Dearth of home-grown books on journalism in Nigeria stimulates Voices Beyond the News Room, says Ikiebe



Accolades were poured on a scholar, media practitioner and teacher of journalism, Richard Ikiebe for his efforts in documenting media practitioners’ experiences through a book of four volumes Nigerian Media Leaders: Voices Beyond the News Room, which he recently edited. The formal presentation of the books took place last week in Lagos. At the event were experienced media practitioners, who came to celebrate one of their own. The book features 75 media leaders across print, broadcast and the academia.

The project is collaboration between the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University. Media personalities in attendance were former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Aremu Osoba, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina, Mr. Gbenga Asefaye, Editor of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja, Publisher of BusinessDay, Mr. Frank Aigbogun among others.

Adesina, who gave the keynote speech titled ‘The Media and Government: Partners in Development or sworn Adversaries’ noted that the book is a project in which he was actively involved as past president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. He said the collaboration gave the book impetus that transcends many ideas to become flesh.

Adesina added, “Instead of an adversary, President Buhari has turned full support to see the media as allies, critical partners in the quest to build a worthy new Nigeria, a country that would hold its head up high among other nations.”

He asked rhetorically, “What should be the ideal relationship between the government and the media at this critical junction in the evolution of our country? Should the media remain in an adversarial mood or be more conciliatory, lending a critical hand, as the government strives to build a new country devoid of official corruption, greed and adversity, a land where peace and justice shall reign?”

He stated that the Nigerian media had always played a critical role at different efforts in the history of the country, adding, “Indeed, the media was born into activism and stood to be counted in the colonial days, rise through to independence in the 1960s.”

Adesina also said that contrary to Buhari’s disposition 30 years ago, when he felt that freedom of the press must be trampled upon, “The president has turned full circle, and his democratic convictions have also come with the realisation and understanding of the roles of the media in the evolution of the new Nigeria. He is in a democratic mood and has asked for the right hand of fellowship of the media”.

In his remarks, Osoba said the launching of the book came to him by surprise, although he was pleased with Ikiebe, as “we media people always go out of our way to celebrate our own.” Osoba lamented the lack of media records in the country at this evolving internet age.

Christopher Kolade advised the media against party politics, adding, “Today we seem to go in the direction of party politics; more media are drown into communicating party politics.”

He said the media should instead hold those responsible for the populace to own up to their responsibility as well as to their constituency.

According to Oloja, the launching of the book is a quick response to the launch of 50 World Editors the previous week, which features only five Nigerians. He admitted that Nigeria does not have too many good books for journalists to learn from. He advised journalism students to read the book and learn from practical perspectives, adding, “It is regretful that most schools are not turning out good journalists, as most of the products cannot fit in to provide the nexus between the training school and the industry. It is a call to action that there should be a nexus between the training school and the industry, and also between the newsroom and the industry.”

The reviewer of the book, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, who tagged his presentation ‘Voices, Visibility and the Media’, said the selection of each of the 75 persons interviewed was carefully done.

Agbaje noted, “The rigour, the richness, breath and the depth of the interviews as well as the calibre of those interviewed easily secure for these volumes a special place of note in the history of media theory, practices and policies in Nigeria.”

According to him, Ikiebe focuses on the press not as a resource for others to piece but as a subject worthy of study. He said the voices comprehensively and competently turned the searchlight on self-reporting by those who have literarily shaped and interpreted the terrain of the Nigerian press in the decades since 1950s.

“It captures for posterity the dynamics of this period and the works of the key actors, thereby transforming many of these media leaders, professionals and scholars from critical agents of history to active support, sources and resources in the better explanation of the Nigeria’s public and not so public affairs,” he noted.

He added that the enduring value of these volumes lies in the effort to capture vital components, personal, institutional and collective members that were either already been lost to brutality or threat of erosion, given the average age of those interviewed.

“These volumes seek varying degrees of success to reflect these interviewees’ understanding of the urgent issues of voice, silences, visibility, memories and yearnings for the past embedded in nostalgia,” he said.

Ikiebe, who undertook the work to fill the gaps in the study of Nigerian journalism since the pioneering work of Alfred Omu’s Press and Politics in Nigeria, 1880-1937 published in 1978, said the book represents a significant contribution to the knowledge of the media, adding, “Our intention is that this book will not just be textual, but there will be soft copies to reach more readers; we have been encouraged by the support we got from NGE”.

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