NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISM: 50 YEARS LATER

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Qasim Akinreti celebrates NIJ at 50

Fifty years are remarkable in the life of anyone, of an organization or even of a nation. Instructively, the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) – Center of Excellence for Media Training in Africa is celebrating.

When established in 1963, three journalism training centers focused primarily on training journalists and (on-the-job) professionals in journalism were established in Lagos,

Kenya and Tanzania, with support from the International Press Institute (IPI), Poynter Institute of Media Studies, St Petersburg, Florida, USA, provided workforce support to school. Dr Boye Ola (one of the best Nigerian photojournalists) was present. Lekan Otunfodurin and I were also Poynter alumni. Today, we are both part-time lecturers at the NIJ.

The NIJ’s vision was clear: to be the leading and most important mass communication and journalism training institution in Africa; “The Center of Excellence in Communication”.

As expected, the mission was appropriate, an institution dedicated to the training and retraining of mass communication and journalism through the use of a comprehensive curriculum and state-of-the-art equipment in an environment conducive to critical thinking, learning, solid character, professionalism, ethical standard, research and productivity.

The school started with a principal, an expatriate. Chief Dayo Duyile ended the era, obviously the institution’s oldest head. I was a student during his administration from 1992 to 1993 as a postgraduate student. My classmates include: Ladan Salihu, former CEO of NBC; Ms. Sherifat Ahmed, FRCN Director, Abuja National Station; director, publisher and lawyer of Osa; Tunde Ajibike, Director at the Ministry of Information, Oyo State and Dotun Adenijo, Former Registrar, NIJ, among others.

Dr Elizabeth Ikem, arguably the first PhD holder to run the school’s affairs, brought flair and changed the nomenclature of the NIJ from a simple training school to a monotech. It broadened the recruitment campaign for professionals and academics. In 2009, she sought permission from the Executive Director of Voice of Nigeria News, Mr. Okey Nwachukwu, for my part-time service to teach online / multimedia / new media journalism. Dr Savage was instrumental in this offering after my presentation on Online Journalism to Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye’s Postgraduate Class at the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos.

From now on, NIJ students after the Higher National Diploma Certificate program have the right to follow the National Youth Service (NYSC) program. Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, journalist and lawyer added value to the school’s products and services. The NIJ rebranding project started with him. With years of professional experience in print and broadcast media, from Punch to TVC, he has set an imposing standard which, Gbenga Adefaye, former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and currently Editor-in-Chief / Editor in leader Vanguard Newspapers has passed.

Gbemiga Ogunleye brought a remarkable private sector initiative to the school. Corporate organizations were brought in with their assistance and technical support. Access Bank came with a whole new generator set, the classrooms were equipped with air conditioners and projectors for teaching. Like Dr Elizabeth Ikem, Gbemiga Ogunleye was an administrator and teacher at the school. He brought in the National Communications Commission (NCC) and US Embassy Public Affairs to set up computers, audio gadgets, and internet facilities.

The Adefaye era is unique in every way. He concluded the Radio Studio – PEN RADIO project. He got the broadcast license from NBC. The radio station is online, in real time now. Now he’s looking for a radio transmitter. He is currently in discussions with international development partners and media NGOs and has continued the rebranding process, an initiative launched by Ogunleye. The code of ethics of the founding organizations of the NIJ is the first impression that you are indeed in a journalism school. You must be guided by the ethics of the profession. The NGE, NUJ, NIPR, APCON were conspicuously hung on the wall of the stairs. The school also has a functional website. The website was first created by Dr Elizabeth Ikem, with my contributions as Adjunct Professor – New Media. We have trained NIJ students to update the website.

To be sure, every provost, as well as full-time and part-time teachers, are committed to the vision and mission statements. Industry experts are at the school to bring theory into practice for students. The courses available at the school are Print Journalism, Audiovisual Journalism, and Public Relations and Advertising (PRAD). There are also special programs on writing skills, editing, photo journalism, and film productions.

Today, NIJ propels stars of the media industry into public and private spheres. Ms. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NTA (Diaspora Commission); Iyabo Wale – Eri, NTA; Ms. Sherifat Ahmed, National Radio Nigeria Abuja Station; Gbenga Onayiga, FRCN; Ms. Mary Atolagbe; Dr Qasim Akinreti of Voice of Nigeria; John Momoh; Ini Thompson of Channels TV; Ms. Olufunke Fadugba, Biola Aberuagba of Ray Power FM; Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe, Anike Ola Salako, Kafayat Adeola Orisile, Qasim Funmilayo, Funmi Omoboriowo, – Radio Lagos / Eko FM; Jubril Folami, Aminat Elegusi, Busola Kukoyi, LTV; Karimat Salami, Saron Ijasan, Jeremiah Uzor, producer Inside Lagos, TVC; Debo Osundun, News Agency of Nigeria.

In the print media, these names dominate others, Dr Olusanya Awosan, public relations, editor, Nigerian Essence and former special public relations assistant to President Jonathan; Ms Dupe Gbadebo, Former Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Times, Dapo Olorunyomi of Premium Times Online, Bolaji Adebiyi, Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY Newspapers and West Vice-President of the Nigerian Editors Guild; Lanre Arogundade, International Press Center; Otunba Tajudeen Abbas, publisher of Ekoblog.com, and the late Ben Alaya of Sports Day Newspapers and former Super Eagles media manager, among other notables.

The public service, security agencies, music celebrities, the Nollywood industry, and the corporate world are teeming with NIJ graduates. Sina Thorpe, Lanre Bajulaye, Dupe Ileyemi, Frank Ajayi, Ms. Ronke Famakinwa, Funmi Olabisi, Mr. Ganiyu Banuso and Kayode Sutton, among others, are senior officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy . Korede Bello, talented young artist and musician of “Godwin Song”, Yeni Kuti of Felebration fame, Nollywood Star, Njoku Ebeonu are gladiators in their own space.

Those who have ventured into other especially academic professions, such as Prof. Ayandiji Daniel Aina, former Vice-Chancellor of Caleb University and Dr Saeed Timehin of LASU, are giants and role models.

Amid the celebrations are myriads of challenges facing the school – poor funding from the school’s current owners – the Nigerian Press Organization (NPO). Only the Nigerian Publishers Guild has shown a passion for giving a grant to the school. The NIJ is grappling with paltry tuition fees. The Jakande building needs to be enlarged, the classrooms are insufficient, the professors do not have a well-deserved office for research and comfort. Since all satellite campuses have been closed, the pressure on the main Lagos campus is enormous. There should be hostels for students teeming outside Lagos. The off-campus system is not too ideal for students.

Most disturbing is the discrimination of the PGD certificate for the only professional master’s degree program versus an academic master’s degree at Nigerian universities. This phenomenon must be addressed by the academic council of the school, with a petition addressed to the National Council of Technical Education, and to the National Commission of Universities. In foreign universities, the PGD certificate is accepted. The journalism institutes in Ghana and Kenya have obtained a university degree, a special media institution status. NIJ cannot be different. It should be a university specializing in media.

The association of former students of the NIJ will have to intensify its commitments with the school towards lasting contributions to the development of the institution. I have no doubts that graduates have what it takes to turn NIJ’s fortunes around.

There is also the issue of the school being taken over by the federal government as a specialized university. As such, the association and former students should engage the promoter of this idea with the National Assembly and government circles. Is the takeover project in the public interest?

Dr Akinreti, former NIJ student (1992-1993), is Deputy Director of Digital Media Voice of Nigeria and former President of the Union of Journalists of Nigeria, Lagos State Council

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