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‘Funtua’s immortalisation is wakeup call for Jakande, Osoba, others to be recognised’

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Professor Lai Oso of the School of Communication, Lagos State University, Ojo, has said that the recognition on the late Ismaila Isa Funtua will propel the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) to consider immortalising Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, Chief Segun Osoba and the likes who have contributed tremendously to the development of journalism in Nigeria.

Recently, NPAN, NGE and NUJ named the new Nigeria Institute of Journalism building in Lagos after Funtua in recognition of his contributions to journalism in the country.

Though many have lauded this move, some others said it was an honour that every serious journalist in Nigeria should be worried about.

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Professor Oso said, “one is not privileged to the process that led to the decision, so, it is difficult to say whether it’s good or bad. But what are the factors and parameters taken into consideration? There have been so many people who have done so much for journalism practice even to the NIJ itself, and they have not had NUJ, NGE and other professional bodies do anything in their honour.

“I think this is a wakeup call for them to recognise such people. One is thinking of Jakande who was more or less the moving spirit behind the establishment of the NIJ, Segun Osoba, the late Dele Giwa and Alex Ibru who established The Guardian. One cannot ignore the contribution of The Guardian to Nigerian journalism.”

Oso, however, pointed out, “maybe Funtua did a lot for NIJ in this government considering the fact that the man was part of the kitchen cabinet of the president, but one is not too familiar with what he did for journalism. In the consciousness of the people, many will not mention his name as having done so much for journalism.”

Professor John Illah of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, said Funtua must have done great in advancing journalism in the country to merit such an honour, as it’s not every time journalists are celebrated.

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According to him, “I don’t know his credential well, but I don’t have any issues with the naming. But in Nigeria, people criticise every decision or action. The fact that there is a controversy means that there is a positive dimension to it, even though it may be a negative one because of his closeness to Buhari.”

National president of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo lauded the move saying it was well deserved. He said, “as chairman of the Governing Board of the NIJ, he demonstrated high level of passion in his commitment to ensure we had a strong brand patterned like the London School of Journalism. His demise has clearly left a vacuum. In the area of Press Freedom, he equally played a commanding role as he stood against incessant harassment, intimidation and clampdown on media professionals by state authorities.”

The NIJ described the late Funtua as ‘defender of press freedom’ in the country, saying he was more than a strong pillar of support to the institution.

NIJ Provost Gbemiga Ogunleye said Funtua was a committed and passionate defender of freedom of speech, press freedom and democracy, who in pursuant of this commitment, established the Democrat Newspaper during the era of military dictatorship in Nigeria.

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According to him, “Funtua was always quick to rally the media community against any legislation or policy targeted at stiffing the media. In recognition of his astute leadership qualities and investment in the media industry, he was first elected as Vice-President of the Newspaper Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN) under the Presidency of the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.”

He was later elected the President of NPAN, a position he held with dignity and honour, promoting and defending media interest in Nigeria, Africa and the world. He was instrumental to Nigeria’s hosting of the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress and General Assembly in Abuja, in 2018.

Oguleye noted that “As the Chairman of our Governing Council, Mallam Ismaila Isa, ably supported by his Council members, initiated the re-engineering and re-positioning of the Institution as the foremost journalism academic and professional training institute in Nigeria and Africa. He also masterminded the renovation of the NIJ Building (Light House) on Adeyemo Alakija, Victoria Island, Lagos.

His love for the media industry and commitment to training and retraining of journalists endeared him to many. It was no surprise, therefore that he was highly revered by many as a pillar of media education and professional practice in Nigeria.”

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