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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Why is Udom Inoyo concerned with journalism standards?


I was pleasantly surprised to read last week that Mr Udom Inoyo had instituted a N500, 000 yearly award to be given to any journalist working in Akwa Ibom who excels in investigative journalism. Mr Inoyo announced the award himself when he appeared at an NUJ event last week in Uyo. He went further, according to reports, to name those who would qualify to be judges of the entries to be received. Equally striking, Inoyo named the award after Ray Ekpu, undoubtedly the most prominent and reputable Nigerian journalist today.

I must commend Inoyo for his deep thoughtfulness in making this award. For so long, the standards of journalism practice in Akwa Ibom have fallen. Uyo-based newspapers specialize on reporting fake news, slanders, fabrications and unsubstantiated stories. Poorly written and replete with grammatical blunders, those publications pay no attention to balance, objectivity and truth. I have been one of their thousands of victims. For these and other reasons, the symbols and significance of the Inoyo award are far–reaching, and I can only hope that the journalists in Uyo are aware and appreciative of them. In instituting this award, Inoyo is elegantly sending two important messages to the reporters: They should improve the quality of their work, eschew sensational and shallow reporting and concentrate more on deep and well researched journalism by which people like Ray Ekpu earned their renown. Is this possible?

It is quite telling that few days before Mr Inoyo made announcement to the journalists last weekend, an Uyo-based newspaper, The INK, had made a wildly speculative, false, misleading and sensational report about Inoyo, alleging that the former Mobil boss had made a trip to Calabar to visit Donald Duke for political support. I chuckled when I saw the story and forwarded it to him, as I am wont to do. He read it and sent me a reply: ‘’Da, what can we do to help our journalists’’? That is typical of my friend, Udom Inoyo. He is always asking for solutions to problems and always seeking ways to improve the situation. He roots for high performance all the time. He knew that the story was a true reflection of the weaknesses of journalism practice in our state state. He appreciates the noble Constitutional roles of this profession in the society. That’s why he has a burden to help. Even though he was obviously offended by the false story, he betrayed no emotions when we spoke about it. He rather chose to focus on ways of improving the situation. ‘’I have always believed that you don’t know the true potential and character of a person until you see the way they solve problems..’’, writes Glenn Llopis in an article titled Leadership in the Age of Personalization in Forbes magazine. Did it speak to the character and nature of Mr Inoyo that instead of him issuing rebuttals and threatening a law suit against The INK newspaper, he chose to motivate the whole reportorial corps to do better?

Another subliminal message in the award lies in the choice of the personality after which it is named. Ray Ekpu is our own precious gift to journalism. He is a national idol and doyen of our time. For choosing to honour Mr Ekpu, Inoyo is asking our journalists to help uplift our icons and achievers. I have come to accept that Akwa Ibom youths are notoriously insulting, crude, abusive and uncouth. Our people are generally petty, envious and bitter at others’ successes. We don’t celebrate our own. Do we? Inoyo himself has suffered this a thousand times. He helped many get employed at Mobil. He helped many get big contracts at Mobil. Yet, he gets blamed all the time for what he did not do. When his predecessor, a Yoruba man, retired from Mobil as Executive Vice Chairman, his people celebrated him with Owambe parties every day. But in our own case, how are we welcoming Inoyo back to our fold after such a meritorious service?

But instead of wallowing in self pity, Inoyo is encouraging us, through the Ray Ekpu Award in Investigative Journalism, to be more respectful, deferential and admiring of our elders and achievers. Is this too much to ask for? Can we trust that our journalists will lead in this?

I understand that the issue of cultism also came up at the NUJ Congress. A reporter asked Inoyo if he was a member of a Cult group to which he said a definitive no. It was good that this question was asked, and it is instructive that Inoyo had given a clear-cut answer. This should put paid to all speculations and innuendoes on the matter.   As I said before, it is important that we not only identify a man or woman who is not a cult leader, but the person should also be have the capacity to lead our state successfully towards the second half of this century.

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