The name OCJ Okocha is a household name not only in Rivers State but nationwide. His fame has gone international especially in legal profession. He is a giant and luminary in law.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and former president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). The man was also a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the old Rivers State. A man of many parts, humble, brilliant and devoted leader.
In this Round Table Encounter, a vintage Okocha tackled various questions from The Tide Editors on a range of issues, including his person, Derivation, State Creation, Amnesty for militants and the Law. This is the first part of a long journey.
We know you because of the interactions we have with you over the years but how would you want members of the public to know O.C.J. let us start with the initials O.C.J?
These are my initials. O stands for Onueze, C. stands for Chukwujinka and J stands for Joe. Joe incidentally is a family name which emanated from my father’s first name which is Jonathan. Some people make mistake sometime they call me Joseph.
I’m a lawyer based here in Port Harcourt at No. 71B Aba Road. I think that should be okay for introduction.
Let us know what these names really mean and if it has affected your life we know when people give child his name, the name must have relevance?
That is correct incidentally in my family we are always named by the eldest man and it happened that my grand father was the eldest man in Okocha family. So the name Onueze is the way Ikwerre man would say Onueze, Onu is mouth Eze is chief, but the way he explained it to me is that it means what God has said, the voice of God is what God ordained my father has had five daughters in a row and so everybody was praying for a boy to come along. When I come along, they now said oh! That this is what God has said, so I was named the voice of the king.
Chukwujinka is from my mother’s place Onitsha. I was born there. Chukwujinka God is holding this world Chukwujinka, and Joe as I said emanated from my father’s first name Jonathan his friends in the police used to call him Joe, so when I was born it was like this is Junior Joe.
People started calling me Joe. You cannot really say at this time in point how those names have affected my life. I have carried on by the special grace of God.
We will take liberty of your presence here; you will help us today with the history of how lawyers started accepting money for their services?
Well you know in the olden days going by the history of the profession in England there were two categories of the legal profession in the category of lawyers, yes generally there are two categories, the Bar and the Bench, but the lawyers are a body we know as the Bar. At the Bar, there are two groups of professionals, Barristers and Solicitors. Barristers were drawn from the rank of noblemen, gentle men of those olden days.
Their responsibility is to go before court and plead the case of their clients as advocates. They just go to court and stand as well as represent you, forward your case and your defence and try as much as possible to get the law to you.
In those days Barristers because they were noble men and gentle men never charged fees. And if you look at the Barristers gown worn by lawyers you will see something like a cord, the rope and behind, you see something that looks like a bag, is a relic of the bag which the Barrister uses to put his implements of work.
The way it came about that lawyers were now charging fees, was that they never charged fees, when you have done your beat for your client and he felt impressed, as you are leaving he would slip some money into that bag behind you. You won’t see it, you don’t discuss fees. That is the relics that you see in the Barrister’s gown that we as Barristers wear. But of course with the passage of time, it became a recognized profession and the profession as you all know is a calling which entitles you earn your living from it and so Barristers started charging fees.
Barristers considered it beneath there dignity to even discuss fees, so the solicitor is the first point of contact of anybody who has a case in the court.
Solicitor’s responsibility is to find a Barrister to represent you and in that solicitor who will discuss the fees not with the Barrister, but with the clerk of the Barrister. Every law firm has a clerk and in those days, the way it happened, you go to your chamber in the morning your clerk will just hand you briefs so somebody is appearing before the home base, somebody is appearing before the criminal court. That morning you just take your time, you glance through, you go to court and you stand and put forward the case.
So when, Barrister and Solicitors now became a recognized profession, fees became the order of the day. The fees as I said were settled between Barristers and Solicitors. But in Nigeria, the early lawyers we had in Nigeria went to England and those of them who became Barristers, but because they were the only people learned in law, they would practice as Barristers and Solicitors.
Those of them who studied as solicitors and could go to court and present cases. Solicitors don’t appear in the High Court in England but now, a solicitor can even appear and wear the gown. So the profession has come a long way, but in Nigeria once you have passed through the law school you are called to the Bar, by the Authority of the body of benchers. And as provided in the Legal Practitioners Act you are entitled to practice as a Barrister and a Solicitor. So Solicitor was the cadre that were usually office workers who take instructions from clients and prepare the cases. The Barrister is the Advocate who goes to court and pleads the cases.
Now in government, you have the Solicitor General, Attorney General, how do their job move?
Oh! these were statutorily done because the Ministries of Justice there was a time when we have Town Council in Colonial days the department that was charged of doing solicitor’s work. Writing agreements for government, preparing cases, while there was the other cadre which was mostly under the Director of Public Prosecutions the (PPP) were mainly the Barristers who went to court to plead cases.
So when the Ministries of Justice were formed, it was recognized that they still needed to be quite apart from the Attorney General, who is the head of the Ministry, a solicitor general. The Head of the Administrative arm of the Ministry of Justice, The Solicitor-General was an offshoot from the solicitor profession, who stayed in the office and prepared the case. The attorney general was the head of the ministry under the constitution as it is now, he is incharge of all matters that will link to prosecution of offenders, that is how the office is run, but they are now legislated on. There is a solicitor-general’s law which creates the office of the solicitor-generals, both at the federal and the state service.
They said before you get a SAN, you would be prepared to have bank account elsewhere?
That is not true.
What is the lowest SAN can have in the bank?
