Abeokuta is a historic city in Southwestern Nigeria, very strategic in the politics of the most populous country in Africa. This city, the Ogun State capital is famously for producing some of the nation’s achievers, including the Nobel laureate in literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka and many titans in politics, industry and public service.
Last week Thursday, Abeokuta was fittingly the city of the reenactment of the launch of the first newspaper in this part of the world, Iwe Irohin fun Awon Ara Egba Ati Yoruba.
It was the culmination of the memorable 6th Annual Conference of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria ACSPN in the relaunch of the simulated version of the pioneer newspaper.
The two-day conference offered an opportunity for a deep reflection on media and communication scholarship and professionalism in Nigeria 160 years down the line. The consensus from that impressively attended conference is that practitioners must ensure that the profession remains noble.
This imperative was emphasized by the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Dr Michael Aremu Gbadebo at whose palace the old Iwe Irohin was brought back to life when we, as communication scholars and professionals under ACSPN aegis converged on his palace, not just to pay him homage.
It was also to relive history and symbolically birth Iwe Irohin which origin is the strategic city of Abeokuta. It was also to nostalgically draw the curtain on our most impressively attended conference that brought together stakeholders and elders in media. Indeed, the conference was a unique forum for the marriage of the gown and the town in the communication discipline.
Since I attended the ACSPN Empowerment Series at Elizade University, Ilaramokin Ondo State where the announcement for the conference was made, I had prayed not to be left out of the gathering. This is because it would offer me another opportunity as a native to return to the roots.
Abeokuta is a city I only visit occasionally since completing my secondary education at Egba High School in 1983 and embarking on my academic and professional voyage. Therefore, I looked forward to the conference like a returning native and a special host of my colleagues in the communication confraternity.
So, for two days from Sept. 4, all of us with passion for the practice of the press profession parked ourselves together inside the enchanting hotel for stimulating discourses on media and communication.
Given the state or direction of our national polity, the leadership and organizers of the conference were sensitive enough to adopt a very germane theme, National Interest, Freedom of Expression and Governance in Africa.
The theme was also supported by another equally relevant Special Panel that addressed Journalism, Media Sustainability and the Consolidation of Democracy 160 Years After.
In all, there were nine syndicate sessions at the conference during which over 100 well-researched papers and works in progress were presented by media scholars and researchers from tertiary institutions from all geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
The presentations were in diverse thematic areas that border on national interest. These included gender, New media, development Communication policy theory, advertising and public relations, journalism, film and broadcasting and some general issues.
The conference afforded very stimulating engagement and networking among scholars just as it facilitated for biliopathy the opportunity to stock their libraries as I counted no less than 30 communications related titles published by our authors on display for sale.
In the spirit of the conference, there was a collaborative showcase of ACSPN and UNESCO which featured the projects the two bodies have worked to promote media and information literacy.
Apart, it featured the unveiling of the first ACSPN visiting fellow, Professor Adebayo Fayoyin who for one year will be off his job in South Africa to be enriching Communications scholarship in Nigeria although will be hosted by Caleb University.
Another not to be forgotten feature of the conference is ACSPN female researchers panel and the launching of the fourth title on ACSPN book Series, Fake News & Hate Speech: Narratives of Political Instability in Nigeria.
For me, it was a refreshing way to end my annual leave which started on July 22 as I had exciting opportunity to mingle with my friends and soulmates in communication scholarship and professionalism, make new friends and meet those I know only in names.
From the long list of participants at the conference, I pick Aremo Taiwo Allimi, our former Director-General at Voice of Nigeria, VON, the famed media chieftain, Chief Tola Adeniyi, who once called the shots at the Daily Times and Nigerian Tribune, Oba Femi Ogunleye, the paramount ruler of Akinwale township under Egba suzerainty. Ogunleye, a veteran journalist made a name as Nigerian Airways spokesman.
Eminent scholars of mass communication who turned up for the conference were indeed highly spirited throughout the gathering
My project supervisor at undergraduate study at Unilag, Prof Yomi Daramola surfaced briefly while another of our lecturers then at Unilag in the mid-80s, Dr Yinka Esan left the UK where she teaches to participate at the conference, playing a dominant role.
I met the three notable Lanres in the Nigerian journalism circle: Idowu, Ogundipe and Arogundade. Idowu is the pivot of Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, Ogundipe a former national president of NUJ and Arogundade who piloted Lagos council of NUJ in the 90s is the Director of the Lagos based International Press Centre.
After many years, the conference reunited me with my zonal editor in the Concord years, Gabriel Tivlumun Nyitse was in attendance. Tivlumun after resigning from Concord to join the Benue State civil service where he peaked as a permanent secretary is now in the academia, lecturing at Bingham University.
There was also a co-researcher on Concord Editorial Board in the mid-90s, Dr Gbenga Owolabi as well as my fellow Muslim brothers, Drs Tunde Akanni and Qasim Akinreti. Akanni now heads the Digital Media Research Centre of the Lagos State University while Akinreti is the incumbent chairman of Lagos NUJ
There were also fellow Akokites who we studied mass communication together at the famous University of Lagos in the mid-80s such as Ganiu Akashoro, Bolu Afolorin and Musa Sule who are all establishing themselves in communication scholarship in various universities
The credit for the huge success of the conference goes to the leadership of ACSPN under the indefatigable Professors Lai Osho and Nosa Owens-Ibie while the Local Organising Committee ably piloted by cool and organised Dr Kola Adesina, the HOD of Mass Communication Department, Crescent University pulled all the strings to deliver a memorable conference at the scenic and luxurious Park Inn, Radisson in the rock city of Abeokuta. Crescent University proprietor, Prince Bola Ajibola rendered all the support and assistance required of the hosting institution.
Niran Malaolu, the brilliant journalist, who escaped by the whiskers from treason accusation of being accessory after facts of coup in the 90s, rose to become a newspaper big boss before a commissioner appointment in Ogun State and now the proprietor of Rock City FM, a rave radio station in Abeokuta similarly played a significant role in the conference success
His station gave it generous publicity including live coverage.
I can’t wait for the next edition of our conference. Where it takes us, I don’t know yet. But this year’s that brought us to Abeokuta, my root was a memorable experience uniquely celebrating Egbaland as the pioneer of many firsts and bests in Nigerian history. This ACSPN conference fits the qualification.
By Abdulwarees Solanke, Ag. Deputy Director Strategic Planning and Corporate Development Voice of Nigeria (VON)
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