Veterans and senior journalists with requisite experience and capacity have been challenged to set up and manage media companies to complement existing platforms and provide jobs for thousands of journalists seeking employment in the industry.
Executive director, news, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Suleiman Ahaziah, threw the challenge recently at the unveiling of a magazine, African Leadership Scorecard, published by a former managing editor of Daily Times newspaper, Bonaventure Melah.
Ahaziah, who was special guest of honour at the event held at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Utako, Abuja, stated that, while many newspapers and other media companies in Nigeria were going extinct, new ones were not springing up to close the gap. He lamented that the situation has led to many journalists losing their jobs without finding new opportunities to showcase their skills.
The VON executive director, who disclosed that he had a very cordial working relationship with the African Leadership Scorecard publisher when he was at the VON as special assistant to a former director-general, expressed confidence that the new media platform would be professionally managed because of the vast experience the publisher garnered in the field over the years.
“If you do a check, you will find out that we have barely 10 surviving national newspapers in the country today. The rest are just managing to keep their heads above water. Apart from newspapers, there are very few television stations with national spread in Nigeria, when compared with the country’s population.
“For a country with close to 200 million people, this is grossly inadequate. On the other hand, there are thousands of practising journalists and hundreds of thousands of others who have either graduated and are searching for jobs in the industry or in the universities studying mass communication or related courses and are potential applicants in the sector.
“There is, therefore, the urgent need for the establishment of more media outlets in the country to feed the teeming population with necessary news and information to help them contribute to nation-building as well as provide the platforms for practitioners in the industry,” Ahaziah said.
Ahaziah, therefore, commended Melah for establishing the African Leadership Scorecard magazine, barely one month after leaving his former place of work, describing it as a “bold and fearless step in the right direction.”
“With his wealth of experience, having worked with various media organisations in the public and private sectors, from junior level as a reporter to the highest management position as managing editor of a national daily, there is no doubt that Bonaventure is coming with something that would be quite refreshing and a positive deviation from the status quo,” Ahaziah said.
Chairman on the occasion, Onuorah Madu, the managing director, Authority newspaper, said Melah has thrown a big challenge to journalists to have a second thought on what to do with their lives and career in an industry where majority of the practitioners live in abject poverty.
He said, apart from delay and, sometimes, outright non-payment of salaries, there were no exit plans by employers for journalists in the country.
“Nobody cares about journalists. As important as training is, our employers don’t send us on training because they don’t want us to be good to ourselves; they don’t want us to acquire expertise and become managers. Most of us don’t have retirement plans for the next five to 10 years.
“I, therefore, see the establishment of African Leadership Scorecard by Melah as a welcome challenge and wake-up call to all of us. As a journalist, please, go and train yourself because your employer has no interest in you or your wellbeing.
“We have the need for new platforms, new publications, established and managed by professional journalists themselves. We have to brace up as it is time to take our destinies in our hands,” he said.
The chairman of Abuja chapter of the NUJ, Emma Ogbeche, commended Melah for stepping into a difficult terrain, adding, however, that he trusts the publisher’s courage and discipline, which, he said, would combine to make the project a success.
In his speech, Melah said he established the magazine as a humble contribution to the growth and continued development of journalism in Nigeria.
“African Leadership Scorecard is a special communication platform meant for public and private sectors’ performance measurement. The overall objective of the magazine is to provide a strategic media outlet for leaders in the private and public sectors to showcase their achievements and exploits in quality service delivery. In other words, though a general interest publication, the magazine is a testimonial certificate, as we only publish what is scored by the leader or institution,” he said.
Other top journalists that attended the event were two former NUJ Abuja chapter chairmen, Abdul Jelil Adebayo and Edi Jacob, Abuja chapter chairperson of National Association of Nigerian Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Stella Okoh-Esene, assistant director, news, VON, Latifat Afegbua, executive director and associate editor, Authority newspaper, Geo Nwankwo and Williams Orji, respectively, as well as deputy editor, Blueprint newspaper, Chizoba Ogbeche, among many others.