The lowest and this is in the legal practitioners Act, because we do not want a Senior Advocate to handle every case; there must be a chance for young lawyers to grow. A Senior Advocate is not expected to accept instructions from any matter the value of which is under 400 pounds. 400 pounds, you can now begin to do the conversion. Some people are using the exchange rate as stipulated by the Central Bank, some people are using the black market rate, but the stipulations in the law is that, a Senior Advocate quite apart from other restrictions on his ability to go to court, should not accept instructions in any matter the value of which is below 400 pounds.
In recent times, we have come to approximate that to be at some point N50,000, some have said N100,000.
You see before you become a QC in England as we become Senior Advocate here, Queens Counsel or Kings Counsel if the person on throne in England as at the time you are appointed is a man, what you needed to do is to reduce the number of cases making demand of your time and that is why you have to apply for it because it has added responsibility. It will decrease the number of cases you are handling. It will now make sure the cases you are handling are high value cases. Because as a Senior Advocate, as a QC, in civil matters you are obliged to appear with a junior and the way of charging is that you charge first amount, one third of that first amount is added for your junior who appeared with you. So anybody going to brief Queen counsel or King counsel or a Senior Advocate should accept that the fees you will pay will be higher than what you would ordinarily be paying is not only going to pay for the lawyer, the SAN or Queen counsel appearing. He will also in addition pay one third of what he has agreed to pay to that Senior Advocate to the junior, so he was supposed to make you exclusive in a way, so that Queen Counsel, SAN is not for all comers.
What made you read law?
I said to some other journalists, the fear of the mathematics led me to law. During the civil war we lived at a place in Umuahia near a magistrate court. I used to while away my time and go and stand in the court premises and just watch lawyers do their thing.
Some of them were given to all mannerism so I cultivated an interest. As you may know, my father was a policeman and all that , so when I finished secondary school in 1972 in Government Comprehensive Secondary School, we were looking through the universities prospectus syllabuses and all that. I tried to choose a course and I have my difficulties with Mathematics. Happily I ended getting C5 in Mathematics. It wasn’t my worst subject, my worst subject was Physics. I had C6. Why I got a C5 I was good in Arithmetic and Trigonometry, so I was determined not to come across Mathematics again anywhere in my future career, so looking through the only courses I had that has noMathematics, is History. No Mathematics, single honours BA History.
Economics had Mathematics, I was very good in Economics, that is what I thought I should go and read. But thinking about it I spoke to my father he said, I should learn from his experience, he was a policeman with only O levels he didn’t have any profession; he said look go and study a professional course so that if government refuses to employ you, all you have to do, put up a sign board somewhere, then start working for yourself. So I looked through all the courses; medicine has Mathematics, Architecture has Mathematics, the only one that did not have Mathematics was Law. And I remembered how I used to enjoy those lawyers with their wigs and gowns at Umuahia in those days only to get to Ife and the first year, we had Mathematics 001 Mathematics 102, so it turned out that you cannot really run away from Mathematics, so it was the fear of Mathematics that actually led me to do Law and I ended up teaching logic, logic is Mathematics 102; and then symbolic logic 001, so that was how I ended up becoming a lawyer, advice of my father and the fear of Mathematics.
As time went on, I realised that there was something about law, and my genes you know in my family, my great great grand father had always been a law enforcement officer. My great great grand father was a native court judge in the old Obio District Court. My grand father followed in that same mould, because when he became the head of the family, he also went and became a member of the Obio Native Court. Those courts in the colonial days, now they are calling them customary courts. Then my father went into the police, law enforcement too, and here I am a lawyer one sister is a judge, one brother is a lawyer, one decided to follow and he inherited all my fatehr’s books. He is a Chief Superintendent of Police now.
Sir Before we go into more contemporary issues what are the true goal, factors for becoming SAN. Why is it difficult for more Rivers people to become SAN. The impression being created is that, else where, some lawyers, helped people to pay the prescribed fees of their clients to get to Supreme Court, that would qualify you, how true it is?
Well I don’t know about the truth of lawyers paying the fees for the litigation cost for their clients is professionally unethical to do so. And |I will not agree with you that Rivers people have not become Senior Advocates. We had quite a few. Indeed, the first Senior Advocate appointed in Nigeria was a Rivers man. Dr Nabo Graham Douglas, former Attorney-General of Nigeria of blessed memory.
After him, there was also Galima Peterside, Opobo man, who became SAN. He was practising in Jos. The truth of the matter let me be frank with you is that, the cost of the major qualifications required to apply to Senior Advocate of Nigeria, you need to have met some minimum number of appearances, argued minimum number of cases in the superior courts.
High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. We were not too easily or readily exposed to those other superior courts like Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the olden days, the Supreme Curt used to sit in circuit. It would move from one capital of one region to the other and sit there, when it was the Federal Supreme Court, even when they had The West African Court of Appeal, it would move from the capital of one country to the other and would sit like that. But when the law was passed, that created the Senior Advocate cadre. It became important that you have to practice where all these courts were within the jurisdiction.
You see the realities of the situation is that if I have a case in the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court is in Lagos, as it was in those days, someone needs to brief a lawyer in Lagos, because if I brief a lawyer in Port Harcourt and other provincial headquarters, it means to pay, not just his transport. I will pay also not just his fees, will pay his transport, also pay his hotel accommodation and so on and so forth. So those lawyers who were in the area where those courts were located are in a vantage position.
