Publisher SUNNY IGBOANUGO serves a Parable of Assumption as the major reason why voters must witness an Uba-Soludo debate for Anambra 2021

This is a true life story. It happened in Nigeria about two decades ago. I know because it happened before my nose in this journalism industry I love so much and where I have chosen to live and die.

A certain billionaire politician wanted to own the most influential newspaper in Nigeria. The paper was to be everything all others were and more. It must be in a class of its own.

So, he spared no expenses. Everything was fancy and top-notch – best printing machines there were, the biggest office space, the best office equipment – furniture, computers, library, airconditioners and even cleaning dusters – mouth-watering paychecks. Perfect! Tall dreams!

Journalists and support staff – advert, IT, marketing, packaging, distribution, brand new vehicles for everyone – perfect!

Everything was set for the dream paper. Then the big one – the boss, Oga patapata! The Managing Director, who was to manage and direct the entire operation! Who? He must be a known name – a man of vast knowledge! So, who else than the man whose name rang a bell? A trainer of men, reputed to have churned out the best in the land. So, off he went. Destination – Department of Mass Communications of a big institution – the best in the country.

Professor, was exited. This was a new ground. Pay was good, unimaginably so! Beyond his dreams! Billionaire politician was happy. Deal sealed.

But what then? Fatal mistake! Why? Simple! Prof came with attitude. I’m the best. I know everything, I produced the best. But he forgot the vital component – experience – Practical experience. Everything he knew about journalism, were what he learnt from books, many of which he wrote himself. But the field experience, which was key to the survival in the industry was missing.

One was the essence, the imperative of deadline, which he sacrificed for perfection. So, several hours after the paper was supposed to have gone to bed, which in journalism parlance means, end of production, the front page would still be with him as he scrutinised it, re-writing and reconstructing the grammar which the editors must have gone through initially, regardless of the fact that the front page naturally belongs to the editor, who edits and signs the paper. But Prof, wanted to prove his worth. He seizes this critical assignment, does a good job, but loses the core.

Result: Disaster! First, the complete disruption of the production procedure led to late production deadline. The paper would be the last that came to the newsstands long after buyers must have left. Newspaper vendors, a critical segment in the industry, regardless of their assumed or obvious low societal rating reacted. First, they complained and then their patience snapped and they began to avoid the paper. Another result – piles and piles of unsold copies began to mount.

Why an Uba-Soludo debate for Anambra 2021 must hold

Because, he taught most of the editors or taught those who taught them, Prof, still assuming the toga of infallibility, remained impervious to advice. Nobody could approach him without being tonguelashed and even threatened with sanctions including outright sacking.

Not only that it failed to come out with the expected bang, which every new entrant relies to carve a niche for itself in the very competitive and volatile industry, due to lack of instant visibility, the dismal outing began to take its toll in all the departments.

Without visibility, came low sales, then poor advertisement. The reporters, the engine room of the project, could not break stories, because their organisation was unpopular with news sources. General despondency set in across board.

Soon, the big financial warchest the politician put together began to deplete under the weight of huge inputs but minimal financial rewards. Tragically the Professor, blamed everyone else but himself. He then became panicky and began to take the actions he felt necessary. He began to sack the staff in all departments, to save cost. Those he didn’t sack, began to leave, quitting their position for other places, especially the good hands in high demand elsewhere. Vouchers were no longer being settled both for transport allowance journalists needed to go about their beats and for other critical operations.

Of course the politician, who was at first disappointed that he did not see the desired result asked questions and excuses were offered. More money was needed for the paper to survive the gestation period in order to thrive. He brought more money. Yet the story not only remained the same, but deteriorated. More money, one or two more times and no more! Soon the paper degenerated from appearing in trickles on the newsstand to occasionally and finally stopped. The edifice had crumbled.

End of the story!

The error and fatality of assumption

Now, who do you blame in this sad story? Do you blame the politician who desired to own the best and struggled to put his money where his mouth was? Do you blame him for recruiting this Professor who he thought was going to give him the best? Do you on the other hand blame the Professor who believed that he was doing his best by making the paper come out in a superlative way? Do you blame the staff or the structure?

The obvious answer is no! Everybody wanted the best. But one element was simply missing – subsumed in the bowels of one word – assumption! If the politician had recruited a man with combined requisite theoretical and field experience, he might have succeeded in creating his dream edifice. So, also if the Prof had not believed himself infallible. He could then have reached out to harness ideas readily available.

Why do I travel this long, vast road? Of course Anambra 2021! Education has become a big issue in the debate coming out from there as the people prepare for the November 6 governorship election.

Though lurking in the background the debate was sparked off by a statement reportedly made by Chukwuma Charles Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and currently the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who was quoted as saying at the opening of the party’s campaign a fortnight ago that Anambra has developed beyond the level of having someone with the West African School Certificate (WASC), as governor.

Instantly, Ifeanyi Uba, the candidate of Young Democratic Party (YDP), and one of the candidates Soludo’s dart was supposedly directed, picked up the gauntlet and declared an open war.

In fact, few people knew that Uba, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Capital Oil, thought to be a dropout, had upgraded his educational status, having hidden the fact, apparently waiting for this auspicious opportunity. The Senator, who incidentally is representing the former CBN Boss, has since sprung out his surprise in a freshly-minted law degree certificate reportedly acquired from Baze University, Abuja.

Why an Uba-Soludo debate for Anambra 2021 must hold

And to up the ante, he openly challenged the former CBN boss to an open debate. To boot, he wants Soludo to come to the table with more than just his certificate or better still, place on the same table how his tail certificate and, or indeed his past and present status has impacted Anambra people.

Many other commentators have since joined and the ground is sizzling already. As expected the media have entered the fray. There is presently a floodgate both in the social and traditional media. I join in the debate as a stakeholder and an interested party.

I agree with both sides. First, I agree with Soludo. I understand his fears that the society, especially that of Anambra is too sophisticated for an illiterate (not necessarily a WASC holder). I agree that nobody could predict the road an ill-educated leadership, could take. It could lead to fatality. Example is the current critical state of affairs in Nigeria. So, the Prof is right. But just!

Recall that governor that thought a running mate means running after someone. No Anambra man would desire such as his governor. Recall how their leaders once dumped a frontline candidate of the defunct SDP by getting him disqualified in the middle of the race he ran against a supposed Harvard trained economist who eventually won, after he was quoted as saying “I has money!” Yes, there is a crying need for an Anambra governor to understand the dynamics of the digital world and knowledge economy order.

But on the flipside and perhaps more enduring is the need to show a demonstrable example of taking the gown to town – in other words, using vast book knowledge to benefit the people directly. How have the candidates been able to do this in the past? How would they do so in future? How could Anambra avoid the case of the ambitious politician and the cocky Professor? Much as Anambra must avoid a governor that lists coke, fanta and pepsi as the minerals in his state, it must also avoid the Prof that killed that newspaper dream so disastrously. Both portends danger! I stop here! Let the debate begin!

Why an Uba-Soludo debate for Anambra 2021 must hold