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Controversies in South West NUJ over Aregbesola’s induction as grand patron

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Controversies have continued to trail the proposed induction of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, as the Grand Patron of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the South West.

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Six state council chairmen of the NUJ disagree about the justification for the award.

The union at its zonal meeting on 12th March 2021, agreed to halt the induction over the leadership crisis in the zone which has been referred to the National Executive Council of the Union and opposition of all the six state council chairmen of the union.

During the zonal meeting, the South West Vice President of the union, Cosmos Oni was removed following his retirement from service in accordance with the constitution of the union and appointed the Zonal Secretary Bamigbola Gbolagunte as the acting vice president.

However, the National Secretariat of the union overruled the removal in a letter dated March 17th 2021 signed by its National Assistant Secretary, Akorede Olawale directing the suspension of his removal and allow the NEC for final adjudication as appropriate.

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Apart from Aregbesola, others honoured by the NUJ includes Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Makama among others.

However, Aregbesola’s nomination met stiff opposition from the six south-west chairmen of the union. Consequently, they agreed to postpone the award ceremony pending the resolution of the leadership issue by the NEC.

Issues raised against Aregbesola’s nomination according to sources at the meeting includes unresolved backlog of workers half salary and his disposition to media practitioners by consistently disparaging them whenever they have a dissenting voice on state matters.

But against this decision, a flier suddenly surfaced on social media, purportedly endorsed by Bamigbola Gbolagunte who announced the 25th March 2021, for the award at the NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.

While scores of political associates of the former Osun State Governor have been celebrating the proposed investiture on different social media platforms, the six states that constitute the zonal wing of the union in the South West have unanimously distanced themselves from such event.

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It is not clear if the event will still hold with the opposition of the Oyo state council to the Investiture. It was learnt that the Iyaganku NUJ Press Centre which was scheduled as the venue was not approved and the union had equally directed its members not to participate in the event.

It is also unknown if the six state chairmen have resolved to attend the award and recognize the investiture if the vice president and the Zonal Secretary insist on proceeding with the award.

An associate of the interior minister, however, hinted that the venue of the proposed event had been changed from NUJ Press Centre in Ibadan to Premier Hotel located in the metropolis.

When contacted, the Osun NUJ Chairman Wasiu Ajadosu said the matter has already become an issue before the NEC and he can not comment on it.

Meanwhile, some civil society organisations have expressed reservations over the proposed investiture, calling on the leadership of NUJ in the zone to tread with caution.

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An NGO, Advocacy for Media Rights, on Wednesday described the proposed investiture as a perceptional error on the part of the union, insisting that the personality of Aregbesola in the public gauge deserves nothing of such recognition .

Advocacy for Media Rights National Coordinator of the organization, Comrade Tolu Fatukasi in a statement said the investiture of an individual as the Grand Patron of a noble union like NUJ should be predicated on established media friendliness and consistent solidarity to the union by such person.

“While the position of a Grand Patron of any layer of the union is acceptable and within the ambit of the union’s constitution, the mode of selection of whoever wants to take the position should be moderate and decent,” Fatukasi said.

“We are indeed taken aback at the mention of Rauf Aregbesola’s name for the proposed investiture as the Grand Patron of NUJ in the South West.

“As a Media Rights group, we have the details of Aregbesola’s strained relationship with the media throughout his two-term tenure in office as governor in Osun State.

“Aregbesola was the first governor in the fourth republic to have publicly declared journalists as personal non grata and enemies of state.

“This is the man who established a local newspaper called “Osun Defender” to covertly project his political interest and upon realising his ambition, he threw journalists working in the firm out with disdain.

“By all standards, it is obvious such a personality does not fit into the category of individuals with credentials for Grand Patron of the NUJ in any cluster whatsoever”.

“You can imagine the desperation of the Minister and his handlers, when they realised that the consensus of the leadership of the union in the South West was to cancel the event, they now wanted to organise a kangaroo investiture somewhere else in connivance with two dissidents parading themselves as leaders of the union in the zone.”

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AregbesolaSouth West NUJ
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