Sitting down on my sofa and watching the 60th birthday celebration of the Proprietor of Dengue Broadcasting Network (DBN) Osa Sony Adun on African Independent Television (AIT) recently, aroused my interest on writing this particular article which other writers throughout Nigeria have ignored.
DBN television Chairman, Osa Sony Adun, was one of those who pioneered private broadcasting in Nigeria in late 80’s and early 90’s. Why are the Igbo intelligentsia and business moguls lagging behind in the area of private television ownership? A good politician knows the power of media. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of Western Nigeria, knowing the importance of information dissemination through the print and electronic media set up the Nigerian Tribune in 1949 even before Nigeria’s Independence in 1960. He also set up the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) using both of them to influence the mindsets of his Yoruba people, little wonder the Yorubas are highly educated today. In contemporary Nigeria, a sagacious politician like Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu has various means of communication. In the area of print media, Tinubu owns The NATION newspapers. In the area of electronic media, he owns Television Continental (TVC) which has two arms; The news station and the entertainment station. Tinubu also owns Radio Continental, thereby making him the owner of both television and radio stations. Edo State seems to have the highest number of television proprietors in the country. Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, the Proprietor of AIT is from Edo State.
Charles Momoh, the Proprietor of Channels Television is from Edo State. Osa Sony Adun of DBN, the one whose 60th birthday celebration inspired this article is from Edo State. Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Proprietor of Independent Television (ITV) is from Edo State. And so many others. Silverbird Television is owned by Senator Ben Murray Bruce. I’m limiting this article to hardcore television stations excluding television stations like Sound city, Hiptv, Ontv, Mitv, etc. which are entertainment biased. Curiously, no Igbo man owns any television station in Nigeria today.
However, an Igbo man in the person of Senator Mike Ajegbo, an Obosi man from Anambra State, used to be the proprietor of a television station known as Minaj Broadcast International (MBI) in the late 90’s which went off air immediately he left the Senate in 2003. MBI, apart from the pride and sense of belonging it gave Igbo people all over the country while it operated had sixty per cent of its staff as Igbo people. In the advent of Fourth Republic democracy in 1999, I recall with nostalgia that MBI used to be the voice of Ndigbo and their activities. The station’s news bulletin and programmes gave ample airtime to the activities of Ndigbo down to the hinterlands.
Why are Ndigbo business moguls not interested in owning television stations? Granted that obtaining a television license is a difficult task, but it not as herculean as many people think. Orji Uzor Kalu has two national newspapers, The Sun and The New Telegraph. Why did Chief Kalu even set up two national newspapers instead of looking in the direction of setting up a television station?
Apart from The Sun, The New Telegraph is not doing well at all, three years after its inception.
I know, by setting that paper he provided employments to a lot of people, but is the newspaper viable and sustaining itself unlike The Sun? Chief Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah is the owner of The Authority newspapers which is less than one year old.
It is a good venture though having provided employments to hundreds, if not thousands of people. It is also complementing The Sun newspapers as the only thriving Igbo newspapers in the market. However, I think Chief Ubah should have gone into television ownership though it’s not late. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu is another Igbo business mogul who had interest in media by setting up the near-defunct Champions newspapers. I learnt that the Champions newspaper is still walking with one leg in the Lagos metropolis. But, my worry is that If the newspaper cannot thrive in Imo state where Chief Iwuanyanwu comes from, is it Lagosians that will accept it? Dr ABC Orjiako is another Igbo man that has a national newspaper called The Union. They ability of the newspaper to break into the already saturated newspaper industry is yet to be seen after three years of its debut.
Maduako, a public policy analyst writes from Owerri, Imo state