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Seventh Year Anniversary Celebration National Network Makes History

By Frank Kwaaba
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Never in the history of journalism in Rivers State has a newspaper house gathered such a mammoth crowd to celebrate its anniversary.

National Network proved the exception as the most spacious hall of Silverbird Cinema Hall 8, was made inadequate on the occasion of the celebration of its seventh-year anniversary, on Friday, November 25, 2011.

Politicians of different hue, traditional rulers, government officials, academicians, security agents, journalists and other professionals, ladies and gentlemen of various cadres, cramped into the large hall, and despite the inadequacy of the air-conditioners, stayed until the end of the event.

The endless list of distinguished guests, include the Oba of Ogbaland, Sir (Dr) Chukumela Nnam Obi II, OON JP Oba (Eze-Ogba) of Ogbaland, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, Commissioner For Information and Communication, Hon Chidi Lloyd, Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, RSHA, Hon Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja, Deputy Governorship Candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Prof Okey Onuchuku, Dr Barigbon Nsereka, Arch Bishop Abel Vurasi, Hon Lee Maeba, and Opaka Dokubo, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Rivers State.

Others in the endless list of dignitaries are, Barr Ken Atsuwete, Human Rights Advocate, Comrade Menele Nzidee, Kenneth Kobani, former Commissioner For Finance, Chief Mike Nwielaghi, a representative of Dr Abiye Sekibo, a representative of senator Magnus Abe, a representative of Apostle Eugune Ogu, a representative of Apostle Zilly Aggrey, a representative of the Commissioner of Police, a representative of the Deputy Speaker of RSHA, Sir Alaye Eremie, Chief Monday Wehere, Publisher of Surveillance Newspaper, Members of the Rivers State Independent Publishers Association, RIVPA, Veterans of the journalism profession and several other dignitaries.

It was a day of awards for several eminent citizens that have written their names in gold in various fields of endeavour.

They include the Oba of Ogbaland, Sir (Dr) Chukumela Nnam Obi II (OON JP) Oba (Eze-Ogba) of Ogbaland, who was conferred with the honour of 2011 Most Eminent Monarch, Dr Abiye Sekibo, 2011 Man Of Peace, Sir Dr Nkasiobi Silas Oguzor, Administrator Par Excellence, Apostle David Zilly-Aggrey, Outstanding Gospel Preacher Of Our Time, Apostle Eugene Ogu, Hope Of The Less Privileged, Mrs Kate Sam-Ngbor, Exemplary Gender Advocate, Hon Prince Nwuke Ogbonna , Most Resourceful Media Practitioner, Dr (Barr) Faraday Iwuchukwu, Outstanding Researcher Of Our Era, Sir Ngo Martyns-Yellowe, Exponent Of Excellent Media/Public Relations, Chief Mike Nwielaghi, Advocate Of Good Governance and a Posthumous Honour, Legend Of Critical Journalism, for Late Minere Amakiri.

Others that were honoured include, Mr Eddie Williams, Fearlessness In Defense of Journalism Profession, Mr Sam Woka, Promotion Of Media Excellence and Ethical Standards, Chris Konkwo, Editorial Creativity And Excellence, Chief Suanu Samuel – Excellence In News Analysis, Mr Soye Jamabo, Creativity In Writing, Mr Opaka Dokubo, Promotion Of Journalism Ethics, Mr Segun Owolabi, Excellence In News presentation, Mr Olalekan Ige, Versatility In Journalism and Mr Fitzallen Albert Briggs, For Exemplary Editorial Practice.

Opening the floodgate of encomiums was the chairman of the occasion, Hon Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja, Deputy Governorship Candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in the April 2011 governorship election.

“There is something special about National Network , “he stated, adding, “that thing special is that for a period, you played a role that even men who are esteemed to be Timbre and Calibre in Rivers State, feared to play”.

He said prior to this time, the excesses of government were checked by the clergy on the pulpit.

The role, he said, is now effectively played by National Network, keeping the government on its toes, and urged other publishers to emulate the paper.

However, his criticism at the monorail project did not go down well with the Commissioner For Information and Communication, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, and she promptly replied.

Hon Jaja had said, “I said on the floor of the House as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly that as at the time I was in the RSHA, the Rivers State government had spent over N49billion on a project that is called monorail. They did not dispute it. Today, I am being justified and I will be justified that, that project will not benefit Rivers people”.

Replying, the Hon Commissioner who was not present when the comment was made, said, “It is critical that we understand exactly how much government spends and I do announce this, and on what they are spending it. Let me correct the impression. Government of Rivers State has not spent N49billion on monorail. It is N11bilion so far. The coaches have arrived the wharf. The project would be completed”.

Pouring his own encomiums on National Network, Prof Okey Onuchuku, Co-Chairman of the occasion said, “We are very happy with you because you are courageous to say the truth. You are living up to your motto: For Perfect Truth. I believe that you will continue in this direction. You will continue to do your investigative journalism, you will continue to inform the Rivers people”.

