ECHOES OF THE 2019 DELTA NUJ PRESS WEEK – By Johnson Ebigide

The 2019 Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Week, tagged “Enhancing Safety Of Journalists In A Security Challenged Polity”, has come and gone , but its resounding success has kept on reverberating in the state and beyond.

Doubting Thomases who strongly believed that it would fail for reasons best known to their personal imaginations, have been taught the useful lesson to always believe in purposeful and responsive leadership in human endeavours owing to the smooth, proactive and wonderful organisation of the press week by the present Comrade Ikeogwu leadership of the union in the state.

For over 28 years now, which spans the creation of the state ( August 27, 1991 – 2019 ), press weeks of the union have been organised by succeeding leaderships of the union in the state, with the exception of the unfortunate interregnum during which the union witnessed the worst setbacks so much so that Comrade Tunke Bisina, then of the Daily Independent Newspaper, described the state council of the union as the ” NUJ House Of Horror ” in an incisive write up that depicted the festering rots in which the council was then wallowing, until peace and normalcy finally returned to the council through the pivotal role of the Comrade Osita Biose leadership of the union in the state.

The press week kicked off with a sensitisation walk of members of the union in the state from the temporary Press Centre in Oghara Street, DDPA Housing Estate, through the Police Headquarters to the popular Shoprite, up to the Ministry of Information, down to the Government House, through some major streets along Anwai Road and back to the Press Centre in Asaba. The sensitisation walk that was carnival like was to inform the public about the activities lined up for the press week and to urge members of the public to key into the vision of the union during the week and thereafter.

Of course, it was thoughtful of the Comrade Ikeogwu leadership to identify with the members of the union in the state who have one health challenge or the other. Hence, immediately after the sensitisation walk, Comrade Ikeogwu led members of his Exco to visit such members, giving them the much needed hope to believe that their present predicament was not the end of life.

From Asaba to Ughelli, through Sapele, up to Warri and back to Asaba, the team not only beamed faces of smile on the erstwhile depressed members of the union on account of their health, but gave indications as to how to assist them in their trying moment.

Of note is the visit of the team to Comrade Gabriel Awodegha, Publisher of the Delta Periscope and member of the Isoko Correspondents Chapel as well as the visit to Comrade Bernard Okpu, a one time Chairman of the state council and erstwhile staff of the Delta State Broadcasting Service, Asaba, among others.

Next was the novelty football match between the dreaded Government House and Protocol team and that of the NUJ at the St. Patrick’s College playing ground in Asaba.

The match which witnessed exquisite displays of football artistry by the two teams ended with the NUJ team defeating the rampaging from Government House 2-1 ! The NUJ drew the first blood in less than 15 minutes, but the formidable Government House team levelled up before the half time.

The unexpected happened in the 70th minute when the mesmerising NUJ team took the lead, forcing their opponents to play one of their best matches, to no avail, as scores remained 2-1 in favour of NUJ at regulation time !!!

The grand finale of the press week took place at the prestigious David’s Event Centre, along Anwai Road in Asaba. It was the Lectures/Awards/ Fundraising occasion of the event.

In a welcome address the Chairman of the state council of the union, Comrade Mike Ikeogwu, called on critical stakeholders in the state and beyond to assist towards the completion of the union press centre in the Asaba. He said that the leadership of the union in the state decided to include fundraising as part of the 2019 Press Week celebration, considering the urgent need to complement the efforts of the state government towards the completion of a befitting press centre for the union in the state, adding that there was the need to entrench public-private-partnership in the running of the union in the state, just as he decried the revelation that it was only the Delta State Council of the union that was yet to have a press centre in the South-South geopolitical region of Nigeria.

The labour leader thanked the invited guests for coming in their numbers to identify with the union, saying that the state government deserved commendations for its determination to ensure an early completion of the union press centre, which he said had gone well above 80% completion, early next year.

