged the gathering to support the effort of the author as much as they could.

Also, while delivering the keynote address, titled ‘The Media and Government: Partners in Development or foresworn Adversaries’, Adesina described the book presentation as a landmark event, which promised to be a significant milestone in the annals of journalism in Nigeria.

He said, “Fortuitously, this book is being presented at a watershed time in the history of the country. The no-nonsense former military ruler, who had enacted Decree 4, meant to gag and shackle the press in the performance of its legitimate duties, is now a converted democrat and champion of the freedom of that same press, seeing the institution as a vital building block in national development.”

Adesina said that instead of an adversary, President Muhammadu Buhari had turned full circle to see the media as allies and critical partners in the quest to build a worthy new Nigeria.

Noting that Buhari’s positive disposition towards the Nigerian media signalled a new reality in the relationship between government and the media in the country, he asked, “What then should be the ideal relationship at this critical juncture in the evolution of the country? Should the media remain in an adversarial mode or be more conciliatory and lending a critical hand as the government strives to build a new country devoid of official corruption, greed and rapacity, a land where peace and justice shall reign?”

The Presidential aide reminded the gathering that the Nigerian media had always played critical roles at different epochs in the history of the country.

Recalling the military era in governance, he said, “In the days of military rule, Nigerian journalists refused to be cowed. Even when their heads were bloodied, they remained unbound. They were battered, jailed and even killed. But they remained resolute till democracy was restored.”

Adesina said that despite the tribulation it suffered in the hands of the military during the struggle for the restoration of democracy, the media maintained critical alertness as the watchdog of the society, demanding nothing but the best in democratic ethos and ideals.

The Presidential aide got a loud applause from the audience when he revealed that the present government planned to engender an environment that encourages freedom of the press.

“There is free access to information and no journalist is harassed or intimidated, at least not from official circles. This will be maintained in the months and years ahead. In fact, no effort will be spared to assist journalists do their work,” he said.