Soludo hates Anambra journalists with passion- NUJ Chairman


Odogwu Emeka Odogwu PhD, JP is the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Anambra State. Dr Odogwu is also a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Unizik, and also an Assistant Director, UNIZIK Business School of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka.

He is a child rights activists.

In this interview with select journalists, Odogwu spoke on a wide range of issues including his leadership of NUJ,and the relationship with the Anambra State Government, led by Prof Chukwuma Soludo


You have been the Chairman of NUJ Anambra Sate Council since January 2022, what are your achievements so far?

_(Laughs!)_ Can we even enumerate our achievements? I and my team have
worked very hard to ensure that NUJ Anambra state is in the news everyday by lining up about fifty activities in the last one year plus. We are not interested in praise singing but because there is need for you to know , let me summarize them.

In our first year, we did so many activities that people thought were impossible. We have held events like the Blogger’s Summit, Media Executives Summit, Cultural Day cum New Yam Festival, Fashion and Arts Expo, just to mention but a few. We had so many events. I can give you a list of them if you want. All these we did to recreate, in the minds, that NUJ is numeroe-un whether as a trade Union, or as a professional body in Nigeria and Anambra state per say.

We had so many events that almost every member of NUJ was involved in
one activity or the other. And as a Union, we did not force anybody to
be part of what we are doing. We wooed and are still wooing everyone to be part of what we are doing, because we came in with a rescue mindset
which is not just to rescue NUJ but to give it a better standing and move it to the next level for a new crop of professionals to take it over from where we have stopped. We are part of the middle professionals. This means that we looked up to some people like Victor Agusiobo, Chris Aghanya, Okechukwu Obeta, Tony Okafor ,Anayo Okoli, Onu Nwanosike, Daniel Anigbo among others even Monic Okechukwu, a national officer and the rest of others, when we were growing up. I met Victor Agusiobo as chairman of NUJ in 1999 when I was powering as a student activist, championing the cause of literacy and enrollment for the people of Awka North. It is on good record that Victor Agusiobo spoke at the event that we
organized with the likes of then Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof Pita Ejiofor, and so many other top dignitaries who came to move Awka North forward. So, it is not today that I have been at the front runner of moving the society forward through Unionism. I joined the media shortly after. I was the Coordinator, Campaign Against Illiteracy and low male enrolment in Awka North . We really rallied our people to go to school. It was the same year I joined journalism as an attachee with ABS Radio and Television Awka. And, later that year, I joined National Link Newspapers as a staff with my ND.

Let me inform you that we attracted a brand new 18 seatter bus within one week in office and finances thereto to fuel it as donated by former Governor Willie Obiano. I was pretty okay with his solidarity and after that gesture, he left office. We had a goodtime with him we even at a point stayed the entire day with him exchanging views. That was why when he left office, and had challenges with EFCC , we stood by him against all odds. And that gained the necessary milage, leading to his release.

As if not enough we embarked on provision of a functional Borehole in the press center. We have done that but someone has to offset the bills and we name the water scheme after him or her.

If you noticed ,our benefactor Mr Godwin Ezeemo either by a wrong advice or personal choice haven’t been interested in issues concerning the union which is unfortunate. We are eternally grateful to him for building us that structure, and with time , if I get his nod to so do, I shalll set a day every year to celebrate him. That’s why I was looking for him but some busybodies aren’t comfortable to let him see us. I personally made moves to get to the root of his anger but met a brick wall. Let me stop at this unless otherwise moved to. And the level Ezeemo left the press center building, anyone doing anything upstairs maybe risking his or her life hence we built and installed iron protectors and handrails from first stair to the last floor and the large veranda. We are planning for more work over there. We are also looking for partners.

Most importantly is our ability to unite our members across the state whom have not known them selves by names for a longer time by bringing everyone to the same table for events and Committees. We are grateful to God for that . We tried to carry everyone along without let.
We also did training but we are not yet satisfied with that aspect but curiously, the government of Prof Soludo we thought would be
Media friendly became non supportive. In other to continue the good tiding of the founding fathers of our union, some journalists without Journalism certificates were enrolled into Paul University, Awka for Professional Certificate in Journalism and Media studies after an arrangement championed by our Amazon, Prof Chinyere Stella Okunna, now a DVC in the university after a meritorious service at Unizik. I suspect we have about 30 of us doing the immersion programme.

