It was one week of intense activity when Imo journalists led by indomitable Comrade Precious Nwadike indulged themselves in various activities to spice up their professional practice. Nwadike and his team dusted off all challenges of opposition and financial handicaps to deliver a successful outing in which Imo journalists can beat their chests to claim as a matter of fact that this is just the beginning of good things to come.
The program had kicked off with awareness creation through the media houses, delivering account of stewardship by the caretaker committee, church service to dedicate the event, lectures, football match, honouring of veterans and unveiling of the Unions Diamond Hall, Cyber Café and the Restaurant.
The caretaker committee emerged as a child of circumstance as a response to frustrate the efforts of a few roguish past leaders who had plotted the sale of the Secretariat donated by the former military administrator, Anthony Oguguo. Following a manipulated inconclusive election, a leadership led by Akaraonye foisted themselves on the union and the result was the court action that had subsisted till moment arising from their rejection by the mainstream journalists in the state.
Aside the manipulated election which excluded the secretary of the electoral committee, Akaraonye it is contended had retired from service as a photographer and was considered ineligible while yet others contend that he has no formal journalism training to lead the group.
Governor Okorocha’s craze and craving for real estate got him to convince Akaraonye to dispose the State Secretariat to him by proxy while he builds another office for the media men which he accomplished at the New Owerri. The structure was among those now marked for demolition by Gov Hope Uzodimma because it was situated on government land without due process.Reportedly the Secretariat with multiple structures located in a choice area along Port Harcourt road was prized for 120m naira with 20% of the sum released to Akaraonye with a promise to extinguish the balance when they would have quit the current occupants of the Secretariat. Consequently, a journalism training school and the only one located in South East, the International Institute of Journalism, affiliated to the University of Maiduguri was sent packing as well operators of the Restaurant.
They had turned the Secretariat into a brothel where the leadership and members of the public indulge in illicit sexual affairs. As we write some patrons who are not in the picture that there is a change of guard still visits the place for ‘short time’ and get disappointed. Aware of the negative implications the sale portends for the members genuinely concerned senior journalists in the state led by Comrade Elder Lambert Ojukwu swooped in to halt the illicit transaction which never got the nod of the Congress which is the highest decision making body of the Union in the state. Sensing they have lost the battle Akaraonye and his team reportedly stole into the place and vandalized the structures, only to turn round to accuse the caretaker committee.
Steve Uzoechi, a highly respected journalist in the state and one time chairman of the correspondents’ chapel who is also the South East Bureau Chief of the New Telegraph took the mantle of leadership before handing over to Comrade Precious Nwadike and his team who is now repackaging the media group.And so within a period of six months or so he has demonstrated immense capacity in rebuilding the Secretariat with the support of other like minds. The once dingy and unexciting structures are now wearing a new look. The bushy compound which exposed members to reptiles is now wearing an inviting look. Some of the buildings are also smiling having been given a face lift The mini conference hall has been greatly transformed with bright lights; good painting adorning the walls as well as branding it with the NUJ insignia and a state of the art conference table after the desperadoes hurled away the existing conference table as part of theeir vandalization agenda.
There is now a Cyber Café where journalists can browse for information at a ridiculously reduced rate. The restaurant is back and serving varieties of sumptuous dishes and drinks for media men who want to unwind after a hard day’s job. All of these projects were commissioned during the NUJ Press Week. Drawing from his vision to take a break from the ugly past and champion a new course that will embed confidence and trust in the members, Nwadike got the Congress to resolve that the leadership will account to them every six months of service.
Hear him, “Just a week today, we introduced a new order in the Union during a special congress where we said, in every 6 months, leadership of Imo NUJ shall account for their stewardship to the Union. We had during the congress disclosed to members the income and expenditure of the Union. We consider this measure very timely and relevant in our avowed commitment to change the narrative and the leadership pattern that allows the executive go home at the end of a 3-year tenure without rendering account of their stewardship.’’The caretaker committee has been able to bond the members to a degree that the fraternal bonds now commit the members to become each others’ brother’s keeper. The social relationships and camaraderie as demonstrated in challenging periods of death of members or their loved ones, or ceremonies or things that affect the Union is unprecedented.
According to Ojukwu Lambert,“for the first time in the history of media practice, journalists are freely and happily contributing money to revive their activities. It has never happened anywhere. He expressed satisfaction in the level of cooperation among the pen men urging them to sustain their acts. He has remained the beacon of light and hope and a great encourager who inspires the younger ones with historical tales of where they are coming from and how it should be.
During the event a former chairman of the Union, Comrade Ben Osuagwu gave a historical account of how he attracted the Secretariat and is also in custody of the title document to the property. He lamented the attempt to sale off the place wondering “how a governor will buy off a property donated by another governor’’ He regretted that the national leadership of the union allowed the crises to fester because according to him “they are ignorant of how to resolve the crisis’’.
The chairman of the Imo state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr, Okwara Chidiebere who unveiled the new rehabilitated Cyber Cafe advised the journalists to take steps to transform the Secretariat into a great edifice otherwise the recovery of the property would be a futility.
He highlighted the economic values the place holds for the union. Earlier, in the week the duo of Comrade Chuks Osuji, a former MAMSER boss and Public Relations guru and Dr. Kingsley Nworgu, the head of Mass Communication department, Imo State University had delivered separate lectures on the theme: “Imo NUJ in a contemporary Nigeria’. During the interactive session they had urged the news hounds to keep their integrity and restore their images. Osuji reminding the journalist that “truth has no alternative’ decried the state of decadence in the state which he encouraged the journalist to help rebuild by saying it as it is. Nworgu also advised the members to acquire skills in the new media so that they can migrate to the new order. He feared that the social media might run out the traditional media.
Another highlight of the epoch making event was honoring 3 persons with awards who the Union feels merits such recognition. It is not in the character of the Union as emphasized by the chairman to give awards in order to extort money from the awardees. According to him, “if it is possible we will add cash to the gentlemen because they have earned it as of performance”.
Chief Fabian I. Agba, a retired permanent secretary and patron of the pensioners, was recognized as a strong voice among senior citizens who is so vocal speaking truth to power in a no holds barred manner. He was awarded the Imo NUJ man of the year 2021. Comrade Ben Osuagwu got the award as the most outstanding NUJ chairman while Anthony Okoroigwe received the honour of being the most active veteran in view of his doggedness. Other veterans were also present.
Agba in his acceptance speech lamented that people are distanced from the government and urged journalist to halt hero worship. According to him, the military is now more democratic than civilians stating that the military will win in the event of any contest between it and the civilians. In the football event the NUJ team scored an own goal to bow to the medical doctors (NMA) 2-3 in a fun packed encounter. The event which was also graced by students of Mass Communication department Imo Polytechnic wound up with merriment, and funtertainment. Other dignitaries that graced the final day include Mrs Shirely Munonye, Imo INPA chairman, Igboayaka Igboayaka, Ohanaeze Youths president, Dr, Echeta, ASUP chairman, Imo Poly, Comrade Obinna Nwoke, a one-time Pan African youth president, co-coordinator and representative of the HOD, Mass Comm department, Imo Poly, Mrs. Amaka IhejirikaAt last Imo journalist have taken their destiny in their hands vowing to shake off all manner of oppositions to move ahead. Forward ever and backward never seems to be the new song for them now.