It is a great delight for me to be in your midst today. All thanks be to Almighty God who has kept us all alive to witness this day.
2. My presence at this august occasion is borne out of two-fold reasons. This first part of the chord is the great respect I have for the journalism profession and its great practitioners, one of whom is the author of today. But for journalism and the monumental strides of its practitioners, especially during military rule, the democracy that we all have today would not have been a reality. Coupled with the role of keeping government on its toes, making it accountable to the governed, which the Fourth Estate of the Realm has been performing creditably well in the last 13 years, no patriot worth his onions would not doff his hat for Nigerian journalists.
3. The second reason for my presence here this morning is the respect I have for the author of the book, A servant to his colleagues, Mr. Tunde Akingbade. He is one veteran journalist that the profession must continue to venerate because of his link to those great days of unpolluted journalism practice and the integrity that he has come to represent over the years.
4. The documentation of Mr. Akingbade’s journalism experience over the decades which is captured in this book is a commendable path which journalists must be encouraged to tread. Those who refer to journalism as history in a hurry indeed understand the mobile nature of the historical content of newspapers. Day in day out, we read in the papers great documentation of our today which eventually become perishable due to the passing phases of stories in them. But these stories are passing historical documents which needed to be collated for our children and children’s children to read about our strides.
5. Newspapers cannot offer us that ability to document this passing history because of their perishability. This is why converting some of those historical events into books is a great service to humanity. Such efforts should be encouraged so that posterity will be availed the opportunity of having access to some of your great journalistic efforts and critical historical occasions that are reported in the media.
6. Let me thus use this occasion to impress it upon our journalists to consider towing the path of Mr. Akingbade’s A Servant to His Colleagues. It is one noble path that will surely enrich historical documentation and make more enduring the history-in-a-hurry that journalists document on a daily basis. So, great practitioners of the media, I throw the challenge to you all this morning to expand the frontiers of your documentation of history: Get them published in book form and stop the drift of destruction of great historical interventions in perishable newspaper publications.
7. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let me draw the attention of the great men of the pen fraternity to the emerging trend in the profession which we will need to avert our minds to. It is the trend of online media. A few months ago, the whole world woke up to the news of the great and influential 79-year old Newsweek magazine management announcing the shut-down of their hard copy edition and stating that the magazine would henceforth publish online.
8. There is a great threat to the hard-copy publication of newspapers all over the world, and for several reasons. In Nigeria, the first and most daunting attack to the sustenance of hard copy newspaper publication is the shrinking purchasing power of the Naira and the terse purses of Nigerians. In those days, newspapers were available in every home, especially in the highly educated Southern part of the country. Today, because of the poverty in the land, purchasing newspapers is a big task. This has ensured that the print run of many Nigerian newspapers has dwindled considerably and ultimately affecting the publications of newspapers. Indeed, there is this allegation that all the print-runs of all newspapers in Nigeria today cannot be compared to the 500,000 and 200,000 copies of the Sunday Times and the Sunday Tribune of the early eighties.
9. The second reason that constitutes a great threat to newspaper publication in Nigeria is the availability of same news materials on the internet. Many newspaper readers do not have to purchase hard copies of the paper but resort to reading the content of the news online. This has affected the fortune of newspapers greatly. Many great newspapers like Next have had to close shop due to the capital intensive nature of newspaper publication and the dwindling returns from advertisements and circulation.
10. This has posed the challenge of the need for the Nigerian media to gravitate towards online publications. It is the new wave of media and guarantees less capital and 24-hr availability of news to the readers.
11. However, online publications pose their own great challenge to the practice of journalism. Chief among this is the infiltration of non-professionals and all manners of people into journalism practice. This has swelled the ranks of falsehood peddlers and those who assassinate characters of the elite without corresponding verification of their reports. And because their news is made available to a multiplicity of readers, it enjoys wide audience and rave review which has the potential to destroy faster than a bushfire in the harmattan.
12. I just want to draw our attention to this new wave and the need for journalists to also convoke their own version of a general conference where the issue of the future of the practice would be decided. If politicians can ask for political reforms, if there are demands for reforms in the petroleum sector, why can’t the media also demand and actualize a media reform of its own? To keep silent over it and the danger it poses to the practice would be unwise of us all.
13. Once again, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I want to salute the great men and women who have made the profession of journalism a distinguished vocation as this. I want to put on record the efforts of journalists at building an equitable and egalitarian society. I pray that when the history of the greatness of this nation shall be written, your efforts would occupy sizeable chapters in the anal of our history.
14. Thank you for listening and God bless you all.
Being the paper delivered by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo Stateat the launch of a book by veteran journalist, Tunde Akingbade, in Ibadan, Oyo State.