The idea of establishing in Nigeria unfolded precisely- three weeks before the commencement of the old Oyo State NUJ PRESS WEEK in November 1988. Ever before this memorable date, all junior and very senior practitioners in this golden profession, have silently kept wondering why virtually all past and on-going political and military leaders refused to consider, let alone, recognise journalists for National Awards in this country.
In the midst of mounting and relentless patriotic services which these professionals have been rendering to the nation in terms of information, education and general mobilisation which had sustained and indeed promoted what we still have today as unity, peace, mutual understanding, progress and stability in our dear country, NOT ONE of these journalists across the country have been so identified, let alone granted such National honour as it is cheaply and constantly given to others, even those unknown before their awards.
Historically, from the pre-independence era to the first, second and subsequent republics, the facts remain widely open that it is this set of journalists that promoted virtually all the individuals that emerged as leaders at the federal, regional, state and local government levels for recognition and eventual installations respectively. Yet, the journalists up till now are denied various recognitions for such National awards.
Generally, within the professional fold, the pains continued to mount as to what befalls each of these practitioners in their old ages and when eventually out of active services.
On this particular day in question, in October 1988, out of a specific pain, the light emerged for the urgent need to reach-out to others lo create a positive way to start challenging the political leaders at all levels to give deserved recognition to journalists’ welfare and subsequent rewards for their individual and collective contributions to the nation.
As the serving Chairman of the then old Oyo State NUJ Council, primarily I met with each of my then three (3) private mentors and supporters who always counselled me on all issues I refered to them. They are Alhaji (now HRH) Oba Adewale Kasim, the Awara of Iwara-Ijesa, Dr. Bayo Banjo of JOKOTOLA Memorial Hospital and my Egbon/ Justice Akin Apara both of blessed memories.
Each of them privately voted the idea while Justice Apara in his own conclusion told me that I should appeal to my colleagues to regard the new body, the League of Veteran Journalits as the upper chamber for all circles of practicing journalists) in the country, as it is in the legal circle.
Happily enough, the issue in question emerged almost three weeks before the 1988 press week of the NUJ in the old Oyo State Council, so having secured also the consent of my Tactical committee including Mr. Sola Akinuli of the defunct Daily Sketch; Alhaji Gembo Ibrahim of the FRCN Kaduna; Mr. Dupe Adewoye my Vice Chairman; Alhaji Bolaji Kareem; my General Secretary, Mr. Muyiwa Apara and Mr. Lanre Ogundipe (later National President of NUJ).
I moved to the state executive council meeting and presented the matter as it was affecting the professional pride and welfare of our serving -and retired seniors with a motion that a body to be known as THE LEAGUE OF VETERAN JOURNALISTS be established.
I also sought the formal approval of the EXECUTIVE COUNCIL that Ibadan City, as capital of Oyo State should be given the priviledge to answer as the founding base of this honourable professional body. To the glory of God, the entire members at the EXCO meeting joyfully adopted and voted my proposal and motion to establish the Leagues of Veteran Journalists along with the investiture of the first batch of those we will subsequently nominate as our Honourary Veteran Awardees, across the country.
I also received the unanimous approval of the state Exco on my amended proposal that the NUJ Press Week events of the year 1988 will include (A) VETERANS’ DAY to recognized the Pioneer Veterans. Also Approved was the added motion that a Day should be regarded in the NUJ press week as Journalists Family Night when those selected and regarded as Best Reporter and Cameraman of the year would be awarded in the midst of all members and their families.
My self and the committee members including Alhaji Adeola Bashiru (A.K.A Asiri abo) as Chairman, Alhaji Iyiola Lawal (Chairman Correspondents’ Chapel), Alhaji Bola Adegoke and Mr. Laolu Ajulo (both of Blessed memory) eventually presented a list of the first Award and was duly approved.
Albeit, now 27 years after, the same great pains of the open neglect, lack of deserved recognition and required rewards and awards due to the Gentle-men of the fourth Estate of the Realm in Nigeria has remained unattended to by our various leaders at the federal, state and local government levels while both aged and retired as well as serving younger practitioners in the field of information, education and peoples mobilisation towards unity, peace and stability still remain buoyantly committed to their ethical and professional services to the nation.
In conclusion, is it not truly very sad to assert that the available record today in Nigeria, so far confirms that only Mr. Peter Ajayi answered as a National Awardee shortly before his death?
But with the current flagging and progressive marching of CHANGE in the nation, under President Muhammadu Buhari, journalists still remain hopeful for deserved recognitions and rewards at various levels. So let it be, we are praying.
Dagunduro (FNUJ) is a former Chairman NUJ, Oyo State Council.