The 10th All Nigeria Guild of Editors Conference that ended in Katsina, Katsina State last weekend was truly extraordinary. The conference of newspaper and broadcast editors was aptly themed: “Credible Elections and Good Governance: The Role of The Editor” The theme was indeed reflective of the editors’ stake in the nation’s good governance project. Lawal Sa’idu Funtua, examines the outcome of the conference.
The Nigeria Guild of Editors is the umbrella association of Nigerian editors working as gatekeepers in various media houses operating in the country. The association has over the years contributed to national discourse through its yearly national conferences that were rotated among states of the federation. The Katsina All Nigerian Editors conference was the 10th edition of the conference and with the crucial election year lurking around, the guild aptly chose the theme of the conference as, Credible Elections and Good Governance: The Role of The Editor. Experts from both the academia, Private and Public service were invited to either present or discuss some thought provoking topics that define and redefine the very existence of the country.
This year’s conference is particularly unique as it came at a time when the association clocks 10 years of existence. Similarly it came at a time when many feared visiting the northern part of the country due to the daring activities of the dreaded insurgence group. The organizers of the conference had a turbulent time trying to convince stakeholders to consider holding the event in the ancient city of Katsina. The state Governor Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema however gave the required support for the success of the programme. Happily the programme kicked-off on the 27th of August with the arrival of participants in the ancient city of Katsina a day earlier.
The conference was kick-started with an opening ceremony at the magnificent state of the art Katsina State Local Government Service Commission Conference Hall opposite the State House of Assembly Complex. The chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina set the ball rolling by thanking the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema for playing host to the historic 10th edition of the conference. He said “we have come to Katsina and we saw the governor’s and the entire people of the state hospitality. In fact with the projects we saw we can comfortably say democracy is working in Katsina state”. Mr Adesina therefore focused on the theme of the conference by stating that “in 2015 we want nothing less than free, fair and credible elections”.
He also argued “when our public officers get their mandates freely and fairly, they also struggle to justify it. They do all within their powers to sustain the confidence people have reposed in them”. According to the chairman if opposite is the case “… they wrangle their ways to power through artifices and sleights of hand they develop an indifferent attitude, in which they feel they owe the electorates nothing. We need a radical departure from such in our country”.
A former Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau who is the current minister of education while speaking at the event posed the question as to between good governance and free and fair elections which one will come first. The minister reiterated the role of the media and editors in holding leaders accountable and ensuring a free, fair, transparent and credible election process. Similarly, Malam Shekarau said “it is criminal for me to end my remarks without speaking on education”. However the minister painted a gloomy picture of the education sector of the country. He therefore blamed a number of factors that contributed to the decay of the sector.
While speaking the chief host, Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema thanked the guild for choosing the state as venue for its historic 10th edition of the conference. The governor therefore tasked journalists to abide by the ethical conducts guiding the journalism profession. He also reiterated the value of freedom of expression which he said must be guarded by responsibility. According to him in as much as the value of freedom of expression is good media should not allow the character assassination of individuals. The governor used the opportunity to roll out some of the achievements recorded by his administration within the last seven years.
Governor Shema noted that when he took power in 2007 he make sure he completed all the projects inherited from his predecessor, Late President Umaru Musa ‘Yar’adua. Some of the magnificent projects cited the governor as part of his achievements include, the Umaru Musa ‘Yar’adua University, Katsina, the 250 bed space orthopaedic hospital, the multi- billion naira Katsina city ring road, the completion of the abandoned Karkanda Olympic size stadium, the new Katsina government house among others.
Proudly the governor highlighted as part of his landmark achievements his administration’s free education policy from primary to secondary schools. He noted that the government yearly shoulder the responsibilities of paying for WAEC, NECO and NABTEB examination fees for its graduating secondary school students. According to the governor over 700 indigenes of the state were sponsored on foreign studies for specialize courses. Governor Shema stated that all the school fees and other needs of the students that would cover their period of studies were fully settled.
On youth development, agriculture and infrastructure development, Governor Shema scored his administration high. The governor cited the Katsina youth craft village as a model for engaging youth on sustainable and self-reliant ventures. He noted that the youth craft village trained youth on GSM, Computer repairs, pottery, dying, auto mechanic, electrical engineering among others. On agriculture the governor said his administration has revived the irrigation scheme, provision of subsidized fertilizer to farmers across the state. The governor also mentioned the Songhai Model Farm established to trained youth on the modern techniques of farming. Roads according to him were equally constructed across the state which he said had improved people access to all parts of the state and beyond.
In a key note address, the chairman of JAIZ Bank, Dr. Umaru Mutallab spoke extensively on the role of the editors and the media in general in ensuring good governance and credible elections. Mutallab reiterated the role of editors in ensuring the survival of democracy, good governance, free and fair elections and unity of the country. The guest speaker quoted various authorities and sources to reiterate the imperatives of media to the survival of nation states and democracy. He therefore tasked the editors and media to transcend all odds and continue to provide self-less, nationalistic and patriotic services to the nation. Mutallab urged them to always be guided by the cherished ethical conducts of fairness, transparency and objectivity in their reporting.
The chairman of the session, former governor of Ogun state and veteran journalists, Chief Segun Osoba argued that 2015 is crucial to the survival of democracy and the country at large. Osoba stressed that the issue of free, fair and credible election cannot be compromised in a democratic setting. Heart-warming Osoba said was the recent elections in Ekiti and Osun states were INEC shows an element of improvement. He however warned that for Nigerians to be comfortable with INEC it must according to him get the 2015 elections right.
Experts on media spoke extensively on the desirability of free and fair elections as catalyst for the survival of democracy. Among those who spoke at the opening ceremony include, Professor Umar Pate, Chief Ray Ekpo, Shola Atere among others. All the speakers argued that the issue of credible elections consists of certain democratic elements that must be provided. Professor Pate lamented that instead of politics of issues politicians have resorted to the lazy politics of ethnic, sectional and religious sentiments. This he said is dangerous to democracy, good governance and survival of the country.
Among the prominent personalities who grace the opening ceremony of the conference include, the deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Abdullahi Garba Faskari, the chairman Peoples Daily Newspaper, Malam Wada Maida, Hajiya Jamila Tangaza and media executives from within and outside the state.
After the opening ceremony the brainstorming session moved to the Katsina Motel Conference. At the two days brainstorming session at the motel several papers on national security, democracy, good governance, health, free and fair elections processes were discussed. Presenters were drawn from government establishments, the academic, media and health sectors.
The last session of the conference include a visit to some of the projects executed by the state government in the state capital and other parts of the state. A Gala Nite wrapped up the conference where participants were treated to some traditional dances. Similarly a communiqué summing up the observations on the conference was presented.
The communiqué signed by Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina highlighted some of the recommendations of the conference which include the need to nip in the bud the growing threat of insurgency, armed robbery and kidnapping across the country. The guild noted that in as far as insecurity persists it would continue to pose a major threat to free and fair elections, good governance, unity and survival of democracy in the country.