When Freedom Online Sets ‘The Agenda’

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It was simply one of those moments when one would feel proud to be a journalist.  It was a unique event that played up the role of the media as an agenda setting profession.

Though the first annual lecture of Freedom Online, an online newspaper, with the theme ‘Unemployment: How Do We Tame This monster’, the publisher of the medium, Gabriel Akinadewo, and his team achieved more than that.

The day was not, however, for Freedom Online team alone, but for all members of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP), who used the occasion to separate the wheat from the chaff. They demonstrated through their cooperation and maturity that they were professionals who had caught their teeth in the traditional media before opting for the globally trending online media. In many ways, the annual lecture pointed to the fact that online platforms have come to stay.

For millions of Nigerians who see online media as all comers affair, the event showed that the industry parades scores of senior journalists, who work in line with basic journalism ethics and codes of conduct. GOCOP members who graced the occasion included Simon Kolawole of The Cable, Collins Edomaruse of Metrowatch Nigeria and Segun Adeleye of WorldStage News.

Like the public presentation of Simon Kolawole’s The Cable a few years ago, Akinadewo used the event to galvanise discussions around a topical issue of national interest. In few hours, the message was passed. Nigerians and their leaders were challenged on the need to have a rethink in order to move the nation forward.

At the event, governors and other economic stakeholders took turn to address the unemployment challenges facing Nigeria.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, in his keynote address, said unemployment was a socio-economic problem that led to increase in crime.

Ikpeazu, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Ude Oko-Chukwu, identified several factors that led to the rate of unemployment.

He listed wrong education policy, epileptic power supply, corruption, ghost workers syndrome, neglect of agricultural sector, high importation and lack of access to capital funds as some of them.

“We need to discuss the issue of unemployment as a matter of urgency because it is fundamental to the progress and development of the country. There must be a reformation of the education system where practicals and skills are taught to empower people. Government has a lead role to play by creating the enabling environment and the unemployed must acquire skills to make them productive, self-reliant and employable,” Ikpeazu said.

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in his contribution said the huge unemployment crisis in the country was worrisome. Represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Taiwo Akerele, the Edo governor said his administration had started making huge investments in technical and vocational education to empower the youth. He said the step was part of efforts to address the problem and create more jobs.

“We realised that with the right skills and technology, the problem of unemployment can be addressed and the Edo State government has put in policies to create 200, 000 jobs within four years,” Obaseki said.

His Lagos State counterpart, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, said it was essential for people to acquire appropriate skills and vocational training.

Ambode, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, said his administration was also taking steps to achieve the objective.

“The Lagos State Government has been providing windows of opportunities in this regard through various vocational skills acquisition centres in parts of the state,” he said.

Commending organisers of the lecture, Ambode described the media as the conscience of the people.

A former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, urged governments at all levels to employ the services of indigenous companies rather than contract foreigners to carry out projects.

According to him, this will create jobs as well as circulate wealth in the country.

In a goodwill message, Chief Bode George, a South-west leader, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), called for decentralisation of power so that states would manage and use their resources to develop their states.

Akinadewo  said it was sad that Nigeria, with all her natural endowments, was faced with the looming monster – unemployment. He said there was the need to reorder the nation’s value system.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, averred that human capacity development initiative is a panacea to the growing unemployment rate in the economy.

He disclosed that to stem this tide, the agency through its Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), has trained over 2,500 Nigerian students in various maritime related courses in reputable maritime institutions outside the country.

Speaking further, Peterside disclosed that the capacity development initiatives embarked upon by the agency are geared towards taming the foreseen lacuna in the seafaring profession in the nearest future which is a global challenge.

Represented by the agency’s Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Gambo Ahmed, he also hinted that the NSDP scheme, which has already started producing graduates would soon take a new look, where Nigeria will also be a large exporter of seafarers like India and Philippines which generate millions of dollars from the pool of its seafarers in the global market.

While assuring Nigerians of the unflinching commitment of the current management of NIMASA to ensure a virile maritime sector, through its capacity building initiatives, he called on them to support the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s zero tolerance for corruption, to enable government and its agencies to achieve their set objectives, particularly in the area of curbing unemployment.

Few years ago, it is traditional newspapers that only had online versions.

But today, it is a separate genre of journalism on its own. And with the likes of Freedom Online and The Cable, perhaps a new chapter in the history of Nigeria’s media industry has opened.

At the lecture were a former Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olabode George, National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams, Managing Directors of Punch, Sun and New Telegraph newspapers, Mr. Ademola Osinubi, Mr. Eric Osagie and Mrs. Funke Egbemode.