Marshal Badeh's Thesis on Native Media

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 the writers rightly recorded some historical facts about this highly creative mind who was instrumental to the emergence of the media industry in Nigeria and indeed gave us an enduring heritage which is to say that native language newspapers must not be allowed to die.

According to this historians; the lasting legacy Townsend bequeathed Yoruba mission came in the skill he introduced to the Yoruba mission. It is interesting that this missionary from a family well known for their pedigree in printing business confessed that he had learned the trade by hands-on experience at Abeokuta”.

 This ingenuity, the writers stated, proved to be an advantage to the Yoruba mission. Apart from the ministerial vocation, printing became the first lettered skill the CMS mission introduced to the Yoruba people through Townsend, the historians recalled.

Going further down memory lanes, the historians observed thus; “But when he began to publish in 1859 the Iwe Irohin, a newspaper he produced in English and Yoruba, he etched his name in the history of media development in what is today Nigeria. Iwe Irohin was the first newspaper production in Nigeria. Happily, he has remained unforgotten for this achievement in a country where memory often proves short. In 2009, during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of print media in Nigeria, his name was honorably mentioned over and again. The Yoruba people too had sustained his legacy with their regional reputation as the bastion of vibrant newspaper media in the Nigerian state”.

In the eighties (1980's) media owners such as the late Chief M.K.O Abiola of the National Concord Newspapers' fame, experimented successfully with native language newspapering just as the Northern owned New Nigerian Newspapers was known for running one of the most successful Hausa language newspapers known as “Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo” .

Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu of Champion group of Newspapers experimented with Igbo language newspaper. Both Abiola and Iwuanyanwu's effort at publishing native language newspapers have vanished into thin air.

Luckily, the Abuja-based Daily Trust group of newspaper still publishes on weekly basis, an Hausa language tabloid called “Aminiya”, meaning feminine type of trust worthiness. I am aware that leadership group of Newspapers also has an Hausa language weekly newspaper. That national newspapers like The Guardian, Thisday, Punch, Sun and Nation among others do not publish native language versions even as weekly insertions is reprehensible and anti-development.

The question that comes with the prognosis made by Air Marshal Alex Badeh is why no newspaper runs native language tabloids in Igbo and Yoruba even when these ethnic nationalities have some of the largest literate populations?

The worst case scenario is that most if not all the state government-run newspapers have suffered operational hiccups leading to their disappearances from newsstands and sadly, New Nigerian Newspapers owned by all the Northern states is in a state of operational hibernation as it is no longer commercially viable and the workers are owed backlogs of salaries.

Who knows perhaps, God has indirectly sent Air Marshal Badeh to speak for the reintroduction of native language vibrant newspaper industry in contemporary time Nigeria.

In a related development, Reverend Father Tor Alumuku who did his doctoral thesis on “Community Radio for Development: The World and Africa,” is of the opinion that native language media industry has a good prospect.

According to him; the following are some of the advantages of community radio; individual stations can be set up with inexpensive equipment and housed in existing facilities.

Father Alumuku also stated that concrete results could be felt quickly in the parts of the country where stations are set up; technically, community stations are relatively simple to set up and operate; the low operating costs and grassroots nature of such stations give them a good chance of financial survival; and it gives a real voice to local concerns and is a true alternative to national and commercial media that tend to ignore those concerns.

Reverend Father Alumuku who is a director at the Vatican radio further stated that community broadcasting offers a forum for participation in national affairs and issues; community radio could provide an effective training ground for journalists, technicians, and other broadcast personnel; as more and more community radio stations are set up in a country, this becomes an effective, albeit slow, way of creating a truly alternative national network.

Such a network, Reverend Dr. Alumuku submitted,  would have the advantage of bottom-up development, leaving most power in the grassroots communities and;  as they  provide an obvious alternative to both the reality of the national or regional stations, it might be easier to get licenses for community stations as they cover a limited area and desire to democratize their services.

All eyes are now on local media moguls like the Nduka Ogbaigbena's, Mrs. Maiden Ibru's, the Uncle Sam Amuka's and Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu's to venture into native language media business for purely developmental ground as part of their corporate social responsibility to our motherland.

Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and    [email protected] mailto:[email protected]