THE OONI'S JOURNALISTIC LEGACY
In school at the Jos Plateau State-based then campus of the prestigious Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) where I took an intensive professional course many years back we were told that journalists are historians but of a different dimension in that they write bits and pieces of history in a hurry. I had my very strong doubts then because I queried the logic behind writing history in a hurry but was later convinced that indeed those aspects of history written in a hurry but accurately captured make more sense than the version that would undergo series of editorial scrutiny and embellishments and sometimes insertions of variegated tissues of lies and make-beliefs like the versions of African history written by the so- called historians from the Western World who followed their contemporaries that militarily subjugated and colonised much of Africa for many years and engaged in series of looting of our natural, agroa-allied and human resources.
Mr Hegel a philosopher who provided intellectual support for the subjugation of the black race even insinuated that blacks were inferior to whites.
Anyway that’s not the focus of this piece which in some ways is a tribute to the memories of one of Nigeria’s most colourful, glamorous but politically savvy trado-cultural rulers of the YORUBA speaking nationality of South Western Nigeria-the late Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuwade.
My brief tribute or intervention was borne out of the fact that this man who left a great amount of impressions either/or in the minds and hearts of many Nigerians was once a journalist who practiced for a brief period before proceeding to study business management. His involvement and foray into the field of journalism has once more reinvigorated my strong conviction that the media profession must and should remain a noble profession and not just a trade as most of us the contemporary journalists and media owners have assumed it to be.
Going through the official biography of this great man although he may have his faultlines in that he associated too closely with politicians and therefore can be accused of displaying some partisanship but by and large that aspect of the official records that showed him to have practiced journalism has added to a rich collection of Nobel minds that once in their life times practiced Journalism therefore serving as constant reminders for the contemporary media workers to strive to respect their ethics and professional codes of conduct so as to defend the Nobel integrity and historicity behind the practice of journalism in Nigeria. Chinua Achebe of the Things fall apart fame whose works in the field of scholarship currently enjoys global acclaims and this professor of literally scholarship was once a broadcast journalist in Nigeria. So in both nobility and academic profess/excellence the Nigerian media isn’t found wanting.
Most especially the owners of the media industry in Nigeria who would now join the bandwagon of those who would start paying tributes to the late Ooni of Ife must be made to abide strictly to contractual terms that wouldn’t subjugate their workers and treat them like slaves.
Looking at how earlier media owners set up their businesses we can see that they didn’t treat their staff like slaves. NNAMDI Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo were some of these well known media owners who never maltreated their workers in the way and manner that some media owners do to their workers and there are no regulatory framework effective enough to deter these range of punitive practices against ordinary media workers who toil day and night to keep their media houses relevant and viable. Dr NNAMDI Azikiwe specifically published several titles that spanned up to Sierra Leone and West Coast or Ghana. Incidentally the late Ooni of Ife reportedly worked in the newspaper chain set up by the late Western Nigerian leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo. As prominent Nigerians would have started pouring encomiums on the memories of the departed traditional ruler of Ife it is imperative that his record of having worked as a journalist mustn’t be just a mere mention but must be used as a point of contact to highlight the various operational challenges that modern media industry face and to proffer concrete panacea to the situation of poor salary structure for media workers by the owners.
It’s an irony of unfathomable reach that the media practitioners who are the only professional groups recognised by the constitution by way of a detailed mention in section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution as vanguard and Consciences of Nigeria are at the same time treated shabbily by the media owners. This is pathetic and sad and smacks of hypocrisy that we who preach freedom are at the same time treated as economic slaves and we lack institutional redress mechanisms and everyone seems not to give a hoot or a damn (apologies to Good luck Jonathan).
Nigeria Government needs to look at the issue of newsprint whose importation is not only cumbersome but heavily taxed and the ugly fact that the local newsprints’ manufacturing industry seems to have gone comatose.
Government has to bail out the suffering media industry more particularly with the resuscitation of the newsprint manufacturing sector. Now to the main tributes to the memories of this colourful ruler I learnt that his pursuit for academic and professional trainings took him to virtually all the leading manufacturing and business firms in many European countries.
As stated officially, Oba Okunade Sijuwade was born on the 1st of January, 1930 to a great royal family in the Ogboru house, Ilare, Ile-Ife.
Prince Okunade Sijuwade as he was then called, reportedly started his elementary education at Igbein school, Abeokuta, an institution owned by the CMS mission. He lived with his other brother under the care of their father's good friend Chief G. A. Adedayo and his family. Chief Adebayo was the secretary to the Egba council, under the Asoju Oba. After his elementary school education he proceeded to Abeokuta Grammar school, under the well-known educationist, The Rev. I. O. Ransome Kuti who was the principal.
Herein is my interest. In the precise words of his official biographer as seen on the Internet by this writer, the late Ooni of Ife before he left to Europe for extensive studies the young man on his own volition decided he needed to have journalistic training.
He joined _THE NIGERIAN TRIBUNE_ where he spent two years, first as a reporter and later as a sales executive. Thereafter, he proceeded to the United Kingdom in the early fifties to undertake a course of training in BUSINESS MANAGEMENT.
His training was essentially in Northampton and with the Leventis Group in Manchester in 1957. He also participated in ADVANCED BUSINESS MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAMMES with companies in _Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, West Germany and Israel_.
Coming again to the challenging times faced by the media industry my take is that the current administration should find the political will to revive the moribund newsprint manufacturing industry and also provide the enabling environment for foreign direct investors in the fields of newsprint and books to set up their production lines in Nigeria for the very good reasons of providing job opportunities and the revival of economic productivity of Nigerians. Besides that would encourage reading culture amongst the youth because a reading youth is a prepared leadership especially in our clime whereby we are experiencing speedily the decline of leadership qualities amongst contemporary politicians. Let the memories and journalistic legacies of this all rounded and educated traditional ruler be respected by doing the aforementioned and many other measures to promote intellectualism and reading culture even as the Nigerian media industry needs to be administered in accordance with best global practices.
***Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.