BY OROBOSA OMO-OJO JP
In the year 1999, shortly after the inauguration of Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion as the Executive Governor of Edo State, some younger elements were drafted and attracted from diaspora Edo to manage strategic public institutions that have become moribund under the military administrator, late Navy Captain Anthony Onyearugbulem.
One of such institution was Edo Broadcasting Service. The other was Bendel Newspaper Company Limited, publishers of the Nigerian Observer Newspapers.
I had the privilege to have been contracted as a Managing Consultant by the State Government to revitalize the Observer titles that vanished from the newsstand 13 months before the administration of Igbinedion.
The situation in EBS wasn’t too different from what I met at the Observer. The Broadcasting house was in comatose. The relay stations were nonfunctional, the transmitters were epileptic and majority of the staff, both in EBS and Observer were obviously out of tune with modern technical knowledge.
The equipment were broken down and obsolete. In addition, these public assets were more of drain pipes because they weren’t economically viable in the emerging competitive information markets.
The quest to reposition EBS led Governor Igbinedion to constitute a team that was made up of savvy young men – with shrewdness and practical knowledge. They had the ability to make good judgements on corporate finance and the necessary marketing and managerial decisions.
The likes of Dele Igbinedion Esq, Mr. Mathew Akhionbare and others formed the nucleus of that management team that woke EBS from deep slumber. They breathed life into the station and began to attract serious attention from the advertising agencies , including APCON, NPAN and others.
Back in Observer, we succeeded to rekindle the leadership and premier role of the titles. Bureaus were opened in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Aba, Kano, Opebi in Lagos and Kakawa. The newsroom in Benin City was reconstructed and fitted with cutting edge Apple Macintosh Desktop Publishing Computers. We staffed the company with graduate news hunters and production staff that had exceptional creative skills.
I remember vividly the colour edition of Weekend Observer that coincided with the governor’s 40th birthday. For the first time in several years, The Observer published 29 paid congratulatory messages, including that of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
This feat was possible because the governor empowered us with the free market spirit. He realised that the task required great courage, skill and strength.
Basking on the euphoria of success and acceptability in the clustered Nigeria newspaper market, we concluded plans to list the shares of Bendel Newspapers Limited in the Nigeria Stock Exchange but for some intransigent political distractions. However, we succeeded in registering the company as a limited liability enterprise with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
If the decision to reduce government control in EBS and Observer was considered best for their survival, 20 years ago, revisiting it now is more than a welcome development.
Going by the statement by government, “Edo Broadcasting service is to undergo restructuring as the station takes delivery of new digital equipment of international standard.
“The state of the art facilities when installed will give a wider coverage for the service where the station’s signals can now be received in all parts of Edo state and beyond.
“All the staff of the establishment including the Acting General Manager Mr. Rasnley Abu Osagie are to be redeployed to the Ministry of Communication. Professionals will then be engaged to man the station.
“The decision by the state government is to take EBS away from its present mismanagement and moribund status.”
The move, according to Edo State Government, will make the station compete favourably with other profitable broadcast outfits in Nigeria.
Happily, the improvement will not lead to job loss but an increase. Some staff of the station have already described government’s move as commendable, because the station’s signal had become epileptic since 2008 when the last administration refused to invest on equipment and retraining of the workforce.
In the final analysis, some of the current staff are assured of the opportunity to be retrained while others will remain in the public service, receiving their salaries and pensions as at when due upon retirement.
If and when Edo State Government decides to privatize or list the shares of Bendel Newspapers Limited and Edo Broadcasting Service on the floor of Nigeria Stock Exchange, this administration will certainly be remembered for promoting enduring information platform in Nigeria.