If there is one group in Nigeria that has continued to lead the way and show good example to our politicians as to the true meaning and significance of national integration, it is the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
It is often said within the professional circle of senior journalists that, if you want to know Nigeria, become an NGE member and be attending its annual conferences. This is even more so if one is a member of the executive council of the NGE, which, constitutionally, meets a minimum of four times a year. Meetings and conferences take place from one city to the other, such that, in a few years, one covers many parts of this great nation sadly now teethering on tenterhooks.
The NGE is an elite body of media professionals who have attained the exalted rank of editor for a minimum of five consecutive years. This is like becoming a permanent secretary in the civil service. You first become a journalist, perhaps a reporter, and rise through the ranks, in a journey lasting several years, and get it capped with the much-sought-after post of an editor. You are then the gatekeeper whose signature is needed for any page or news item or opinion to get published or aired. Once you attain the high rank of an editor in the print, electronic or wire services, you have attained the zenith of the media profession. Every other rank above that is rather political.
Though the NGE constitution does not talk about caucuses, the truth is the group has different caucuses, all of them for the good of the body and indeed the media profession. Interestingly, you find Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis and other tribes even in the northern caucus, which covers the entire 19 northern states and Abuja FCT. All editors, irrespective of religion or tribe practicing in any part of the aforementioned areas, is automatically a member of the northern caucus.
Though northerners are obviousoy in the majority in the northern zone, their leader is the veteran editor, Mr. Adebayo Bodunrin, a topshot at DAAR Communications, owners of Africa Independent Televisin and Raypower FM.
In an article penned last year by Mr. Bodunrin, he wrote thus: “I am glowing with smiles because I have so far lived an action-packed life, starting as a lowly paid clerk with CFAO and Vicinanza Construction Limited, Kano, to being a trade unionist and administrator with Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), as well as a professional journalist for over four uninterrupted decades with Nigerian Herald, Radio Nigeria (FRCN), The Punch, Vanguard, and as a media adviser to the late Kano State governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, and also a journalist with DAAR Communications PLC, owners and operators of RayPower FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT).”
Is anybody surprised that a Yoruba man is leading a group that is predominantly Fulani and Hausa? Well, that is the NGE for you. It is what makes the Nigerian Guild of Editors tick, as a group that sees and considers Nigeria as one entity, in spite of our heterogeneity.
Some of us who are privileged to be members of the NGE northern caucus see Mr. Bodunrin as a father figure, even when he is a contemporary by age to some of our seniors like Abdulkadir Ahmed Kwakwatawa. He is one person who leads from the front and is a classical example of what selfless and credible leadership stands for.
Mr. Bodunrin possesses personal integrity at the highest. Some of us have tempted him with offer to contest for positions in the NGE, but even though it is the dream of many an editor to be an exco member of the NGE, Bayo would have none of that. He makes sacrifices to ensure the best for the group he leads.
A smaller example of that kind of credible leadership in the NGE comes in the person of Dr. Sule Ya’u Sule, a public relations and media guru who has seen it all. Sule is the respected chairman of the Kano-Jigawa Forum, operating under the northern caucus, he recently achieved heights unprecedented in the history of the NGE, organising the best biennial convention of the NGE in the historic city of Kano.
I recall it all started like play. Three of us sat down and thought that editors should be afforded an opportunity to have a feel of what the northern environment is, and we came up with the idea of having Kano to host the biennial convention. And, pronto, we recruited Dr. Ya’u into the mix. He got in touch with former NUJ president Mohammed Garba, now information commissioner in Kano, and, in no time, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje accepted to host Nigerian editors in the ancient city. And they came in large numbers, over 300 of them.
The story of the huge success of the biennial convention will be told another day, but it gave Nigerian editors the opportunity to see for themselves what the security situation in the northern part of the country truly is, even if Kano has not been the epicentre of the banditry raging in parts of the North-West. It was also an opportunity for them to see and rate the wonderful performance of Governor Ganduje, who defeated many of us physically, personally leading us on an inspection tour of several projects he executed in the state. Many editors got tired, so much so that some chose to remain in the vehicles conveying us round Kano, but the governer kept pushing us harder, personally leading the way.
