As IIJ Strives To Get Autonomy… Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

It was an evening of pomp and glamour as students, management and staff of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Port Harcourt study centre gathered for the 12th annual dinner and award night ceremony of the institute held at the Auto-graph event centre, Sani Abacha Road, Port Harcourt recently.

The occasion which also featured a paper presentation on; “The Media and Nigerian Democratic Experience: A review of the2019 General Elections, Issues and Perspectives, by Dr. Ita Ekanem a former Head Of Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, offered students, alumnus and lecturers of the institute an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with regards the practice of the journalism profession.

In his welcome address, Dean of student Affairs of the Institute, Mr. Tamunobelema Ezekiel expressed delight at the institute’s resolve of organizing the annual dinner and award ceremony despite the harsh economic climate, stating that the occasion is peculiar to the Port Harcourt centre of the institute as it is the only centre consistent with organizing the annual event.

Ezekiel noted that, the event is pivotal as it offers students of the institute an opportunity to interact with resources persons and those who have excelled n the media industry. Adding that, the question of “Am I in the right place?” asked by students when admitted to the institute would be addressed when they interact with seasoned professionals who have gone through the institute.

He said, “We have brought in resource persons for the students to see. Also all those who are seasoned professionals in the mass communication field and have gone through this institute have been brought closer for the students to see, and the question of “am I in the right place” frequently asked by new students can be addressed.

Ezekiel also noted that the event is organized to present awards to alumnus of the institute who are excelling in their various spheres of influence and lectures who are dedicated and committed to their duties.

He said, “There’s a reason to celebrate graduates of this institute who are representing the institute excellently at various levels and that’s why we are here also. And then to lecturers who have dedicated their time to the moulding of students of the institute, we have to celebrate them”.

Presenting a paper on; “The Media and Nigeria Democratic Experiences: a Review of the 2019 general Elections, Issues and Perspectives. Dr. Ita Ekanem, a former Head of Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom noted that the irregularities and issues recorded in the 2019 General elections is a clear indication that democracy in Nigeria is on transition. Adding that, there was a clear disregard for the rules of the game by all parties involved.

He said, “Part of the reason for the interest on the 2019 election was the general disregard for the rules of the game by all parties especially the introduction of the military as a partisan and interested party. For example, how can one explain the alleged involvement of the military in stopping collation and declarations of results in Rivers state as well as the killings of Nigerians who put their lives in danger to ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the ballot count. This is why many commentators conclude that we are not yet a functional democracy but one that is transiting”.

Ekanem however noted that, until issues of militarisation, “Ghana bag” money politics, godfatherism, selection of candidates by godfathers, impunity and “winners chop” all mentality is addressed, it is uncertain how democratic tenets can be upheld in Nigeria.

He said “Our recent elections tend to indicate widespread apathy and non-involvement by Nigerians even though the quoted voting figures tend to suggest the involvement of more Nigerians in the election process. The non-involvement by Nigerians owes a lot to severe lack of confidence, intimidation, militarization, godfatherrism, violence and intimidation by politicians. And if necessary steps are not taken to address these issues, it is uncertain how cherished democratic tenets and institutions can exist”.

Ekanem noted that the Nigerian democratic experience requires more education and involvement. Adding that with more participation and involvement, a deeper understanding of issues will begin to emerge giving less energy to arbitrariness and corruption during elections.

“We need to vigorously pursue the good tenets of our democracy and do away with impurity and money politics hallmarks which tend to promote corruption and violence. Also, we need our political office seekers to learn about how politics and organization of elections are done in other climes and discourage such negativities as vote buying, ballot box snatching and electoral violence”.

In his speech, Director of the institute, Dr. Ibituru Pepplle stated that plans are on to make the institute an independent degree awarding institute and no longer affiliated to another university.

He said, “There is an ongoing transformation in Abuja, and in no distant time, this institute will be independent and no longer affiliated to any institution”.

Pepple who lamented the poor state of the institute upon his assumption as coordinator stated that there was so much decay, and all manner of filt in the institute. He accused the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalism (NUJ), Rivers State for architecting the decay by employment of unqualified lecturers, encouraging attendance by proxy, promoting corrupt practices, issuance of fake registration numbers etc.

He said, “I met so much decay, rot, and all manner of filt as the union, that is, the NUJ in the state through its leadership were the architects of the decay. Unqualified lecturers were employed, sorting was the order of the day, etc. It is quite appalling, but the truth is, majority of those who were students before I took over the mantle of leadership may not see their original certificates from the University of Maiduguri except the ones under my supervision from the 2010/2011 academic session upwards”

Pepple noted that inspite of all the challenges encountered, the institute under his watch has witnessed a total transformation as the standard of learning and teaching has improved.

Pepple added that although a formal letter has not been written to the institutes head office in Abuja, the event may mark the end of his tenure as Director of the centre as he is taking a bow out of the service of the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja.

He said, “This speech is more like a valedictory one to me, I may not have the privilege to talk with you again, except occasion permits. I am taking a bow out of the service of the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja, though I have not written a formal letter to management but to break it first to you as individuals. Don’t get it wrong, it is better to step aside when the ovation is loudest, than to receive a cold applause”.

In his goodwill message, Dr. Michael Ukaegbu congratulated the management of the institute for putting up an event that aims at creating an avenue for students, lecturers and alumnus to interest amongst themselves. Adding that, it will be beneficial to all parties as critical issues that borders on the right practice of the journalism profession will be discussed.

He called on students to remain focused and committed to their studies to avoid poor grades.

In her goodwill message, miss. Ijeoma Acholonu congratulated the institute for the feats attained in moulding journalists who not only represent the institute in their spheres of influence but also serve as role models to the students.

Calling on the management of the institute to maintain it’s insistence on hardwork, discipline, professionalism and dedication, Acholonu urged students of institute to imbibe traits that will distinguish them whenever they find themselves.

Receiving his award as a distinguished alumni of the institute, Executive chairman of Obio/Akpor local government area, Hon. Prince Solomon Abel Eke expressed delight at the developmental strides witnessed in the institute. He appreciated the management of the institute for deeming him fit as a recipient of the coveted award, stating that he remains a proud ambassador of the institute.

Other awardees were; Mrs. Ilanye Jumbo, Miss Dumotein Oriye, Mr. Otaria Beregha-Apoko, Eze (Amb) Alex Ovunda. Nwokamma (Eze Owhnuritananya I of Mgbuhie rumuekpe), and Dr. Ibituru Iwowari Pepple.

In his closing remark, Dr. Michael Ukaegbu appreciated all those who honoured the event despite the challenging demand of time, and prayed God bless them all.

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