The Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday tackled President Muhammadu Buhari, Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Wike accused the Federal Government of poor governance, nepotism, marginalisation and state-sponsored repression.
The governor alleged that impunity, political intimidation, economic sabotage, state repression, election rigging and abuse of power were wrong, not only against Rivers but wrongs against the country.
Wike spoke yesterday at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital while opening the 13th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) and Extraordinary Convention of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), with the theme: “Nigerian Media: Balancing Professionalism, Advocacy and Business.”
The conference, which ought to have been hosted by Bauchi State, was chaired by Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua and had in attendance a former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Nation, Mr. Victor Ifijeh; and a former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari; while the keynote speaker was Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene.
Rivers governor said: “We do believe that these recurrent acts of impunity, political intimidation, economic sabotage, state repression, election rigging and abuse of power are wrong not only against Rivers State, they are wrongs against the country.
“We are only pretending we think that all is well with our country. The country is in crisis, as poor governance, nepotism, marginalisation and state-sponsored repression continue to do violence to the nation’s unity and cohesion.
“At a time as this, the country needs forthright leadership and consensus building to steer the ship of state from the wrong direction it is headed, to safer grounds.
“Nigerians of goodwill must, therefore, call the minister of Information to stop stoking the embers of disharmony and divisions in the polity with his irresponsible utterances and wild allegations against members of opposition political parties.
“Today, the clamour for political restructuring, fiscal federalism, state police and guarantee for free and fair elections have never been this determined across the country and will never go away. It is becoming clearer by the day that to ignore these calls is pretentiously dangerous to the unity and the peaceful co-existence of this country.
“History teaches us that freedom will never prevail unless those who long for it are willing and ready to insist upon its value and have the courage to speak out against what they know is wrong.”
Chairman of the occasion, in his remarks, noted that the Rivers governor did something that had not been done in the history of NGE, by hosting the conference back-to-back, stating that making the media one’s friend will not mean that the public office holders and others will not be criticised or condemned when they performed below expectations or messed up.
Funtua stated that many journalists, like civil servants, had not been paid for many months, because the money is not there while calling for financial independence of the media, in order to earn the respect of society, noting that Osoba did a lot to keep the media together.
The NPAN president, while also speaking, stated that as long as online and social media were dominated by fake news, the traditional media will continue to thrive.
President of NUJ declared that journalists should be able to carve a niche for themselves and stop being beggarly, to be respected.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, in his goodwill message, assured NGE of continuous support of the National Assembly, especially the Senate.
Bayelsa Information commissioner insisted that Nigeria’s unity was negotiable and called for restructuring, to move forward, while believing in one Nigeria.
NAWOJ president urged National Assembly to legislate on media salary and to take the issue seriously while adding that there is a need for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria.
The keynote speaker declared that NGE members must first get honest and ethical journalism right before they can balance professionalism, advocacy and business while maintaining that journalists, especially editors, must free themselves from politicians.
In her welcome address, Egbemode said: “The Editor in Nigeria gives his heart and soul for years. He works impossible hours and labours under the yoke of deadlines for poor remuneration. Then he wakes up one day and he is out of a job. He has no saving. He is not equipped for anything else outside the newsroom. He is stranded and abandoned by the job he gave everything to. That is why being a veteran journalist is not a title of honour. It is a euphemism for being broke and poor.
“Ours is a besieged and beleaguered industry. Both the profession and the professionals are not in a good place right now. The recession may be receding in other sectors, but in the media, hardly so. Indeed, our recession predates the nationally recognised one. We have been in a bad place for a long time and right now, we all can feel the ground shift under our shaking legs. We take care of everybody else’s interest. We watch out for everybody and we have always done that for years.
“This year, it is all about us, our profession, our fate and our economy, as we navigate the testy thirsty waters that threaten to sweep us into a fast-moving current. This ANEC is for us to assess where we are and find a way to safety. “
The president of NGE also expressed gratitude to Wike and Rivers, for not just hosting the conference back-to-back, but also because the governor accepted to do so with less than six weeks notice.