For the records: Welcome Address by Maureen Chigbo, GOCOP President, at its 6th Annual Conference in Lagos

Maureen Chigbo,

YOUR Excellences, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and members of my constituency, the Media, permit me to stand on an existing protocol to express my happiness in welcoming you all to the 6th GOCOP Annual Conference. We appreciate your sacrifice and support, especially at this trying time when the nation is in the throes of birth pangs of what has been described as a make or Mar 2023 election.

We are overjoyed that our Guest Speaker, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, is here with us in person. He does not need much introduction, for his exemplary reputation and oratory precedes him. The GOCOP family is grateful that Prof. Mahmood kept his promise to be with us today despite his very busy schedule.

We are delighted Dr. Umar Ardo, Founder, Center for Alternative Policy Perspectives and Strategy (CAPPS) and the Chairman for today’s occasion and other distinguished guests are here.  We are most grateful, to Dr. Ardo, our Chairman.

Our special welcome goes to our panelists – Mr. Abun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN; Dr. Solomon E. Arase, Former Inspector General of Police; and Dr. Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, Regional Director of Ford Foundation. Thank you sirs and madam for accepting our invitation.

She is the only woman in the midst of men. But I can assure you that she is equal to the task. I can testify to this because I made up my mind that she was going to feature in this GOCOP event after I saw her brilliant performance when she delivered the Penpushing media lecture in Abeokuta. Immediately after the lecture, I ran after her to preach the Gospel of GOCOP to her.  Her being here today shows that the gospel touched her heart. But we will await the true conversion when she listens and responds to our plea to help us empower our members with the requisite knowledge through the available Ford Foundation programme especially in the build-up to the 2023 election for effective media coverage.

Incidentally, the theme of this year’s GOCOP conference is 2023 Elections: Managing the Process for Credible Outcome. GOCOP considers this theme apt because the processes of an election – beginning from the planning stages, registration of voters, cleaning the voter register, fixing the electoral timelines for submission of candidates for election leading to dates for party primary elections and conventions to produce the candidates, campaigns, recruitment of Adhoc electoral staff; the printing of ballot papers and deployment to various states during election whose dates has been fixed – are all important in determining the outcome of an election.

Any stage of these processes that are not handled well could undermine the electoral outcome. That is why as we journey towards the 2023 election, bearing in mind the concerns of the people, we felt that as a body of watchdogs of the society we should use our platform to better educate and inform the electorate albeit the people of Nigeria by getting the true facts about the state of affairs with the planning and execution of the 2023 election.

To get at these facts, we decided that we had to hear from the horse’s mouth if you will permit that all-time cliché. And so we made a spirited bid to get this horse who in the course of the investigation, found out that he is also a master in the act of Gorilla terrorism. Believe me, it was not easy as the chase to pin him down began in earnest early in the year in April, and by late September we finally got a letter confirming that he will keynote this conference.

What a relief! Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt that Professor Mahmood Yakubu will do justice to the theme of this year’s lecture, and hopefully after his much-expected presentation today, all of us gathered here will leave this venue convinced that we will have a very credible election that the nation can be proud of in 2023.

On the hand, the interventions of the panelists and contributions from the floor will also guide the electoral umpire in firming up preparations and the remaining processes for the election that has to do with security, law, and observer missions involving civil society organisations as represented in the carefully selected panelists.

Having said this, let me tell you a bit about the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) which started eight years ago when it was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission. GOCOP is a peer review body of publishers who have practiced professional journalism for at least 10 years. Most of us have held top-level positions in the print and broadcast industry as title Editors, and Managing Directors of the traditional or the legacy media.

They are well-horned in the tenets of the profession and believe in investigative journalism. Some are members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. But the most important thing which I want this gathering to take note of is that members of the Guild are mediapreneurs and employers of labour too. I am emphasising this point so that all our partners here will appreciate the fact our members run costs on a monthly basis to sustain our various businesses.

Cognisant of this fact will then assist the advertisers and organisations, who require publicity to please budget adequately and do appropriate pricing of our services. Doing so will help us to generate revenue to sustain our business and save society the havoc of quacks that they often patronise with regrets because they are being blackmailed. The irony is that GOCOP members who do clean journalism do not get patronised and are often ignored until there is a crisis. My advice to advertisers is don’t wait until there is a crisis. Learn to make hay while the sun shines.

GOCOP has an inbuilt mechanism for resolving disputes, an OMBUDSMAN domiciled under its Disciplinary Committee, which can be approached by any aggrieved members of the public, who feel that their rights have been infringed on by any of our members, among other things.

May I also warmly welcome our inductees who will be inducted today to become full members of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers. Their journey to become members was not easy. The GOCOP screening committee headed by our able President Emeritus Musikilu Mojeed received 38 applications of which only 13 members met the criteria for recruitment. Some of the criteria are that you must be registered with a known address with the Corporate Affairs Commission; have at least 10 years of experience in a known media organisation and have at least two staff among others

I must not end my welcome address without recognising all our partners, who generously supported the hosting of this conference. I will start first by thanking the INEC chairman once again, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Delta State Government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Niger Delta Development Commission, Nigerian Communications Commission, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB); Nigeria Import-Export Bank; First Bank, Zenith Bank, Nigeria Liquefied National Gas, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shell Nigeria Development Company, Unity Bank, Lagos State Government and a host of others too numerous to mention. Without your support, we would not have been able to pull this conference off. Thank you so much.

To the members of my constituency, and the media I thank you all, especially the Editors and Managing directors of different organisations for the publicity you gave to our press releases. We appreciate you all.

Please ensure that all that will be discussed here today is given the widest publicity so that the public will be better educated and informed to do all that is necessary for us to hold a very fruitful and successful 2023 election.

Finally, I most sincerely thank all the members of the organising committee who worked tirelessly over the months to ensure we have a very two-day successful annual. We deeply appreciate you all.

Thank you for your attention and welcome one and all!

Penpushing

A.