THE fireworks at the Maiden Anambra Media Submit centred on the roles the new media were playing and how they could be used to improve society. The consensus was that a lot that was wrong with the new media and that the new media would remain a threat for as long as “good men” allowed “others” to take over the space rather than occupy it. Instead of wasting hours telling us the evil of the new media, preachers of traditional media values, should show what we preach by filling new media spaces with our work.
Professor Chineyere Stella Okunna took us through ethics. For her, there was one ethics. She was not a believer in situational ethics, which is the strand of that
challenging subject that I fully subscribe to, even with reservations. She held that efforts to use other ethics, minimised ethics which must be taught in every media class.
A bit of the dilemma that ethics presented popped up when I told the house that objectivity was a myth, unattainable, difficult to define, and impracticable in the media. My example was that if we pursued objectivity all stories would have to be on the front page of the newspaper, with the same size of headlines, the same length, and equal spaces for illustrations.
I proposed fairness, balancing, inclusion of many voices, especially the weak, poor, sick, elderly, women, youth, giving a story more sides than the two we teach in journalism schools, as more desirable ambitions than objectivity. That marked the commencement of another debate from an unlikely voice; it was not a small voice.
Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, of Igbo-Ukwu, extraction, 78 by November 20, mobile as if he is in his fifties, did not attend secondary school. He taught himself with correspondence courses to gain university admission. His career after a BSc in Economics from the University College Ibadan, then Harvard University, which he attended with a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship – for his Masters and PhD in 1972, had a point to make.
The former headmaster, lecturer at Makarare University College, Kampala, Uganda, a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and a consultant with Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, Massachusetts, soon indicated he had something to say. He joined the Civil Service as an Administrative Officer and retired as a federal Permanent Secretary.
The first Governor of the new Anambra State had his legendary white beards. I missed a chance of confirming that he retired from service because he refused to trim his luxuriant beards to proportions that Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, the second-in-command of the Buhari administration wanted.
As chairman of the session, I had earlier played my part in the traditional breaking of the kolanut, remarking that such a river flowing in the direction of Okwadike Igbo-Ukwu, had found its home. Of course, we had halted everything for the breaking of kolanut, as our traditions demand, and reverted to the only language that kolanut understands, Igbo.
I almost felt that the occasion was meant to welcome The Oracle Today and I home. I was in Awka presiding over kolanut for Ndigbo and our friends – many of us would not understand.
“What is the use of the entire exercise if we cannot attain objectivity? Where is ethics without objectivity?,” Dr. Ezeife asked in his firm voice. Others echoed his position. I tied to wriggle out of the corner, glad that I had Professor Okunna in my corner.
The range of the debates about in whose hands the new media should be intensified after Uche Nworah, Managing Director of Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS, deplored the reduction of news to coverage of government, and the mess many are making of it. Bloggers, he said, had populated the news sphere, indulging in practices that had no room for reflecting the responsibility that journalism imposes on its practitioners.
Sir Chuka Nnabuife, Managing Director of National Light, the Anambra State-owned newspapers, dealt with journalism and democracy, highlighting the parts that journalists were expected to play, in a paper that was so academic that he pooled references dating to 1910. We criticised him for taking us so back, he answered with candour, and drew our attention to more recent references in his work.
The independence that the new media provided, the expanses of freedoms that they offer, were considered appropriate for addressing the issues with our society, while eschewing the scandals.
One of the major papers of the days (and I thank Dr. Ezeife, personally for staying with us to the end, well after 6pm) was the presentation from Professor Olusegun Sogbesan, the Director-General of Onitsha Business School, one of the two intellectual power houses in Onitsha (the other is The Oracle Today). His treatise on the transformation of Anambra State was fecund, verdant, profound and prodigious in the ideas that would place Anambra State in the map of the world.
Sogbesan came to Anambra State in 1991, winning an award that Dr. Ezeife as Governor presented to him, married one of ours, and speaks Igbo better than most of us. He actually challenged us to say some English words in Igbo, reminding us to stick to central Igbo. Our failure rate was high.
The story of Professor Sogbesan will be told soon in The Oracle Today.
We had a parade of the different chapels, dances, and the banters that are not absent when journalists meet.
My paper, the last one for the day, was on Media, Power, Politics, Priorities – Ndigbo Narratives. I will not say anything on what I said. The paper would be available on oraclenews.ng, later today.
C. Don had a major counter to my position on Biafra. He said Biafra was dead. It was an idea, so gone, that it should not be present in conversations about our future. I refrained from responding because I know he knows better than holding that public view.
The healthy exchanges that ruled the two-day summit brought to the fore the need for more training, more skills, more capacities, and better welfare for journalists, for them to improve their works.
One of our elders Stanley Egbochukwu, he shuns titles, made contributions that nudged us to take our profession more serious. He commended Professor Sogbesan’s scholarly paper, saying that he was not surprised since he trained in Scotland. Mr. Egbochukwu is a product of a couple of Scottish universities. He manages Orient Daily, an Awka-based publication.
I thank the Anambra State Council of the NUJ for the summit, Mr. Don Onyenji, one-time Deputy Managing Director of ABS and former National Vice President of RATTAWU, who as the Master of Ceremonies, MC, thrilled us in the trying setting of managing journalists. I wish Don well, in his political ambitions.
Join the conversations on the Maiden Anambra Summit on oraclenews.ng, where all the presentations and the communiqué would be published.
Professor Okunna presenting her paper on Ethics, with C. Don, Dr. Ezeife, and Mr. Stanley Egbochukwu, MD, Orient Daily
From left: Professor Sogbesan of Onitsha Business School, as Mr. Nworah, MD, Anambra Broadcasting Service presents, and Sir Chuka Nnabuife, MD, National Light, who presented earlier.
Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Editor-in-Chief of The Oracle Today, presenting kola nut, with C. Don, Dr. Ezeife, Sir Nnabuife and Mr. Nworah