BY CHRIS GYANG
Against all odds, one of the most visionary and altruistic leaders to have come out the Middle Belt, Joseph Gomwalk, set up The Nigeria Standard Group of Newspapers in 1972.
It should be very instructive to the current generation of Middle Belters and other minorities in Nigeria today that the Northern Government of Gomwalk’s time deliberately refused to lend him a helping hand when he envisioned THE NIGERIA STANDARD NEWSPAPERS project.
But, undaunted, this dogged fighter who would go to any extent to ensure the socio-economic and political independence of his people, reached out to his colleague and soul mate in far away Mid-Western Nigeria, Samuel Ogbumedia, for assistance.
Well aware of Gomwalk’s struggles against the domination of the Muslim north’s establishment to keep the minorities subject to their whims, Ogbemudia gladly obliged him. Thus, The Nigeria Standard was born, fashioned after the Benin-based The Observer newspaper.
It must once more be emphasized that Gomwalk had to go to far away Benin for technical help to set up a newspaper while The New Nigerian newspapers, funded by the Northern Government, of which Benue-Plateau State was part and parcel, was being published and circulated all over Nigeria.
It has become necessary to recall the historical facts behind the birth of The Nigeria Standard newspapers so as to put in proper perspective some current unfolding events in Northern Nigeria and, most significantly, point out the necessity for another newspaper or any other such publication that can fill the void created by the, sorry to say this, eclipse of that once vibrant voice of the Middle Belt – The Nigeria Standard.
It’s very pertinent to also point out at this stage that I’m one among many journalists in Nigeria that have been very very privileged to have been vigorously trained under unique journalistic principles of The Nigeria Standard.
There are many many more great journalism giants who came before me and are still there that are beacons of the progression in Nigeria and the entire world. This platform can’t afford us the opportunity start mentioning specific names.
Well, you may wonder why Iv taken so much space to present the above narrative, which appears to detract from the headline above.
Therefore, this is the crux of the matter. Since The Nigeria Standard and other state owned newspapers in the Middle Belt and elsewhere in Nigeria went sort of coomatose, the Middle Belt minorities have lost the vibrant, dynamic and compelling voice they once had in the hay days of The Nigeria Standard.
In fact, once upon a time, The Nigeria Standard set the agenda for national discourse and, most significantly for us, provided the bulwark against the oppressive tendencies of the northern oligarchy by giving we the minorities a very clear, unequivocal, voice.
But as matters stand today, the far north, the South South, South East and South West are well represented on Nigeria’s national media space – especially the print. Which is why, as we’ve seen in the current matter of Obadiah Mailafia, there have been a lot of distortions by the far north’s print media. They are invariably taking us back to the obnoxious status quo that fired Gomwalk into taking that epochal step of setting set up The Nigeria Standard in 1972.
In fact, in recent times, we in the Middle Belt have been reduced to beggars on other people’s media platforms. The most we do whenever we come face to face with the kinds of ongoing killings being inflicted on us in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Southern Kaduna, etc, is to resort to crying and whining on social media, which has great limitations.
The truth of the matter is that we must also, like our detractors and age long jihad apologists and their footsoldiers, give ourselves a voice that will tell our own story of the evils being perpetrated against us.
Just like other discerning Nigerians, the Middle Belt needs a newspaper/magazine to project our voices and the inequities we’re suffering under the current powers that be, with President Buhari as their helmsman.
And, as it has happened in other regions of Nigeria, setting up a newspaper/magazine shouldn’t be the business of Middle Belt state governments, for very obvious reasons. In fact, in other parts of Nigeria, it’s private individuals that own the most vibrant media organisations.
Of course, we in the Middle Belt also have well endowed men and women who can conveniently do likewise.
But whom among them will bell the cat?
Joseph Gomwalk, of blessed memory, is watching and waiting….
A food for thought….
- I’ve spoken as a print journalist. Please it doesn’t mean that my views don’t apply to the electronic media as well.
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