Comrade Amos Etuk is the incumbent chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Akwa Ibom State Council.
Before his election to the new position, he had served as the State Secretary of the Union, Chairman of the Consolidated Chapel and currently the Editor of Daily News Wire, and Uyo based weekly tabloid.
In this interview with The Evangelist, he spoke extensively on his commitment to reposition the Union through training and retraining of members to ensure professionalism and check quackery.
The NUJ Chairman also spoke about his journey to the chairmanship position, his priorities and welfare programmes for members among others. Excerpts:
LET’S HAVE AN INSIGHT INTO YOUR CAREER AS JOURNALIST AND THE MOTIVATION THAT LED TO YOUR PRESENT OFFICE AS WELL?
It’s service to the union that I’ve worked for, all my life I’ve been a journalist, I read communication Arts from the University of Uyo and I’ve been practicing Journalism for more than ten years.
I’ve worked and served and within every line of my career as a journalist and all through my life, I have worked as a member of the union.
I have served as a secretary and chairman of the consolidated chapel, state secretary of the Union and by God’s grace I’m now the chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom state council.
Over the years, I’ve worked administratively and have seen the challenges of the union, especially the challenges of welfare.
I have worked through leaders, I’ve had strong tutelage and equally learnt a lot which has prepared me for this task that we are in today and I believe that those experiences that I have had in the last few years as a member of the union at the level of leadership has positioned me to be in charge today to lead the union by God’s grace to new heights of excellence.
HOW WILL YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE DURING LAST ELECTION AND WHAT PROMPTED YOU INTO THANKSGIVING SERVICE?
The experience during the election of August 2, 2019 was a clear case of unity, I call it a referendum on the voice of the people, the conscience of the people speaking out loud in unity and standing by what they believe in standing, we have a lot of faith in standing by the mandate that will change the narrative of the profession, standing by the mandate that will give every member a face in the history of the union and I thank God for that victory.
It is not just about me, that victory belongs to all of us members of the union irrespective of whatever affiliation you were with, but the most important thing is that today we have a stronger union and we are moving forward, forging ahead in unity, working united towards the cause of restoring the lost glory of our profession.
Coming to the issue of thanksgiving it is timely.
Leadership comes from God and wherever we are today God has seen the future, whatever position God has given to me today and other members of the executives has come from God as such the thanksgiving was very necessary so the entire leadership needed to go back to God, to tell God that we want to serve under your wisdom and grace.
We want your wisdom to lead the union to an enviable height.
BEFORE GOING INTO THE ELECTION DID YOU HEAR FROM GOD?
God has prepared for this new leadership and our emergence today is strictly divine that is why I say all glory goes back to Him because He has prepared a place for us even the conscience of the people have also align with us.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PRIORITY PROGRAMME IN MIND BEFORE GOING INTO THE ELECTION AND WERE YOU SURE OF WINNING?
I came into campaigns fully prepared. During the campaigns I was more focused on selling our manifesto, our programmes. I was more focused on making sure that the people see where we are coming from and that means ensuring that we come with the template of enumerating issues.
When you sell ideas or manifesto to people they will believe you.
We are in a union where everybody is very enlightened so if you come from the angle of blackmail it will not take you anywhere, so we were looking at content during our presentation and if you look at our manifesto, we are keying in on very strong cardinal points that will enhance the growth of the union.
We are looking at professionalism, and for the very first time in the history of the state council and in the national, Akwa Ibom state council is the first to have a compendium of certified registered members of qualified Journalists, we are close to five hundred in number who have successfully undertaken this exercise, that is the very first step towards curbing quackery.
Like I keep saying, the rules of engagement have changed why because now we are enforcing to ensure that our integrity is restored and the only way that we can restore our integrity is through the emphasis on the recognition of professionally qualified Journalists in attending of every of our events during press conferences and reportage and we also appeal to government agencies to identify this professionally qualified members through the union where we can also be of assistance so that we can know that the people we give to serve you as media managers are people that will be able to deliver in terms of the cardinal objectives of the profession.
We do not want a situation where we will allow quacks to infiltrate the union, that is why we have come down hard on professionalism.
At our first Congress that we had last month we emphasized, if you are not a registered Journalist don’t even come near the hall, we have started on that note and we are going to sustain it in all of our Congresses. Professionalism is going to be enforced during this period.
If you have passion for journalism there is platform to develop yourself, the International Institute of Journalism here in the NUJ press center is assessable, it takes eighteen months or two years to assess the course and come out with a formal education which gives you the minimum qualification of ND in Journalism.
“We want to encourage those people who have passion for the media to also have a formal training process because without a formal training process you can never and will never be recognise as a journalist under this administration and you will never participate in our programmes because it is a resolution that we have taken at the level of leadership and Congress”. The union must belong to all of us and our pride and integrity must be restored.
