All roads led to Eko FM Multipurpose Hall, Agidingbi-Ikeja as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Lagos State Council held its 2021 Press Week Public Lecture on Wednesday in Lagos.
The event had as its theme: “Nigeria and Nation Building: Overcoming the Challenges of Security, Restructuring and Self Determination For Progressive Development”.
At the occasion, NUJ Lagos Council Chairman, Mr. Adeleye Ajayi gave the welcome address.
“Nigeria as a major player in global affairs and a leading nation in Africa has had its fair share of insecurity emanating/arising from diverse sources such as civil war, insurgency, religious crises, as well as crises occasioned by clamour for self-determination.
“It is, therefore, evident from the history of Nigeria in the last 61 years that the issue of security remains in the front burner of national discourse.
“Thus, the theme of this lecture: “Nigeria & Nation Building: Overcoming The Challenges of Security, Restructuring & Self Determination For Progressive Development’’ is apt.
“I strongly know that this forum will diagnose the security challenges that the country has faced beginning from the colonial period in different ramifications and the strategies and techniques that have been used to address them.
“Security remains a major challenge in Nigeria but unlike what obtained in the pre-independence period, security problems escalated partly due to the diverse nature of the country and its people and arising from issues and problems of nation-building.
He noted that to address the security problem in Nigeria was in effect, to address its crisis of development.
“How can we manage our diversity and build confidence of citizens across every part of the country to have a sense of national belonging?
“Admittedly, this is one area, which all leaders in the country seem to have common approach largely because all leaders approach the matter very defensively.
“Everybody cries of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice but only in relation to group interests.
Hardly can one find any leader who is raising issues of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice not based on protecting the interests of groups they belong,” Ajayi said.
“If the Nigerian nation is to be developed, there must be leaders who are broadminded enough to campaign for justice, equity and fairness beyond narrow group interests.
“Therefore, a major challenge of nation building in Nigeria revolves around how to produce truly national leaders.
“I wish at the end of the day, our Guest Lecturer, the Chairman and the Panel of Discussants will do justice to the theme of our Press Week” Ajayi said.
One of Africa’s foremost Scholars of Mass Communication, Professor Ralph Akinfeleye was Chairman of the occasion.
In his remarks, he appaluded Lagos NUJ Chairman, Mr Adeleye Ajayi and the Press Week Committee under the leadership of Mr Wale Akodu.
“I salute the Chairman of Lagos Council. I also salute the Local Organising Committee (LOC) headed by Mr Wale Akodu for doing all within its reach to make me attend this event today.
“Lagos Council appears to be the only vibrant Council in Nigeria with the capability of bringing people of high calibre together to a round table.
“As Journalists, we are empowered by the 1999 constitution to hold government accountable at all times,” he said.
Akinfeleye tasked journalists on the need to adhere strictly to the ethics and code of conduct of the profession.
“Journalists are trustees of the public trust, hence, there’s need for them to discharge their duties professionally without fear or favour” Akinfeleye added.
The University don equally urged media owners to pay their staff salary as and when due, if they wanted journalists to be totally responsible, adding that total responsibility was a shared value.
Akinfeleye also condemned in strong terms the attacks on some stations such as Channels, TVC, AIT, and others by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), for performing their constitutional rights.
“No legal case can start directly in the Supreme Court. Hence, it is expected of NBC to dialogue with media houses or give them warning signals rather than imposing fine (s) running into millions of naira on them when most of them are struggling to pay salaries”.
“As media professionals, it is part of our responsibilities to advise NBC rightly,” he said.
In his reaction to security issues confronting the country, Akinfeleye said it was not the exclusive right of government alone to report such event, saying that journalists equally had the right to report security issues.
“Unfortunately, journalists are confronted with the problem of finding out the exact figures of casualties when reporting related stories, ” he said.
He also noted that for Nigeria to tackle the issue of insecurity properly, the Police needed to be decentralised as perpetrated crimes were local.
Other personalities present at the public lecture included Mr Slyva Okereke, Immediate past National Trustee of NUJ; Mrs. Kehinde Ajayi, former Treasurer, Lagos, Council; Mr. Alfred Odifa, Immediate Past Secretary of Lagos Council; Alhaji Kayode Adumadeyin; Acting General Manager, Eko Fm; Mrs.Tosin Odusola; Director News, Eko FM; Mrs.Nike Adefolaju of Eko Fm, Mrs Bola Akingbade, Director, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy; Mrs. Adenike Sodipo, Assistant Director Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy; Mrs.Julie Ekong; former VP NAWOJ B Zone, Mrs.Omobola Ayaba Akingbehin, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and NAWOJ Vice President, B Zone.
Lagos NUJ Exco present at the Public Lecture included Mrs Abiola Beckley; Vice Chairman; Mr Tunde Olalere, Secretary; Mrs Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe, Treasurer; Mr. Issac Ayodele, Internal Auditor; Mrs. Adeola Ekine, NAWOJ Chairperson; Mr.Debo Oshundun, SWAN Chairman; Mr.Kemi Ishola, EX-Officio; and Mr Olayide Awosanya, EX-Officio.
Others past Council Executives present were Mrs Jemi Ekunkunbor; Mr.Ben Nwaru Chukwudi; Mr.Olisa Egbunike, former Secretary, NUJ Lagos Council; Mrs. Sekinat Lawal, former NAWOJ Chairperson, Lagos Chapter and others.
The Public Lecture was delivered by Mr Segun Adeniyi, Chairman Editorial Board of Thisday Newspapers.
