bACK UP WITH AJANI SAMUEL
One component of the heritage that the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo bequeathed was press freedom. The hero of Yoruba emancipation once said: “Any breathing mortal that is deprived of freedom of expression is already a carcass in the graveyard”. He matched words with action as he established the first television station in black Africa which today is known as Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Ibadan.
This shows that the Yoruba are forerunners in civilization. The Yoruba are the pacesetters. This feat is derivable from our scholastic prowess which no other race in Nigeria can equally boast of till date. It is from this that we fashion out our boldness; and when we open up a course, others look on to learn from our God-given ingenuity. It is not today that we earn this. It is not even yesterday because it is a gradual evolutionary process which orientation we have imbibed over a long period of time. If anybody tries to strip us of this enviable quality, I think the person may relish time wastage as a hobby.
When Osun State was carved out of the old Oyo State in 1991, all the workers were asked to go to their individual states. The Ijesas, Iwos, Ifes, Ikires, the Igbominas that fell within the new state and the Osogbos, Ikiruns and Edes, all were asked to pack their personal effects and go to their new state (Osun). I remember vividly how the then military governor of the old Oyo State lamented the crop of seasoned administrators that the new Osun State was taking off with; leaving the new Oyo State with depleted civil service structure. He ran to General Ibrahim Babangida to formally lodge an appeal which almost cost him his job as a military administrator. He quickly elevated officers to fill the vacuum created, with some in acting capacity.
Radio OYO and TSOS were no exceptions. It can even be insinuated that the twin media outfits were the worst heat. About 90 per cent of the management staff and professionals left for Osun because they are either indigenes or they derived matrimonial affinity therefrom. The outfits were grossly depleted and it was as if they would not survive the depletion onslaught.
The indigenes of the new state (Osun) that left were not without their challenges. The satellite radio station at Ile-Ife was not originally designed for independent broadcast. It was just a booster station, magnifying the output from Ibadan to Ile-Ife and its environs. So, the challenge was to perform the magic that would enhance the capacity of an electronic device to go round the whole of Osun State for adequate information dissemination. The same goes with the then TSOS channel 22 UHF Ibokun. A booster station that was positioned to assuage the Ijesas for their complaint of neglect was to become the mega-station that would serve the whole state of The Living Spring, when all the segments of the state were to make do with the N3,000,000 naira that was released to Col. Leo Ajiborisa as a take-off grant. It was indeed herculean.
Trust their ingenuity; the crop of seasoned administrators and professionals quickly took up the challenges. They put heads together to prevent any blackout: The people of the new state must not be kept in the dark about the policies and the programmes of the new administration and there must be no communication gap. The magic wand became kinetic. The miracle was performed and within the shortest time possible, the cock began to crow from radio Osun at Ile-Ife. Not long after this, the television station in Ibokun followed suit and as it appeared, no negative impact has been felt because the consternation that the people of the new state would be cut off from the rest of the world was quickly averted. That prompted Col Leo Ajiborisha to conclude that he was the luckiest of all the MILADS that had just been posted to the newly-created states.
While it was a success story for Osun and its people, the people that were left in the remaining part of the old Oyo State were not so lucky. Truly, the equipments were on ground, and highly sophisticated too. The problem arose with their operations. All the people with competent technical know-how had been moved to the new state that was carved out of it. The animosity that was shown to the people earlier, removed the freedom to interact with the gurus who had departed and they grappled with this problem for a very long time before they could have a headway. At a time, they lured some of their erstwhile colleagues that were partially based in Ibadan to perform in freelance capacity until they got the mastery of the state of heart gadgets in the studios.
Back in Osun, there was unalloyed honesty to perform. It was in an atmosphere of freedom and neutrality that they were operating and this gave rise to magnificent output, and it was professionalism at its best. There was no interference of any sort because their operations were distinctly separated from politics. Between 1991 and 2003, everybody was free to operate in the overall interest of the media outfits even after befitting studios at Oke Baale, Ibokun road which later became “Ile Awiye” (courtesy of retired Olatide Ojo of Majiyagbe fame) has been put in place. The efficiency was soaring.
There was no distinction between the permanent staff and those who worked freelance because things were done with decorum and issues were handled painstakingly. Everybody had tender conscience with serious abhorrence for errors. Information would be authenticated before they became news that would be disseminated to the public. All these must have been responsible for the non-interference that they enjoyed over the years. And they were better off for it.