It took a long time for us to move the Court of Appeal to Port Harcourt. When the Court of Appeal was originally created, it had divisions only at the regional headquarters. Ibadan, apart from Lagos which was the capital of Nigeria, Kaduna and Enugu. Sometime I was secretary of the Bar Association here in Port Harcourt. We made very serious effort to have the Court of Appeal Division from Port \Harcourt crated and to have the court also moved to Port Harcourt. Because when the Court of Appeal Division for Port Harcourt was created, it was still sitting in Enugu. And some lawyers used to think it was greater advantage to earn transport money, to earn hotel bill and go to Enugu to do cases.
So when Wifa became chairman and I the secretary, B.M. Wifa SAN, and I secretary, we fought seriously to move that Division to Port Harcourt and immediately, Oh, virtually no year would pass without one SAN and that court came here in 1992 or there about, 1992, 1993, Graham Douglas had been appointed SAN in 1988, 1987, 1988, when the Court of Appeal was in Enugu, but when it came to Port Harcourt, it came here in 1992 as I said before. By 1994, 1995, when I became SAN two years later Dr Osanakpo, the next year, Wifa and virtually every year now, we have two or three appointed as Senior Advocates.
Informatively for you, we have 16 senior advocates. And this is even not counting our former Attorney-General Odem Ajumogobia who is now the Minister of State for Petroleum. He was the Attorney-General here when he was made SAN.
These are the reasons for the qualification, you must have minimum of ten years post call experience. Second you must be of good character; third, you must have a good law practice. These days, they actually come to inspect your office, see how many juniors you have. Look at the library and facilities you have in your office and then you must have argued a minimum number of cases in the Supreme Court as well as Court of Appeal and High Court. These three categories, Supreme Court cases is category A, two Supreme Court cases and four courts of appeal.
Second category, category one Supreme Court. Four Courts of Appeal and six High Court cases. Because people argue that you know most of the practice is in the High Court. Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are reviewed panels to look over what has been done by the High Courts and so real advocacy is at the High Curt level, so you have those three categories, and you must qualify in any of those three categories. Now they’ve also imposed a certain fee that you must pay. When I applied for SAN, I didn’t pay anything, What you have to pay, I think is N200,000.
You also have to show that you have been a good citizen, you pay your taxes as at when due, and then that at the time of your application you are not being investigated or having been convicted or liable in a case of professional misconduct. So there are the parameters by which you get appointed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Creation of State taskforces, are they in accordance with the constitution?
I would say is not inconsistent with democratic culture we are trying to build. Task forces by their very nature are charged with particular task so is expected that they focus their full time and attention towards the cardinals of whatever task is assigned them. The problem which ma be … is that some of the taskforces don not understand that they are naturally bound to follow due process in carrying out of any their assignment so you may have a point when you say, these taskforces are not acting in accordance wit rule of law or due process as you say. But there is nothing inconsistent with the constitution, or with democratic principles of government decides that it want to set up taskforces in view of particular problems.
The Editor In A Time Of Crisis
This topic reminds me of two recent personal incidents. I was in the office on the morning of Tuesday, July 13 when a colleague rushed in with his phone.
He seemed quite animated, but there was also an edge of anxiety about him as he thrust his phone forward, stopping mid-speech, and asking me to speak with the caller. I didn’t know who it was. So, I motioned to my colleague to end the call first and sit down.
He did, collected himself, and spoke. A federal minister, one of the very influential ones in this government, had just called him to complain about LEADERSHIP’s lead story for that day, entitled, “Nigeria moves to tackle terrorists with robots”.
He said the minister was livid that our story was an expose for Boko Haram and a great disservice to Nigeria’s war on terror. Even if the editor did not know, how come Azu, the Editor-In-Chief, also failed spectacularly to see that that story was leaking a vital state secret to the enemy?
I called the minister back on my colleague’s line. In vain did I try to explain that the story was actually a report from the Senate’s plenary. It was open and live. We were obliged, like other newspapers, to cover and report it.
In any case, why should a story about the planned use of drones be deemed a national security breach, when the military routinely calls press conferences to announce its order of, payment for and arrival dates of US-manufactured Tucano jets, one of its prized assets in the war on Boko Haram?
But the minister is not alone, as I found from this second incident days ago. A statement on behalf of the government by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari and former President of the NGE, Malam Garba Shehu, on Monday, suggests very clearly that the government seriously thinks that the media has insecurity on its speed dial, stored with the shorthand: if it bleeds, it leads.
For example, the government said, if only the press would replace the ubiquitous phrase “rising insecurity” with “declining insecurity”, we might indeed begin to witness not only a decline in insecurity, but also a totally different perception of the decade-and-a-half-long war on terror. And doubtless too, we might also begin to see, without the malicious veil of bias, the great strides that Buhari has made in degrading, if not exterminating, Boko Haram.
But wait a minute. Is the media as powerful as it is often acclaimed and its forces as potent and even malevolent as the Morning Journal at the hands of William Randolph Hearst in the 20th century? Are media managers, especially editors, supposed to descend the conflict arena as mediators, partisans, neutrals or agents of peace? Or as a combination of these?
Or was the US late-night show legend, Jon Stewart, right when he told the New York Times recently that when journalists pose as change agents, it’s either they’re taking themselves too seriously or perhaps those who believe them are taking them too seriously?
I’m not sure I have the answers. But I would be silly to think that you are here for the gospel of Peace Journalism, after which you would return to a world where the journalistic lamb and the societal lion would lie side by side. It would be naïve to believe – or even think – so when journalism itself, if not politics, is facing a conflict of obsolescence.
