Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
A civil society organisation (CSO), Advocacy for Media Rights, has kicked against the proposed investiture of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, as the grand patron of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the South-west, calling on the leadership of the union in the zone to tread with caution.
The six state council chairmen in the zone had expressed reservation over the justification for the award.
The union, at its zonal meeting of March 12, 2021, had agreed to put the proposed investiture on hold following the leadership crisis in the zone which had been referred to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union.
But against this decision, a flier suddenly surfaced on the social media, purportedly endorsed by Bamigbola Gbolagunte, who claimed to be the Acting Vice-President and later Zonal Secretary of the zone, saying the event has been slated for Friday, 25 March, 2021, at the NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.
In a press statement signed by the National Coordinator of Advocacy for Media Rights, Tolu Fatukasi, made available to journalists in Ibadan, it 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.
According to the statement, “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.
“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 Nigeria’s 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.”
Meanwhile, 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 self from such event.
As at the time of filling this report, it was learnt that the six state chairmen have resolved not to attend the award and recognise the investiture if the vice-president and the zonal secretary insisted on proceeding with the award.
An associate of the Interior Minister however said the venue of the proposed event has been moved from the NUJ Press Centre in Ibadan to Premier Hotel located in the metropolis.
Those who were to be honoured alongside Aregbesola include the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, and the Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Makama, among others.