By John Owubokiri
In November 2006 the Editor (now Editor-In-Chief) of the Vanguard, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye approved the publication of the controversial Niger Delta debate on the energy pages of the Vanguard.
It was not a particularly popular decision for the politics of the day was against any accommodation of the Niger Delta Question as having sufficient credibility for public discussion. Nigerians had understandably become weary of militancy in the Niger Delta and its fallouts such as kidnapping, piracy and gangsterism.
However, as the policy had the support of Vanguard Publisher, Uncle Sam Amuka-Pemu, the vigorous debate on the Niger Delta discourse commenced.
At the beginning only those in favour of granting the affected states autonomy over their oil and gas resources sent in contributions but soon others whom we like to think of as federalists, joined the fray. The contributions which flowed were analytical, informed and sometimes passionate about the positions and views they held.
Apart from the debate, the Vanguard vigorously reported every issue or situation or development in the Niger Delta; it was clear that it considered the Niger Delta Question, as in the words of the Editorial Board Chairman, Ikeddy Isiguzo, a national issue.
From being the first national daily to grant Mujahid Asari Dokubo an interview, to publishing the mixed grill of reactions that trailed the controversial appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as the chair of the federal government’s proposed pre-summit panel on the Niger Delta, the Vanguard has distinguished itself as a medium with people-oriented vision.
For the records, the Vanguard did not officially adopt any positions on the Niger Delta; it did not however disguise its policy that the security of the Niger Delta and indeed the security of all the regional blocs of Nigeria, was a matter of national security. And so the Vanguard dedicated its staff and pages to the reportage of the issues surrounding the Niger Delta.
The paper did not only donate space and man hours towards the resolution of this irksome matter. In 2008, the paper sponsored the Niger Delta Summit held at the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt where all stakeholders including all the governors of the Niger Delta states, leaders of ethnic nationalities and youths ventilated on their perceptions, frustrations and expectations. Useful data were collated, some of which have influenced government’s favourable policy changes on the Niger Delta.
It is noteworthy and commendable that the paper has not attempted to take credit for its role in the resolution, albeit inchoate, of the Niger Delta Question. Ironically, however, national dailies that ‘played safe’ by staying far from the unprofitable discourse, only reporting catchy materials of the carnage and devastation inflicted by the armed engagement of the Nigerian army and the militants of the region- usual readers’ fare, rushed to the presidency with offers of consultancies and mediation when the new government made it known the Niger Delta was its first priority.
Eight months ago the energy pages of the Vanguard, host pages of the Niger Delta discourse, exuviated and transmuted into a monthly newsmagazine, Sweet Crude. This magazine is an effort by its parent publication to give the oil and gas industry its pride of place in the polity and economy of Nigeria. As Sweet Crude is an intentionally rich publication, published for a rich industry with a colour separation and editorial management that is remarkable in its selectivity, it was no small surprise to us that the Niger Delta story could find a space on its rich pages.
Sweet Crude, the Vanguard’s tentative effort to recalibrate Nigeria’s largest and most influential industry is 8 publications old, eight publications of expert, analytical and prudent journalism wrapped in glossily delectable pages. For its commitment to a strong and vibrant Nigeria where all enjoy equal opportunities, for its dedication to the information, education and entertainment of Nigerians and for its bold initiative with Sweet Crude, we join other well wishers in saying ‘Salute’ to the Publisher and the editorial teams of Vanguard and Sweet Crude. Long Live Sweet Crude!