By EBERE WABARA
It is quite unfortunate that a very good friend of mine who has distinguished himself in journalism and “paid his dues”, Mr Steve Osuji of The Nation Newspapers, was embarrassingly and ignominiously disqualified from contesting the recent presidential election of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) held at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos, on grounds of some murky and restrictive constitutional guidelines.
I have the conviction that at the next constitution review of the association, this matter should be escalated lest we evolve a cultist organization administered by a marginal percentage of the membership. The electoral provision issuing from the union’s constitution that you must have been an official of the NGE before contesting any position is a charade by any shred. What this means is that most members are perpetually disenfranchised from participating in any poll organized by the Guild.
From all indications, the NGE election is becoming less competitive, unattractive and cliquish. The NGE should not operate like the extortive, irresponsible and unprofessional fringe sub-groups of the NUJ. My belief is that the Guild is far above the NUJ itself and all other media professional groups in all ramifications.
Some year years back, the body was almost fragmentized because of some self-destructive provisions that edged out Mr. Tony Akiotu of Africa Independent Television/RayPower media conglomerate from eminently emerging as the president of the union. Right now, I am sure that the ugly incident resulted in great apathy towards the Guild by Akiotu and his numerous supporters from his establishments and other outfits.
I do not know where this colonial practice of executive membership of the Guild pursuant to contesting elections came from. Even in national and other associational electioneering engagements, this relic does not come up. Once you are a registered and financial member of the party/union, you are eligible to contest. Even in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a fresh senator like Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has the potentialities and robust prospects of becoming the deputy Senate president next month. Nothing says it must be one docile and senile (four-term or three-term senator) that must lead the red chamber, which is what the Guild’s privileged leadership is systemically enthroning.
This same NGE that is making fuss of officialdom in polling also dishes out fellowship to all manner of members based on some weird rationalizations that defy logic. Just because a short-term editor becomes an information and strategy (whatever that means) commissioner in one third-tier state, he becomes a Fellow of the Guild! What does that mean? I have seen very junior colleagues who got government appointments being conferred with fellowship of the Guild. This is bunkum! Those of us emeritus editors with celebrated careers who have not had the misfortune of public service appointment will remain non-fellows of the Guild until, perhaps, retirement and oblivion!
The NGE must do something about its membership. Anytime I attend the biennial conference, I am scandalized by the personalities of some delegates. Just like past editions, the recent one was not better. I saw some delegates lacking in self-dignity, confidence, carriage and cerebral comportment in their conversations. A few indeed advertised poverty! I was compelled to question myself why I should belong to the same association with the flotsam and jetsam of society. Some wore clothes that symbolized itinerant herdsmen! Agreed that the hood does not make the monk, but when other professional bodies meet, the appearance, charisma and carriage of their members speak volumes of their reputation and perception.
When some never-do-well journalists are disengaged from employment, the next line is to become “publishers/editors” of ragtag, yellowish and illiterate publications culminating immediately in their membership of our great union. We need to stop this charlatanism.
Our colleagues in the electronic media compound issues associated with membership of the Guild. Virtually everyone in the News Department or related units is one editor or another such that almost every journalist in this divide is an editor. In the print arm, it is much more streamlined and transparently so—not shrouded in some nomenclatural mumbo-jumbo. The leadership of Funky Baby should find a way of cleaning the Augean stables lest we ridicule ourselves in the courts of other professionals.
Of all the copious contestants in the last election who kept bombarding my handset with campaign messages, only Funke and one Agboh deemed it fit to send notes of appreciation for voting them into their respective offices. It confirms their sterling character and signs of anticipatory profound service unlike their indifferent co-contestants who did not bother about gratitude. I wish both of you greater heights even beyond the Guild. As for Funke, I see her becoming the deputy governor, if not the governor, of the State of Osun in 2023. And so shall it be.
As I pointed out in the article precedent to this when she was elected the Guild’s president two years ago, Funke has gone beyond the thresholds of her predecessors put together. This summation is based on her record of service succinctly delivered to us at the conference a fortnight ago. I have no doubt that she will consolidate on that unprecedented profile of hers that has elevated our union from redundancy to activism and visibility.
If not that she was running an accountable “government”, I would have raised eyebrows about her increasing youthfulness, pulchritude, vivaciousness, delectableness, modest opulence and the unconscious conversion of her Romanesque residence to a posh and an exotic private automobile assemblage with only Bugatti car worth 9.5 million pounds yet to be added! I can now understand why my pal of over four decades, Kenneth Ugbechie, is publicly craving for a romantic, but innocuous, embrace from this woman of valour and invaluableness. He wants her exponential wealth and emotional currency to rub off on him! Funky, I no trust Ken in these matters of the heart! Be circumspect!
It is obvious that Funke Egbemode will take the Guild to virgin (no pun intended) heights that no past president ever explored. Her task is made easier by the competency and capacity of her executive whose loyalty and commitment I can vouch for with my “loot” (go tell EFCC!) in two second-tier banks and other fixed assets—blow your own trumpet! Haven’t I come a long way from the heyday of the Daily Times of yore?
I wish ever-radiant Funky Mama an even more eventful second term far better than the landmark accomplishments and promise of her first term. Our God that is ever faithful and awesome will lead you from the Editors’ House to Government House in the State of Osun. That is my vision for you. And so shall it be. Remember me when you get to your paradise wherever, whenever, whatever…! Reciprocity awaits you, too, if I get there before you! We are almost there, by God’s grace. Cheers.
Wabara, a Nigerian editor, writes from Lagos.