Immediate past Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Kwara State Council, Comrade Abiodun Abdulkareem in this interview with ABIODUN BOLUKOJO shed light on his achievement, challenges and regret during his tenure.
What will you describe as your major achievement(s) while in office?
When we took the mantle of NUJ leadership in 2012, we discovered that state owned media houses were had salary arrears stretching between four to five months; these were Radio Kwara, Kwara Television and the Herald Newspaper. Immediately, we swung into action by engaging the management of these organisations and the sole owner – Kwara State Government through a dialogue. The government accepted to clear the salaries arrears. Also the issue of staff promotion for media organization that has been lingering for years was resolved amicably even with financial backing implemented.
To extend welfarism for members, we embark on visitation whenever our members are sick, we do come to their support through our health intervention program, whereby we support them in terms of offsetting their hospital bills and other related things such as child birth in our members family we do go there with a token donation in support of the ceremony, marriage ceremony, naming ceremony. We also support our members during festivities such as Ramadan, Eid fitr and Christmas by distributing food items to them.
We conceptualize the idea of acquiring landed property to proved solution to our members in the area of accommodation. This will assist them during retirement period. We did that by acquiring massive land at Galki in Zango area, Kulende area of Ilorin where plots were allocated to members and payments are made very flexible. We made payment installmentally because most of us cannot afford to pay a huge amount due to the little salary that they are earning. We make it flexible that one can even pay N10,000 so it will accumulate and at the end of the day you become a proud owner of a plot of land and by the grace of God many of our members who subscribed into the scheme today are proud owners of houses and many proud owners of land at Journalist estate.
School and Mosque
We also conceded the idea of establishing a school for our children and the entire society. We did this by acquiring a spacious portion of land at Journalist Estate where we can have the permanent site and we are able to erect a foundation there for the school. Then at NUJ Press Centre along Offa road which will be a spring board for the school, we have built some classrooms and the school will take off in September, 2018. This we did just to contribute our quota to the development of education and again will be able to train our children in a much more decent way which will have good impact on the society.
We also elected a mosque for our fellow Muslims colleagues with the Press Centre to pray conveniently. We also tried by overhauling the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) Ilorin Centre. The institute was in Kwara State before I came in but the activities of the centre was suspended due to poor management and lack of commitment by the immediate past administration.
We also made a giant stride by partnering with the University of Ilorin that as you complete your Diploma in Journalism from that school you can proceed to do your Master in Mass Communication at University of Ilorin.
Again, we introduced a lot of training programmes for capacity building of members. Here, we organized a lot of workshops and seminars for pur members.
We send people to places like Abuja, Kaduna, Benue and across the country where such event is taking place. There has been a time where too members of the council went to the United Kingdom to attend a workshop and some others even visited South African.
Competition, health programme
We engaged our members on competition for best journalists of the year, where they submitted their published or broadcast stories. During the end of the year we constitute a panel of judges to select the best journalist of the year and the runners up and all those that participated in the competition went home with fantastic prizes ranging form television set, standing fan, refrigerator, cooking hot plates, blender among others. We do embarked on health programmes, bringing in medical practitioners to advise us on how to use our body and also how to keep our health, we organize medical test to our members, especially those that have defect in their sight because our job has to do with a lot of reading.
What were the challenges you encountered?
There were a lot of challenges as we began the journey. Perhaps, you have a vision considering the fact that everybody come different background and disciplines. there is brand to be friction and that friction will come in a way that they will resist being with you and that will bring a kind of dragging. It took time before they can understand the vision and that really affected us if not we would have achieved more for the council. For example, when the idea of having an estate came up, many members did not understand the vision so they didn’t give us the right support that will enhance the realization of the scheme, instead of achieving it between three months, it took us four years before we could achieve it, so that is what I see as a challenge. When we were about to establish a school we also had similar challenge.
How were you able to overcome these challenges?
Well, we were focused and courageous, we have strong believe in the efficiency of prayers as well the reliance on God that everything is possible when God is with you, so, it is courage that made us surpass the stumbling blocks.
What actually earn you a return ticket to office after your first tenure?
We continue to appreciate God because the first tenure was a bit difficult because it was the beginning of a departure from the old style of doing things in the NUJ. I told you about Journalists Estate, School, health care services and even welfare. That really encouraged some positive minded members to support the move that we should spend another tenure after the first three years tenure. And more so what really encouraged those members that saw the reason for us to go back and complete the job because we have done a lot of job like during the first time we started the school and the journalists estate is under process, it has not gotten to stage where you can view that you’ve done, a project, the mosque was also ongoing and most of the new programmes we introduced then were only taken shape at that time. This encourage them that we need to complete the projects, that’s why the second term was given a support for us to come back again and ensure the completion of these projects because in their own view if we did not continue at that time some other people might come in and cause disruption whereby we will be having abandoned projects all over the places and things will be stagnant again. And why we were about to come out the second term we promised that before the tenure expires we would have completed the work we started in the first tenure and we thank God that we have achieved this.
What are your unfulfilled dreams while in office?
Like I said earlier another dream which I had which is complimenting is the issue of establishing a media outfit which we were not able to do though it was not promised but I thought it that if we are able to do that, it will add more credit to our feet.
What fun memories do you have during your tenure in office, any regrets?
There is no regret at all, though its not easy to really serve the people but if you are able to do what people appreciate and I am sure God also appreciates that. We have really served the council. What would have been my regrets is when we are not able to complete those laudable projects, but for the fact that we are able to complete those projects gives me a sense of joy, sense of appreciation to my members and Almighty God who has given us the grace to complete it.
What advice do you have for the present leadership and members of the association in the state?
My advice to them is that they should sustain the feet we have taken and also improve it. They should not relent in the effort in advancing the development on the ground.
They should also ensure peace because when we came in there was turbulent in NUJ but we ensure that we enthrone peace into the council. They should ensure that peace is not shattered rather they should build the peace the more so that together we can build a better NUJ. They should not allow crisis to take over the peace we have had. There cannot be development where there is no peace. They must be focused, committed and dedicated to the service of the council.
What are your high and low moments?
My low moment was that when we came in, there was serious crisis on ground. This crisis is as a result of camps. The camps were not at ease it was all over crisis with the council and this became a challenge when I came in and that was my low moment.
But as soon as we enthroned peace and began to work on development this gives me joy and that was my high point. We appreciate God.
Now that you are through with your tenure, what next?
In Kwara NUJ there is a template that before position is allocated to somebody or before any of the members would be allowed to via for a national position, they must be convinced that you will do the council proud. Like me now, there is no position I can contest in the state again, except at the zonal or national level. Presently now, we are leaving the decision to the stakeholders of NUJ. Whatever they decide will come to manifest. For me now I am contesting a position at the National Level.