A Week For The Watchdogs


The Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) press week for the year 2009 was spectacular in many ways. Apart from its focus which centred on repositioning the NUJ, Rivers Council for optimal performance, the nod it got from the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communication accentuated the union’s quest for professional excellence and ethical re-orientation.

Day one of the press week which featured a procession of journalists round the major streets of Port Harcourt had no mean personalities in attendance. Commissioner for Information and Communication, Semenitari Ibim led the journalists for the procession. Other bigwigs in the pen profession such as the immediate past national president of NUJ, Ndagene Akwu, the Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communication, Dr. Godwin Mpi who is also a professional journalist and other veterans in the profession, were part of the event. Government’s active involvement in NUJ activities accorded the Rivers State Council the nod of the authorities in the onerous quest to put the practice of journalism on a high pedestal.

Alerted by the sad realities that journalism is one of the most invaded and infiltrated professions in Nigeria, Opaka Dokubo, chairman of the Rivers State Council was explicit in his detest of anti-journalistic practice. Recalling that journalism practice had been a pastime for unemployment in recent times, Dokubo said the practice of journalism had been the butt of sadistic and caustic jokes among other spheres of human endeavour because of the unethical conducts of untutored journalists who constitute the bulk of the practitioners. The activities of quacks, Dokubo noted, had created stumbling blocks for genuine practitioners and this had obscured journalistic practice in comparison to other professions. The Rivers State NUJ chairman, however, thumbed up for the Chibuike Amaechi administration for putting journalists in positions of trust. Dokubo said, Amaechi’s administration is the only one which had given opportunity to professional journalists to serve as cabinet members. Today, the Rivers State executive council has two professional journalists as cabinet members, while one is serving as the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information.

Addressing the mammoth crowd of journalists at the Government House Drive, near Ernest Ikoli Street, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Semenitari Ibim, said journalism as the fourth estate of the real had a moral responsibility which goes with their professional duties. By the ethical code of conduct, the commissioner said, journalists were better disposed to give a balanced and accurate report of contemporary issues in society. By this moral responsibility, she said, objectivity must continue to form the basis of their practice for journalists to remain relevant in the scheme of things. The Hon. Commissioner warned that journalists should resist being dangerous agents of disinformation, but must remain guided by a conscientious appeal in the course of discharging their duties. She assured that the Rivers State government was poised to encourage objectivity in journalism practice, noting that journalists were powerful moulders and shapers of public opinion.

Day two of the press week 2009, was the formal opening ceremony which witnessed tremendous attendance by the who is who in journalism profession, including Ben Muray Bruce, entertainment mogul and Chief Executive Officer Silverbird Communications Limited.

The opening ceremony also got a royal consent as the Grand Patron of Rivers State Council of NUJ, Eze Chukumela  Nnam Obi  II was physically present to honour the union.

Oba whose kingly bearing, carry equating current of wisdom, rekindled his interest and love for journalism. According to the revered Ogba monarch, journalism is an elitist career that commands the respect of both government and the governed. Oba pledged an unflinching support for journalism and urged journalists in the state, to always ensure that they are not dettered by the encumbrances of their professional practice.  

To the Oba, the much clamour for good governance, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in society can only be better advanced by journalists who by their training are expected to report every sphere of human endeavour. Oba admonished journalists to emulate, the giant strides of pioneer Nigerian journalists, like the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and the living icon, Anthony Enahoro. He said they employed their youthful vitalities in journalistic practice to rescue Nigeria from the pangs of colonialism and imperialism.

Ben Muray Bruce, said he was impressed by the maturity demonstrated by the Rivers Council of NUJ. The media icon also disclosed that the future of Nigeria depended on effective and unbiased reporting.

Dr. Godwin Mpi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication who represented the Commissioner for Information and the Rivers State Governor at the function, rated journalism as a fundamental practice that had been able to reshape mankind.

According to the Permanent Secretary, but for journalists, mankind would have been living in the Stone Age today. To meet up with modern trends in the quest for information, Dr. Mpi, said the Rivers State Ministry of Information, had been re-christened, Ministry of Information and Communication. Dr. Mpi also re-affirmed the move by the Rivers State government to restructure the three state-owned media houses, The Tide, Radio Rivers and Rivers State Television to meet up the competitive trend in the global media. He assured that the proposed reformation was not intended to demobilise workers of the affected media houses, but to trigger a competitive spirit along side their counterparts the world over.

Day four of the NUJ press week featured a facility visit by the NUJ to Pabod Breweries, makers of Grand lager beer. The NUJ press week 2009, also featured seminar/workshop on the topics, Private Ownership of the media in an Evolving Democracy with Nigeria as a case study, Computer and Internet Services: Changing the Face of Journalism and Journalism and the Challenges of Militancy. There was also a novelty football match between the Government and private media at the Elekahia Stadium which ended in favour of the Government media with a one nil defeat.

The NUJ press week will climax tomorrow with a thanksgiving church service at the Royal House of Grace International Church, Grace Land Port Harcourt, although the week started with Jumat prayers at the Central Mosque, Port Harcourt.


Taneh Beemane