We are also looking at welfare. Like I keep saying, we have the welfare policy trust which was introduced by the past administration and this gives every member the opportunity to contribute and above all, for the very first time this administration has successfully started paying members who are benefiting from this welfare package.
Members who have had occasions, we have been able to give back to them, we are making them to have a sense of belonging in that the union and this will give them a lot of reasons to be inspired and a lot of reason to be happy.
Another thing is the capacity development of members. Luckily for us we are in discussion with several organisations to have workshops and seminars so that we can encourage members on more intellectual content and creativity.
At the level of leadership, we just finished a retreat for leadership, which included the chapel chairmen, secretaries, members of the state working committee and affiliates like officers at the zonal and National. The retreat was packaged to give us a different perspective towards mentorship as leaders.
We had strong content from the resource persons which have given us very strong moves towards making sure that when we come back at the chapel levels, we must be able to make differences.
At the level the state council we must be ready to make differences in leadership so that the younger ones who are our members will be inspired.
We are also looking at the way to ensure that we complete ongoing projects here in the state council within the first one year, it is a strategic set objective for us.
I will also ensure that we introduce a lot of events that will make members come together at all times.
DO YOU SEE THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR UDOM EMMANUEL AS BEING MEDIA FRIENDLY CONSIDERING THE BATTERING AND ASSAULT ON JOURNALISTS IN THE STATE RECENTLY ?
“I want to commend Governor Udom Emmanuel for a very strong working relationship he has with the media in Akwa Ibom state. He has done so well in support of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom state council. We have had a good and very strong cordial relationship. The incident that we had in the last one week is so unfortunate and we condemn it, at the level of leadership we have taken steps towards addressing the next line of action so we appeal to relevant agencies that when such incident happen, please reach out to the state council and get clarification so that those issues should not be blown out of proportion”.
We need to work as partners and I want to assure that we will continue to work as partners towards enhancing the profession and building a stronger Akwa Ibom that will make all of us very happy.
THE JOURNALISTS IN AKWA IBOM STATE INSPITE OF THE TRAINING ARE STILL ENGAGING IN SENSATIONAL AND UNETHICAL PRACTICE, WHO ARE YOU GOING TO ACTIVATE CHECKS AND BALANCES AS WELL AS DISCIPLINE ON JOURNALISTS WHO ARE SO PARTISAN IN THE COURSE OF THEIR PRACTICE?
When issues are raised and brought to table for our attention in terms of such cases, we have the ethics, privileges and disciplinary committee which will soon be inaugurated. They will address those issues and I believe that from whatever report they will file here to the state council, we will be able to implement it successfully.
IS THE MEDIA BETTER OFF TODAY THAN WHEN THE STATE WAS CREATED THIRTY TWO YEARS AGO?
Yes far better, there are a lot of changes and dynamics in the profession. A lot of of things have made the media today in Akwa Ibom State better off even in regards to welfare of practitioners.
While thinking that there can be more mileages in our achievements, but for now we are happy at the progress that we have made so far.
In terms of number of radio stations in Akwa Ibom state, we have about seven right now and that shows a lot of progress, more are coming, of course you know that we have the largest number of newspapers circulating in the state which makes us very vibrant and dynamic.
We also have a very strong social media content in our analysis of activities, so I think the media in Akwa Ibom state is at the forefront comparable to Lagos and Abuja.
AS THE CHAIRMAN OF NUJ IN AKWA IBOM STATE, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR JOURNALISTS?
I wouldn’t call it advice, I have a lot of respect for my colleagues, they are the greatest set of colleagues that I could ever work with and I’m happy that you are also part of them.
I seek and solicit their advice in everything they tell me and I respect their advice but above all I want us to work as partners towards the realization of the vision of Akwa Ibom state in the next few years. I want us to be Partners and team players in building a stronger and vibrant profession that will be more respected.
Partners that will see that we uphold the integrity of the profession.
Partners where ethics of this profession will be adhered to, partners where we believe that at all levels and at all times we discharge our duties very diligently.
The pen is mightier than the sword but at times we use our pens to destroy ourselves but I will want us to work on the part of professionalism in every thing, now that a message is sent out, people are now looking at us in a different way because the rule of engagement has changed, but above all the most important thing is that when we work together as a team, we can achieve every set target in professionalism, welfare, human capacity development programmes and other aspects that will build the union to a greater height and this can be achieved, it’s just like we must come together and work as a team.
Above all I want to assure you that we are going to be very empathic at the training and retraining programmes to ensure objectivity and professionalism because constitutionally we are recognised as gate keepers and a lot are expected of us as the conscience of the society. We must work towards ensuring that those training and retraining that we will have will influence positively our reportage.