Buzz words, key words
It may be useful, at this stage, to explain the context in which I would be using three key words: conflict, mediator, and editor.
First, conflict. When interests clash and disagreement occurs, and such disagreementsescalate, we have conflict. Although the basis for conflict, whether at individual or societal level, might vary, most conflicts are as a result of differences in opinion and scarcity of resources.
Here, I am dealing with conflicts involving groups defined by political affiliation, ethnicity, nationality, religion and other social identities. Over the past three decades, we can say that these conflicts have reached staggering proportions.
There is hardly any region of the world where there is no violent conflict. And there is hardly any sub-region within Africa where there is no violence from conflicts.
If we look closely at groups that may operate to trigger or constrain violent struggles, politicians and faith leaders are high on the list. And we have seen how easily any or a combination of these groups can devolve into or stoke fanaticism, extremism and demagoguery.
Unfortunately, conflicts around the world have cost too many lives, brought too much suffering to too many ordinary people and have displaced even more, depriving them of their homes and livelihoods.
In 2003, Roy and Judy Eidelson’sDangerous Ideas identified five individual-level core beliefs and group-level worldviews which, according to their research, propel groups towards conflict. The five core beliefs are superiority, injustice, vulnerability, distrust and helplessness.
Time will not permit me to do an extensive review of this interesting theory or to deploy it as an analytic tool to deconstruct the Nigerian situation. Briefly, however, this theory explains why beliefs and worldviews, such as injustice and ethnocentrism – and not the media – are drivers of conflicts in Nigeria since independence till the present time.
Mediation, the second key word, is a voluntary process in which an impartial intermediary (the mediator) facilitates communication and promotes reconciliation between the parties which will allow them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Mediation is often the next step if negotiation proves unsuccessful. In mediation, the parties in a conflict or their representatives have an opportunity to explain their views of the dispute. Mediation helps each side better understand the other’s point of view.
And the third, editor? One of the most pragmatic definitions I have known is the one by my teacher, Professor Olatunji Dare. He described the editor as “the one who decides what gets published.” If you find a better description, please send it my way.
How do these three factors interact and interrelate? What roles do their interactions play in the emergence of conflicts, and where exactly does the press stand in the mix?
Watchdog and warfare
The press is said to be the watchdog of society; it is supposed to sound the alarm when all is not well, to bark when the bad guys are roaming the block.
While it may be sensible to assume that the editor, guided by the basic professional requirements of accuracy, balance, fairness, objectivity and facts should exercise reasonable judgment, there is the temptation to over-estimate the role of the media in building consensus or mediating peace.
But which editor – which Nigerian editor – so desirous to cultivate peace and build consensus, can try any of the top non-journalist, media influencers for size? Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, and Funke Akindele have among them, 42.3 million followers on Instagram alone – and that was before the Tiwa sex tape!
The top 10 Nigerian editors don’t come close, even if you throw in their media houses to make the number and add their entire social media footprint to the bargain! If current warfare is for hearts and minds and the cyberspace is the theatre, how can editors influence outcomes with such limited reach?
Outside textbooks or what officialdom may mislead you to believe, the job of “holding the line”, to use the phrase by journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa, is messier and far more complicated in real life than it is at a lecture.
That said, the media is like a double-edged sword, and in some ways, too, like fire – it can help to cook a meal; it can also set the house alight. The media can act as both a catalyst in conflict prevention, while it could also potentially inflame it.
In the context of our discussion, conflict, mediation and the media may be seen as connected dots on different points of a long, wobbly line.
When conflicts break out, between state and non-state actors for example, as the case is between Boko Haram and the Federal Government, battles are not limited to the warfront. Each party engages in a struggle for mindshare with the editor and the press caught in the middle.
The parties in a conflict are often concerned with making sure that the majority of people are on “their” side. And at the centre of that battle is who controls the narrative in the media and public spaces. As a result, there is a lot of potential for misrepresenting facts in the struggle for control and distribution of information.
Conflicting parties understand that information is power and insight can impact public discourse. They know that perception can be influenced by access to the media, as the Taliban have amply demonstrated in their second coming in Afghanistan. Key actors in a conflict thus seek to manipulate public perception;depending on their relative position of power and/or control of resources, they seek to either minimise or exaggerate a conflict.
As Steven Livingston, professor of Media and Public and International Affairs at the George Washington University put it, weak actors in a conflict tend to use the media to “socialise” a conflict, while actors in a dominant position tend to use the media to “privatise” it.
By using the media to socialise the conflict, weak actors in a conflict solicit and enlist supporters in their cause against a greater power by highlighting the perception of being the “victim” and painting a picture of suffering. On the other hand, by using the media to privatise the conflict, dominant actors in a conflict limit attention to or awareness of the conflict.
The former uses the media coverage to draw attention while the latter uses the same media coverage to downplay the conflict.
From available analyses, international media err more on the side of actors who socialise conflict than those who privatise it. Conversely, local media more often pitches its camp more with the dominant actors than it does with the weak actors. It is therefore dangerous for a third party in a conflict to base its response on the substance and timing of the information received from one or a few sources of information.
After all, it was Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, who once said, “You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.”
Role of the media in conflict
The editor does not exist in a vacuum. To understand the role of the editor in a conflict – or peace in time – it might be useful to first examine his or her role in the workplace, since editors are by and large, catalysts in the media space.
In a paper by Joseph Olusegun Adebayo and Blessing Makwambeni, entitled, “The limits of peace journalism”, the authors examined the role of the press in three elections in Kenya – in 2008, 2013 and 2017.