Several distinguished personalities from various walks of human endeavours were bestowed with awards of excellence to highlight their contributions towards uplifting humanity. Of note is that of a one time chairman of the union in the state, Comrade Osita Biose (AKA Ojogwu), who bagged “The Worthy Peace Ambassador Of The NUJ” award.

Comrade Biose is an archetypal of those putting in their best to uplift humanity, but whose efforts are derided or ignored as insignificant ! But a golden fish is never hidden in a shallow river. Such is Comrade Biose’s quintessence, which radiated so glowingly so much so that the leadership of the union in the state thought it wise to announce it to the public through an award of excellence.

Presenting Comrade Biose wirh the award, Comrade Ikeogwu maintained that Comrade Biose laid the solid foundation of the prevailing peace upon which the union is fast growing in the state, noting that it was proper to identify and recognise the source of the unity of purpose in the state council of the union after many years of rancour and bickering among members of the union in the state, just as he thanked as he thanked Comrade Biose for his untiring support for the union in the state and beyond.

Responding, Comrade Biose, who was pleasantly surprised with the announcement of the award for him, thanked the leadership of the union in the state for deeming him worthy of the award, adding that he always had a burning passion to ensure that the union grows to greater heights in an atmosphere of peace in the state and beyond, just as he said that the award would spur him on to do more for the union in the country.

The NUJ Peace Ambassador enjoined members to always rally round the leadership of the union at all levels, saying that no human was infallible, even as he urged the leadership of the union to be responsive, accountable and exhibits high sense of integrity towards building the much needed trust and confidence of the members, which he said was necessary for the growth of the union in the state and beyond. It would be recalled that Comrade Biose not only returned lasting peace to the state council when he presided, but has been working assiduously in nurturing peaceful coordination of the various chapels of the union in Delta State.

Another recipient at the occasion whose award has been attracting commendations to the Comrade Ikeogwu leadership is Comrade Prince Kpokpogri. He was bestowed with “Anti-corruption Ambassador And Integrity Award”. Comrade Kpokpogri is the Chairman/CEO of Anti Corruption and Integrity Forum. He is also the publisher of the Integrity Watchdog International Magazine, which is has been championing the fight against corruption and bad leaderships in the country and beyond.

Describing the situation, the Vice-Chairman of the union in the state, Comrade Patrick Ochei, said that “we were bold to honour a man, who as a young man, took up a crusade against corruption and corrupt individuals over the years and today, he is being recognized in not only Nigeria but beyond. ”

Other recipients of awards at the occasion included the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA), Rt. Honourable Sheriff Oboreuwori, former Deputy Speaker, DTHA, Rt. Honourable Friday Osanebi, Pioneer Chairman of the union in the state and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovouzuorie Macaulay, among others.

Two resource persons, Dr Emmanuel Biri and Kenneth Gbagi, represented by Dr Emmanuel Akpoveta had earlier delivered lectures at the occasion. While Dr Biri decried the danger inherent in unnecessary and arbitrary regulation of digital Journalism, maintaining that such move was not only an affront on human rights to information and national development as well as media freedom, Gbagi duelled on enhancing safety of journalists, even as he condemned unethical practices among journalists, particularly the quacks that had taken over the New Media spectrum.

The Chairman of the occasion, who was also a recipient of an award of excellence, Dr Ignatius Ezoem, enjoined journalists to ensure objectivity in their reportage, adding that journalists in the country should avoid sensationalism in their stories to forestall the danger of hitting up the polity.

The National President of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, represented by the National Trustee of the union, South South Zone, Comrade John Angese, thanked the state government for coming to the aid of the council in its desire to expedite the completion of the union press centre in the state.

Reacting to the outcome of the press week, an elated Comrade Ikeogwu thanked God and other critical stakeholders who ensured that the event was hugely successful, saying that there was the need for all members of the union in the state to always identify with the vision of the leadership of the union.

Yes, the Comrade Ikeogwu leadership of NUJ in Delta State has demonstrated responsiveness, accountability, rare managerial competence and selflessness in piloting affairs of the union in the state. Echoes of the union 2019 press week in the state say it all!.