Sir Dr Chukumela Nnam Obi II, OON, JP, Oba, Eze Ogba of Ogbaland, who appreciated the huge crowd that attended the occasion said the turn out “eloquently endorsed the National Network. It smirks of dedication, liberal mindedness, lovers of humanity and builders of society”.

He said he never expected even one-quarter of the number that came and sat down patiently, despite the choking situation in the Silverbird Cinema Hall.

He went on to say, “A job worth doing, must be well done. I believe in excellence, I believe in education, I believe in those who honour others”.

The Eze Ogba of Ogbaland said he liked associating with men of courage that could endure even the worst and that journalism “is not a profession a Lilly-livered person can take to. At times you are sentenced, crippled and confused as if there was overwhelming darkness and that nothing will set you free. Anybody within the media must be seen as a courageous person”.

Senator Lee Maeba, former Senator representing South East Senatorial District, Rivers State, was so overwhelmed that he launched a N10 million fund to make National Network truly national paper.

He said he was sad because “you cannot see a newspaper issued in Port Harcourt, stationed in Port Harcourt, anchored in Port Harcourt, in Abuja, in Lagos, in Kano, in Kaduna, all over the country. And that is why I take the challenge to launch a fund that will make the National Network newspaper, print and publish nationwide and worldwide”.

“The Senator said only Rivers media could correct the negative reports about Rivers State, and urged journalists to always say the truth, never to mortgage their conscience.

“My speech is on the fact that conscience is an open wound that can only be nurtured by the truth,” he stated.

The chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalist, NUJ, Rivers State, Mr. Opaka Dokubo, Chidi Lloyd, leader of RSHA, Kenneth Kobani, Minele Nzidee, all poured encomiums on the paper.

“As a union, I want to say that one of those media houses that brought us to this height is indeed the National Network newspaper”, “Opaka stated, while Chidi Lloyd said he was the most battered politician by National Network and that he honoured the invitation because “the truth must be told at all times.”

Quoting Malcolm X, Hon Lloyd said, “The press is the most powerful in the world because it makes guilty people innocent and innocent people, guilty.

Kenneth Kobani, the former Rivers State Commissioner for Finance and Treasurer of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said it was not mere accident that people decided to honour the invitation of National Network.

He said the paper has come a long way and “In every society, the only way impunity is entrenched is when we don't have an independent voice or an independent press,” adding “National Network exemplifies a strong voice for the people”.

Comrade Menele Nzidee of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, said the removal of subsidy will be “the last fight we have for Nigeria in 2012”.

He revealed that “those importing kerosene, patrol and diesel, take N100 per litre of the products everyday and N250 above that as demurrage everyday.”

The highlights of the occasion were the lectures given by the Hon Commissioner for information and Communication Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, and Dr. Barigbon Nsereka.

In her anniversary lecture titled, “The Role of the Media in a Democracy, a Case Study of Nigeria,” she looked at examples in other climes to see how indeed the media has played its role in a democratic dispensation, and also examined criticisms by various groups and scholars as to how the media has played its role or performed, as well as the criticism that the media has left throwing up the space for proper debate, to focus on entertainment.

“In Nigeria, there is wide spread cynicism about politicians and leaders. Issues of corruption and less performance led some political theorists to allege apathy on the part of the people, fueling fear about civic disengagement”.

She went on to say, “A cursory look will find that journalism practice in other climes, especially the United Kingdom, is still more measured and advisedly more serious and result driven”.

Berating the media, the information commissioner said, “The result of much of what we see in the media is endless coverage of celebrities, the health beat and sports, rather than the problems facing countries and institutions, so that some claim, we are entertaining ourselves to death”.

Quoting a popular media theorist, she said, “Entertainment has become the predominant value on Television news with the result that the political process has been repackaged into a show business. Serious political debates, serious policy problems, serious election coverage, are all subsumed in a sensational package with one sole objective, entertaining the public”.

In his own lecture titled, “Government and the Press; What Partnership For Good Governance,” Dr. Barigbon Nsereka said the potency of the press as the fourth Estate of the Realm, is acknowledged world wide and the government as an institution of the state, “is held accountable to the people through the activities of the press.”

He touched on the social responsibility theory of the press as he stated, “whatever the press does, it must represent the interest of society. You must be socially responsible for whatever you report.”

On the Development Media theory, he said, “Journalists should have the ultimate aim of National Development, even if it requires sacrificing your freedom, as long as it is in the interest of society and democracy.”

He stated the ways the press can partner with government as, helping government to sell and execute people-friendly programmes, playing the watch-dog role, offering platform for people to exercise their right of expression, serving as a means of social control and sensitizing and gingering or raising the consciousness of the people, moving them to action on behalf of the government.

In their respective adresses, the publisher of National Network Newspaper, Jerry Needam, and Editor-in-Chief/General Manager, Chris Konkwo respectively said the anniversary was a celebration of victory over obvious threats to human integrity, freedom over intimidation and harassment by security operatives, truth over falsehood and awakening of the consciousness of the down-throdden against ignoble stupor etc.

they pledged their preparedness to continue with the impartial reportage of issues and events without fear or favour and besides, ensure that National Network becomes a regular national paper on the newsstands everywhere in the country. ###


Chris Konkwo