Yemi Osinbajo

…VP tasks journalists on fake news, deepening democracy, keeping govt on its toes

…Says you fought colonial masters, military rule, you’ve to deepen democracy

By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor

VICE President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN; former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba; Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka; and a cream of captains of the media industry, yesterday, celebrated nine media icons, who passed on, recently.

Showering torrents of tributes on the deceased icons, the Vice president and the leaders said the late media pillars charted a course that journalists must thread to turn the fortunes of the country around.

Specifically, Osinbajo, who delivered the keynote address, noted that the media fought for independence, and against military rule, adding that now that Nigeria is at a defining moment, the mainstream media must fight fake news, keep elected leaders on their toes and deepen democracy.

Indeed, the seven months period, July 2020 to February 2021, can be described as the worst in the history of Nigeria’s media industry. It was when journalism lost nine icons, pillars, leaders and mentors, a set back that threw the industry into deep mourning.

However, in unison, the media industry, yesterday, elected to turn the losses to gains when at an afternoon of tributes at the MUSON Centre, Lagos, it honoured, and celebrated the life and times of the departed leaders with the aim of inspiring the living.

Reason: The nine media leaders, proprietors, editors, administrators and journalists were ”people who shaped the narrative of who we are and what we stand for. Through joyful and stressful times, they set the tone and chose the words that interpreted the Zeitgeist of an emerging nation and put perspectives to our diversity and uniqueness as a people.”

Organised by the Nigeria Press Organisation, NPO, consisting of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN; Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE; Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ; and Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, BON, the icons celebrated yesterday included pioneer President of NPAN and former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; former Life Patron of NPAN, Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua; former Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Tony Momoh; and former Publisher of New Nation and Sunday Times Editor, Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo.

Others were former Director-General, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, Mr. Ben Egbuna; former Publisher, Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah; former General Manager, Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Bisi Lawrence; former Editor, Daily Express, Mr. Eddie Aderinokun; and past NGE President and former MD/Chairman, News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Malam Wada Maida.

Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua died on July 20, 2020. He was followed by Wada Maida on August 17, 2020; Bisi Lawrence (November 11, 2020), Gbolabo Ogunsanwo (November 27, 2020), Sam Nda-Isaiah (December 11, 2020), Eddie Aderinokun (January 3, 2021), Ben Egbuna (January 28, 2021), Tony Momoh (February 10, 2021) and Lateef Jakande (February 11, 2021).

They lived impactful lives – Yusuf

President of the NPO, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, opened the flood gates of eulogies. In his welcome remarks, he said the media industry had mourned the nine deceased it was now time to celebrate them because each of the nine men lived an impactful life in their families, the people they mentored and the institutions they led.

Reeling out the crucial roles each of them played, he said ”we don’t look at them in past tense but in present tense,” adding that it would be hard to find another journalist like Alhaji Jakande.

Henceforth we ‘ll celebrate ourselves while alive – Isah

President of the NGE, Mr Mustapha Isah, said all those being celebrated were connected to the NGE as president, fellow or promoter and their legacies ”will inspire us to overcome various challenges.”

According to him, Jakande was governor for four years but 38 years after, he remained a reference point for good governance; Ben Egbuna was a thorough bred professional in broadcast industry; and Tony Momoh was one of the best Information Ministers Nigeria has ever produced.

Going forward, he said the Media should celebrate its own while alive not after their death. ”Henceforth we must celebrate our own while alive, perhaps on their birthdays.”

It’s sad media ignores its own often – Adefaye

Speaking in like manner, General Manage/Editor-in-Chief of Vanguard, and Provost of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, NIJ, Mr Gbenga Adefaye, lamented that the media often times ignores it own, and thanked the NPO for the event.

His words: ”It is not often that the media celebrates its own- dead or alive. In fact the media, more often than not ignores itself for too long, despite its humongous contributions to national development, despite the risks taken to discharge Constitutional duties assigned it in a very difficult operating environment.

”We can only thank the NPO for putting up this remembrance which is unique for drawing attention to the lives and times of our revered but departed media icons; drawing attention to their immense contributions to media and national development. Those, truly, were our icons. This moment inspires.

”For us at NIJ, the honorees were either our primary promoters or great alumni. Their aspirations were that we produced greater and better media players of the future. And to that we are committed. We have their examples to look up to in the discharge of our duties.

This event naturally draws our attention to perhaps an important branch of knowledge that we should actively develop: studies of the life and times of media leaders, perhaps while they are alive.

”Thank you NPO for lighting the candle. Thank you NPAN in particular – our patrons and principal owners of the NIJ. May we have a memorable outing.

Funtua a blessing to Nigeria Media – Sam Amuka

Mr Sam Amuka, in a tribute to Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua, which was read by Mr. Adefaye, said: ”Out of Nigeria’s more than 200 million population, none has suffered such debasement, indeed bastardisation by peddled false news online as my friend and late brother, 78 years old Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua, patron of NPAN, president of the NIJ and Chairman of Bullet Construction Ltd.

”Because, many people believe Ismaila was a member of the Cabal (which he accepted and was glad to be-indeed he would say, often in joke, ‘Look, I’m not a member of the Cabal, I am the Cabal’ which is true.

