By Ademola Orunbon•
Nine months after the successful conduct of its elective positions, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Ogun state council is still engulfed in crisis as disgruntled members, bent on having their way to control the council at all cost, stepped up to challenge the legitimacy of the newly-inaugurated leadership.
Can the centre therefore hold for the few members of the Union to undermine the wills and wishes of majority in disrupting the Union in the state, especially for the state with major stakeholders of journalism in the country? What a state, which named as a cradle of Journalism in Nigeria!
It is often said that the route in politics littered with broken relationship and bedfellows. This is playing itself out in the Ogun state Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists. Or how else would one define or call the befalling calamity ravaging the state council of NUJ. I do not myself find the belief plausible and would like to explain why by giving an account of three major decisions that turned NUJ soared among the councils of the federation and NUJ as a whole.
One major decision that undermining the successful of the Union in the country is the fact the Union was founded in 1907 in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, named as National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and has only 38,000 members then, and it is a member of the International Federation of Journalists. The industry then has never needed an active and strong union as much as it does now; it is only the voice for journalists and journalism. It is then an inclusive union and represents a broad range of media professionals.
The NUJ then strive to improve the pay and conditions of its members and protect and promote media freedom, professionalism and ethical standard. This is an active union then that its members campaign and negotiate to ensure we are properly rewarded for the skilled work we do and it’s represented in towns and cities all over the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe. NUJ members act together to improve living standards and working lives, they are also represented across the media – as staffers, casuals and freelance in broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, books, public relations, photographers and in new media.
Mind you, the Union is an independent trade union and has been representing journalists throughout the media industry for over 100 years, it’s a democratic, member led grassroots organization-it is members in workplace chapels and branches who shape union policy and direct priorities.
The union provides training for members, the union representatives have powers to ensure the risk of injury or ill-health are reduced or eliminated at work and every year the union helps hundreds of members win damages from employers and clients. It is also defends press freedom when it comes under threat as we are experiencing under this disguise military junta pretending to be civilian.
But, the moment the name was changed by Nigerians through the founding of the Nigerian Union of Journalists NUJ, on the 15th of March, 1955 in Lagos, the mission and vision of the former union was buried and jettisoned, though, it was linked to the struggle for the independence of Nigeria. And the struggle, it would be recalled gave birth to many protest groups, all yearning for the country’s independence from British.
The groups came in various shades. Some were political in nature, like the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), a platform for the nationalists, while others were trade unions and professional groups. Though, many of the journalists then had little education and with the ideas brought by their more enlightened colleagues, they began to agitate for better pay packages from publishers.
As these young and enthusiastic journalists started to compare notes among themselves, their desire for better conditions of service became more pronounced. It however, did not occur to them that they could pursue the goal through a common point. One factor that must be noted about the birth of the union was that the late Chief Olu Oyesanya who spearheaded its formation, and was then an Information Officer in the Department of Information under the colonial Government. At the then second meeting of the NUJ, officers were elected after the constitution had been ratified.
Another decision that affecting or causing crisis in the Union can be traced to the poverty of the mind and the mental poverty, indeed, everything in this world is relative and poverty is a state mind for someone perceiving it, so people become poor because of society or bad luck. And anybody can be poor on a given day as far as we could not be contented with the little we are having.
Also, mental poverty could be simply attributed to an impoverished mind, it is also a way of living for some and it is a condition and state of mind where there are limited. Imagine, how two factional leaders of the same NUJ are fighting dirty for just a position of authority, and when you asked them, why fighting standstill for the positions, they will be given flimsy excuses.
Those past and present administration of NUJ in the state could not accountable for their spending when members of the Union demanded, what a shame, though, the leadership of the NUJ had been having political crisis and quagmire from the national level which split the leadership into two. One belongs to Waheed Odusile faction while the other pinched their pavilions with Chris Isiguzo, which was indicted for certificate scandal or forgery and the case still before the court of law.
As at today, the lingering crisis at the Ogun state council of NUJ far beyond over as the person in saddle of the Chairmanship were not even or duly voted for, but the faction were with the Isiguzo-led administration, the present National President of the Union. What is Mrs. Olugbenro Oluremi and others were doing at the Secretariat of the Council, though she has some confidants in persons of Comrade Wole Shokunbi and Lanre Ogunyinka. Are they elected on opposed or what? These are the questions that require quick response.