They concluded that while reportage in the Kenyan press was implicated in the violence that pushed the country to the brink of war in 2008, by brazenly taking sides and pitching ethnic groups against each other, the press played a significantly positive role five years later in the next election.
In a twist of irony, however, the same press which was hailed for professionalism and restraint in 2013, was condemned yet again in 2017 for “sacrificing democracy on the altar of peace.” It was accused of downplaying massive rigging and election fraud for fear that such reportage might stoke violence. It appears that heads or tails, the press loses!
One eyed-town, one-eyed king
Why, in spite of its shortcomings and limitations, is so much faith invested in the ability of the press to “hold the line” and perhaps also act as a catalyst for conflict resolution and consensus building?
Section 22 of the 1999 constitution requires the press to hold the government accountable. It’s also important to keep in mind that the press played an important historical role not only in helping the country attain political independence, but also as a champion of the common cause during decades of military rule when freedom of speech was severely abridged. So, there is both a statutory and a historical imperative for the press to shine the light.
The draw towards the press could also be as a result of a growing loss of confidence in other mechanisms for conflict management and resolution. The police are overworked and underpaid, the courts are not better off, while other mechanisms for mediation and arbitration are either comatose or out-of-reach.
If the Nigerian fish is rotting from the head, it would be gratuitous to claim that the press is in good health. The misery of some editors who may even strive for professionalism, is compounded by largely compromised ownership structures, redundancies, poor remuneration, and a weak ethical fiber further undermined by poor regulation; not to mention the onslaught of fake news, which appears to have significantly tarred civic spaces and tainted journalism in the eyes of outsiders.
The media is, by and large, plagued by the same social malaise threatening other segments of society, except that perhaps there remains a flicker hope that in the plurality and diversity of the press and drawing from its rich historical legacy, there might yet be redemption.
Out of the ashes, the Editor
The question is how? How might the press regain lost grounds, rebuild confidence and win back public trust, which is an essential tool in its role as:
a) Information provider and interpreter
b) Watchdog and gatekeeper
c) Policy influencer and agenda setter
d) Promoter of peace and bridge builder
There are some institutional changes that might help not just the newsroom, but also the editor, become more efficient and effective.
The most urgent, for me, is a professional framework. The Nigerian Media Council Bill is trash. It should be left in the garbage heap to suffer the slow, painful death that it deserves. But there’s a vacuum. Once the local Ombudsman announced by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), is up and running, the association should move quickly to establish a co-regulatory framework for the industry, with South Africa as a useful model. The watchdog cannot – and should not – be above transparency, if it hopes to win public confidence.
Also, as the recent collaborative work on the Pandora Papers has shown, editors can work with colleagues across boundaries to share resources for the common good. The redundancy level in a number of Nigerian media houses – idle presses, huge office spaces, large inventory of unsold print copies, and the trove of unused daily news content – is extraordinary. Yet empty pride keeps them not only from introspection, but also from the economies of scale that could come from sharing resources.
The 21st century editor is at a crossroads. In the journal, “International media and conflict resolution: Making the connection”, John Pauly, a communication scholar at Marquette University, wrote: “Traditionally, journalists viewed themselves as disinterested witnesses or observers to conflict, present only to report on facts. More recently, the public journalism model has advocated that journalists take a more active role in educating and helping the public craft solutions to the problems of the day.”
As the editor iterates, integrates and manages interfaces, developing electronic copies of newspapers and streaming content to ensure presence on virtual platforms in order to escape the conflict of obsolescence, he or she also needs to navigate with caution, checking, cross-checking and fact-checking.
He or she is an easier prey for politicians, demagogues, extremists andYahoo Boys on virtual space than he is vulnerable to the recalcitrant vendor or distributor in the street corner.
Moreover, the citizen journalist more often than not, does not know or play by the rules of institutional journalism. These are challenges that confront editors and will test their capacity beyond the theories of mass communications.
How successfully journalists manage the innovations and issues technology throw at them would determine whether or not and now far they succeed as mediators.
To paraphrase Pauly, journalists and editors need to take a more active role in educating and helping the public find solutions to the problems of the day. In other words, the continued relevance of journalism, whether in peace time or in time of crisis, lies just as much on its inventiveness as in how it reinforces the agency of the citizen.
That is where journalism should its stand. Not with extremists, fanatics and demagogues. And certainly not with politicians who love to fake outrage in the daytime, but at sunset find time for photo ops with bandits strapped to the teeth with deadly weapons.
We can and should find our own way.
By: Azu Ishiekwene
Ishiekwene is the Editor-in-Chief of LEADERSHIP
(This is a slightly modified paper he presented at the 17 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in Abuja on October 21, 2012).
NIPR And Burden Of Insecurity On Nigeria’s Reputation, Dev
One dominant issue that has premiered the global space in recent times is the negative effect of the daring security challenges, not only on the rationale of citizens, but also on the reputation of the Nigeria nation and its consequent effect on the development of the country.
The devastating effects of escalating violent crimes such as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings among others on the country, since the inception of the current democracy in 1999, have done terrible damage to the reputation of the Nigerian nation in the global community.
According to reports by Statista 2021, as at 2019, Nigeria ranked second coming after Afghanistan as the terrorism most impacted country with a total of 1,245 fatalities. Afghanistan came first with 5,725 fatalities while Somalia came behind Nigeria with a record of 569 deaths.
