Adefaye Out, Adesina In

Femi Adesina
Femi Adesina

Mixed reactions trail the organisation of the March 1, Nigerian Guild of Editors’ convention in which Femi Adesina, deputy editor-in-chief, emerged as president of the Guild

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS an election that many feared would result in acrimony, confusion, division and bad blood. But at the end of it all, the comradeship between Femi Adesina, the newly elected president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and his opponent, Tukur Abdulrahman, managing director, New Nigeria, was re-enacted as the two gladiators exhibited the spirit of sportsmanship. As soon as the results of the elections were announced by Mohammed Haruna, former managing director, New Nigeria Newspapers, who was the presiding officer, Abdulrahman congratulated Adesina with a big hug.

It was a great departure from the 2010 election where the loser and his supporters staged a walkout. This time, the winner was humble in victory and the loser was magnanimous in defeat. At the Gala Night, Abdulrahman again, congratulated Adesina and expressed his confidence that he would take the Guild to a greater height. Adesina, in return, thanked Abdulrahman for his sportsmanship and for demonstrating to Nigerian politicians that elections should be free, fair, and devoid of rancour and ethnic coloration. He pledged to begin work to realise his campaign promises, especially the dream to build a befitting secretariat for the NGE in Abuja.

That election did not result in a fiasco was a product of understanding and gentlemanly agreement reached between the two main gladiators in the elections. Sources close to the two camps said they had promised to respect the outcome of the contest no matter who won. They also agreed that theirs would not be a do-or-die election.

Nevertheless, the election had its own share of intrigues and moments of subtleties. For instance, Realnews learnt that before the convention, some powerful traditional rulers in the north had met to raise a large sum of money for Abdulrahman. One of them allegedly called one of Adesina’s bosses at The Sun Newspapers to ask him to withdraw from the race with a promise to refund all he had spent on his campaign. But the boss told the monarch that he was not aware that The Sun’s deputy editor-in-chief was contesting an election. Besides, he said, he was not in the habit of interfering in staff personal’s affairs.

Even among the editors, Realnews learnt that some of them tried to fan ethnic sentiments to get votes for their candidates. A delegate from the north told this reporter that he campaigned for Adesina because he was aware of the insincerity among some of his colleagues in the north. “Can you imagine that the people who called Adesina to come and contest are now those who are opposing him?” he said. Interestingly, a Yoruba man who spoke to this reporter, said he had decided to campaign for Abdulrahman because he felt it was time to elect a northerner to the office. He warned that if Adesina should be elected now, it would affect the Yoruba editors in future because they would have exhausted their chances to lead the Guild. He said it would be unfair to elect another Yoruba into the office being vacated by a Yoruba man. “It is not because Tukur is my boss, but I think we should give another person from another part of the country the opportunity to lead the Guild; then we have a better opportunity in future to contest the post,” he said. Mercifully, the election results did not reflect any ethnic bias. The new president scored 149 votes to defeat his challenger who scored 57 votes.

Away from election results, a good number of the editors who were not given accommodation felt left out of the hospitality of Oyo State government. The affected members said they were not told in advance that they would have to provide accommodation for themselves. Explaining to Realnews on phone, Isaac Ighure, secretary-general of the Guild, said that he called to warn some of the new inductees that they would not be accommodated. “That you bought form does not mean you are already a member. You can only be a member when you are inducted that is when you are recognised as a member of the Guild,” Ighure said. But one of the inductees, who was not accommodated by the Guild, said no such warning was given by Ighure even though she had fully paid her annual dues.

Gbenga Adefaye
Gbenga Adefaye

According to the secretary-general, Oyo State Government provided 250 rooms in Premier Hotel and 11 other hotels, for members and fellows of the Guild, even though the editors were more than 300. It was thus, decided that the Guild would pay for the accommodation of others when the 250 rooms had been taken. “But this did not include the inductees,” he, said. Ighure insisted that as far as he was concerned, no new inductee was accommodated by the Guild.