”The conventional definition of Cabal elsewhere is Kitchen Cabinet and every political ruler has one; but Buhari’s Kitchen Cabinet is called Cabal- Negatively because of disapproval of his style.

”And so; many fake news reports are peddled online about Ismaila, being a Cabal as a corrupt businessman. And because Online readers swallow fake news hook, line and sinker, they castigate the victim totally. This pre conceived bias has damaged Ismaila Isa’s reputation and denigrated his hard work career both as a business construction mogul, and minder and mender of successful Nigerian media organizations. The result is that many outsiders dared to question and query the NPAN for naming the newly reconstructed three-storey NIJ House in Victoria Island after Ismailia Isa Funtua.

”Let me use this occasion to state very briefly that my friend, Ismaila Isa Funtua, one of those we are celebrating today was a very big and successful businessman long before our President Buhari came to power and Ismaila became a Cabal in 2015. His coy, Bullet Construction Ltd built the Foreign Affairs Building in Abuja and the Justice Building beside the Secretariat among others. The American Embassy, Abuja was once his tenant besides many other buildings. Ismaila spent his life servicing other people’s lives and organizations. For example my drivers, cook and stewards used to look forward to his visit.

”He was a blessing to the Nigerian Media. Besides serving the NIJ of which he was President, Ismaila used his influence to raise the funds to rebuild the New NIJ House in Victoria Island at no cost to NIJ

”Thank you, dear Ismaila, I miss you and look forward to meeting you sometime again. Yonder!”

Obaigbena, Akiotu, Bonuola, Ishiekwene, Idowu, Momoh, Ekpu speak

At the event, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of Thisday, paid glowing tributes to Mallam Wada Maida, a past president of NGE and former chief press secretary to General Muhammadu Buhari as head of state in the 80s.

Mr Tony Akiotu, managing director of Daar Communications, showered tributes on Mr Bisi Lawrence; Mr Lade Bonuola, Consultant to The Guardian newspapers,spoke on Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo; Mr Azubuike Ishiekwene, editor-in-chief, Leadership, eulogised Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah; Mr Lanre Idowu, CEO of Diamond Publications, spoke on the legacies of Mr Eddie Aderinokun; Mr John Momoh, chairman of Channels television, eulogised Mr. Ben Egbuna while Mr. Ray Ekpu, director May Five Media, spoke glowingly on the footprints of Prince Tony Momoh.

Jakande was grandfather of Nigeria’s journalism – Osoba

Chief Osoba, in his tributes to Jakande, lamented that Jakande’s humongous contributions to the development of journalism and the media industry have not been documented.

Arguing that Jakande’s contributions to journalism were ”higher” than his contributions to good governance, Osoba begged the late politician’s widow, Alhaja Abimbola Jakande, to make Jakande’s huge library open to researchers to unravel the story behind the formation of NPAN, NGE, NPO, and others.

”Jakande was first in many areas of journalism. He was first editor of Tribune, first president of NPAN, first president of NGE, first president of NPO. I am begging Mama to open Jakande’s library for the story of the Fourth Estate of the Realm in Nigeria to be written. Alhaji Jakande was the grand-father of Nigeria’s journlism,” he said.

Media can’t afford to get it wrong – Osinbajo

Osinbajo, who was the last to speak recalled that Nigeria’s press dates back to 150 years ago, and recalled the roles played by late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Macauley, Mr Ernest Ikoli in the battle for independence. He also articulated the contributions of the nine titans being celebrated, saying that the democracy we have today were as a result of the sacrifices of the media.

Arguing that power is a public trust, he said the media must investigate and hold those in power accountable because the Media is the Fourth Estate of the Realm and no other institution comes close to the Media in the task of holding governments to account.

Harping on the dangers of fake news and the need to check them, he said Nigeria is at another defining moment in history as information revolution has democratised media ownership and everyone now has a voice.

Some of the disadvantages of the information revolution, he said include the emergence of individuals that cannot be easily held to account and surge of fake news that cause social instability.

He urged mainstream media to help check the menace of fake news. He noted that the country is not perfect but amplifying issues that can cause disruption or anarchy was not the solution.

Noting that nation building is not the preserve of government and politicians alone, he said the media and civil society have critical roles to play and enjoined the Media to take ownership of the country.

Notable leaders at the event include Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, former Deputy Governor of Lagos, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, and Etsu Nupe, Dr Yahaya Abubakar.

Media icons and captains of industry at the ceremony included Maiden Ibru (The Guardian), Ajibola Ogunsola (Punch), Frank Aigbogun (Business Day), Mr. Eniola Bello (This Day), Mr Muyiwa Adetiba (former Editor of Vanguard), Mr Toye Akiyode (former Editor of Vanguard), Dr Patrick Dele-Cole as well as leaders of NPO, NPAN, NGE, BON and NUJ.

Family members of the media icons being celebrated were at hand to receive awards for their patriarchs They include Alhaja Abimbola Jakande, Mrs Zainab Nda-Isaiah, who gave a vote of thanks, Mrs Abiola Aderinokun, Mrs Betty Egbuna, Mr. Bayo Ogunsanwo, Mr. Abdulrasheed Momoh, Hajia Wada Maida, and Mrs Omowunmi Lawrence.

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