‘Why I want to lead NUJ’
Managing Editor at The Nation’s Newspapers, Alhaji Abdulwaheed Odusile is one of the six candidates vying for the post of the presidency of the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
According to him, “I believe I have a lot to offer to the profession, to the union and to our members.
I also believe that the union deserve better leadership and that is not to say that the present administration under the leadership of Mallam Mohammed Garuba is bad; they have done very well, but nothing is too good that cannot be improved upon and we want to build on the union and add a lot for the betterment of our members.”
Speaking on this plans for the union when he becomes president, he noted that his administration will emphasize on professionalism, “we intend to root out quacks in the profession; we have been be-deviled of late by this people called quacks which is actually threatening us.
Just like someone identified corruption as the bane of Nigeria, and Buhari said that if we don’t kill corruption, it will kill Nigeria, I make bold to say that as long as quacks and fake journalists exists, I am afraid it is very dangerous and the future to me is bleak.
These quacks don’t even know what it takes to be a journalist; once you present yourself with a paper and a pen and you can write few sentences, and then people believe they are journalists and these are the people giving us bad names and the leadership of the union will not allow that to happen.
“We want to focus on rooting out the bad eggs, if you want to be a journalist, you have to be trained and certificated to be a journalist because it is a skilled profession. We believe that we can achieve this with the corporation of our members, editors and the union.
No newspaper house will deliberately go out to recruit a quack, but then, there are some of our colleagues whom you will be shocked at the quality of what they write and their media organizations may not even know about it until there is complaint in their inability to deliver properly.”
Alhaji Odusile also stressed that there was a time the union set up a committee to tackle quacks in our midst but were constrained by lack of willingness from the security agencies and the law itself as it was vague as to what to charge them for, noting that with understanding and the corporation of the police, it will become a possibility in the future.
“However, if we have a register for journalists where they present the requisite qualifications, then it is a way to checkmate, whereby a journalist does not have the necessary qualification, he will be denied registration and be given a time frame to get trained, if he fails to do so, he will be prevented from practicing.
“Not many people teach ethics and information technology in our mass communication institutions; we all know journalism has gone beyond sitting in front of a computer; it has gone Hi-tech. Practicing as a modern day journalist is what we expect and insist our members posses else the editor suffers because he has to rack his brain to make the copy better.”
Alhaji Odusile also noted that his leadership will like to propose a law to the National Assembly where journalists will be made to undergo as programme and be admitted into the body of journalism before they can be allowed to practice depending on their level of qualification, “once that is done, the tendency to concoct, or publish falsehood stories will be reduced.”
On the effect of the social media journalism and its regulation, he said, “when the social media started it was an all-comers affair and now we can see the negative impact it has brought, what I believe we could do is that bloggers should register officially before they start blogging.
So many people today who blog don’t know anything about journalism, they think it’s about publishing gossips and people follow it and those of us in established media houses are the ones bearing the grunt of their act. If we cannot register them, we can bring them into some form of control.
If they are trained, they will understand ethics and the need for privacy which they don’t know and that will bring some form of sanity to social media journalism.”
On the issue of journalists salaries, the NUJ presidential aspirant said, “the pay is poor across boards, only a few media houses pay what you describe as living wage while others pay very poorly and not as at when due, we have cases of backlog of unpaid salaries running into months and even years, we will like to tackle that and make it impossible for media owners to owe our members, we believe we can achieve that if we can get a law put in place.
“I know that in some countries, you can’t owe workers, it is against the law and it is about time in Nigeria that the laws are set right to stop employers from owing salaries; it is even so bad that the government owes. Sometime ago, we had the Media Practitioners Enhancement bill that was proposed by one of the former presidents which never saw the light of day but then we will like to bring it up again and it will tackle these issues of salaries, regulation of practice and registration of members.”
It will be recalled that in 2012, Alhaji Odusile contested for the post of the deputy presidency on the union and lost to the current deputy president who is also one of the six aspirants contesting for the post of the presidency.
According to Alhaji Odusile, “I narrowly lost the seat of the deputy in 2012 because I have been away from the union and so it was a case of trying to introduce myself all over to the people but today, in terms of name calling across the federation, it is no longer strange in the minds of NUJ members.
Also, having been in the system, I can say that I am better off now than three years ago. I believe that I am properly grounded, my council is behind me; three years ago, Lagos had too many candidates for the office, we had a president from Lagos and I also ran for deputy, that affected the choice of candidates and where to vote since Lagos is asking for both president and deputy.
This time, we have put our house together and Lagos is going for just presidency and just one person, we believe with our strength and support from other councils, we will be victorious.”
He also noted that the management and journalists in The Nation are solidly behind him as they see him as an Ambassdor, “they are in support of my ambition to bring the presidency of NUJ back to Lagos state which we last had 21 years ago and we hope that this returns to Lagos where the bulk of practicing journalists reside.”
Alhaji Odusile is a graduate of mass communication from The Polytechnic Ibadan. He started his journalism career three decades ago upon graduation as a trainee reporter at the television service of Oyo state.
He moved to print and joined The Concord press as a reporter and rose through the ranks; he spent a better time of his career as an airport correspondent which he said gave him much leverage in journalism today.
He moved up to being the line editor, the assistant editor and then deputy editor Sunday concord. He moved to Thisday Newspapers as the news editor on Sunday, then group political editor, left for The Sun Newspapers where he served as the assistant, then editor at the National Life before he moved to The Nation Newspapers where he currently works as the Managing Editor.
For Alhaji Odusile has never left the newsroom for one day and has risen through being a reporter to an editor. In the Union, he is described as a comrade who started his active unionism after he was elected secretary of his chapel at the Concord Press twice and then vice chairman of Lagos council, member of the central working committee NUJ under the administration of now Sen.
Smart Adeyemi, then national ex-officio under the late Dagene Aku. He is the only one among the six aspirants vying for presidency who is a member of the guild of editors.