NATIONAL SECRETARY, NIGERIA UNION OF
SENIOR EXECUTIVE COURSE (SEC) 31, 2009.
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR POLICY AND STRATEGIC
STUDIES (NIPPS) ON TUESDAY, AUGUST, 2009.
NUJ AND JOURNALISM IN NIGERIA
Without doubt, Journalism profession has come a long way in
Nigeria since the establishment of “IWE IROHIN FUN AWON EGBA
ATI YORUBA” in Abeokuta, 147 years ago by the Christian
Unarguably, it stands out as one of the oldest modern
professions to take root and flourish in Nigeria.
Regrettably, however, the establishment of a professional
regulatory body as well as unionizing practitioners came at
a time when the profession was almost a century old. No
doubt this lateness has its effects on development of the
profession as well as its practitioners.
Nevertheless, it never robbed it of its vibrancy and vigour
at critical times in the historic developments that shaped
the fortune and future of Nigeria. In any case, the Nigeria
Union of Journalists (NUJ) have come of age as both a
professional body and a trade union group.
A panoramic review of the salient developments in the
profession over the years, beginning with the purely
educational and evangelistic role of “IWE-IROHIN”, reveals
that the profession developed into a veritable platform for
leadership training and anti-colonial struggle under the
British Colonial rule.
With the spread and acceptance of Western Education and
following the creation of Nigeria as one country in 1914,
individuals who later turned out to be among our founding
fathers saw journalism as an instrument of enlightenment of
our people as well as a weapon against the oppression and
injustices of the colonial system of government. Prior to
this stage of journalism in Nigeria, the adversary sometimes
– conflictual roles between the government (colonial
authority) and the media has already been established.
Among the earliest newspapers were Lagos Times (1880-1883),
Lagos Observer (1882), Lagos Weekly Record (1883) Chronicle
(1908) Nigerian Times (1910) African Messenger (1921), and
West African Pilot in 1937.
It is generally agreed that the establishment of The Pilot
by Nnamdi Azikiwe in November 22, 1937, marked the beginning
of a revolutionalised brand of journalism. Its mission was
encapsulated in its motto of “show the light and the people
will find the way”.
It is a thoroughly people-oriented newspaper whose vision
was to liberate the people from all forms of oppression. By
1940, Azikiwe has established the Zik Group of Newspapers
with the following in its stable, Eastern Nigerian Guardian
(Port Harcourt, 1940) Nigeria Spokesman (Onitsha, 1943);
Southern Nigerian Defender (Warri, 1943); Daily Comet
(Lagos/Kano, 1944); Eastern Sentinel (Engu, 1955) and
Nigerian Monitor (Uyo, 1960).
These newspapers and others came to champion nationalism and
anti-colonial struggle while others were established to
protect government, ethnic and sectional interests like the
Nigerian Daily Times and the Nigerian Citizen, later New
Nigeria, all contributed to the development of journalism as
well as the development of the nation.
Another phase of development of journalism came under the
various military regimes and their coercive form of
governance. It was the classic case of a pen is mightier
than the sword as today, what the profession of journalism
fought for, democracy and good governance is in place even
if grotesque in shape. The military are back in the barracks
and we are under democratic rule.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) founded on March 15,
1955 marked the zenith of years of a silent revolution for
the actualization of a common front by some early
nationalists who formed the core of a call for independent
Nigeria. Prominent among those nationalists with the fire of
patriotism and nationalism burning in them and their
writings were Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo,
Herbert Macaulay, Chief H.O. Davies, among others.
The Union since inception in 1955 had fifteen (15)
Presidents with Mr Mobolaji Odunewu (1955-1960) as the first
President while Muhammad Garba is the current President.
Similarly NUJ have had five National Secretaries, with Chief
Olu Oyesanya (1955 – 1959) as the first secretary and
Shu’aibu Usman Leman (2002-date) as the current National
Secretary. The Union has a training wing, the International
Institute of Journalism located in Abuja, which was
established towards the realisation of its vision to train
and retrain its cadres and to prepare them adequately to
contribute more effectively to National Development.
Presently, the registered membership of Nigeria Union of
Journalists is above 25,000