Written by David LAWANI

Intrigue, fanfare of FCT NUJ elections

Elections into various leadership positions are usually keenly contested and are no doubt, an avenue to gauge a people’s resolve on an issue. The case of the just concluded election into the various executive positions of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, FCT Council, was no different, as lots of political intrigues and manoeuvring took rein of the entire process.

It was an election that saw some candidates deploying different strategies including propaganda and use of petitions to disqualify candidates who had questionable tag on their credentials or issues with the platform upon which they launched themselves.

To start with, the electoral process began with the inauguration of an electoral/credentials committee.

The committee was saddled with the task of inviting prospective aspirants for the purchase of forms and submission of same within a given deadline. The committee also had the responsibility of scrutinizing all documents submitted to ensure their authenticity and where necessary, disqualify those discovered not to meet with the terms of reference.

Unfortunately like most union elections, the processes leading to the build-up to the 2018 NUJ council elections was characterised by lots of bickering and underhand dealings. A number of petitions were submitted with threats of legal suits threatening to stop the elections.

While some of the petitions requested for postponement of the elections, others called for outright disqualification of some candidates alleging that they were not graduates of the institutions they had claimed on their curriculum vitae.

Some contestants were also accused of being fake journalists alleging that there was no platform to attest to their claim that they were true practicing journalists, which is a basic criterion, to stand to vote or be voted for in any NUJ election.

Prior to the manifesto night, there were meetings by concerned stakeholders of the council chaired by the acting chairman, Primus Khanoba, on the possibility of shifting or postponing the election for lack of funds to prosecute the process. But the move was resisted by all present in the meeting.

The then acting chairman had alleged that the council had no money in the purse, but the SEC unanimously agreed that monies realized from the sale of forms from the aspirants should be channelled into the conduct of the election, while the credential committees in charge will give  account of its spending to congress at a later date

After the close of sales of forms to the aspirants and the screening of the documents, the names of candidates who made it through the screening were then published. Despite scaling through the rigorous screening process, some aspirants later stepped down for their preferred candidates.

Political structures where then collapsed into each other to make them stronger and ensure victory of their candidates at the polls.

Candidates like Primus Khanoba of Aso Radio and Rotiba all stepped down from the chairmanship race, paving way for a stiff competition between Emmanuel Ogbeche, Editor of The Abuja Inquirer and Rafat Salami of Voice of Nigeria, VON

The election was mostly a contest between the two chairmanship candidates; Ogbeche and Salami, as they were determined to secure victory at every available means through their campaigns.

Both candidates had the onerous task of convincing other journalists how they intend to achieve their campaign promises of weeding the FCT of fake journalists, ensuring professionalism, journalists’ welfare, among other agendas the 2018 campaigns was hinged upon.

For Ogbeche, the campaigns was another opportunity to re-echo the need to have a vibrant council led by visionary executives that will steer the affairs of the council away from issue of fake journalists, quackery, and near-lack of professional training.

Ogbeche who has been in the race before now, was a two-time secretary of FCT NUJ, and treasurer, West African Journalists Association, WAJA.

The graduate of English and Literary Studies, University of Calabar, also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja and Certificate in Media Strategies for Social Change from the Golda Meir Institute, Haifa, Israel.

A graduate of English Language from the University of Abuja, Rafat Salami, chairperson of VON chapel, is the first female secretary of the FCT council.

Without a doubt, Salami is an example in resilience and determination.

After weeks of rigorous campaigns and visitations to media houses in Abuja, and beat associations by both chairmanship candidates, the campaign were rested to give way for the business session/manifesto night.

The sessions which took place on November 30 and December 1, respectively, gave credence to the quality of candidates that sought elective positions.

The uncompleted structure of the NUJ FCT council secretariat played host to journalists across all the media organizations who gathered to witness and to also cheer their candidates.

There, the candidates were given the final opportunity of selling their plans for the union to their colleagues in attendance.

The venue became a carnival of sorts, and meeting point for many to catch up with colleagues they had not seen for a while.

This year’s election witnessed an unprecedented turn out of journalist, with 530 votes cast for the chairmanship position alone. The whole venue was fully charged as journalists defy all odds to be on ground for their candidates.

The process was devoid of rancor or rowdiness as adequate security arrangement was made with the men of the Nigerian Police Force to ensure peace and order throughout the day.

Counting of the ballot commenced and it was done in the full glare of electoral committee members and the agents of various candidates. At the end of the day, Ogbeche emerged the winner after securing 338 votes while 193 votes were cast in favour of Salami.

Ogbeche was then declared the winner by Henry Umoru, chairman of the committee and assistant editor with Vanguard Newspapers.

Salami in clear demonstration of sportsmanship then embraced the winner and pledged her support.

This gesture was commended by journalists across the major political divides who all admired her show of comradeship.

On the other hand, the new chairman in a statement stated: “After the euphoria of the NUJ FCT election on December 1, it is about time to get to work.

“In the past few days, I have called my colleague and friend, the main challenger, Rafat Idris Salami, to not only thank her for a robust engagement through the process, but to solicit her cooperation and those of her numerous supporters in getting the NUJ FCT Council working again.

“In the next week, we intend to meet with all strategic partners – FCTA authorities, editors/bureau chiefs, security chiefs, past council officials, chapel officials, beats associations, etc- in order to build synergy, and reap from the goodwill.

“I must admit that during the electioneering process, tempers flared sometimes to acrimonious level, but this I believe ended after the votes’ count.

“The NUJ is one entity and we should see each other as ‘one’ irrespective of our different persuasions.

Like I promised while seeking for your votes, this executive will be open and run an inclusive administration; amenable to new ideas and suggestions and will take the best possible decisions in the interest of our members.”

For now, the fresh start team is on board and journalists in the FCT remain upbeat that it will yield results.

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