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March 25, 2021

Despite rejection by council chairmen, NUJ insists Aregbesola merits award


BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO                    

NOTWITHSTANDING the reservations by some critical stakeholders in the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the South-West over the proposed investiture of the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, as the Grand Patron of the union in the zone, the union has said the award will hold as planned.

The Zonal Secretary of NUJ, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, said in Ilesa on Thursday that the National Secretariat and President of the union, Chris Isiguozo, were in support of the programme, because Aregbesola merits it.

But the six chairmen of the Union in the zone had reportedly rejected the decision to make Aregbesola the Grand Patron. Also, some civil society organisations had expressed reservations over the proposed investiture, calling on the leadership of NUJ in the zone to tread with caution.

An NGO, Advocacy for Media Rights, had described the proposed investiture as perceptional error on the part of the union, insisting that the personality of Aregbesola in the public gauge deserves nothing of such recognition.

This was contained in a press statement signed by the National Coordinator of the organization, Tolu Fatukasi.

Meanwhile, Gbolagunte argued that none of the six-state NUJ councils in the South-West had withdrawn from the programme as reported.

He said, I will like to state that the programme has not been put on hold as being rumoured. None of the six councils, that is, Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun, which make up the South-West zone, has written to my office to officially inform the zone of their withdrawal from the event.

“The zone chose Aregbesola for the investiture and award. Before he was chosen; his name was presented to the Chairmen and Secretaries of the councils that make up the South-West zone. They all approved that Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola be made the Grand Patron of the zone and also receive an Award of Excellence.

“The National Secretariat and President are aware of the programme and they have not given us the order to stop the programme.”

Explaining why the former governor of the State of Osun was chosen, Gbolagunte said his accessibility to journalists; establishment of three media houses, among others, were reasons the councils in the zone unanimously agreed to bestow him with the honours.

He added, “The criteria used in choosing Aregbesola then was his performance in office and secondly, he owns three media organisations. Two of them were established long before he became a governor. Journalists are working in all of these places and are being paid by him.

“When he was the governor in Osun, Aregbesola set up the Bureau of Communication and Strategy where he also employed journalists to work there. He also gave one bus to the Osun State Council of NUJ and another bus to the NUJ Correspondent Chapel.

“In addition to that, he was accessible to journalists; he held an interactive programme where journalists and other members of the public asked questions uncensored regularly. Even right now as the minister, he is accessible to journalists.”

Recall that the union at its zonal meeting of 12th March 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 of the Union.

According to the information, those who were to be honoured alongside Aregbesola included Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, Olowu of Kuta, Oba Adekunle Makama, among others. But the union agreed to postpone the award ceremony pending the resolution of NEC on the issue and other sundry issues within the zone.

But against this decision, a flier suddenly surfaced on social media, purportedly endorsed by Bamigbola Gbolagunte, the Zonal Secretary of the zone, saying the event had been slated for tomorrow, 26th March 2021, at the NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, the capital of Oyo State.

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 themselves from such event.

It is not clear if the event will still hold with the reported opposition of Oyo State Council to the Investiture. It was learnt that the Iyaganku NUJ Press Centre which was earlier scheduled as the venue was not approved and had equally directed its members not to participate in the event.

It was learnt that the six state chairmen had resolved not to attend the award and recognise the Investiture if the Vice President and the Zonal Secretary insisted to proceed with the award.

An associate of the Interior Minister, however, hinted that the venue of the proposed event had been changed from NUJ Press Centre in Ibadan to Premier Hotel located in the metropolis.



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