Kano 2021 also turned out to be one of the most peaceful conventions ever staged by the guild. Two personal friends of mine contested for the high post of president, and the incumbent, Mustapha Isah, who desired one more term in office, won handsomely. He was magnanimous in victory, and will now lead Nigerian editors for the next two years, after which the baton will be handed over to the northern zone, headed by Adebayo Bodunrin.
Bayo it was who ensured that the northern zone went to the election as one, united family, with almost all positions settled days before the election, and those put forward winning unopposed. They include my good brothers and friends Ali M. Ali, as deputy president, Habibu Kila, as vice president, North, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, as general secretary, and Comrade Umoru Ibrahim and Gbenga Adeshina as members of the Standing Committee. All of them are very credible senior journalists and editors who have paid their dues in the media profession.
One of the high points for me was the victory of my brother from another mother, the managing director/editor-in-chief of the Sun newsoapers, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, who is now a member of the Standing Committee. Ukeh is also another example of a true Nigerian in whose dictionary tribalism and ethnicity do not exist.
Many of us see him as an honourary member of the northern caucus, even though he practices in Lagos. The editors of Thisday and Vanguard newspapers are also now holders of big positoons in the exco, just like my former MD in the New Telegraph, Mr Gabriel Akinadewo.
But then there is a snag. This time around, the NGE failed in the gender-sensitivity test. There was a time in recent past when more than half of members of the exco were females. Now out of the sixteen members, only my good friend Madam Boma was able to win a seat. Others, such as Rose Moses, another excellent friend, were not successful in their bid, but it is only a matter of time. Some of them that could not make it now are surely going to get it next time, as they succeeded in announcing themselves and selling their candidature to the elite group of intellectuals.
With Nigeria now on the brink of disintegration, the NGE has shown that living together is still possible, and is indeed the best option for us all as a nation. Together, we stand, and divided, we fall, so goes a popular maxim. Psychologists tell us about individual differences, meaning that God has created us differently. But throughout history, countries that ended up balkanised almost always regret their actions.
You first of all lose your power as one big entity, to a small inconsequential one that is hardly reckoned with by anyone. For decades, Southern Sudan fought to be a nation of its own from Sudan. Now their wish has been granted, but it turns out to be one huge blunder, with many citizens wishing to return to mainstream Sudan. We pray that Nigeria survives and builds an egalitarian society where justice and fairness reign supreme.
At personal level, I want to seize this platform to thank Nigerian editors for the great confidence they have reposed in my by voting me into high offices each of the three times I contested for elections during different biennial conventions. I started as Vice President in charge of Abuja and the 19 northern states, and was elected to this big office in the historic city of Ibadan in 2013, the same time presidential spokesman Femi Adesina was also elected president. Two years later in Lagos, I was returned unopposed to the same office.
But I did not have it easy two years later, in 2017, when I sought to become Deputy President of the NGE. The powers-that-be were arrayed against small me, but I was not deterred. With very influential and credible editors, such as Mr. Tony Akiotu, Ahmed Shekarau, Yusuf Alli, Sule Ya’u Sule, Maimuna Garba, Ibrahim Mammaga, Onuoha Ukeh, Badamasi Burji, Aishatu Sule, Ahaziah Suleiman, Sani Suleiman, Dr Sabastine Abu, Hajia Sani and the great Bayo Bodunrin solidly supporting me, I managed to win the election by one solitary but powerful vote.
I received the support of editors from all parts of Nigeria and hereby appeal for understanding if I fail to mention the name of all those who made that great victory possible. If that victory were to be credited to particular institutions or groups, I will mention editors from the AIT and the News Agency of Nigeria, as well as the Kano-Jigawa Forum and Progressive NGE, co-chaired by veteran editor Chief Ken Njoku.
Two years later, in 2019, I did what many Nigerian politicians could not do. Though it was offered to me on a platter, I turned down all entreaties to go for a second term of office that I will have won unopposed. Indeed, the person I led in nominating as my replacement, Malam Umar Tudunwada, was elected as Deputy President unopposed. Tragically, he died barely three months later.
There are very many scenarious that has continued to buttress the Nigerian Guild of Editors as a credible group that holds a solid promise for a greater Nigeria where all its citizens attain their manifest destiny, and one is proud to belong there.
With personalities of excellent character like Adebayo Bodunrin leading influential groups in the Guild, its future as a pressure group of top-level professionals is even more assured. Brass Tacks wishes Mustapha Isah, the newly elected President, well, and look forward to a more glorious NGE under his credible watch.