We awarded scholarships worth close to One million Naira to indigent pupils in Anambra state particularly Awka North in partnership with a pressure group , Odimma Awka North Peoples Assembly led by Chief Shedrack Anakwue and A & D Tabansi Foundation led by Ambassador Aloysius Tabansi who is also the President General of Urum Development Union. We also mobilized to reach out to flood victims,underprivileged and deprived members of the society. What we mobilized is worth several millions.

We attracted free healthcare for all the journalists in the state as facilitated by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Afam Obidike. Let me not talk about our welfare of feeding our members at every Congress and providing transport support. And our picnic visit to Ogbunike cave. So many events happening at NUJ.

We even constructed a minor pavement at the NUJ Secretariat complex, and rewired some faulty electrical points at the press center. We have partnership with Paul University, Awka which I told you about earlier and we have partnership with Nigeria Book Foundation in an effort to immortalize ,late Prof Chukwuemeka Ike , then traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu, Orumba North local government area. We did the first memorial lecture series last four months.

And the one everyone benefitted most was our facilitation of the processing and renewal of International Passports for journalists in Anambra State in preparation for foreign training which was later stalled by lack of support from our Govermor, Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo. We thought he would have supported us no matter how little but our application was thrown back at us with impunity. Who is fighting NUJ behind the scene, as if Soludo is? I am yet to unravel the mystery.

We recovered our bus abandoned at government House for over 11 years . The bus was used by Late Tochukwu Udoji-Omelu and Henry Nwasike. We are seeking for resources to refurbish it. We are trying to recover the one used by our National Vice- President, Emma Ifesinachi during his term as Chairman of NUJ. All efforts have been futile but we are hopeful he shall avail us the easiest way out. Note that during the election, we facilitated the coming of INEC officials for journalists to register for PVC at the Press Centre. There are so many projects to mention, even though we have failed in the major one we targeted which is attracting someone to take over the compound for an eatery and a drinking pub, even the building for mini hotel since we have about 25 rooms there. It’s painful but the economy isn’t favorable either. So many economic crisis now, but trusting God, we shall do our best and others shall continue.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Well, I have had challenges. One major challenge is that human beings are very difficult to manage. I have had the challenge of mobilizing my men in one accord to pursue a goal. We supposed to be agenda setters. We supposed to be moral barometers of the society. Remember, a journalist does not have a friend or an enemy because he is a friend to the society. Any journalist who is a friend to anybody is losing the mark because the so called friend may commit an infringement, fraud or atrocity; you find it hard to report such. But, when you are a friend to the society, you are dispassionate and you do the right
thing at the right time always, not minding whose ox is gored. Aside
the human challenge, we have completely lacked government patronage. In as much as we have friends in government, like the Commissioner for Information, Paul Nwosu, the Chief Press Secretary, Christian Aburime, Don Onyenji, Ify Obinabo, and so many others, but they are handicapped to assist us because it is when they are given approvals to support us that they would support. Governor Soludo, in over a year in office, has not deemed it fit to interact with journalists in Anambra State, but he interacts with every other pressure group in the state and country. He did one year in office, invited everyone across Nigeria but no formal invitation to Journalists in Anambra. I may be wrong but my men called severally and I said nobody told me anything. Journalists were the agenda setters and the pace setters who will inform him about what is happening in the society, especially areas where he has no knowledge of and where he needs to take a decisive stand. Like ,this one youth, two skills fraud ongoing, what does he know happening but, we know how it’s been sabotaged with trusted people in government compiling just names to pay people who did nothing just to share the dividends into two equals after payment. I saw and heard rubbish when they shared N10,000 each to the youths. Let me leave it at this. So many things going wrong under his nose ,yet he hates journalists with passion or so, I think.

Do you mean that Governor Soludo has not been of any help to NUJ and
your administration in the state?