I am an advocate of change constancy. I believe that it is dysfunctional to remain stationary like a stagnant water that deprives systematic ebullience and ecstasy. That change, however, must be progressive.
It must be likeable from the perspective of positivism, because of a necessity; it adds value to the system and adds to the survival of the system. It is distasteful to me if we have it otherwise because that will definitely cause the system to collapse as we are having it in ILE AWIYE today, where caution has been thrown to the wind and ethos are flagrantly desecrated.
It all started in 2003 when Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola got to power (people say by default and I think I have enough reasons to agree with them). The functionaries were still the same and in fact not the change of political party hegemony was to change the leadership because the man at the helm of affairs is a strong PDP stalwart who was graciously appointed by Chief Bisi Akande during his tenure, due to his belief that sentiments have no place in governance and square pegs best suit square holes.
Immediately Governor Oyinlola got to power, he sent stern warning to Ile Awiye that of a necessity, they must be partisan. Of course, he was aware that the minority party had wangled its way to power by default and so nothing should be spared to make it look otherwise. He turned the outfits to personal estate that should be pocketed and controlled; even if inordinately.
I am only disappointed in Chief Yemi Farounbi whom I regard as a man that knows his onions. I am of the opinion that he ought to have courteously told his boss (Oyinlola), who is lay in the ethics of pen profession. He ought to have told Oyinlola that information dissemination has a twin brother of neutrality toga, which I believe were maintained by his benefactor (Chief Bisi Akande) to the extent that he (Chief Yemi Faroumbi) literally coerced Chief Bisi Akande before introducing that popular programme – ‘LABE ODAN’, because of the belief by the latter that action speaks louder than voice.
Today, freedom has been muzzled: The operators in ILE AWIYE cannot freely report point blank and every voice of opposition has been stifled, however rational it appears. The time bloom upon the first “ripe fruits” has been removed by the rough handling of the media house surrounding. The sensitive plant of piety has turned into a willow in the hand of Oyinlola; that it appears now too pliant and too easily yielding.
It is sadly true that a one-time enviable media outfit has grown by degrees so callous, that those professional aberrations that once appeared disdainful no long alarm them in the least. By degrees, they get familiar with defiant clog, because the ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds anymore. Great professional assaults are regarded as a little ill and presumption has assumed a debilitating dimension.
ILE AWIYE has gone so partisan that names are denied the right prefix; or how can one explain a situation where an engineer has become mere “Mr.” (mister) considering how passionate we are about titles in our society (where as the title in this instance was toiled and sweated for). They palliate falsehood and throw a cloak over it, but end up calling this act by dainty names. In news and documentary, you only hear Mr. Aregbesola as against Engineer Aregbesola that our society adores; having come from a dint of hard work.
This is because that is what suits the ears of the autocratic governor that has been foisted on us. By and by, little foxes are spoiling the vine of vibrancy that ILE AWIYE is known for.
This aberration is retrogressive, dangerous, and deadly. What looks inconsequential has started having its toll on the outfits of late. They have been caught in the web of their deviant behaviour. Governor Oyinlola has bastardized them that he, personally, has lost confidence in their potency. Oyinlola preferred to commit functions of image laundering into the care of personalities other than those in ILE AWIYE because he felt he has turned them to a bully where nothing good can originate anymore.
He recently decided to make use of Adeyemi Omojola of NTA Osogbo (who has become an unholy tool in the hand of Oyinlola) through the office of the Press Secretary to the Governor, and in conjunction with BEN TV.; a media outfit based in London to sell OSUN to the outside world, by-passing his brides of mass destruction in ILE AWIYE. Can you see how nemesis can catch up with a traitor?: And the general manager is a professional too.
It is needful to remind the professionals in ILE AWIYE that they have waned seriously in popularity that majority of the people in Osun have no penchant for their programmes any longer; not even for the news because people know that they are nothing but mere concoction of falsehood and embellishment. It is time for ILE AWIYE to know that as the tiny coral insect can build a rock that can wreck a navy, little strokes can fell oaks, and continual droppings can wear stones as well. Retraction is needful now; because their commissions and omissions will be weighed in the scales of eternity.