Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation, publishers of the state newspaper (National Light newspapers) today lends credence to the fact that no condition is permanent. The story of the Corporation could be likened to one with a terminal illness certified to die by installment but when juxtaposed with the biblical saying that the dead bones shall rise again, leaves a glimmer of hope at the dark tunnel irrespective of perilous times. Such was its fate prior to the advent of Governor Willie Obiano’s administration in 2014.
From hindsight, the aforestated descriptive analysis of the melancholic state of the publishing house portrayed the fact that the corporation had little or no government attention for many long years such that rodents and reptiles had feasts and festivals as well as celebrated “independence anniversaries” there-in. The office complex behind the state ministry of lands at the government house Awka was pathetic and the surroundings had over-grown bushes thereby posing threats to the staff of the organization.
To this end, lukewarmness, work apathy, lack of commitment and absenteeism to duties were predominantly the situation when the corporation was on the fringe of extinction. It was indeed a dire and precarious situation until the incumbent state government performed surgical operations on the corporation and saved it from untimely death.
This is evident in the inventions, innovations and ingenuity brought upon the organization by the state government through the instrumentality of the commissioner for information and public enlightenment Mr. C. Don Adinuba as well as the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the state newspaper Sir Chuka Nnabuife. Today, the narrative of National Light Newspapers has changed from an organization surrounded by bushes with venomous reptiles and animals to a first-rate company with gardens and cosy business environment. Thus, the organization has metamorphosed from a mere forest to a revenue-generating firm for the Anambra state government.
Furthermore, the metamorphosis of the Newspaper Corporation was the subject matter at the NATIONAL LIGHT INDEPENDENCE DAY REVUE held at the National Light ArtHouse at the headquarters of the corporation in Awka, the Anambra state capital. The National Light Independence Day Revue provided veritable platform to go down memory lane to discuss Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation of yesterday, the present day and the future. It was a day to recount the travails and successes of the state newspaper in the light of its invaluable role as the official news medium for laundering the image of Anambra state as Light of the Nation.
The National Light Independence Day Revue which featured stage performances like drama, dance, poetry, music and award sessions, had in attendance top government functionaries, heads of agencies and parastatals, business moguls, friends and associates of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation. It was a moment of joy to savour the transformational growth, changes and developmental strides in the National Light Newspapers. The Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief and architect of the transitions in the state newspaper, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, recounted how the organization was when he came on board as the MD and what obtains currently in the organization.
He said, “People were not aware of National Light. Or maybe where they were aware is in the negative light. They see it from the angle of moribund paper. They see it from the angle of a paper that can not express itself. But it is not true. In modern times, you don’t run a television station or newspaper house in isolation; if you do that, you are heading for extinction. In current times, there is what we call media convergence via internet, online platforms, social media platforms and what have you.
“So the big question therefore is that, what do we do with National Light newspapers? Do we just operate as a newspaper? How do we present it in the public domain? His Excellency Governor Willie Obiano does not want us to operate only as a newspaper; he wants us to push the brand into homes, vendors’ stands, readers’ attention. He wants us to turn the fortunes of the newspaper around and transform it, which is what we are doing currently.
Also, there are people here who need other forms of expression. There are singers in my staff. There are writers who write fictions. There are writers who write textbooks. There are public speakers. There are people who do a lot of things with their hands and their legs apart from journalism. Through the National Light ArtHouse, we communicate the creativity within the staff and put it in public domain and make the world know about it.
“Newspaper doesn’t die and in the case of National Light newspapers, it is the only brand that is growing bigger and better. Death is not near National Light Newspapers by any distance because the potentials in the state newspaper is immense. We have a garden now and people rush to our garden to have swell time. Only a couple of years ago, the whole place in National Light Newspapers were forest. Now it is a garden and people rush to it to enjoy themselves. National Light ArtHouse is a vintage facility.”
The Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief of the state newspaper however pointed out that government had never neglected the corporation rather it had shown genuine concern and commitment to the upgrading of its facilities for enhanced productivity. He said the governor had recently directed the commissioner for information and public enlightenment Mr. Adinuba to articulate the felt-needs of the Corporation for onward rapid response. This he said the corporation had done and that the governor wouldn’t renege on his decision to further uplift and equip National Light Newspapers for greater efficiency.