He has not been of any help. NUJ in other States enjoy subventions and have their secretariats built and secured by the state government. But here nothing like that exists. Even when we applied for training, he threw it inside the gutter. We applied for subvention and if you read the reply, you shall ask if the letter was meant for a journalists body , but we stomached it.
Across the Federation, journalists in various states were appointed into positions of authority and Councils assisted grately like in Kano,
Ganduje built a multi-milllion plaza for NUJ as well as a press conference center and Plateau State Governor did same in different style. Edo state government and Delta State government dis wonders too and across the Federation it’s wins for NUJ, yet our Governor is the most exposed among them, but could not even see us as friends. His first move in journalists direction was to mute closure of National Light Newspapers and sack journalists. Preposterous decision. He employs thousands of other professionals but journalists working with National Light should be rendered jobless and useless.

How best can you assess Soludo’s general performance as governor of
Anambra state?

So far, I’m not happy that he is not carrying the journalists along. Even the journalists working in his office who are called Press Corps were not carried along allegedly. He is acting as if he is not interested in journalists instead he is happy dealing with his group called Soludo TV. He has forgotten the fact that mainstream media remains mainstream media. With the presence of Professionals like us with enormous experience in the field, the governor has the opportunity of getting clues of happenings around him that are unknown to him, but since he doesn’t want us to be telling him things off
record, maybe we would be telling him some of those things on the pages of newspapers for him to read and get himself acquainted with what is happening. And sometimes those who witness Exco meetings couldn’t hide their observations on his attitude to his cabinet. But, I won’t talk about that as I am not in his Exco. It’s gossip.

Would you give him advice if you are opportune to?

No advice. I can only suggest to him. He is the executive governor of the state and a professor for that matter. Probably, he knows more and even better than some of us that are practicing it. But like I said earlier, those things we ought to have told him in private are what we would start telling him in public now. The truth is that as members of the fourth Estate, our duties are constitutional but however the governor and his government wish to, we are here and shalll be here as his four years or eight years elapse.


What do you hope to achieve at the end of your reign as Chairman of
NUJ in Anambra state?

I want to be remembered for reviving NUJ and the interest of the members in the Union. Already, I have about five persons showing interest to become next Chairman of Anambra NUJ. That shows that interests are already rekindled unlike it was before now. And since interests are rekindled, it means that the Union is matching forward.
I told the Union members that I am not even looking for a second tenure, but if it comes, know it’s by happenstance. My interest is three years and to live the stage when the ovation is high. I want to
be remembered as someone that came, saw and conquered for NUJ and its


What is your advice to your members especially this time that the new
media is ushering in as the fifth estate of the realm?

The key to a professional practice is professionalism. Anyone who is not yet carried as a professional journalist or rather still dwells on the traditional method should upgrade. And for us to be professional in what we do, we must face the ethics squarely. We must be topnotch in whatever we do, so that those who are not trained journalists but have the opportunity of having online social media handles and blog
sites will learn from what we do. We the professionals should drive the online space. In Anambra state and southeast, I was the first person to establish a blog site, that’s an online newspaper where I practiced online journalism… . I started the practice before it was taken over by Tom, Dick and Harry. But we are not deterred. As a university teacher, we are bringing up young ones who will smash the city as soon as possible and after their graduation. They are already doing wonders in school and if they take
after us, society would know that they really are pen pushers and that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Having devoted your career in the profession for over two decades, why
is it that NUJ members do not command the same respect as members of other professionals like NMA, NBA, among others?

