Recently, I read with excitement, a statement by management of Gbaramatu Publishing Company Limited, owners of GbaramatuVoice newspaper, announcing the programmes for its forthcoming 6th Annual lectures/Niger Delta Awards event slated for Tuesday August 10, 2021, by 10am, at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos state.
The statement which was signed by Jacob Abai, the GbaramatuVoice publisher, among other remarks, noted that the anniversary celebration/lecture will have as central theme: Dwindling State of Crude Oil Demand in the Global Market: The Way Forward, and will have former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan deliver a keynote address, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo as special guest of honour, Governor of Bayelsa so as host, Lagos state Governor, Mr. Babajide Sawoolu, as chief host, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state nominated as Best Governor of the Year (Defense of Democracy), while Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state will chair the occasion.
Essentially, aside from the high caliber of people expected at this event, the third in the series coming after Abuja and Port Harcourt, making this particular occasion alluring in my views, is the new awareness that the newspaper will use the opportunity provided by its sixth anniversary celebration to launch a Resource Centre for Niger Delta Studies as well as a media institute where fresh graduates from the region interested in media practice shall be trained on different media skills for self reliance.
The newspaper is presently in the estimation of stakeholders likened to the Biblical grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches. (Mathew 13; 31-32, Mark 4; 30-32, Luke 13; 18-19).
To buttress this fact, the newspaper was established in 2015, in one small apartment located in a sleepy but egalitarian part of Effurun, Warri, Delta state, and against all odds hit the newsstands in August of the same year. But today has become to the admiration of all, a leading source of authentic/authoritative information about the coastal/Niger Delta region and vehicle for promoting good governance and rewarding excellence/proponents of democracy/good governance in Nigeria.
As the newspaper celebrates, another area of interest to focus on is the personality behind GbaramatuVoice Newspaper-in the person of Jacob Abai, the man I usually call the Publisher. I know him. We met as students at the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos. He has always declared to me and others who care to listen that leaders who scale in the media industry did so regardless of background, skill and talent but because they were open to learning, took deliberate steps to confront their shortcomings and modeled their vision to that of great leaders that did not flounder in the industry. This philosophy he explained informs his choice of Uncle Sam Amuka, the founder of the Vanguard Newspaper Limited, Mr. Mike Ibru of the Guardian Newspapers among others as his role models.
Without any shadow of the doubt, there exists no record pointing to the fact that Abai attended elite academic institutions such as Harvard or Oxford University. Yet, he has within record time become the leader that his organisation and of course the media industry want him to be. In my views, what has really worked is his time-honored believe that in business setting one must be able to not only generate ideas but translate those ideas into results.
As Abai celebrates, it is my views that two factors have so far worked for him in his media excellence agenda. First, one happened on highly professionally trained journalists who understand, and are dedicated to the Niger Delta course while collaborating national and international media organizations across. This strategy helped Gbaramatu Voice become a gateway to Niger Delta-related news that is factually supported. The second is his understanding that ‘sound strategy is more basic to a young company than resolving hiring issues, designing control systems, setting reporting relationships, or defining the founder’s role’. That ventures based on a good strategy can survive confusion and poor leadership, but sophisticated control systems and organizational structures cannot compensate for an unsound strategy.
This understanding assisted GbaramatuVoice to focus on issues, not personalities. It has also resulted in its capacity to carve a niche for itself in record time and earnestly given the newspaper a quantum leap.
As an illustration, within this period, the newspaper has against permutation diversified to online news publishing, Face of Gbaramatu beauty pageant, and recently ventured into full-time electronic broadcasting with the establishment of the GbaramatuVoice Television that can be sourced online.
These successes have earned the newspaper, The Niger Delta Newspaper of the Year 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 awards.
Broadly speaking, there exist another reason, just one more but fundamental reason why the GbaramatuVoice 6th anniversary is considered as a celebration for all Niger Deltans and supported by the government-local, state(south south governors), the federal and of course the corporate bodies operating in the Niger Delta region particularly the International Oil Companies(IOCs). Such a reason has to do with the restoration/existence of peace in the region.
We must recall that the region was formerly characterized by perennial violence occasioned by mutual suspicion and hostilities between the IOCs and the federal government on one side and host communities on the other side. Such narrative and state of affairs has since been thrown to the waste bin of history with the advent of Gbaramatu Voice and its team of journalists that spend more time on the high seas and creeks than on the land. The Gbaramatu Voice has become reputed for bringing to the surface the hidden injustices and tensions that is always alive and active in the region to where it can be seen and treated.
This point becomes particularly appreciated when one remembers that before now reports from the region were always slanted by some media groups in such a way that are ‘valid, but, prevents others from deciding for themselves whether the claim to validity is correct-by not including the data that others could use to decide for themselves whether the illustration was valid; And, by placing their conclusion in such that disguises their logical implications’.
At this point, an important distinction to make is that GbaramatuVoice has become not just another platform for disseminating the truth and information that can be controlled at will. Rather, it is a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas; in the same way, that government is a decentralized body for the promotion and protection of the people’s life chances. It is a platform, in other words, for development that the government must partner with.
Finally, even as I congratulate him for this great feat, and join him in welcoming to the occasion dignitaries which include but not limited to, namely; Traditional Rulers from the Niger Delta, captain of industries within and outside the country, executives of International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the country, public office holders from the Niger Delta region, leaders of specialized groups in Nigeria, among others, the question, as a media practitioner who understands the shaky nature of the industry, that still pops in my mind is; where Abai, got this well formulated strategy/tactics for building a sustainable media organisation in Nigeria?
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He writes via [email protected]/08032725374.