According to him, the state governor has equally directed the board of directors of the Anambra Broadcasting Service to also beam their attention on National Light Newspapers, noting that the present state government in Anambra indeed places the corporation on the frontburner of its development agenda even as he posited that posterity would remember Chief Willie Obiano for being the first governor in Anambra state to pay all the backlog of pension arrears and gratuities of about 161 retirees of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation, emphasising that the retirees never had their gratuities and pensions paid since 1991 Anambra state was created.
Apart from the foregoing, the Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned newspaper who gave a brief autobiography of himself as having worked in The Guardian newspapers for a decade, the overall General Editor of the Nigerian Compass newspapers, Fellow Society of Nigerian Artistes, an Author of three books, Poet, Dramatist as well as produced and acted about 18 films, recalled that he met National Light Newspapers as a purely civil service oriented organization and as a result the newspaper was not frequent on the vendors’ stands.
Having met such status quo, he embarked on a revival mission to resuscitate the newspaper from near collapse. Thus, he came up with laudable ideas which saw the birth of new strategies as evident in the introduction of the Igbo version of the state newspaper named Ka o di Taa, Sports Light Extra, National Light TV Channel, National Light ArtHouse, National Light Event Centre, ANPC Garden, National Light Media Museums coupled with mandatory editorial and orientation exercises for personnel capacity building, stressing that the ultimate goal is the resurrection and transformation of Nigeria’s longest thriving state-owned newspaper. Cognisant of the fact that Anambra state remains foremost because of the freedom it gives the workers to excel, he is certain that if the company continues with the trajectories, Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation would be a reference point for three major things vis-a-vis the transformation of a moribund newspaper, production of qualitative news reporters as well as the metamorphosis of National Light Newspapers as Governor Willie Obiano’s biggest achievement.
Also, the Head of Service of the Anambra State Civil Service Barr Harry Uduh corroborated Nnabuife’s stance saying that Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation has indeed risen from the dead judging from the attention it currently receives from the state government. The Head of Service maintained that the managerial ingenuity and administrative acumen deployed by the helmsman of the corporation has restored the confidence of the public in the ability of National Light Newspapers to become more vibrant and competitive in the markets. Uduh who described the National Light ArtHouse Independence Day Revue as unique, also decried the fact that the social media has shifted attention from practical creativity.
He said stage performances like drama, musical renditions and some others were gradually going extinct because people no longer spent time to feed their eyes on such aspects of life because of the influence of social media platforms. He therefore stressed the need for youths to go back to such aspects of life rather than lavish material time punching their android phones and television sets. He also noted that National Light Newspapers is top on the agenda of the state government observing that government has cleared off all the pensions and gratuities of retired National Light staff and that the story is no longer the same.
One of the award recipients on the occasion who functions as the Managing Director of the Anambra State Signage and Advertisement Agency Mr.Jude Emecheta observed also that National Light Newspapers had improved tremendously when compared to what the newspaper was in the last ten years. He recalled that at some point, government gave up on the organization but according to him, the present Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief of the newspaper, Nnabuife, came and revived the newspaper thereby giving it vigor, vitality and a new life even as he admonished the management to be steadfast in their actions and decisions especially as it concerns taking the state newspaper to another level of greatness. On his part, the Chairman of the Anambra State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists Comrade Emmanuel Ifesinachi claimed that National Light is the only existing state-owned newspaper in the country today.
He therefore called on the Anambra State Government to look into the problems of the establishment because he believes that the state newspaper has the potentials to conquer more frontiers especially as it concerns its circulation nationwide to serve the interest of Ndi-Anambra in other parts of the country. Mr. Stanley Egbochukwu an award recipient and UK trained journalist, who equally doubles as the Editor-In-Chief of Orient Daily Newspaper in Anambra state said he was impressed with the developments in the National Light Newspapers. Egbochukwu who said newspapers can never die, noted that radio is ephemeral and that television can not operate without electricity but newspapers do not have limitations. He stressed that National Light is a powerful tool for the propagation of government policies and programmes.