The level of insecurity observed in the country has led to some countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and others, listing Nigeria as an unsafe place to travel to. This year, the UAE refused work permit applications from Nigeria because of the involvement of citizens in profile crimes.
Burdened by the negative impact of this daring challenges, the Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), at its 2021 conference cum annual general meeting held in Port Harcourt on September 23, elicited public discourse on Nigeria’s security challenges and to proffer solutions to the impact of the challenges on the reputation and development of the Nation.
The State chapter of the Institute, established in 1963 and chartered by decree 16 of June 1990, assembled stakeholders drawn from the public and private sectors in the Nigerian project within and outside the state, to brainstorm on a well thought out theme: “Nigeria’s security situation: a factor in reputation and national development.”
The thought provoking theme of the conference brought to the front burner the daring security situation currently bedevilling the Nigerian State and how it’s devastating effects on the reputation could be remedied for meaningful national development.
Welcoming participants to the conference, the Rivers State Chapter Chairman of the NIPR, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim told the audience that, as a responsive organisation to national development, the chapter had chosen the theme of the conference as its own contribution to the national discourse.
With great expectations, Nsirim told the gathering that the purpose for the conference was to set agenda for moulding public opinion.
“We are excited as a chapter that we will use this conference to begin to show a roadmap for security situation in Nigeria and national development.”
He urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation with high expectations that the conference wasn’t going to end a talk shop but was going to produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse.
“It is our expectation that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security, re-engineer national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” the chairman charged participants.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who was special guest at the conference, noted that time had come for deliberate effort by image managers to begin to rebrand Nigeria considering the hydra-headed security challenges that are adversely affecting the nations socio-economic, political and security development.
Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, the governor stated that the survival of Nigeria’s sovereignty is presently burdened by security challenges and urged members of the NIPR to rise up to their challenging career of reputation management in addressing the nation’s challenges.
“We need to seat up to make our people and government realize that everyone must rise to the dare challenges of our country. As PR and media managers, you have crucial roles to play in terms of national development.
“I strongly recommend that all hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers such as members of the NIPR to call on the Government and all stakeholders to begin to act in ways that will help revive the battered image, security, and economy of our dear nation.
He assured that the Rivers State Government on its part, would continue to support security agencies to ensure a safe and secured environment for the economic prosperity of all. “We have set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood watch, Operation Sting and revived the C4i, as an effort to provide security, stimulate growth, development and prosperity of all”, he said.
He noted that the administration in implementing the NEW Rivers Vision blueprint, has also embarked on a deliberate infrastructural development and urban renewal effort to attract local and foreign investment to stimulate the economy of the state.
Earlier, Nsirim, who also doubles as the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, had disclosed that the relationship between the Rivers State Government and the State Chapter of NIPR has blossomed during the Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration.
The commissioner noted that Wike, as a visionary leader, had changed the landscape of the State infrastructure and various developmental projects that touch the life of the ordinary man.
“We are proud of being associated with the NEW administration and the giant strides he has recorded and continue to record until 2023, he said.
Taking his turn to address the conference earlier, the President of NIPR, Mallam Muktar Sirajo, noted that the issues of security were of urgent national interest that needed the attention of all Nigerians.
“You can agree that there was a country we all enjoyed living in without fear and looked at one another as brothers and sisters and without asking questions. You will agree with me the situation is no longer the same. As an institute that regulate the practice of public relations and at the core of its mandate is relationship building, we feel that it is a duty incumbent on us to build our bridges.
“It is unfortunate that we have come to this path… but we believe that the basis of coming together cannot be served if there is no communication between the component parts to fix the country.
A cerebral Public Relations practitioner and the keynote address presenter, Dr. Ike Neliaku diagnosed the topic as a worry by the NIPR about the security situation in Nigeria and its implication on the nation’s reputational capital and national development.
He majored his presentation on two issues at the core of the theme-Insecurity and Reputation, expected to land on their implications for national development. Therefore, simplified the topic of his presentation to, Insecurity, Reputation and National Development.
Speaking on insecurity, Neliaku observed that three critical issues have shaped and influenced the trajectory of the Nigerian State and the welfare of citizens in the last twelve years which he listed as insecurity.
He gave statistics of the security situation presents adding that insecurity caused over 70,000 deaths in Nigeria between 2012 and 2020.
“Since 2011, Boko Haram insurgency has led to 37,500 deaths, 2.5million displacement, and 244,000 refugees.”
He disclosed from statistics that in just two years, farmers-herder clashes claimed 10,000 lives and resulted in the displacement of 300,000 people. “Nigeria has one of the world’s worst kidnap-for-ransom with 685 kidnaps reported in the first of quarter of 2019 alone.”
He noted that between June 2021 and March 2020, Nigerians paid about $18.34million as ransom and that militancy in the Niger Delta has resulted in kidnapping, unrest, and economic distortion.
“Indeed, any part of the nation that appears safe, including military formations and the territory of our national sovereignty which are not spared, are considered rather an act of God’s benevolence and love for mankind than the efficacy of security agencies.
“The question that bugged my mind at some point was, what has not happened in Nigeria in the last 10 years? In my lifetime I heard about money been stolen, bicycle stolen, motorcycle stolen, small car stolen, big lorry stolen, ship stolen, human parts stolen full human beings stolen.
“In spite of all this, I may not have been as shocked when I heard that soldiers had been stolen from their barracks and other formations. Need we any further proof that we are really in troubled times where only the mercy of Almighty God can save us, Dr. Neliaku lamented.
