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EDITORIAL

OMPAN’s Giant Strides And The Challenge To Today’s Journalist

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By Daniel Maduagwu

Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OMPAN) is an umbrella body of registered bloggers and online media influencers in Nigeria.

It also a unifying platform which also protects the interest of the practicing members.

In Abia State, OMPAN is led by its newly elected Chairman, Promise Uzoma Okoro, the publisher of PUOReports.

Before Okoro, Ugochukwu Nwankwo and Paddy Anyatonwu served as the Chairmen of the association, before Promise Uzoma Okoro was elected.

OMPAN which appeared on the stage a few years ago like a flash, has now become a force to record with in Nigeria’s media industry and clearly threatening to displace the Journalists from their job.

The activities of the the bloggers and their ever growing relevance in news sourcing and dissemination are helped by several factors which include the opportunities created by the penetrating powers of the internet.

And with time, OMPAN members, most of who were in recent past tagged “Charlatans” by some persons, are now dictating the tune in minds of news makers.

They are now becoming the toast in the minds and eyes of Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members, captains of industry, movie actors, footballers, university lectures , students and traditional rulers.

Politicians now prefer to grant interviews to them, and even commission them to organize press conferences and other events where mainstream Journalists will also be invited to participate.

In most cases, they break the news even before the “trained” Journalists can lay hands on the news materials.

They have won the confidence of the news consumers even though some of the items they dish out may not always be accurate or apply the true elements of Journalism.

In Abia State particularly, some members of OMPAN are doing what the most trained Journalists have not been able to do and this is true.

For instance, ABN which has its head office in front of Matter Dei Catholic Cathedral in Umuahia, also has offices in Abuja and Lagos with permanent staff working in the offices.

Owned by Ifeanyi Okali, from Ebem Ohafia, ABN has grown from strength to strength, giving employment and training to many youths.

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A visit I made to ABN head office sometime ago showed that some members of National Youths Service Corps(NYSC) were undergoing some trainings there.

I also saw some modern equipment installed in the place which usually enabled ABN to be among the first to break the news in Abia State and beyond, as they happened.

AFN owned by Emenike Iroegbu is another establishment that has carved a niche for itself in the online media business, using a unique style.

His media outfit also has a permanent address. He does not need to rely on OMPAN general Secretariat to survive.

We talk about PUOReports, any one on Facebook today in Abia State can agree that the new OMPAN State Chairman now calls the shot.

Just a dial of any politician’s phone number, he is given immediate attention.

This now bring us to the question of How is today’s Journalist prepared to compete for relevance in the face of this professional challenge.

A close inquiry I made on the issue indicated that a good number of the OMPAN members actually have degrees/HND in mass communication or related fields but have refused to have anything to do with our noble Union, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Some of them after being tagged Chalartans by some of our members some years ago, have now obtained the requisite qualifications to be registered Journalists but have rather preferred to remain in OMPAN.

Three of them who are my close friends told me recently that they are okay being OMPAN members than applying to belong to NUJ.

My appeal to them to seek registration with NUJ recieved cold response.

This situation calls for concern.

In the last three weeks, members of OMPAN have been hosted by Abia State Commissioner of Police, Kenechukwu Onwuemelie and top-notch politicians in Abia State.

During their visit to the CP, the number one Police officer in Abia declared that the online media practitioners have become a force that can never be ignored.

One week earlier, Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu hosted OMPAN members at his home during his birthday.

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Also, the member representing Isiala Ngwa North/Isiala Ngwa South federal constituency, Hon. Ginger Onwusibe player host to the news breakers.

This is not forgetting that former Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Hon. Chinedum Orji (Ikuku) equally hosted them at his home, a few days before joining APC.

They’ve also toured sites of completed and ongoing projects by Governor Alex Otti’s administration.

Apart from these, many radio stations in the Abia State are today, being managed by people with OMPAN background.

What a professional and industrial revolution !

Propelled by youth -friendly and well packaged programs they offer, these private radio stations are taking the airwaves by storm, keeping listeners glued to their programs.

ABN office was in early 2024 , invaded by a group of Policemen who entered the live studio of its online TV to arrest a guest who was on a live program.

A press release issued by ABN Director, Ifeanyi Okali created sensation on internet, as all members of OMPAN saw the invasion as a big slap on their member, and by extension, the entire media industry.

They went to war, giving the matter mass publicity which immediately got the attention of the the Inspector General of Police and Abia State Police Command.

The campaign gained instant global attention as even the traditional newspapers around the world placed the story on the cover pages.

The Policemen who attacked ABN office were made to undergo Orderly Room Trial , according to a an apology statement written by Abia State Police Command.

That is not enough, the Commissioner of Police, Kenechukwu Onwuemelie led his management team to the ABN head office at Azikiwe road where he tendered apology to the media outfit for what his men did.

He also promised that the equipment destroyed during the invasion would be replaced.

Above is a typical example of how important, powerful and organized bloggers have become in Nigeria and Abia State in particular today.

This now bring us to the subject matter:

Where lies the future of today’s Journalists.

The future is bright only if the Journalists can acknowledge that the game has changed.

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The future is bright only if the Journalists will improve on whatever knowledge they have.

The future is bright only if the Journalists will arm themselves with modern equipment and undergo regular trainings.

The future is bright only if the Journalists will stop gushing into events uninvited.

The future is bright only if the Journalists will stop de-marketing one another in order to curry cheap favour.

The future is bright only if young Journalists are not harrassed or stampeded by those who should encourage them.

The future is bright only if the Journalists will stop promoting State of origin ahead of competence and qualification.

The future is bright only if some Journalists will stop sneaking into the office of the Commissioners for information and media aides to the Governors to gossip about their colleagues.

The future is bright only if the leadership of the NUJ will utilize appetising opportunities in the industry to reposition the Union for the best.

It is a stark reality today that many “conventional” media houses in Nigeria today have either sacked most of their reporters or converted them to freelancers.

Many of the mainstream media houses even tell their reporters to not to ask of salaries but to be okay with staff ID card dangling around their necks.

One popular newspaper publisher is well known for this .

This unfortunate situation has made our disengaged or casualized colleagues to open one news blog or another, just to survive while others just hang on with the byline affixed on their stories.

This is why every practicing Journalist should today, carry out a self appraisal to know if he/she is measuring up to this OMPAN challenge.

Yes, many people may see the activities of bloggers as professional erosion, the truth is that the time is past when people just dismissed them as Charlatans.

Yes, they may be half- baked as you call them, but they are now dominating the stage now and capturing the future.

Daniel Maduagwu, is a staff of Daily Post Newspaper