A media practitioner, Christopher Ebuetse, is the Director General of the Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development, a non-governmental organisation that harnesses the ideals of the founder of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi. Ebuetse, in this interview with Mary Ekah, explains why he is proposing that every October 25 be declared ‘Private Broadcasting Day in Nigeria’, among others
Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development is named after a media guru in Nigeria and the world over, so what is its focus?
Our vision at the Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development is to promote media practice in Nigeria, to contribute our quota to the development and educational advancement of the Nigerian state. The centre is also focused on creating a voice for significant issues that will promote the advancement of international security, advancement and promotion of our democratic values, enhancing and bridging our international capacities, promoting the corporate ideals of the corporate governance, enhancing organisational structures of companies as well as individuals that have collectively contributed towards the development of the Nigerian state. Our vision is to continue to harness the ideals of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi whose incontrovertible contribution to broadcasting is overwhelming; our vision is also to promote education through electronic medias as tool for national development as well as to create template for the immortalisation of all the historic data of the man Raymond Dokpesi, so as to provide other avenues to honour him and other great men in this sector.
So every year, we hold a press briefing and in process we get our theme and what we intend to highlight for the year. Sometimes it could be in line with the annual lecture. Sometimes it could be on topical national issue and our own standpoint in respect of such topical national issue. For example, our theme for 2016 was on a private broadcasting day. We are trying to persuade the government to recognise every October 25 as a day for private broadcasting in Nigeria.
And why must we have a day for private broadcasting? It is as result of the significantly growing nature of the private broadcasting in Nigeria. It has continued to grow and licenses are being issued almost on a daily basis and if you look at Lagos for Instance, there are several private electronic media all over the place and even in Ibadan, too, we have nothing less than 20 private electronic media in there and so also it is in other states in the nation and even government owned institutions like University of Lagos, are being given licenses to operate electronic media. This shows the height of growth information dissemination in the country.
What is the significance of the ‘Private Broadcasting Day in Nigeria’, which you are canvassing for?
‘Private Broadcasting Day in Nigeria’ will give room for the owners of private stations and practitioners to bring to the fore their challenges and progress, as private broadcasting is a critical sector in information dissemination. A country that is impoverished as a result of lack of information can never grow, so private broadcasting is key to national development and peace; it is key to issues that affect growth and progress as far as the country is concerned and if we don’t have a day for private broadcasting in Nigeria, it means we would just have a section of media practice that is just developing without a synergy between the owners, practitioners and government of the day. But on the day of private broadcasting, people can articulate their views on what they think on the journey so far; how private broadcasting has improved in the country and what roles individuals could contribute for further development of the sector. And the Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development is of the view that every October 25 should be dedicated to private broadcasting in Nigeria and that is the persuasion we are giving to government. The Centre was named after High Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi due to his role in building and enhancing private broadcasting in Nigeria.
Why the date October 25?
October 25th is imperative as is exactly on that day that High Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi, pioneer of private broadcasting, was born. And Dr. Raymond Dokpesi is the very first of those who took the giant stride to establish a private media practice in this country and he did it in 1993 at a time when the military were ruthless with journalists, opinion leaders and activists and some of them were even brutally killed. But that was the time Dokpesi built Ray Power 100.5 FM as an alternative voice to government owned broadcasting houses. He was the first to place this country on the world map through satellite television broadcast.
It is therefore the Centre’s view that Dokpesi significantly contributed to the enhancement of private broadcasting in Nigeria. We cannot talk of the origin of private broadcasting without the name Raymond Dokpesi. He scored first in starting private electronic media practice in Nigeria by taking the risk to start a private broadcasting in 1993, a time when it was a crime to air opinions on national issues as journalists were being arrested and jailed. It was government owned electronics that were the in thing then, stories and news were one-sided, tilting to the side of government at all times.
It’s no doubt that Dokpesi’s role in the sector is enviable and that is why we have so many private electronic media houses across the country presently. The birth of the first private broadcasting station by Raymond Dokpesi kick started the revolution we are witnessing toady.
High Chief Dokpesi schooled in Holland from Bachelor degree to Ph.D. level, but whilst he was in school, he did notice that Africans were misrepresented and that was one of the reasons he decided to go into satellite broadcasting. The idea of AIT was to globalise issues about Africa and Nigeria and that was what led to his establishing of African Independent Television (AIT) and at that period, when he set up Ray Power, we found out that the government was on his trail. I am equally aware that shortly after AIT took off, the late Sani Abacha, the Head of State at that time was interested in buying over Daar Communications, operators of Ray Power and AIT.
