By Qasim Akinreti
Fifty years is remarkable in the life of anyone, organisation or even a nation. Instructively, the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, – Center of Excellence for media training in Africa, is celebrating.
At inception in 1963, three journalism training centres focusing mainly on the training of journalists and professionals (on the job) in the field of journalism were established in Lagos,
Kenya and Tanzania with the support of the International Press Institute, IPI; The Poynter Institute of Media Studies St Petersburg Florida, US provided manpower support to the school; Dr Boye Ola (one of Nigeria’s top-notch photo journalists) was there. Lekan Otunfodurin and myself, were Poynter Alumni too. Today, both of us are part-time lecturers at NIJ.
NIJ’s vision was clear: to be the leading and foremost Mass Communication and Journalism training Institution in Africa: the Centre of Communication Excellence.
Expectedly, the mission was apt: an institution dedicated to mass communication and journalism training and retraining through the use of all-round curriculum and state-of-the-art equipment in an environment conducive to critical thinking, learning, sound character, professionalism, ethical standard, research and productivity.
The school started with a Director, an expatriate. Chief Dayo Duyile ended the era, obviously the longest serving head of the institution. I was a student during his administration from 1992 to 1993 as a post-graduate student.
My classmates included : Ladan Salihu, former DG NBC; Mrs Sherifat Ahmed, Director FRCN , Abuja National Station; Osa Director, publisher and lawyer; Tunde Ajibike, a Director in the Ministry of Information, Oyo State; and Dotun Adenijo, former Registrar , NIJ, among others.
Dr Elizabeth Ikem, arguably the first Ph.D holder to run the affairs of the school, brought panache and changed the nomenclature of NIJ from just a training school to a monotechnic. She broadened the recruitment drive for professionals and academics.
In 2009, he sought permission from the Voice of Nigeria Executive Director News, Mr. Okey Nwachukwu, for my part- time service to teach Online Journalism/Multimedia/New Media. Dr Savage was instrumental to this offer after my presentation on Online Journalism at the postgraduate class of Professor Ralph Akinfeleye in the University of Lagos Mass Communication Department.
Now, NIJ students after Higher National Diploma Certificate programme are entitled to go for the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme. Mr.Gbemiga Ogunleye, journalist and lawyer, added more value to the products and services of the school. The rebranding project of NIJ started with him.
Filled with years of professional experience in the print and broadcast media from Punch to TVC, he set a towering standard which Gbenga Adefaye, former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, and currently Managing Editor / Editor-in-Chief, Vanguard Newspapers, has surpassed.
Ogunleye, brought a remarkable private sector initiative to the school; corporate organisations were brought in to offer assistance and technical support. Access Bank came with a brand-new generating set, the classrooms were fitted with air-conditioners and projectors for teaching.
Just like Dr. Ikem, Ogunleye was an administrator and a teacher in the school. He brought the National Communications Commission, NCC, and the US Embassy Public Affairs to install computers, audio gadgets and internet facilities.
Adefaye era is unique in all respects: he concluded the Radio Studio project- PEN RADIO. Adefaye secured the broadcast licence from the NBC. The radio station is online, real time presently. Now my darling Uncle, he is looking for a radio transmitter.
He is currently talking to the international development partners and media NGOs as he continued the rebranding process, an initiative started by Ogunleye. The Code of Ethics of the founding organisations of NIJ are first impression that indeed you are in a Journalism School. You must be guided by the ethics of the profession.
The NGE, NUJ, NIPR, APCON were conspicuously displayed on the wall on the staircase. The school also has a functional website. The website was first built by Dr. Ikem, with my inputs as Adjunct Faculty – New Media. We trained NIJ students to update the website.
Assuredly, each 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 integrate theory into practice for the students. Courses available at the school are print journalism, broadcast journalism, and public relations and advertising, PRAD. There are also special programmes on writing skills, editing, photo journalism and film productions.