He listed human rights violations by State armed forces and cybercrime as other vices that dragged Nigeria’s reputation into the mod and hindered development. “In December, 2020, the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military and that Nigerian authorities had failed to investigate and prosecute these crimes, therefore warranting a full investigation.
He said 2018 report has it that commercial banks in Nigeria lost a cumulative sum of N15 Billion to electronic fraud and cybercrime. “Nigeria’s Consumers Awareness and Financial Enlightenment Initiative has projected a US$6 trillion loss by 2030 to cybercrime within and outside Nigeria. These crimes are committed mostly through phishing and identity theft.”
Neliaku traced causes of insecurity in Nigeria to include rising rate of unemployment, religious and ethnic differences, corruption, weak security apparatus, porous borders, marginalisation and inequalities in resource distribution, and bad governance and poor leadership.
The key note speaker also identified vicious attacks on the family unit which he said has led to near complete collapse of family values. “In the course of struggling for survival, parents have abandoned their responsibilities in raising quality ‘seeds’ to preserve the true heritage of what a responsible family should stand for.”
He blamed the increasing rate of drug addiction and other vices in society on the failure of the State to meet its expectation to the youths. “This is one of the things that have laid the foundation for massive acceptance of criminality by the youths.”
Neliaku listed Shoprite, Mr. Price Woolworths, Etisalat, HSBC and UBS, Tiger Brands, and Truworths as companies that have closed business in Nigeria in the face of escalating insecurity.
“Businesses are the vehicle for economic activities that would lead to national economic development. It therefore follows that businesses play a great role in the process of development and such role can be hampered in the absence of adequate security as we find in Nigeria,” he said.
He also observed that one of the greatest impacts of insecurity in any society is the creation of climate of fear and culture of uncertainty in the hearts of citizens.
“A high level of insecurity makes it difficult for citizens to plan effectively and make creative decisions and take effective control of their operating environment,” he asserted.
He finally submitted that the rising insecurity situation in Nigeria had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation, with concomitant consequences on individuals and national development unless the people have a rethink of their nationhood by rebuilding their relationship.
By: Amieyeofori Ibim
Ibim, Special Assistant on Media to Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, resides in Port Harcourt.
Nigeria @ 61: So Far, So Fair
Nigeria’s Independence movement started when she became a British Protectorate in 1901. The period of British rule lasted until 1960, when an independence movement led to the country being granted freedom. The Independence movement in Nigeria emerged first in 1920 under the influence of Herbert Macaulay who is considered the founder of Nigerian nationalism.
The nation’s independence was achieved by an act of the British parliament and she became an independent country within the Commonwealth on October 1, 1960.
Actually, in 1953, Anthony Enahoro, became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence which was eventually granted in 1960 after several political setbacks and defeats in parliament. As a result of this, Enahoro has been regarded by academics and many Nigerians as the Father of Nigerian State.
When Nigeria was granted independence a new constitution established a federal system with an elected Prime Minister and ceremonial head of state. The NCNC was headed by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who had taken control after Macaulay’s death in 1946. He formed a coalition with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s NPC after neither party won a majority in the 1959 election. Balewa continued to serve as the Prime Minster, a position he held since 1957, while Azikiwe took the largely ceremonial position of President of the Senate. Following a well supervised referendum, the northern part of the Trust Territory of the Cameroons joined Northern Nigeria in June, 1901, while in October, the Southern Cameroons united with Cameroon to form the Federal Republic of Cameroons.
On October 1, 1963, Nigeria became a republic. Azikiwe became president of the country, although as prime minister, Balewa was still more powerful.
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria was conceived as it officially gained independence from the British colonial masters. A lot of things have changed in 61 years especially as regards the political landscape.
However, the labour of our heroes who made Nigeria’s independence possible can never be forgotten. From Tafawa Balewa, to Azikiwe, the country’s first elected President, they made the fight for Nigeria’s independence look like their personal struggle.
Ahmadu Bello was the first and only premier of the northern region who ruled from 1954 to 1966. As the leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), he led the party to a majority victory in the pre-independent parliamentary election of 1959. As Sardauna of Sokoto, he was a formidable force behind the throne and was considered one of the most powerful men in Nigeria.
The historic 1959 general election, which effectively ushered in Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, saw an alliance between the NPC under Bello to forge an alliance with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) under the leadership of Nnamdi Azikiwe, which resulted in Nigeria’s first indigenous Federal Government Ahmadu Bello chose to remain the premier of northern Nigeria and always preferred to be among his people in the north. His reign was cut short in the January 1966 coup, when he was assassinated by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu in a coup which toppled Nigeria post-independence government.
Nnamdi Azikiwe was a leading figure of modern Nigerian nationalism who spent a better part of his life working to end British control of Nigeria, both as a journalist and a politician. He served as the last Governor-General of Nigeria from 1960-1963 as well as the country’s first elected president from 1963 to 1966 during the First Republic. He joined politics in 1944 and later co-founded NCNC after a successful stint as a journalist, he became active in politics in 1944.
The great Zik inspired the Zikist Movement, a radical revolutionary and multi-ethnic youth body which championed the Nigerian struggle against imperialism and the belief that Nigerians and indeed Africans should manage their own affairs. Back in the 1940s, Nnamdi Azikiwe championed Nigeria’s Independence from British rule and in 1943, joined other West African editors to sign a memorandum to raise awareness about political independence. They also called for socio-political reforms that would include a repeal of the crown colony system, installing a representative system in regions and granting independence to West African colonies under the British rule.
