Starting from today, Editors of media organisations from across the country would be arriving Lagos for the Biennial Conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). As usual, the conference will provide opportunity for friends and colleagues to reunite as it has always been the practice. The conference is equally unique in that the election of the guild to fill different positions, would also hold.
Build up to the conference has shown that it would not really be business as usual. There have been agitations, though on social media that the activities of the guild have been shrouded. There are complains that been hijacked by a cabal, that word, who dictates who becomes what in the guild. Particular reference had been made to the presidency, that three former presidents of the guild, in succession, had all come from a particular state in the country, implying that this was deliberately so, while segments of those who made up the guild from other parts of the country had been deliberately sidelined in aspiring to the highest office in the guild.
All the above thus sets the tone for the conference and subsequently for the election that is scheduled to hold during the period. As a member of the guild, I have tried to look at some of the issues. Though the concerns are genuine that the guild should spread itself in terms of allocating its offices while anybody interested in any of the offices should be allowed to exercise that right, I am of the opinion that some of the issues raised came about, not because a cabal had hijacked the guild, but due to the situation that the guild had found itself in recent time.
One would recall that the last two presidents of the guild did not conclude their tenure as they were called upon to take up other national responsibilities. Mr Femi Adesina had to relinquish that position when he took up appointment as Special Adviser to President Mohammadu Buhari while his successor, Garbadeen Mohammed equally took up appointment with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). All the different officers of the Guild thus had to move up in order to fill the vacuum created.
Funke Egbemode who is contesting for the presidency of the guild only took up the mantle of leadership to complete the tenure of Adesina and Garbadeen. If she gets the nod of delegates, then one would then say her tenure had started.
Indeed, one should not begrudge Egbemode her aspiration, hardly ever do we have women leading the Guild. One of the amazons that broke the mold was late Mrs Remi Oyo who also took up appointment as Media Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Indeed, there have been issues about Egbemode coming from the same state as two other past presidents of the guild, though not a planned occurrence, I do not think the guild, as a body should go into that area. As journalists, we have always opposed and have written against issues of ethno- religious divide in the country.
We have argued that issue of ethnicity, religion should not be a consideration in appointments, rather, competence should determine such appointments. Shouldn’t we exemplify what we preach? What we should look at, as a body, is whether the aspirant is qualified and would be able to lead the guild effectively.
In any case, aspiration into the various offices of the guild becomes realizable through discussions with like-minds, experience and competence, positioning and acceptability. As it is practised in the larger society, aspirants for any position should reach out to others. The aspirants should campaign, discuss, negotiate and make concessions. It’s only through that that aspirations are realized.
Also, the build up to the conference has been a major issue in the social media. The social media is free and gives a lot of latitude to express different opinions, but issues of the guild, though touchy should be a “family affair”, which should be resolved within. I am still convinced that even if there is a cabal holding the guild hostage, there are acceptable ways of resolving such matters within.
I would not want to accept the existence of a cabal as I was equally accused of being one of the cabals, an accusation which I see as laughable as I have never been a member of any cabal.
Indeed, if I have been a member of the so-called cabal, I would have since become an officer of the guild or a member of the standing committee. This has not been the case. We should therefore not allow such talks to affect the unity that has held the guild together in all these years.
For officials of the guild whether new or old, positions are held in trust for members and criticisms or issues raised should not be a cause for bad blood, but as a way of further strengthening the bond among members, which could only happen when such issues and criticisms are looked into. On that note, I wish all the delegates a wonderful stay in Lagos. They should also explore the “sights and sounds” of the city during their stay.