Lessons From NGE 2019 Biennial Convention
The executives of the Nigerian Guild of Editors taking oath of office after their election during the Biennial Convention 2019 themed 'Media Convergence as Strategy for Survival' in Lagos at the weekend. Picture by Kingston Daniel

The recently concluded 2019 Biennial Convention of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, which took place from May 3 -5, 2019, was unparalleled in many ways.

It was a special event in which over 400 editors in Nigeria converged on Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, and brainstormed on how to latch on the current technological innovations for the benefit of the media in Nigeria.

This year’s Convention also offered leaders of the Guild ; women in particular, the opportunity to display their organizational expertise and leadership proficiency to the admiration of dignitaries that graced the event.

The Convention Planning Committee led by Mrs. Victoria Ibanga left no stone unturned in executing seamless and perfect event that was graced by notable stakeholders in the industry and beyond.

And as the key actors took the centre stage at the event’s venue, they were given standing ovation by the audience.

The keynote speaker, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, stood out, having delivered an insightful lecture to the admiration of the delegates. She was the first female keynote speaker in the history of the Guild, the organizers said.

Apart from Ogwezzy-Ndisika’s record, the Guild President, Funke Egbemode, who won her second term unopposed, became the second woman to attain such a height in the history of the Guild after the late Mrs. Remi Oyo who was elected the NGE’s President in 1999 and served for two terms.

Egbemode, in her address, paid glowing tributes to late Oyo and other past Presidents that had gone to eternal rest. She also recognized the immense contributions of NGE’s past presidents and founding fathers that are still alive to the growth of the Association.

Such veterans that she commended were a former governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande; Tony Momoh; Mohammed Ibrahim; Onyema Ugochukwu; Garba Shehu; Baba Dantiye; Gbenga Adefaye; Garbadeen Muhammad; Wada Maida; Biodun Oduwole and Femi Adesina.

“Imagine these kinds of men and women being your professional ancestors! What choice do you have but to work hard and justify the honour of being told to serve this august body,” she said.

She said that her leadership has been building on the good foundation laid by the past leaderships of the Guild.

Egbemode revealed that such achievements were the continuous upgrading of the facilities of The Editors’ House, Ikeja, Lagos, for commercial use, and sponsorship of editors to Global Editors Network at Lisbon, Portugal; study tour to China in 2017 and 2018. West African Business School and establishment of the current relationship with National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, for the training of editors among other achievements.

She noted that the Guild no longer pays for meeting venues in Lagos except on big occasions. Egbemode added that the N50 million that her EXCO inherited from the previous administration has grown to N59.4million as at December 2018.

Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Dan Agbese, in his address charged the media to speak truth to power and expressed his happiness to NGE for the opportunity given to him to chair the event.

Agbese also saluted the founding members of the Guild and congratulated the current leadership for their distinction in leadership.

He also commended the Guild for choosing relevant themes for its biennial conventions, noting that year’s theme reflects the societal or media challenges of the moment.

He said “When I saw the word survival in the title of the theme of the convention, I sat up. Survival is the critical challenge our country faces today in all areas of human endeavour. The media have been struggling with that challenge for as long as I can remember. Look around you and you would see that the once verdant media landscape in Nigeria is now a long stretch of brown grass. The machines have stopped humming and Africa’s once most vibrant media industry is now partially covered with the dust of history.

“I believe the Guild chose this theme wisely. Businesses devise strategies for survival. The media industry, given what it faces now, cannot but strategize too to weather the storm. We have reached the tipping point in the industry. It is wiser for us to co-operate now for collective survival rather than compete for individual survival. Every newspaper that goes down takes something away from the survivors.

“On a larger national scale, our country faces myriads of existential challenges. Take three of these, namely, unemployment, insecurity and poverty. Unemployment is bad because it denies our young people the opportunity to make something of themselves; or to put it another way, if you like, they cannot put their degree certificates to work for them.

“The Buhari administration inherited, if that is the world, the Boko Harm insurgency in 2015. The Nigerian state has failed to win that war against these stateless murderous actors. It is now worse because the Nigerian state must contend with other security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry and herdsmen.

“Bandits and herdsmen are new lethal additions to our national security challenges. Blood flows daily in towns and villages in most parts of the northern states. Yet the Nigerian state feels almost helpless. I hope it only feels so but it is not helpless because a government with all the security resources should not feel helpless,” Agbese said.

Continuing he said “We cannot just sit on our hunches and take comfort in the traditional role of the media to inform, educate and entertain. We must do much more. We can start by speaking truth to power. The media can and should prevent this country from degenerating into a nation of hypocrites in which we all wear plastic smiles on our faces because we choose to live a lie about the true situation in our country.”

