Since the Managing Director of Daily Sun Mr. Femi Adeshina was re-elected president, Nigeria Guild of Editors for the second time, congratulatory messages have not stopped pouring in for him.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with him on his re-election and on sundry issues…
How does it feel to be re-elected?
It feels good, one is delighted, happy. One is elated because in some ways, it is a vote of confidence in one by one’s colleagues and seniors. For them to say continue with the work you have been doing, that makes one glad.
Why do you think you were re-elected again?
They are the best to answer that question. They are the ones that re-elected me. I can hazard some guesses. One is the fact that we tried to run the association transparently. All the money that came to the purse of the guild, I can assure you is intact. Nobody has touched any kobo unduly. All the money we raised towards building our national secretariat is intact, all the money that came from other sources is also intact. We also made some strides. We promised during the campaign some years ago that we will make some training available to some editors. In the last two years, over a 100 editors have been trained locally and internationally, some are going international this year. We also promised to build a national secretariat for the guild. I tell you that the secretariat is a matter of months away, not years again; the dream will be accomplished.
Can you please highlight some other achievements during your first tenure?
We promised to make identification cards in association with Chams Limited, we have started issuing it to members. We have also ensured that the dignity of the Nigerian editors is preserved. There is a way you can lead an association and drag it through the mud. If they see me in the wrong places with wrong stories flying about, that did not happen to us. You would hardly find us paying courtesy visit but once a while. We didn’t tamper with the image and reputation of the association.
What about the areas that you would have loved to improve but didn’t have the chance?
That is what we will love to do this second tenure, an endowment fund for Nigerian editors. Some editors once they leave the chair, the quality of their lives drop. Some, when they retire or are out of job, they live from hand to mouth. We want to launch an endowment fund to manage that. We will set up a board of trustees to look into that. If some editors have cool and brilliant ideas that are not capital intensive, they can get started. Some editors die in the course of the work, who will take care of their families? But with that kind of fund, their children can remain in school and we can set up the widows also. As I speak, Gov Kassim Shettima of Kano state has pledge to give N10 million, soon, we will launch the fund.
Can you share with us the basic challenge of being the president of guild of editors?
The greatest challenge is setting examples. Anywhere I go, I must not misbehave. If not, it will affect the entire body. Another challenge is juggling my post as the managing director of The Sun and my post as the president of the guild. My schedule gets so congested that I try to unravel it. It becomes twisted up, it is quite demanding.
Why do some editors shy away from the guild?
It could be that they are busy. But I can tell you that a lot more people are coming to the association. It used to be an association of 200 people before now, we have about 500. Many more want to join. So, we have made the screening very scrupulous because the constitution states who can get into the association.
Journalists are poorly paid, what do you think your office can do about it?
We need to look at it from the union end and association end, things like salary and remuneration are done at the union end. It is more of their responsibility.
A lot of people are worried because newspapers are dying, will you look into that this time around?
It is the duty of NPAN (Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria). They should be concerned about the mortality rate of newspapers and media houses. They can also serve as a pressure group working on the government to get better deal for the industry. Almost everything is imported – newsprint, plate, ink. You can imagine how much naira was to dollar last year and what it is now. It is a serious issue for the industry. NPAN can engage more with the government to find policies that can help the industry stay alive.
Why are you not doing anything about bloggers who steal stories from publications?
We have incorporated online editors to the Nigeria Guild of Editors but it is not just any fly by night person. We look at their track record first. We expect them to do some house cleansing amongst themselves. Things like stealing materials for now, is difficult to really monitor and control. Let us hope that in the nearest future, more control measure will be in place.
What do you think about the future of journalism with the advent of online papers?
The question is almost eternal. When radio came, many said that was the end of printed word but it survived for decades. When television came, it was noise that print media will die, it also survived. When online publishing came, it was also noise abroad that the end of print media has come, but it is still standing now. What print media should do is to be creative to meet up with the online challenge.
You seem to be a pro-Buharist, your writings was always tilting towards change. Why is it so knowing that the publisher of The Sun belongs to a rival party?
We will always talk of press freedom. I think The Sun is an example of a media house that is free from undue proprietary influence. If it was not so, I wouldn’t be here today. I have been a Buhari man since he was head of state. Every time Buhari comes out, I write to support him. My publisher has been a PDP man since, but, there has been no interference from him. During the last elections, there was pressure from powerful quarters on my publisher to do something to me. He even went to the extent of writing in his column that whatever Femi Adeshina writes should not be seen as an opinion of The Sun but his own personal opinion, I think that is perfect. I also gave instructions to all editors that nobody must play a story to favour Buhari, they should be professional about it but they are at liberty to play their opinion. I didn’t stifle them, my publisher didn’t stifle me either. I think that is the perfect example of press freedom. We should give kudos to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu for his attitude towards those of us that run his newspaper.
How easy is it for a pastor to combine journalism, politics and his calling?
If you don’t have a strong conviction, you can fall. I have been a Christian for 28 years and I have been a journalist for 30 years. I am able to marry the two together. I develop simultaneously in the two, I was growing as a Christian and as a journalist. Over the years, I have been able to juggle the two together. I think to a large extent, I know the things to do and the things not to do. Christianity leads you to the right direction, it has been easy to combine the two.
Not much is known about your family, tell us about them?
24 years ago, I married a lady from Akure Ondo state. She is a princess from Adeshida family. We have two children, a boy and a girl. My son Tobi Adeshina is a commercial pilot. He got the private licence first, then, the commercial license. My daughter, Oluwatosin Adeshina is a third year student of French.
How do you find time to relax within your busy schedule?
I must commend my family for coping with me. At times, for two, three days they will be trying to communicate with me and it will seem impossible. Maybe I am out of town or I returned very late. We do get around it. My wife knows the kind of schedule I have. Any time I have spare time, I spend it with them. I have also tried to go on vacation with them every year.
What does your wife do for a living?
She is a theatre trained nurse.