By FIDELIS EGUGBO
Last Tuesday, Delta State Governor, Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa had his quarterly media chat with members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Delta State Council. Expectedly, over 300 journalists turned out for that event.
One may wonder how many media houses the over 300 Journalists were representing but, this is the 21st century when someone with an android phone automatically becomes a journalist. I once had an experience when someone commented in one of the features story that I posted on my Facebook page that, a Journalist should not write such a lengthy thesis. I had to check the guy’s profile, only to find out that he is a student who is not even studying Mass Communication or related courses, yet, he claims to be a journalist.
In the journalism profession, such person could be described as a Cub Reporter, whose work must be verified and possibly, re-written before it goes to the public. But, that was then, the period when Journalism was restricted to print and electronics. Now we have the new media or social media as some may call it when a single word can make a story. An individual with enough data on his phone can also, have his online newspaper, blog or by whatever name that it is called.
It is even getting to a stage where one may not know the source of news item as it can easily be shared, copied and paste, unlike in the past that the laws against plagiarism, copy right and others could be enforced. More interesting is that such works can easily be pulled off without any trace from their websites after the damage must have been done, unlike in the other climes when one can get access to the newspapers/magazines or news bulleting as the case may be.
Now, we have fake news and these are growing faster that the act of making laws to check them.
Journalism, no doubt, is one of the oldest professions in the world, especially when one recalls that reporter’s experience when he said, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1: 1-2. The challenge now is that there is so much freedom in the profession and even the NUJ which ordinarily, is the umbrella body of the profession, needs to adopt new measures to cope with the new challenges or update in the practice of journalism.
Even the traditional media are adjusting so fast to the realities for them to remain in business to the extent that most of them are becoming more visible in the new media and are also, encouraging non-journalists to file stories in different forms, some by the name, Eye Witness Report.
Governor Okowa is also aware of the importance of the new media that he has made political appointments in that area and also encouraged those who are practicing to bring out their best and earn a living.
News has several definitions, but, the most common one is that, it is something that is unusual. What is news to you may not be news to another person; that is why the discovery of the River Niger by Mungo Park was news to western interests, whereas, there were people whose source of livelihood was the river even before the birth of Mungo Park. One cannot also, forget the fact that there are always two sides to a coin and most often too, there are more than two sides to a story at all times.
So, when Governor Okowa met with journalists, one would expect that more than 300 angles will come out from the news stories; but, the good thing about that meeting was that the news hounds were free to ask questions on any field and the governor, in his down-to-earth manner, answered all the questions sincerely to the admiration of all.
Governor Okowa has not hidden the fact that he is a Christian and one attribute of Christians is that they tell the truth, no matter whose ox is gored. He talked about how his administration was working round-the-clock to improve the living standard of the people.
According to the governor, “we are working hard to ensure that we present the Appropriation Bill of the state no later than the first week of November. We are working with the House of Assembly to ensure that we have a budget that is transparent and it will be uploaded online because we want a budget that the people will be able to see, a budget that people can ask questions on and a budget that they can trust. We are trying to have a budget that will be able to have 100 per cent performance rate or achieve at least 95 per cent of the budget because, we want to deliver services to our people.
Since we came in, in May 2015, we have been laying emphasis on the Ughelli/Asaba road; the previous administration had nearly completed Section B part of the road as the road is divided into three sections. Section A is Ughelli to Oleh and from Oleh to Ossissa is the second section and the section C is from Asaba to Ossissa. Those who have been on the road will testify that a lot of work is going on. A lot of work will be done there once the rains subside.
This road is very critical to us; it is going to ease movement between Warri, Ughelli, through Asaba to Onitsha and now that our ports are gradually coming back to life and we are hoping that when the Federal Government through the Ports Authority dredges the second part of the Escravos bar, we will have many more ships coming into Delta which will help decongest the Lagos Port, we believe that the roads will come to the rescue of those who will move their goods and services from the ports to Onitsha and others places.
We have also introduced the Ministry of Technical Education; that is because of the emphasis we are laying on technical education, because, we believe that our children should not only acquire the knowledge of books, but that they should use their hands and their brains to work.
We have always from the beginning paid special attention to technical education. During our first tenure through legislation, we created the Board for Technical and Vocational Education, but now that we are laying further emphasis on this, we have created the Ministry for Technical and Vocational Education. More so, when we have made a promise to our people that every local government area will have at least one technical college. We have only six at the moment which means that we need 19 more. We will be looking forward to the first set which is going to be for nine technical colleges in the year 2020 from the supplementary budget of 2020, and the other 10 technical colleges will come in through the budget of 2021 because we believe that every student in every local government area should have access to technical colleges, if they wish to. We want to continue to encourage them, so, the Ministry is already created and work is already ongoing as a lot of work is being done by the Commissioner at the moment.
In the area of Sports, you will recall recently that Delta State performed another feat by winning the National Youths Games; the competition has been organized 5 time and we have won it 5 consecutive times and we thank God for that. This is a feat I believe will stay consistent; we will continue to encourage sports in our primary and secondary schools. You will recall that in early parts of the year, we had a school sports festival for primary and secondary school children and that is where my love is; to have the ability to catch them young, to ensure that talents are not lost and we will continue to encourage sports. We are looking forward to going to Edo State next year to bring back the trophy at the National Sports Festival. Our athletes are working very hard to win the competition again. So, I want to use this opportunity to congratulate the sports commission and our children on being able to do us proud.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is working hard. Some days ago, there was a teachers’ award night which was used to encourage the teachers and that gave me the opportunity to address our teachers on the need to stay committed to the school system and to stay committed to our children. I thank the press who also covered that event and we were able to reward some teachers who were outstanding and I hope that we encouraged other states to key into this initiative as it is going to be of great benefit to all.
We thank God that everything is being put in place to fully operationalise the Basic Healthcare Fund which is part of the National Health Act and we believe that it is going to increase the number of people enrolled in health insurance scheme across the nation. Many states are beginning to pass the law, though, they have not been able to operationalize it. Some are coming in to study what we are doing in the state, but, we believe that in the long run that when the bill is appropriately applied, it is going to upscale the number of persons who are enrolled in the health insurance and will not be required to pay out of their pockets at the time when they are ill and that will definitely save a lot of lives and it will reduce the maternal/infant mortality rate. That will definitely improve the health indices of our nation. You will recall that the move for us to have the National Health Act was led by me in the 7th Senate and we were able to get it passed and we thank God that today it is operationalized nationwide.
The Ministry of Higher Education is working hard to raise the status of our schools. We have continued to improve on the number of courses that are accredited fully in the various campuses of our university; new structures are also being put forth and I know that there are challenges. The Commissioner for Higher Education has drawn my attention to the fact that our Colleges of Education are beginning to have very low intakes and the reason is because, we do not have the University of Education; so, we are working out processes and thinking out plans on what could be done to be able to change the situation and possibly, have a second education summit in which Deltans will make their suggestions and resolve on what should be done to improve the level of education both in the Colleges of Education and in our Polytechnics.
The new secretariat is also, coming up strong. I know that work is really ongoing in the place and I have been assured that before the end of the year that the project will likely be brought to completion as the contractors are working within their 2-year delivery target. I am very satisfied with the level of work being carried out and it is one of the biggest secretariat in the country. We thank God that at the end, we will have a reasonable accommodation for our workers.
We are trying to look at what can be done with the other 2 Secretariats once this one is completed. Our intention truly is to make sure that the 3 structures are functioning well and in such a manner that work goes on seamlessly in our secretariats and all our Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) will be accommodated in the new secretariat. We are making sure that there is 24 hour power supply in the new secretariat.