Delivering her lecture, Ogwezzy-Ndisika who spoke on the theme: Media Convergence as strategy for survival, listed the advantage of convergence to modern day media which she said should give media companies the opportunity to constantly learn and keep informed on their capacity to navigate the large body of delivery channels provided by advancement of technology to reach their audience, make profit and retain market leadership.

She said that media convergence would not only keep the media surviving; it also has the potential to make the media industry thrive beyond all reasonable doubts.

Ogwezzy-Ndisika said most media houses in Nigeria are yet to understand this truth, hence the retrenchment of staff, poor remuneration, shallow content production as well as failure to perform its watchdog function.

“It is important to note that surviving media houses today are those that have found a way of ensuring that they get acquainted with the latest trends and remodeled their strategy towards making the best out of these trends,” she said.

She urged the media professionals, editors and managers in particular to be innovative, proactive and dynamic in their approach, stressing that there was no end to learning.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Guild of Editors Elects New Officers

“There is room for learning of these tools as well as the inclusion of technology-savvy digital natives in handling how the Nigerian media works. Drawing from NYT’s model, there is always the need to uphold traditional news values without compromise. This distinguishes us from non-professionals marauding within the journalism field in our country,” she said.

In addition, Ogwezzy-Ndisika expressed the confidence that the outcome of this year’s convention would help in opening the vista of new ideas and refreshing strategies to take the media industry in the country to the next height it deserves.

“With the world now digital, any journalism model that seeks to strive and excel beyond bounds must consider the right way to harness digital elements for a greater good. From this convention, I look forward to seeing a Nigerian media industry repositioned to embrace the convergence culture with both arms.

“Beyond releasing of a communiqué and media reports about this convention, I propose a more holistic approach towards retooling our strategies and being innovative to remain relevant in this technologically-defined age,” she said.

Ibanga, in her vote of thanks, described Ogwezzy-Ndisika as a lady that has scored many firsts whose lecture would form a chapter in the book soon to be published by the Guild.

In her characteristic articulacy, Ibanga, also expressed gratitude to the delegates and other guests for being part of the successful event and wished them well. She particularly praised the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for identifying with the Guild and commended the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode for being exceptional in his support for NGE.

“Our dear governor, we appreciate your support over the years, the Lagos State government has been there for us, the current governor has been exceptional, he has done everything we have asked him to do, thank you dear governor. We must mention our deep sense of appreciation to our Chairman (Agbese), Mr. Chairman, you accepted to chair this occasion without persuasion, we are inspired by your kind words. We are grateful to you indeed,” Ibanga said.

The Inspector-General of Police, Fellows of the NGE, past presidents, past deputy presidents and those who had served the Guild in different capacities were not left out in Ibanga’s vote of thanks, which elicited ovations from the audience.

As the first election that the body conducted using its amended 2017 Constitution and election guidelines, a few dissenting voices arose, however, Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Ray Ekpu, was able to put the situation under control before the commencement of the election.

Plaques were later presented to Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Agbese; Ambode, Vice President, and the Lagos State Government for being a wonderful host.

Goodwill messages were presented by the Inspector-General of Police represented by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Frank Mba; President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzo, Minister of Information and Culture represented by Sani Baba, acting Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Press Council, Mr. Victor Egharevba.

Apart from the fact that the editors showed example by their demeanor during the convention, another key lesson from the event showed that success comes easily with good planning.

It is expected that the media in Nigeria will begin to reap from the gains of this year’s NGE’s Convention as the stakeholders work collectively for the survival of the industry as a team instead of unwholesome rivalry.

Election Committee was led by Ray Ekpu; other members were Bonnie Iwuoha, Gbemiga Ogunleye; Dupe Ajayi-Gbadebo and Abdulhamid Adamu Majia. They conducted the election that produced the new officers of the Guild; Funke Egbemode, President; Umar Saidu Tudunwada, Deputy President; Sam Egbala, Vice President East; Hajia Sani, Vice President, North, Mustapha Isah, Vice President, West; Mary Atolagbe, General Secretary, Austen Elewedalu , Assistant General Secretary.

Others were Victoria Ibanga, Treasurer; Ken Ugbechie, Social/Publicity Secretary; Ngwuoke N.Ngwuoke, Standing Committee, East; Freston Akpor, Standing Committee, East; Catherine Agbo, Standing Committee, North; Husseina Bangshika, Standing Committee, North; Steve Nwosu, Standing Committee, West; Charles Eze Anaba, Standing Committee, West; Gabriel Akinadewo, Standing Committee, West.

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