The truth is that journalism started with low rank operators. What I mean by this is: when journalism started, there were no people who read journalism. So, everybody was brought in to come and practice journalism. People with school certificate and anybody who can write
or spell his name was brought together. That was why so many people who did journalism do not have up to first degree. Again, the issue of he who pays the piper dictates the tune; so many people who are not supposed to own a media house established media houses and brought people who are not qualified to be journalists to be in charge of the stations because of religion, nepotism and tribalism. In the process, they too who are the managers of the stations brought in their friends
and relatives to come and work. Before you know it, they had become journalists by association and were enrolled. And in this era of social media, everybody is now a journalist. And what killed journalism is the hiring of illustrates on media power and performance in the name of media team. They pollute the cyberspace though a few hired the right people as leaders of the bunch. However, despite these, journalists today are having the respect and attention they desired. This is because now we practising journalists have PhD in journalism, Mass Communication, Media literacy, among others. In NUJ Anambra, we have about 8 professionals who practiced journalism with PhD now even though I am the first PhD holder to be the Chairman of the Union in both old and new Anambra State. And the first to get it in core journalists in field journalism known as Correspondents Chapel, a chapel of NUJ. I contested to become Chairman via Correspondents chapel. So I am an example of those with PhD in journalism and I have others too. Again,
qualified tutors who are journalists are training younger ones to go higher than they had gone. In another dimension, Journalism is not only a professional body, but also a trade Union. Some persons are practicing journalism as a trade union; others are practicing it as
professionals. This is why you cannot synchronize it very well in tits and bits to make it like the NBA, NMA and others. Again, because of the advancement of technology which has permeated into journalism coupled with the unbundling of Mass Communication, there are so many people who will still be part of journalists or NUJ which ordinarily
should not be members. Consider a situation where you have the online
media and the multimedia; they are all part of the unbundled Mass Communication, therefore, they should be part of NUJ. However, NUJ has
streamlined, strengthened and repositioned under the National
President, Chief Chris Isiguzo, for a better professional and trade
unionism. Currently, if you don’t have a degree in the related fields, you won’t be a member of the NUJ. That’s what the new constitution stated.

Do you think there are other ways NUJ can be repositioned?

Yes, of course! Play with the media and get roasted. An average journalist is not supposed to have money because when you are working for the society, money should not be your interest. The way we are talking about professionalism is to charge money to do our reports. We
are even crying that some people are charging money to do their reports because it is unethical and unprofessional. But when we now
professionalize, for you to be able to maintain your profession, you
have to charge people to do their reports. If anybody calls you to
talk about anything you have to tell him or her how much to pay. If he pays it that is the professionalism we are talking about. When lawyers talk about professionalism, they charge people to render their professional services. Same as doctors, they charge you before they touch you. Journalists are not like that. They can’t be completely professional body for money making. They can professionalize in certain ways that the ethical standards would be maintained or the rules of the job will be observed. But if they professionalize like the medical doctors and lawyers then it will cut off the neck of everybody in the society and the poor people cannot access the media to voice out their desires. We are already a professional body but we are doing our best to harmonize. That is why we are saying for anybody to be a member of NUJ or practice journalism, you must have minimum of first degree or HND in Mass Communication or related fields. Now you must be a graduate before you practice as a professional.

How has it been combining lecturing and your duties as the NUJ Council

The truth is that I had no intention of being a lecturer. I had planned my life to be a director in the Ministry of Information either in the state or Federal level. However, circumstances threw me up. Having completed my PhD at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, I was looking for job for some people and fortunately came in contact with my ally, Oga
and colleague, Prof Emeka Ezeonu, former REC Imo state, former Vice-Chancellor Hezekiah University Umudike. This is somebody I have been giving my services over the years. And rather than do what I was pleading for, he
said my type of person is what is needed in the University system. That was how I found myself in the university system and to the glory of God; they gave me the task of training year one students on MAC 111, News Writing and Reporting. Today, if you see my students either
in year one or two, you will know that I gave them practical experience of what they do. A lot of them are doing great in their levels and if sustained to their graduation, they will be warriors and
ambassadors of the profession from Unizik, though they are first my Ambassadors and Ambassadors of The platform that marketed them.
So, combining the two is like a marriage of circumstance. I was planning to contest an election when the offer came. I won the election despite the oppositions against my candidacy. Truth be told. I am a misunderstood personality. People do not understand who I am and my behavior. So many people stood against me but to the glory of God, I won the election and I am carrying everyone along. Immediately after the election, I met my Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone FAS, the Dean of my Faculty, the Head of my Department; individually and they all gave me their supports. They put my lectures in the early hours to enable me do my lectures then rush back to tidy up the NUJ activities. I am coping very well. Even, this new semester, I have four courses I co-lecture and other engagements.