But Realnews can say categorically that a good number of new inductees were given accommodation by the Guild. This writer knows a lady from Plateau State who was supposed to be inducted at the Convention but could not because the NGE secretariat claimed that she had not submitted her form. She was accommodated by the Guild when she arrived on Friday, March 1, the day of induction.

Realnews is also aware that those who registered and paid their subscription fees in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, last year, without being inducted, were also given hotel accommodation. Asked whether it was the new policy of the NGE not to accommodate new members before induction, John Ndukauba, former secretary general of the Guild, said there was no policy on provision of accommodation for members whether new or old. Ndukauba said it had been the practice of the Guild over the years to accommodate everyone. He recalled that some years ago when the Guild held its convention in Bauchi and the available hotel rooms could not go round, he had to pair up with a colleague as others. “There must be some logistic problems. In my view, it was not proper to ask editors to go and pay for their accommodation when they paid their way to Ibadan. That is putting an additional cost on them; in my opinion, this is unfair,” he said.

Steve Ayorinde, managing director of National Mirror Newspapers and chairman of the NGE planning committee, in a telephone interview seemed to be taken aback that the aspect of hotel accommodation should be reported at all. “Why should such a story be of interest to you?” Ayorinde asked. He then said he was not aware that some editors were not given accommodation.

Be that as it may, Ighure said he was happy that the convention had gone smoothly without complaints. He was particularly glad that the election was “free, fair, and just.” He said the Guild had been able to show politicians the way to conduct elections in an orderly manner. Speaking in the same vein, Ndukauba commended the NGE for organising a well-attended national convention. He said the mood at the convention reflected the kind of change the editors wanted by voting for a new executive.

Adesina, deputy editor-in-chief, who doubled as deputy managing director of The Sun Newspapers, alongside other members of his executive, took over from Gbenga Adefaye, general manager, Vanguard Newspapers, whose two terms of four years ended same day, March 1. In the other offices contested Aisha Sule emerged the deputy president with 137 votes, while Suleiman Uba Gaya was elected the vice president (North) with 102 votes.

The remaining offices were occupied unopposed. They are Victor Agusiobo, vice president (East); Steve Ayorinde, vice president (West); Isaac Ighure (general-secretary); Mustapha Isa (assistant secretary); Ogbang Akwaji (treasurer) and Funke Egbemode (social/publicity secretary). The team will be in office for two years.

Prior to the conduct of the election, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State had, appealed to the NGE to ensure that the election was credible, pledging support also to the winner.

Ajimobi called the attention of the Guild to the new face of journalism and the way the internet was affecting the practice. “Online journalism is the new way and it guarantees availability and it is easier to engage in. However, this is a threat to hard copy publications. There is therefore the need for journalists to call a conference to discuss its positive and negative effects. If politicians can call for a political conference, why can’t the media, champion a reform, in the light of the growing popularity and abuse of the social media?”  He noted that the availability of news online has affected the fortunes of newspapers. “This has given room for people to engage in unethical practice that destroy people’s image,” the governor said.

Adefaye in his farewell address gave an account of his four-year stewardship. “Four years ago, we traversed the entire country like politicians, seeking your mandate, making promises to improve the profile of the NGE and not put you to shame. We successfully re-focused the editors on national issues through our flagship, all Nigerian Editors Conference. We built a virtual office and reviewed outstanding reports on our constitution,” Adefaye reminisced. He said the present funding of the Guild through N10,000.00 membership fees, conference fees and donations were no longer adequate and that the NGE should look for other means of raising funds to carter for its numerous needs.

Ray Ekpu, chairman of the convention, in his speech, stressed the importance of training and retraining of journalists. “As gate keepers, we face a lot of challenges every day. Our people must brace up to the challenges as the society generally does not like the truth. Our role is prescribed by the constitution. We all fought for the Freedom of Information and now that we have it, we should ensure that we use it. It will help this society,” Ekpu said. He also urged the new executive to continue to lift the banner of the Guild in good light. “We are happy that Gbenga (Adefaye) is not asking for a third term. As journalists, we must do what we say others should do,” he said.

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