Penultimate Friday was a day of torrents of tributes for departed Nigerian media icons. It was even a day Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo charged the media chiefs to use their inconsiderable influence to strengthen the unity of the nation. Muritala Ayinla reports
…as VP tasks media on Nigeria’s unity
The tempo of activities at the Muson Centre, Lagos, was unusually high penultimate Friday when the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) honoured a number of media heroes who recently passed on.
The calibre of the dignitaries, heavy presence of security personnel, array of vehicles and high profile of the personalities that graced the event were all clear indications that the gathering was indeed that of the highly influential sector in the country.
It was indeed an “Afternoon of Tributes” to celebrate the life and times of departed media leaders, many of whom passed on recently after living indelible marks in the sands of time. They had indeed etched their names in gold for their landmark contributions to nation building through their professional calling. Among the departed Nigerian media heroes posthumously honoured were: the Life Patron of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Mallam Issa Funtua; former Lagos State Governor and Pioneer President of the Nigerian Guild Editors (NGE), Alhaji Lateef Jakande; ex-President and Secretary-General of NGE, Prince Tony Momoh; former Director-General of FRCN, Mr Ben Egbuna; the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Mr Sam Nda-Isiah; former Editor Daily Express Newspapers, Mr Eddie Aderiokun; former Managing Director News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mallam Wada Maida; former General Manager, Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Bisi Lawrence and former publisher New Nation, Mr Gbolabo Ogunsanwo.
They were honoured for being remarkable and outstanding giants of their craft in every right. The gathering was indeed a celebration of their lives and the illustrious tradition to which they belonged, the event symbolised a reflection on their legacies, and an affirmation of the great values for which they stood. Consequently, media gurus comprising those still practicing, those who have taken political appointments and those in advertising and public relations, all gathered at the expansive hall of the Muson Centre to pay torrents of tributes to the media legends.
The occasion also served as avenue for the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to extol the role of media in the nation’s independence and the entrancement of democracy. The VP, who also highlighted various indefatigable roles played by the fallen media giants at their various times, using different medium to shape opinion and fight oppressors. He said their exit had left a significant vacuum in the nation and the media because they all stood for justice, freedom and right of the common man. According to the Vice President, at this trying time, everyone must ask himself or herself if their actions are building up the country or are tearing her down.
This, he said, is really only one divide at this point and it is the line between those who are committed to constructive action and those who are pursuing a destructive course. Harping on the media power in shaping, influencing public opinion and setting agenda, Osinbajo tasked the media leaders in Nigeria to use their considerable influence to seek ways of achieving a consensus on strengthening the nation’s unity and ensuring responsible use of social media at this turbulence period of the nation’s life.
At the event, that was attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and his Ekiti State counterpart, Dr Kayode Fayemi, former Ogun State Governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba as well as other dignitaries, Osinbajo described the departed media leaders as giants who understood the struggles of their times and embraced their roles in them, adding that they wrote their names in gold and remain reference points for succeeding generations. Osinbajo said: “Our country is not perfect and we all know this. But the cure for her imperfections is most certainly neither destruction nor a heedless descent into anarchy being promoted by some voices.
We all have a share in the much needed work of rebuilding, redesigning, reforming and healing our nation. “Creating commonality of purpose in ethnically and culturally diverse societies is challenging the world over. However, nation-building is not the sole preserve of politicians and governments; in fact, it is just as much a task for civil society of which the media is an important member. The giants we are celebrating today understood that journalism operates in a social context and cannot be value-neutral.
This same cognitive commitment is incumbent upon all media practitioners. We are at a time in our national odyssey in which retailers of discord and merchants of strife are working assiduously against our collective potential as a people.” Osinbajo, however, urged the media leaders and owners to seize the opportunity of the enormous power and influence of the media to work towards the unity of the country, adding that the media has been at the forefront of all our epochal struggles from the fight against colonialism to the struggle to entrench democracy.
He added that a third struggle which is the quest to deepen democracy and to realize our collective possibilities as a just, prosperous and progressive nation is now underway. “Among the powers of the press is the ability to amplify and drown out voices.
Media practitioners have a responsibility to exercise discernment in their deployment of their platforms. In this regard, we must ask ourselves whether we are empowering and amplifying the most insensate, intemperate and incendiary voices in our midst while marginalizing voices of reason. It is true that freedom of expression is enshrined in our constitution.
But we all agree that society, progress and order depend upon the responsible exercise of freedom, otherwise the end result will be anarchy. “As we struggle to build our nation with the bricks of mutuality, plurality and tolerance, I would suggest that those of us that stand as gatekeepers in the fourth estate must demonstrate a greater awareness of the sensibilities and sensitivities of our society. Debates over our country’s future will always be intense and passionate but they need not be toxic or polarizing.
The media can help to promote a climate of civility in which even the most contentious national issues can be discussed in full and frank terms without degenerating into chaos. Let us reject the temptation to fracture our society and chose instead to elevate those constructive elements in our midst that can promote justice, healing and togetherness,” he added.
Osinbajo commended the NPO and BON, who conceived the memorial of such taste and magnitude for the departed media heroes, adding that their action demonstrated the popular saying “that the care or loyalty demonstrated by those championing our cause when we are long gone is far more genuine than the obsequiousness of those engaged in ‘eye-service’ when we are still in a position to pay back.” Other dignitaries at the event include: Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Noimot Salako-Oyedele; the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar; Chairman of Channels Television, Chief John Momoh, ex-Zenith Bank boss, Jim Ovia; Commissioner for Information and Culture and former Managing Director, New Telegraph, Mrs Funke Egbemode, former Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Art and Culture, Mr Steve Ayorinde, chairmen and editors of various media organisations and other crème de la crème of the Nigerian media industry.