24 February 2013

Nigeria: Guild of Editors Presidency - Contestants Outline Their Agenda

From the preparations made so far by the Nigerian Guild of Editors to hold its biennial convention in Ibadan on March 2013, the stage appears set for the emergence of its next president.

The campaign for the prestigious position has begun and interestingly the contest for the presidency of the Guild is between two senior journalists, Malam Tukur Abdulrahman, the Managing Director/Editor -in- Chief of the New Nigerian newspapers and Mr Femi Adeshina, the Executive Director, Publications, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sun newspapers.

After 14 years of practice, Mr Adeshina was named editor of National Concord in year 2000.When the paper became defunct in 2001, due to the travails of the publisher, Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola in military detention, he joined the Nigerian Tribune as a visiting member of the Editorial Board. He was there till he was invited to be part of the team that founded The Sun in 2003.

He edited Daily Sun for five years, and was named Editor of the Year in 2007 by the Nigerian Media Merit Award. The newspaper was also named Newspaper of the Year. The following year, Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME) named The Sun as Best Designed Newspaper.

In 2008, he became the Executive Director, Publications, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief. He was elected into the Standing Committee of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in 2008, in which capacity he serves till now.

For Abdulrahman, he joined the New Nigerian Newspapers Limited (NNN)in 1983 as a proof reader and later became a reporter and was posted to Abuja in 1995. He became the State House correspondent of the NNN in 1997. He was appointed the Editor of Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo, a Hausa publication of the NNN in January, 2000. He was also a member of the Editorial Board of the NNN.

He became the Editor of the New Nigerian (daily) in March 2006 and was appointed the Managing Director of the Company in March 2010. He became a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in 2000. He was elected as Vice President North of the NGE in 2005. He was elected Deputy President of the Guild in 2008 and in 2011 he was conferred with the fellowship of the Guild.

Given the professional background and the contributions of the two personalities it's expected that the election will be keenly contested. In an interview with Sunday Trust, the two front line editors, last week, unfolded their agenda and promised to make their experiences to bear if they are elected as president of the Guild.

Malam Abdulrahman told Sunday Trust that as an active member of the Guild for 13 years and as its vice president [North] he is qualified to be president of the NGE. He said "I am running for the post of the president of the Guild because I am eminently qualified to do so. The constitution of the Guild provides that any member who had served as a member of the standing committee for at least one term, is eligible to contest the post of the president. As an active member of the Guild for 13 years, I have been in the standing committee for two terms; first I served as the Vice President (North) from 2005 to 2008. I was elected Deputy President in 2008 and served for one term."

On his part, Mr Adeshina, posited that having served with the outgoing Guild president, Mr Gbenga Adefaye, for four years, he is qualified to be the next president of the Guild. "I must remark that he has led the Guild with dignity, honour, integrity and passion. I don't intend to do any less.

I also know the plans he has seen to advanced stages, and which only need to be nurtured to fruition. I will ensure they are completed.

He added that "The welfare of editors will be paramount. We will also stand for press freedom at all times. I assure, Nigerian editors, they will be proud of me and my team, if they elect us into office."

But Malam Abdulrahman argued that "I was the first Deputy to the outgoing President and together we have started a number of programmes which I intend to continue. Capacity building, for instance, is the main thrust of Gbenga Adefaye's regime and we intend to continue with it. A journalist, like a teacher, imparts knowledge to people and therefore needs to be very knowledgeable in order to discharge his functions effectively hence the need for training and retraining all the time.

We would also like to create an interactive forum for members to brainstorm and come up with ideas on how best to improve the practice of our noble profession which is one of the foremost reasons of establishing the Guild."

While speaking on the endorsement of Mr Adeshina by northern caucus of NGE he said "What happened was that two members of the Guild (both northerners) went to Femi as far back as 2011 and told him that the north would support him to contest the presidency in the next election. Femi himself said he initially rejected the idea because he considered it abnormal for a Femi Adesina to succeed a Gbenga Adefaye in a plural society like Nigeria. Two members cannot constitute a caucus of north in the Guild. Besides, consultation was not made, as even the members of the standing committee from the north said they were not aware of the endorsement."

But Mr Adeshina said he was resolved to winning the election, given the backing of other members of the Guild. He said "Nobody goes into an electoral race with the intention of losing. I believe our members know what is good for the Guild at this time, and will do the right thing. The right thing is voting Femi Adesina and his team into office."

He explained that Journalism is a noble profession, but it doesn't have enough respect, due to the way some people comport themselves. "No wonder you hear of them being called 'Press Boys. 'Do you hear of lawyers being called Law Boys, or doctors called Medical Boys? That means the image of journalists needs to be brushed up, and this involves all stakeholders. The publishers should pay living wages, the editors should show integrity, while the journalists themselves should have a sense of self-worth, and not do things that will bring the profession into odium."

He admitted that he was convinced by the northern caucus to join the race. "Correct. I was convinced to enter the race as far back as September 2011 by key members of the northern caucus. They promised to sell my candidacy to the rest of the country, particularly to the North, which could feel done in, since the outgoing president is from the South. Some of them have kept faith with the promise they made, they have stood by me all the way." He said

Commenting on the regional sentiments in the NGE he said "We cannot deny that regional sentiment has crept into this election. I am from the South, my main opponent is from the North. But let me confess that my support base is very wide, across the country. A lot of northerners will vote for me, just as a lot of southerners would. I believe with this election, Nigerian editors will show the rest of the country a positive example in pan-Nigerianism."

However, Malam Abdulrahman warned against regional sentiment saying it might not be healthy for the Guild. "I don't think regionalism is new in the Guild. This is because from 1988 when the Guild was revived to 2008 when the present leadership came on board, members had always been mindful of regional balance in electing their officials. The leadership rotates between the south and the north. What happened suddenly is probably the attempt by some people to push someone to succeed a person that comes from his region. Femi Adesina is trying to succeed Gbenga Adefaye."

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