“Let me specially recognise Mr Adewale Akodu, Chairman of the organizing committee with whom I have been exchanging correspondences and calls since he first contacted me about this conference.
“He knows that I didn’t jump at the idea. To be honest, I didn’t want to accept the invitation and I looked for every convenient excuse to decline.
“I had my reasons. The problem in this country, as a former Super Eagles Coach, Berti Vogt, once remarked is that Nigerians spend too much time at seminars, workshops, conferences and the rest in prayers at the end of which nothing works.”
“I tend to agree with him that conferences upon conferences, prayer sessions upon prayer sessions, reports upon reports and yet what are the results?
“Having attended many of such sessions, I am also becoming increasingly cynical.
However, despite my initial misgivings, I am glad to be here today. Indeed, this session could not have come at a better time for two reasons.
“One, we are at a period when conversations about the future of our country have become rather chaotic hence the urgent need for us as journalists to moderate discussions.
“So, the idea of interrogating the challenges of security, restructuring and self-determination for progressive change is quite apt.
“Two, in an unprecedented move evidently meant to reaffirm that while journalism thrives on disruptions of the status quo, it is also a profession that is critical to the attainment of a fair and peaceful world, the Nobel committee last week awarded the 2021 Peace Prize to two journalists: Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines,” Adeniyi said.
“Therefore, we as media practitioners have a sacred duty to promote peaceful co-existence without which there can be no meaningful progress.
“And there is perhaps no better way of doing that than facilitating sessions like this where stakeholders can come together to share ideas on how to build an inclusive society that works for majority of the people.
“At the Passing Out Parade of 68 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) two weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that Nigeria is currently facing “security threats and violent crimes such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and politically- motivated killings which threaten our national integration.
“There is nothing to suggest that we are addressing the problem with the right tools.
“At a period you expect the national security architecture to be defined in a manner that considers peculiarities of criminal tendencies in various parts of the country. We keep doing the same things yet expecting different results,” Adeniyi noted.
He pointed out that at a public lamentation last year to express his seeming helplessness and that of his colleagues, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba said, “If any governor tells you that he will do anything about insecurity, such a governor is lying”.
According to him, Darius said the governors did not have control over the police or army and virtually there is nothing they can do over security.
“We have been calling for the establishment of state police but nobody seems to consider our position.
“Meanwhile, as challenging as the times may be, what we face today are the results of the bad choices made at different epochs and at all levels.
“Sadly, we have carried this grand systemic mismanagement to the security sector. With the failure of the police in their constitutional responsibility, we have dragged the military into roles for which they are not trained: guarding key installations, quelling civil disturbances, manning roadblocks, combating banditry, armed robbery and kidnappings as well as providing security for the conduct of elections.
“These are not challenges that can be resolved by soldiers because they are mostly law and order issues; primarily within the purview of the police, ” Adeniyi said.
He said that all must continue to commend the armed forces for their enormous sacrifice, especially in the past one and a half decades.
“It is also obvious that as a nation, we have lost what Max Weber described as the monopoly of “the legitimate use of physical force” to criminal cartels.
“In the face of new dimensions to old conflicts, we must embrace new models of crisis management but having failed to forge a nation out of our diversity, the security challenge and its mismanagement has led to a situation in which many now question our togetherness.
“There is a strident call that we must divide Nigeria but such proposition neither addresses our problem nor does it point to the way forward. This is where our job as journalists has become more important not only in promoting issues that will aid the resolution of many of the crises that are now tearing apart the fabrics of our society but also in asking salient questions.
“Is ‘self-determination’ by the several ethnic groups that spring up almost daily, the panacea to what ails us?
“These are certainly things that we can and indeed should, do if we must reposition our country for peace and prosperity. I have always argued that the fiscal imbalance in which the Federal Government controls disproportionate power and wealth relative to the two other tiers (the 36 states and 774 local governments) is unsustainable.
“Let me quickly add here that those campaigning for restructuring are not advocating the dismemberment of the country. The quest for a country that works better and for the generality of the people, irrespective of their stations in life or the God they worship or the language they speak, is a valid quest.
“The truth is that we have serious security, economic and governance challenges, and it is important to consider and not dismiss all the ideas being put forth.
“It is important to continue to discuss and debate and to continue to search for a better society,” Adeniyi said.
He noted that the media had a huge role to play in this important quest for progressive development as objective purveyors of information, as honest agenda-setters and as trusted mediators.
For us to play this role well, and not become part of the problem, we need to stay above the fray, drop sectional and sensational framing of issues and maintain utmost fidelity to facts.
“It is a huge responsibility, and it starts with us. If we effectively fulfill our role, we can encourage the critical stakeholders in Nigeria to find strength in our diversity” Adeniyi stated.
The event was spiced with contributions from a distinguished panel of discussants moderated by Akinfeleye.
The panel comprised Professor Adepoju Tejumaye; Head of Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos; Dr.Jide Johnson of Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ); and Dr Olusanya Awosan, Chairman, Essence Communications Limited.
They equally responded to questions on national security, peace and restructuring raised by some of the attendees to the event.
Mr Wale Akodu, Chairman Press Week Committee gave the vote of thanks.
He appreciated all the speakers and dignitaries for honouring the invitation and for indentifying with NUJ Lagos Council.
Akodu also commended mass communication students of higher institutions of learning and Secondary school students who attended the event.
“I can’t thank you all enough. It is my Prayer that God will bless you all.
“I also want to thank the Lagos NUJ Chairman, Mr.Adeleye Ajayi and his exco for the support given to the Press Week Committee thus far.
“We are indeed proud to be members of this great Council and we wish everyone one safe journey back to his or her destination”, Akodu said.