History was made this weekend with the inauguration of the Nasarawa State Private Media Owners Association by no less than state governor Engr. Abdullah Sule.
The association includes privately funded radio stations and newspapers domiciled in Nasarawa State. The occasion also witnessed an inaugural lecture and a series of awards to prominent figures in the state.
The fact that the governor personally graced the event is confirmation of his label as the state’s “media friendly” CEO, something all media associations in the state attest to – NUJ, NAWOJ , Correspondents’ Chapel, RATTAWU and the new, Media Owners Association.
Although Nasarawa State is a relatively ‘small’ state in many ways, it is remarkable that it now has its own share of private media, print and radio.
When it was established in 1996 (separate from the former Plateau State), the media in Nasarawa State was wholly owned by the government, it had only one radio station, namely, the Nasarawa Broadcasting Service (NBS ). The television arm of NBS came a few years later. A private newspaper owned by an indigene of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Umar started covering events in the state while residing and printing in Jos, Plateau State.
Later, the state government bought it back from its owner, converting it into a government-owned newspaper with a new name, Nigerian Newsday. For some reason, the state government decided to scrap it in 2013 and redeploy its staff to the Ministry of Information.
Newsday’s disappearance gave rise to the private newspaper Nasarawa Eye. But the first private newspaper in Nasarawa State is the EggonNews which has been published for about 20 years now. To date, we have the following private newspapers domiciled in Nasarawa State namely EggonNews, Nasarawa Eye, Thinker and Eyewitness.
For private radios, we have Breeze fm in Lafia, Maloney fm in Keffi, Platinum fm in Keffi and Option fm in Akwanga. The eight organizations (press and broadcast) constitute the new Nasarawa State Private Media Owners Association, chaired by Dr. Nawani Aboki, founder of Breeze fm, Lafia.
Breeze fm will be remembered by many for the nationwide outcry that was generated after its premises were demolished on May 20, 2017, for what the state government then described as the station’s failure to uphold the “building rules,” an allegation the outfit has denied. It was widely believed to be because of a news program that the government considered unfavorable.
The station itself sued the state government for “illegal demolition” of its premises. However, all of that is now a thing of the past as the two sides have now “reconciled” and the current governor, Engr. Sule is now the “best friend” of all media organizations in the state, whether state, federal or privately owned. This does not mean that the private media does not criticize him when the need arises, even if it is constructive.
It is to the credit of private media in Nasarawa State that they still manage to stand their ground despite the difficult operating environment brought about by astronomical production/operations costs and lack of patronage in general, through general public advertisements. , especially for the written press.
Thus, private newspapers and radio stations render a social and patriotic service. They never break even. And Dr. Aboki alluded to this fact when he told the assembled guests that the operating environment remains uncertain.
”This situation is aggravated by the epileptic power supply, the high cost and scarcity of diesel and gasoline, the rising cost of printing materials, the low attendance of media services as well as the high cost of license fees. There is the possibility of shutting down media stations in the state unless concerted efforts are made to save them,” he lamented. According to the president of the Nasarawa State Private Media Owners Association, part of the solution is for its members to find new, cheaper sources of energy, new markets and support to survive.
The Chief Justice of Nasarawa State (who happens to be the first female Chief Justice of Nasarawa State and North-Central Nigeria was awarded the “Excellence in Administration of Justice” award by the association for his commitment to judicial reform in the state.
The Emir of Lafia who is also the Chairman of the Nasarawa Council of Heads of State, Judge Sidi Bage 1 won the ‘Icon of Peace and Unity’ award as ”the first judge of the Supreme Court to become a first-class traditional leader, promoter of peace and unity among the various peoples of Nasarawa State, a demonstration of exemplary and unusual humility for a traditional leader.
The Minister of State at the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Advocate Mohammed Abdullahi, was honored for being ”a point of reference for dedication and commitment to national service, a exemplary beacon of hope for the youth of Nasarawa State”. Advocate Abdullahi served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice as well as Secretary to the Government of Nasarawa State.
Governor Sule himself was awarded the rare ‘Icon of Leadership’ award for his ‘commitment to harnessing the resources of Nasarawa State for economic prosperity’.
He has been described as a “prudent manager of human and financial resources; exemplary commitment in the realization of several years of abandoned projects in the state; engineering the networking of rural communities to urban centers; deliberately shifting the state from a public service state to an investment destination in Nigeria; creator of the most peaceful state in northern Nigeria. Nigeria’s Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Henry Omaku received the ‘Champion of Excellence in Human Development’ award for his ‘commitment to empowering the youth of Nasarawa State’.
The ambassador is considered ”a rising star, a worthy example for today’s youth and a vanguard in the development of human capital”. Member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Jonathan Gaza Gbefwi received the “Champion of Good Governance” award for his leadership in legislative affairs, engaging his constituents with quality projects and also promoting grassroots development.
The inaugural lecture, ”Nasarawa State: 26 years after, the role of private media and challenges of development” was skillfully presented on behalf of the guest speaker by Alhaji Musa Abdullahi, former Managing Director of NBS and Radio Nigeria, Lafia and now Acting Director of News, FRCN Headquarters, Abuja.
Alhaji Abdullahi personally commended the media for setting the stage while calling on them to uphold the broadcasting code and the ethics of the journalistic profession, as did other major speakers of the time. Among them were Information Commissioner Yakubu Lawal, Education Commissioner Hajia Fati Jimeta, Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi, a gentleman whose urban and cosmopolitan nature endears him to many, has done a good job in as president of the historic event.
Ditto the friend, Tongdyen Moses, station manager at Breeze FM.
Ikeano writes from Lafia, Nasarawa State via 08033077519, [email protected]