Tafawa Balewa was among those who fought for Nigeria independence. After the NPC won the pre-independence parliamentary election, Tafawa Balewa, being the vice president of the party, emerged Nigeria first prime minister. A position he held till January 1966, when he was killed in the coup. In the 50s, he was actually involved in the campaign for indigenous rule and discussions on constitutional reforms which ultimately led to independence in 1960.
Obafemi Awolowo, the first premier of the western region from 1954 to 1960, was another nationalist who played active role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence.
Anthony Enahoro according to reports was the first politician to move the motion supporting Nigeria’s independence in the parliament in 1953, although ended up unsuccessfully. The early agitation for self-rule suffered setback and at a time, caused the northern members of parliament to stage a walkout from the legislative chamber.
Despite the fact that his motion suffered setbacks, it contributed to a new movement in the parliament that sustained the pressure on the British colonial masters for Nigerian independence. There were also similar motions from Balewa and former deputy premier of the western region, Remilekun Fani-Kayode, which all resulted in Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
As part of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence, women were not left out even as they confronted the British maladministration. Mostly, women from the southern part of Nigeria, carried out the Aba Women Riot. The women in a riot rebelled against economic and socio-political oppression on the colonial masters in Nigeria. Such things as the imposition of tax on market women and the dictatorial powers of the warrant chiefs who were in power. Following the introduction of indirect rule system of government. In November 1929, thousands of women assembled in Calabar and Owerri from where they took over major roads and streets in protests. Some of the warrant chiefs where forced to resign, following the riot, which was seen as the first major uprising against the British rule in Nigeria.
Margaret Ekpo of Calabar, led women in the eastern part of Nigeria during the pre-independence era while Funmilayo Ransome Kuti took control of the western part of Nigeria. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti organised and mobilised women to resist any colonisation during the pre-colonial era. That was when colonial masters refused to give permit for demonstrations in some parts of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Independence Day came on the 1st of October 1960. Indeed, Nigerians at the time were joyful for being liberated from the hands of their colonial masters. Reports have that it was a symbolic day. Since then, the day had always been celebrated. A day Nigeria, which was amalgamated by joining the southern and northern protectorate by Lord Frederick Lugard got recognition. It was like people being granted their heart desire. Since Nigeria got independence, one can say that she has sustained it.
Nigeria’s independence was achieved through dialogue and negotiation rather than confrontation. Clubs and weapons were not used to achieve what we know today as independence. Since then, Nigerians have continued to govern themselves as a nation bound in freedom, love and unity.
Some of the elderstatesmen who ensured that Nigeria’s dream was achieved have passed on but their legacies still live on. Even as the nation celebrates independence annually, they are also remembered for the good works they did in their time.
When it was clear that Nigeria had attained Independence after series of constitutional proceedings with the United Kingdom, it was the night preceding October 1, 1960, that British Union Jack gradually descended from Nigeria’s parliament building and Nigerians Green-White-Green ascended. Princess Alexandra of Kent, who represented the Queen of England, handed over the constitutional instrument of Nigeria’s Independence to Tafawa Balewa. He became the prime minister
Independence day is significant as it is celebrated on every 1st October annually to mark Nigeria’s proclamation of independence from British rule. It is also important because it is used by Nigerians to decide on its economic, political and cultural fortunes. It is significant in that all states positions would be occupied by Nigerians and that the economy would be invigorated so that an egalitarian society would be created.
Achieving independence in Nigeria means that all the nations cultural practices would be restored and that anything foreign that did not respect their way of life would be jettisoned. As Nigeria became independent, it was assumed that people could exercise their franchise to choose and vote into power those they think will perform well as they vote them into power. But this is not the case as many have testified. Slowly, corruption has continued to rise.
Instead of helping Nigerians, some persons entrenched corruption. There are those who don’t care about the feelings of the masses. Whether Nigeria is independent or not, as far as they are concerned, the British can come back and let it be as if nothing worked since 1960. There are also people who lack faith in the survival of the country. As Nigeria marks 61st birthday, it is time to take stock and ask where we got it right or wrong. Nigeria after gaining independence in 1960 is not totally independent. The country still depends on importation of foods, power generation and supply and others. Other basic things of life are still being sought overseas like medicare.
If Nigeria is really independent, she should not import certain items for consumption. She should provide for her youths. Various systems should be strengthened. At 61, Nigeria should not still be grappling with leadership challenges.
As Nigeria commemorates her 61st birthday, hatred, mediocracy, tribalism, ethnicity and division in religious beliefs should be avoided. Bribery and corruption must stop to exist. Nigeria with her abundant human and material resources should be able to compete favourably with other countries. The issue of kidnapping, killings, banditry, armed robbery, insurgency to mention but a few should be discouraged.
By: Eunice Choko Kayode
Business4 days ago
Consumers Fault Prepaid Meter, Seek Return To Analogue System
Business4 days ago
… Introduces TIES To Boost Business Loan
Business4 days ago
NSE Begins Week On Negative Note, Loses N19.49bn
Business4 days ago
CBN’s Policies Increase Inflation, Discourage Investors – World Bank
Business4 days ago
CITN Applauds FG, Tax Authorities On Fiscal Policy Decisions
Business4 days ago
CBN Automates Non-Commercial Exports Form For Dealers
Sports5 days ago
Eagles Need Osimhen At AFCON – Ighalo
Business4 days ago
Igbo Traders Reject Hike In Customs Import Duty