He told the Raymond Dokpesi to calculate his access and liability when Ray Power and AIT became the voice of Nigerians at that particular time but unfortunately for him and fortunately for Daar Communications, Abacha did not live to realise such plans. Now as Chairman emeritus of Daar Communications, we feel that Raymond Dokpesi’s birthday should be recognised, as the day earmarked for private broadcasting practice in Nigeria to give honour to whom homour is due.
We do not have history in this country, that is why most times, if you ask students of Mass Communications who started the first private broadcasting in Nigeria, you get so disappointed that they do not even know and this is a thing that should be in their fingertips as Mass Communications scholars and practitioners, we are supposed to have historical data of such things. So this is a movement to ensure that the private practice gets itself along the line of progressive thinking, unity, progress and development.
Is Chief Raymond Dokpesi’s relatives involved in your NGO?
I am not in any way related to High Chief Raymond Dokpesi. And none of his children is involved in this. This is an NGO. Nigerians are just fund of thinking that when an NGO is formed, the children or relatives must be involved. But an NGO could be a movement where you imbibed the philosophy of a man. If a man has grown beyond his own family values and all that, other people will tap from his tenacity, strength, purpose and wisdom. Late Professor C.S. Momoh described Raymond Dokpesi as someone that has a nationalistic and Pan-Africanist idea, he called him a nationalist. And if you talk of a man with a Pan-Africanist ideal, you would see beyond the enclave of relatives and I want to tell you that when Mandela died, the whole world celebrated him because of his nationalistic ideals. And I am sure that there are vibrant people in the world today that have the vision of Mandela. Martin Luther King was also celebrated and others, these are people that have affected their generation and history cannot be said without them and that is why we want High Chief Raymond Dokpesi to go into the annals of history of this country.
Communications is growing deeply as far as Nigeria is concerned and except we have this historical data base built for our children yet unborn, to understand how it started, we might just be doing injustice to our history. So the Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development is just a movement of people who have studied the tenacity of this man and his philosophy. Some people may not understand who he is but some of us have come so close to him and we understand his growing passion for a nation and the risk that is involved in private media broadcasting especially in this part of the world. So the idea of naming this organisation after High Chief Raymond Dokpesi is based on his philosophy, his sense of purpose, his direction and his ideal and we feel that they are rich enough to create assembly of moving this country forward. And the Centre is basically eight years in existence.
COFFAH Strategises for the New Year
As the New Year begins, Committee of Friends for Humanity (COFFAH), a group of women who have excelled in their chosen career, is making big plans to affect more lives in the years 2017. The group recently held a one day forum in Lagos where they deliberated on how best to improve the lives of the less-privileged women and children in the society.
The President, Mrs. Caroline Akum Ufere, said the gathering was borne out of the need for to brainstorm on how to further achieve the mission of COFFAH, which has been in existence over two decades. Giving a brief history of the organisation, which was founded in 1991, Ufere said three friends who later invited other friends with the same ideas and vision, and hence the name Committee of Friends for Humanity, established it. The orgnaisation’s mission, Ufere said was to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the society. She revealed further that the new COFFAH centre, on the front burner, is a sustainable project which when completed will act as a veritable tool to fund future project as well as form a training ground for women and youths.”’It is a multi-purpose centre that will stand on an acre of land with an educational institution, hall and workshop for various skills,” Ufere added.
Some of the projects executed by the organisation she said include; building of COFFAH Centre at the Isolo General Hospital Lagos, refurbishment and furnishing of a 16 – bed female ward and the provision of 20KVA generating set for Apapa Health centre, Lagos; donation of kidney dialysis machine to Gbagada General Hospital, Gbagada, Lagos and a host of others. Highlighting the organisation’s initiative, Women Empowerment Programme (WEP), one of its members, Mrs. Christy Ray – Okoye said that the initiative, which was conceived during her tenure, was borne out of sympathy for widows who are forced to face harsh realities due to the circumstances beyond their control. ’’To alleviate the sufferings of some of these widows, we offer encouraging talks/lectures, provide small working capital in addition to existing trades for those already engaged to run profitable/sustainable