OPAN/GOCOP Online Publishers: When The Battlefield No Longer Contain Warriors By Fejiro Oliver
The more social media we have, the more we think we’re connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other -Anonymous
I have purposely waited for days to see what Reuben Abati will write concerning the mention of his name by the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) in their response to a supposed rival body, before I pen down my own ‘protest’. Maybe I waited for Abati as my senior in every category of life or maybe because he has more information than me at the embryo stage of the formation of the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN). The aim was achieved, as he has written and thus I have been set free to use my five fingers.
I did expect GOCOP to come up with a better press release as response to what OPAN dished out, considering the few persons among them I hold in high esteem who are qualified to be called ‘lords of the media ring’ and the cordial relationship we enjoy. As I read the statement, I felt sad within me, knowing that among the GOCOP members, I share great bonds with most of them that extends above professionalism but family. I knew I was going to reply but for the sake of friendship, I will deal with the facts, than attack personalities like they did.
The statement by GOCOP was targeted at four persons; namely, Abati, Femi Awoyemi (OPAN President), I and another top publisher based in the United States. In their quest to demean OPAN which is currently way beyond human destruction, they alluded in their imagination that I was locked up in jail for attempt to blackmail the former corrupt governor of Niger State, Mr Babangida Aliyu. Ironically, these same set of people I must admit were in the forefront of various reports calling for my immediate release while I was in prison, and through it made the public to know that the case was one of those where the powers of state was used to hunt down a journalist with damaging information against a public office holder.
If they had done their homework a little further, they should have asked the ‘why’ that led to my release, but in a bid to fight a mother union, they ran amok with falsehood, but I will help them. For the records, Aliyu literally knelt down to beg my lawyer, Mr Gabriel Esigene to plead with me to take my eyes off his state and focus on my state. He sent various persons to me in prison to sign undertaking not to report against him and his corrupt practices, and it took five days before I agreed to sign, and that was after my lawyer convinced me that I should sign, but it will not stand once I walk out of the prison doors. Yes, my lawyers told me that I can report against Aliyu and the state, as long as I have my documents, citing the constitution freedom of speech and rights of the press to publish. The documents to that effect are with me and court of law.
If GOCOP had gone a little further, especially having among them a foremost investigative news portal among them, they would have asked why the National Union of Journalists at the national level and Minna council got involved. The answer is simple; I have practiced the profession and was a member at the chapel level, as well as a chapter chairman of the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU). Are they also unaware that I am in court with the State Security Service (SSS) over the matter, which was instituted by me, and even though they have asked that I come for settlement, I refused? The facts are there.
In a bid to portray GOCOP as Pro Buhari and OPAN as Pro Jonathan, they attempted to draw Abati into the tussle, but forgot to ask themselves why OPAN refused to organize her launching under the Jonathan era, since they could have easily gotten presidential backing via Abati, whom they claim to be its backbone. Again, the answer is because, OPAN is a non political and independent minded organization that cannot be influenced by the government of the day. If there is anything GOCOP statement has revealed to Nigerians; It’s that they are solely for the government of the day and will work for the Buhari administration. People like us already knew their position even before they made it public, considering their manner of reportage of some of them since Buhari was sworn in.
I challenge any member of GOCOP to come out publicly to say that he supported Buhari more than my humble self via the use of social and online media, or wrote against the Goodluck Jonathan administration more than I did. I welcome a search of our various Facebook timelines and twitter handles to prove me wrong. Despite my support for Buhari as a blogger and journalist, it doesn’t change my idea that the nation and OPAN supersedes my personal interest.
I do not know who they refer to as untrained journalists and Cameramen in OPAN, but as much as I know, there are more educationally trained media persons in OPAN than GOCOP, and it doesn’t matter if you have been the Editor in Chief of the New York Times. It is most pathetic that a group that prides itself as a gathering of established editors, even though we know most were never editors, will speak ill of cameramen. Sadly enough, they depend on these set of journalists that they have refused to acknowledge as worthy press men for photo/video news. It goes to show that the course called photojournalism was not taught to them in school.
It even went further to insinuate that Abati is not a journalist but just a columnist with the Guardian Newspaper. So sad, that people who should know Abati better considering their years of practice in journalism will abandon truth for falsehood to satisfy evil conscience. While this is not in defence of Abati, as I am no longer his fa since his adventure under Jonathan, the truth be said that he is a first class graduate of Theatre Arts where media is not just a course taught but students specializes in it, not a political science, English or sociology graduate that has no affiliation with media, like most GOCOP members. I do not need to tell them that he has certificates in journalism from other schools. Where there lies this fallacy?
As an individual, I majored in media in the university, worked for the print and left as the political editor of the South South based Metropolitan Newspaper and again left the service of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as a producer and news caster (note that I was not sacked), before joining the online media and floated Secret Reporters News in late 2013 with two other persons before going fully as a citizen driven news portal in 2014. In less than three years of establishment, we are proud of our little achievement, that despite publishing less than one thousand, two hundred posts, we have become a one stop place for news among Nigerians. One of the requirements for joining OPAN is to have a registered taxpaying company, which Secret Reporters as a medium has, with a Tax Identification Number allocated to us, through which we pay tax. I don’t know if this can be said of all GOCOP members.
By the way, I do not remember any of the associations bearing Online Journalists Association of Nigeria or Guild of Corporate Online Journalists. If this is so, GOCOP should have known that none of these groups can claim to be ‘journalists’ but PUBLISHERS, just like the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN. It therefore does not hold water of calling names that members of OPAN are not journalists, when they have employed them to work in their various establishments.
I do not know what ‘documents’ GOCOP claims to have and will release if we overstretch our luck, but I will be excessively glad if they can speedily release it to Nigerians, or forever remain silent. After all, I have overstretched my own luck!
Dear esteemed colleagues in GOCOP, the problem you have is not Abati, nor Awoyemi or Fejiro Oliver, but inability to separate yourselves from the corridors of powers and be the bridge between the citizens and the government that you should be.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver is Editor In Chief of Secrets Reporters News, Investigative Journalist, Media Consultant and Human Rights Activist can be reached on +2348022050733 (SMS ONLY) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage him on twitter on @fejirooliver86.