What advice do you have for upcoming writers and journalists?

Things have changed. Anybody that is still practicing journalism of those days is no longer a journalist, he is a carpenter because now is it the fastness of the digital world or the enablers of ICT that before you even move an inch, stories are already trending. Journalists now are not only digital savvy but tech savvy. They are now ICT compliant, now having everything at a go. Is it the Facebook that has helped? You can be in your room and be monitoring what is happening elsewhere; real time issues of what is happening there. Before 2002, there was no mobile communication but now you can use phone and communicate. You can contact somebody in another geographical area and write his opinion on an issue. If you are to go there, it is just to see things for yourself. You can follow issues up to a logical conclusion.
ICT has made journalism easier, better, enjoyable and wonderful but at the same time has brought competition between citizen journalists and conventional Jonalists because you are at a function, you are lazy and have not done your story to send to your office to publish online. One amateur citizen will just do whatever he wants to do, post it online and that is what will be trending. By the time you do your own, they will say you copied from him where as you are the conventional journalist paid to serve the public better as a member of the fourth Estate of the realm. So, it has re-awakened the promptness among journalists of today. Also, the good thing there is that those of us who would say ‘ we are not in the old order or new order’ are equally catching up. I know my colleagues in punch, Independent, Guardian, and some others who are in their late 50s and early 60s who are even doing better than some of the young people in the internet savvy. So ICT and social media have helped media practitioners more than ever but it has also affected adversely revenue generation and real time buying of newspapers. People no longer have the hunger to buy newspapers. Vendors are unhappy and complaining bitterly. I know a vendor who built a duplex from vending Newspapers and magazines but it’s impossible today.

The Prof Soludo-led administration asked you to apologize for your write up about the closure of National Light. Have you done that?

There is nothing to apologize for. Hon Commissioner was put in a tight corner by his employers and he did what he got to do, defending the indefensible. I stood by my report on that episode as captured in my weekly Cornucopia. There was no line that was out of sync signaling insult or criticism. I was just appealing to Governor Soludo not to sack journalists and close their office for whatever it’s worth whereas he was been praised for employing other section of workers. And I didn’t stop there, I said if you must close down the National Light Newspaper office, redeploy the workers to the Ministry of Information and other Ministries. How does this constitute to insults or criticism to the government? That press statement by Hon Paul Nwosu, Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment already viral exonerated me because it admitted the State Executive Council meeting were still deliberating on the National Light Newspapers issue. I did Investigative and interpretative journalism and they were busy shouting I got my information from the grapevine. That’s journalism. Any piece of information liked by those concerned is a PR material not journalism. Journalism is expository, solution oriented, development oriented and sometimes smashing the cover up.
Let me restate that it’s inhuman and wickedness of the highest order for government to .
I think of closing a newspaper house employing below 100 persons, and sacking their staff or paying them off whereas the same government was busy employing 5000 teachers, 3000 Health workers and other sets of workers in the civil service and was busy gloating over that, yet planning to sack another set of workers who haven’t constituted nuisance in their work place. Why sack journalists? Does it mean there are no journalists undergoing training to be employed to replace the old hands about to retire as in teaching profession and Health sector among others? Where would they practice journalism before professionalising? It’s a sad commentary on the part of Prof Soludo’s government and whoever that is poisoning his mind or hatching to get the government close down National Light Newspapers to establish an amusement park or whatever the playground for children is to be called is an enemy of the people. The person is anti Labour and we are watching. How can a Labour friendly Govermor mute an idea of sacking journalists and closing their office to erect an amusement park abi playground? It’s ridiculous and unexpected from Soludo led government. The only propelling force is hatred for a particular profession. That’s why I summed it up that he hated journalists.

And it’s unfortunate the Attorney General of the state and Commissioner for Justice didn’t bring his attention to the fact that Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation, was established by law in Edict No 8 of 1994 to print and publish Newspapers and Journals. The law also empowers the Corporation to go into commercial Printing. This means the state House of Assembly must get involved in shutting it down.