Today, NIJ boasts of media industry stars in the public and private spheres. Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NTA(Diaspora Commission); Iyabo Wale-Eri, NTA; Mrs Sherifat Ahmed, Radio Nigeria Abuja National Station; Gbenga Onayiga, FRCN; Mrs Mary Atolagbe; Dr Qasim Akinreti of Voice of Nigeria; John Momoh, Ini Thompson of Channels TV; Mrs Olufunke Fadugba; Biola Aberuagba of Ray Power FM; Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe; Anike Ola Salako; Kafayat Adeola Orisile; Qasim Funmilayo; Funmi Omoboriowo, Radio Lagos/EkoFM; Jubril Folami; Aminat Elegusi; Busola Kukoyi, LTV; Karimat Salami; Saron Ijasan; Jeremiah Uzor, Producer Inside Lagos, TVC; and Debo Osundun, News Agency of Nigeria.
In the print media, these names tower above others: Dr Olusanya Awosan, Public relations, Publisher Nigerian Essence and former Special Assistant on Public Relations to President Jonathan, Mrs Dupe Gbadebo; former editor Daily Times , Dapo Olorunyomi, of Premium Times Online; Bolaji Adebiyi, Managing Editor ThisDay Newspapers and Vice President, West Nigerian Guild of Editors; Lanre Arogundade, International Press Center, IPC; Otunba Tajudeen Abbas, Publisher Ekoblog.com, and the late Ben Alaya of Sports Day Newspapers and former Media Officer Super Eagles, among other notables.
The public service, security agencies, music celebrities, Nollywood industry and the corporate world are full of NIJ graduates. Sina Thorpe, Lanre Bajulaye, Dupe Ileyemi, Frank Ajayi, Mrs Ronke Famakinwa, Funmi Olabisi, Mr. Ganiyu Banuso, and Kayode Sutton, among others, are senior public officials in the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy. Korede Bello, the young talented artiste and musician of “Godwin Song”; Yeni Kuti of Felebration fame, Nollywood Star, Njoku Ebeonu, are gladiators in their own space.
Those who ventured into other professions, especially academic, such as Professor Ayandiji Daniel Aina, former Vice Chancellor, Caleb University and Dr Saeed Timehin of LASU, are giants and role models. A full compendium of NIJ Alumni is in the offing as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. Surely all graduates will be accommodated and appreciated accordingly.
In the midst of celebrations are myriads of challenges facing the school. These include poor funding from the current owners of the school- Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO. Only Nigeria Guild of Editors has shown the passion to pay subvention to the school. NIJ is financially struggling with paltry school fees.
The Jakande Building need expansion; the classrooms are inadequate, lecturers do not have befitting offices for research and comfort. Since all satellite campuses have been closed , the pressure on the main campus in Lagos is enormous. There should be hostel facilities for the teeming students outside Lagos. The off campus system is not too ideal for students.
Most disturbing is the discrimination of PGD certificate for only Professional Masters Programme against an Academic Masters in Nigerian universities . This phenomenon must be addressed by the academic board of the school, with a petition to the National Board of Technical Education, NBTE, and the National Universities Commission,NUC.
In foreign universities, PGD certificate is accepted. Ghana and Kenya journalism institutes have attained a full degree university, a special media institution status. NIJ cannot be different. It should be a specialized media university.
The alumni association of the NIJ will need to upscale its engagements with the school towards sustainable contributions to the development of the institution. I am absolutely convinced that the graduates have what it takes to turn around the fortune of NIJ.
There is also the question of take over of the school by the Federal Government as a specialised university. On the score, the NPO and the alumni should engage the proponent of this idea from the National Assembly and government circles. Is the proposed takeover in public good and public interest?
Be that as it may, we must roll out drums for celebration today and November 30, 2021, to mark the 6th Convocation. In the words of Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, current provost of the institution: “This edition is a unique one as it is coming at a time when we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the institution.”
Four sets of 2017 and 2021 graduates across disciplines are expected to receive certificates and awards. Two of my students in the postgraduates class, Jemi Ekunkubor of Vanguard Newspapers, former official of the NUJ Lagos Council and Aniwura are slated to receive best student prizes. I am exceedingly proud of them.
*Dr. Akinreti is an NIJ Alumni 1992- 1993 Set; Deputy Director, Digital Media Voice of Nigeria; and former Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Lagos State Council.