BY KOLA ADEPOJU
Are journalists in Ogun tate not worthy of appointments in the government of their state? Why is it that successive occupants of Igbein Hill Government House since 1999 (that was when I began active journalism in the State) have not been looking their ways for engagement, especially as media and information managers?
Why are Ogun State former and incumbent governors fond of “importing” media aides from outside the State? Is Ogun State not the source of journalism where the first newspaper in the country, “Iwe-Irohin” was published in 1859?
Has the source ran dry? Has it not been generating a steady flow of competent newsmen of no mean pedigree and acumen? Are His Excellencies saying all the “Ijemo Boys” (as some mischievous politicians often tag members of the Correspondents’ Chapel, which I was opportuned to serve as Chairman) morally bankrupt and professionally incompetent?
Are there no journalists in Oke Egunya (Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, Ogbe, Abeokuta) who can be found worthy to serve as Special Adviser to the Governor on media and the likes? What of newsmen in the State-owned broadcast media? If I were denied appointment some years back on the ground that I am not an indigene of Ogun State, what about competent and disciplined others who are full-blooded “Ogunsians”?
I mean the likes of Uncle Gbenga Gbesan, Mr. Dada Olanipekun, who is the publisher of the popular grassroot magazine, “Prestige”; Omo-Oba Toyin Gbadebo popularly called “Gbade” in journalism circle; the baritone, Diji Akinhanmi and Demolu Okuneye, among others.
Peradventure, the governors are hiding under the obnoxious and baseless cover of “they are old school” like the spokesman of one of them once told me. What about those that are still very much active on the field? That is, the likes of Segun Adeleye (Daily Independent), Sina Anidugbe (Ogun State Television), Niyi Amusan (Ogun State Radio), among others.
These probing questions ran riot in my mind and cried blue-murder when Governor Ibikunle Amosun released the names and eventually inaugurated the “second batch” of his media assistants.
Disappointment is too lightweight a word to depict and pin-point my height of expectation. I had expected that “AJIRI” would appoint, at least, one of the Abeokuta-based practising journalists as a Media Assistant. To my utmost surprise, SIA did not recognise any of them!
Even as hard as Zuma Rock is, the Chartered Accountant broke into it and came out with two resilient journalists. But the Totoro, Owu-born Amosun apparently detests his next door River Ogun so much that he did not attempt casting his net, nonetheless fish out one or two media ‘Tilapia’ to join his government.
The same River Ogun which bathed SIA when he was born; the same Ogun River which “AJIRI” drank to the fullest throughout his days as an adolescent before migrating to Lagos. The same River that serves as the source of Iwe Irohin Press Centre.
I recall when Amosun was a senatorial aspirant, it was Alhaji Tunji Bola Adeyemi that he used to send to Ogun State-based journalists, especially the Ijemo- based newspaper correspondents for the coverage of his campaign tour or the usage of the catalogue of his press statements in the media.
Alhaji Adeyemi was then the secretary of a popular politician and renowned automobile merchant, Alhaji Niyi Adegbenro. We used to converge at His Excellency’s Ibara, GRA residence, and from there we often entered a Toyota Sienna bus with the inscription of “The Press”.
With no strings attached, the likes of this writer, who was the Bureau Chief of Champion Newspapers, the Publisher, Niyi Ogunbola (New Nigerian), Kolade Lanrewaju (Vanguard), Toba Sulaimon (ThisDay, now in Akure) Segun Adeleye (Daily Independent), Charles Gyamfi (Guardian), Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji (now of Next), Moshood Adebayo (The Sun), Sanya Akindele and Yemi Akintunde (NTA) and several others reported and projected Amosun and fellow politicians in line with their civic responsibility.
They reported his electioneering campaign, his victory at the polls, the termination of the aspirations of chairmanship hopefuls that were loyal to him, his suspension and that of his alleged backer and the then Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olalekan Ojo, his protest at Oyo State House of Parliament where his followers carried placards that infuriated some party leaders, his appeal against the outcome of the polls at Isabo High Court and Federal Court of Appeal, among several others.
Then, SIA saw Iwe-Irohin journalists as fit as fiddle for the coverage of his activities, while now, His Excellency seemingly sees them as unbefitting as leprosy, that he won’t even touch with a long pole when it was time to appoint his media executives.
As a matter of fact, one is not forcing the inclusion of Iwe-Iroyin journalists in the media team of His Excellency, however, since age has not altered the saying that “charity begins at home”, it is also not out of place to include a home- based player, or a home-based journalist in his Super Eagles of media professionals.
A situation where none of the home-based was called to camp by Coach “SIA – SIA”, to lace their boots for “Governor’s Office Media and Publicity Club” left much to be desired.
Even at the national level, there has been steady calls for the inclusion of local content in every production in the country. Few months ago, I was at the Conference on Cassava: Adding Value for Africa, C:AVA, in Abuja and where there was a clarion call for the inclusion of 10 percent local content of cassava in every flour-oriented food.
When compared to his civilian predecessors, with the exception of the late “Ayekooto”, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Amosun is even a saint. While Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba, himself a veteran journalist is credited for his unparallel relationship with “Iwe-Irohin” journalists while in the saddle, he also fell short of increasing the stake by appointing one of them, who as a mark of respect for his exploits in journalism fondly refers to him as “Oga”, meaning master.
Though, unlike Osoba, Otunba Gbenga Daniel is not a pen-pusher, he also identified with the profession by setting up a national newspaper. But the publisher in OGD never deemed it fit to include one of the home-based journalists in the array of his media aides.
Kudos, however, goes to the late Onabanjo who made a Chief Press Secretary out of the home boy, Mr. Soniran Sowemimo popularly known as SOS. Egbon (now Chief Sowemimo) since he left that office several years back watched helplessly as none of his home grown “aburos” in the profession has been appointed to fill the gap.
The vacuum still remains conspicuous, such that it is now berated as an eye sore. This scourge should not continue! This jinx must be broken! I am unshaken in my conviction that one day a governor of this State will look inward and appoint an “Iwe-Irohin” journalist, as his media aide.
*Mr Adepoju is a former Chairman of Correspondents’ Chapel, Ogun State Council, NUJ.