Section 18 of Edict No 8 of 1994 defines clearly the NATURE OF SERVICE.” Service under the Corporation shall be PUBLIC SERVICE within the meaning of Pension Ordinance of 1951 as adapted by Cap 102 laws of Anambra State 1991″.

This Edict was signed into law by Col. M E Attah on 25th March ,1994..The Edict took effect from 27th August 1991 when Anambra State was created .

It was originally branch of the Eastern Nigerian leading newspaper popularly called NIGERIAN OUTLOOK.
And for avoidance of doubts, NIGERIAN OUTLOOK is the mother of DAILY STAR Newspaper currently maintaining staff and publishing in Enugu State AND …
NATIONAL LIGHT newspaper in Anambra State now under threat for God knows why? I wish to exonerate the Head of Service, Barr Theodora Okwy Igwegbe, mni from this naked dance because as I was told , she stood against this evil of planned closure of National Light Newspapers in their Exco and elsewhere. Most shocking aspect of the entire episode was the current MD/CEO, Sir Chuka Nnabuife who was appointed by former Governor Willie Obiano for 8 years, standing on the part of government in shame. The question is what is he still doing at National Light Newspapers after staying for 8 years, 4 years each his appointment stipulated? Or is he appointed for life?
Out of the management team ,nobody but one admitted knowledge of his defense of government press statement. It was unfortunate. In some climes, union members in National Light will bar the MD/CEO from entering office immediately after his tenure expires. Ask a commisioner in Ministry of information what his workers did to him on his final day in office, when he tries to carry his furniture. Let me not say so many things I have been armed with by over 173 callers since I penned down the Cornucopia exposing plans to shut down National Light, excluding text messages and whatsapp messages as well as face to face communication.

But are there areas the governor and his government is doing well?

I told you I don’t want to talk about his successes and failures yet. He is doing great in so many silent areas and even on roads but spare me the agony now until I am ready to constructively speak on his government. His wife Nonye Soludo is powering too. Some of his commisioners are taking leads but as I said ,it’s too early to speak about his government openly unless issues of life and death like National Light Newspapers. We shall talk about Prof Soludo soonest. I shall praise him where necessary and criticize him constructively where necessary. He is our Governor and we have nothing against him. We are praying for him to succeed because his failure shall be unimaginable.

Why do you always exude positivism and love even when provoked?

I have carefully avoided toxic people by staying positive always, with a grateful heart to God. I refused to let anger and Vengeance control my emotions. I make wise and informed decisions, trusting God because with Him, all things are possible. I have freed myself of judgement and comparisons as welll as toxic people and toxic thoughts. But, I refused to be associated with timidity because it’s not humility. I fear God and glad He endowed me with little wisdom to survive the vicissitudes of life, unfriendly friends, traitors , selfish friends and fault finders. I find happiness in almost everything I do. That I am proud of myself doesn’t mean I am arrogant and pompous, not at all. I am positive and generate positive energy always, hence I encourage everyone easily in their endeavours and I am always optimistic. I avoid highly toxic people, pessimists and fault finders because they generate negative energy and they are filled with negativism. I have never underestimated myself, I remain positive, fearless and patience, trusting God in prayers. I admit my errors whenever and I easily apologize to people even when i am right. I build mutual respect and trust easily though people are always threatened by my misunderstood personality. It’s difficult but I have learnt to lift the white flag at all times. I watch others back and never betrayed anyone. I try to be honest at all times though difficult as a journalist because there are information that you have if released, you scatter families , institutions and organizations even government. I have contacts that could be my social capital but I found it difficult to sneak into their lives when I have needs, hence I have started to reach out to have a true relationship though still impossible sequel to daily choked life of an African, struggling to meet up demands. I always celebrate God’s faithfulness. I have a Superior prayer life and a strong faith in God hence there is nothing I set my eyes on i haven’t gotten in life. I am a dreamer. It’s a daily occurrence.
My greatest headache is that I forgive easily but I don’t forget because it becomes subject of advice ,lesson ,and teaching for reference purposes.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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