Imagine when journalists in the state could not call themselves to order, how much more those they are reporting for the people, what messages are they now passing to the people? They could not report themselves now, all because they are all feeling ashamed. The fourth estate of the realms, they failed to comport themselves in a good and lay a good foundation for the younger ones.
I went to one of my friends in recent time to discuss a very tangible issue with him, what he first said was that, “you journalists, your own style of politics is even worst to those politicians you are reporting about for the entire populace”, what a disgrace to the national body of the Union.
Lastly, it’s seemed that the national body had lost its integrity, where is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principle and value of the Union? Why it is that the national body are now given recognition to what it terms as nonentity and defeated candidates among the entire Union.
Though, both of the factions that slug it out or vying for the positions of authority were the birds of the feathers. The national and state leadership of the union had lost their integrity and personalities. And the attributes of integrity, which includes; truthfulness, responsibility, accountability, loyal, self-awareness, impression management, vision and assertiveness had evaded them.
What they were all after now is how to make money through the Union platform. When they were given slots of works and goods by the prominent members of Ogun state indigenes, instead of the equal distribution of the largess, they will snatch it among the executive members and dash it out to their beloved ones. Works and goods that belongs to every members of the state NUJ
The state NUJ council had been in retrogress for the past twenty years or thereabout, all money, job opportunities, goods and services offered the entire Union were being mismanaged by the poor and greed management of the past administration of the Union, till date the council Secretariat had no toilet facilities, parking spaces, no good and well-furnished offices for the members of the Executives, imagine the faith of ordinary members of the Union.
The secretariat structure had been defected; the people are now working with nervous at the premises especially in fear and panic of not being collapsed. Its permanent site was bushy and had become a place where snakes, donkey, animals and other reptile were living. They could not accountable for its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), truthfulness, responsibility and other attributes of integrity had eluded the leadership of the Union. It is imperative to do away with our greed and cupidity if truly we want the best for the Union and ourselves, so also to protect the integrity of the Union as whole. Mind you, human wants are copious, numerous and nobody has it all.
Now to the crisis management of the NUJ, there must be a process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders, but it’s appeared and obvious that the council elders had been compromised and betrayed our trust in them, they have jeopardized all the confidences reposed on them by showing unpatriotic attitude the crisis lingering the Union for the past nine months or thereabout.
What sorts of foundations are they lying down for younger generation of the state council? Where are the likes of Demola Badejo, Niyi Ogunpola, Tunde Shodeke, Layi Labode (Baaroyin), Eddy Aina, Demeji Awoyemi, Kunle Thomas and Shoniran Showemimo to mention but a few? They need to wake up from their slumbers and resolve the crisis once and for without and fear or favour. Are you going to fold your arms and watch the state of the cradle of journalism and its council disintegrates before you? Though, being an elder statesman of the Union, it is time to summon both of the factional leadership of the warring factions, in persons of Soji Amosu and Olugbenro Oluremi and their godfathers that beating the drum of destructions to sheathe their sword and embrace conflict doggedness to let the peace reign in the council.
These conflicts had being degenerated to many chapels which has nothing to do about their crisis. The tenure of many Chapels had been ended but couldn’t conduct an election because of the state Council crisis. Where two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffer the battle, so whose interest of this crisis and conflicts?
At the national level, Waheed Odusile is challenging the legibility/legality of the Chris Isiguzo after winning an election at his hometown here in Abeokuta, after dazed him chivalrously at the last national congress of the Union, likewise too, Olugbenro Oluremi is also challenging the victory of Soji Amosu, who won on a landslide at the March state congress of the Union. But, Olugbenro through her godfathers; Wole Sokunbi and Lanre Olayinka planted her as the new Chairman of the Council after two separate Court injunctions.
We, as journalists were used to parade offenders of court injunctions and criminals by showcasing them to the members of the public in order to learn from the act, now we are the ones that falling into such victims too. Who is going to showcase us and what are the publics is going to learn from our transgressions too?
It is time we discard the idea of getting diverse court injunction or consecutively running from pillar to post for nothing but greed and selfish interest but embrace peace, harmony and let’s nip all our grievances in the bud in order to move the state council the NUJ to the greater height.
- Orunbon, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote from Abeokuta