“The rejuvenation of VON is part of our effort to correct the global imbalance in broadcasting industry which has been in favour of the more powerful nation.” – Atiku Abubakar.
These are the words of Nigeria’s Vice President Atiku Abubakar while confirming the Federal Government commitment and aspiration to propagate our values and enhance our national interest and that of the African continent in the global scene through the Voice Of Nigeria (VON), the nation’s external public broadcasting organization
The popular public service broadcasting stations at national level in Nigeria are the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). But to Nigerians in Diaspora and other foreign listeners to broadcast media, the Voice of Nigeria remains the global voice of Nigeria in promoting our culture, tradition, heritage and social values.
Before the announcement of the disengagement of Mr. Taiwo Allimi as the Director General of VON, he was able to record notable achievements, which were confirmed by his able lieutenant, Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa who was the most Senior Director in the agency and appointed as Ag. Director General. Mr. Jijiwa disclosed that he would build on the noble achievements of Mr. Taiwo Alimi, which nobody can throw away. Though, he admitted, they may have different styles, Mr. Taiwo performed well in the area of securing a lot of partnership and collaboration with other foreign organizations.
Voice of Nigeria is modeled after external services of other powerful nations like the Voice of America, British Broadcasting Service, Radio Moscow, Radio Australia, and Deuswelle amongst others. Voice of Nigeria provides radio broadcast services for global reception in foreign and local languages.
Though founded and commissioned by late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa in 1961 as the External Service of the then Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, the station fully became autonomous on January 5, 1990. As the tradition with most external service public media, VON does not carry commercial advert or sponsored announcement but carry for fee programmes approved for international broadcast by United Nations’ agencies. Some of its programmes focus attention on indices of viable platform for major development in areas of industrialization and agricultural potentials; cultural heritage that create a well-ordered society with due respect for the rule of law.
Before the age of Information Technology, where internet service provide timely report, Nigerians abroad and other foreign interest rely on programmes from Voice of Nigeria as it broadcasts globally on different short wave frequencies to nooks and crannies of Africa, Europe, United States, South America and some part of Asia.
The appointment of Alhaji Abubakar Jijjiwa as the Acting Director General after more than 10 years as the Director of Finance in the corporation did not come to many as a surprise. He had a distinguished career in the print and broadcast media with additional experience as seasoned financial expert and as an accountant who was also former Commissioner of Finance in Adamawa State.
But the challenge before the new Acting Director General is very enormous having garnered more experience in media establishment and for being the only Northerner, presently to head one of the information machinery of the federal government. The other Federal outfits include Nigerian Television Authority headed by Tony Iredia, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria under Eddie Iroh, and News Agency of Nigeria which has Mr. Akin Osuntokun as the Managing Director.
Born on March 15, 1961, Alhaji Jijiwa has a degree in Accountancy and has received several certificates in Broadcast and Media management both at home and abroad. As a man who is interested in the media world, he started off as Staff Writer with New Nigerian newspapers before moving to News Agency of Nigeria as Head of Accounts. Some of his other working experiences include General Manager/Chief Executive of Gongola Broadcasting Corporation, Director General /Sole Administrator Adamawa Broadcasting Corporation, Assistant General Manager, News Agency of Nigeria before moving to Voice of Nigeria in 1993 as Director Finance and Supplies. He was also Commissioner of Finance, Economic Planning and Budget in Adamawa State.
One may not expect him to perform miracles overnight in the agency that have wider foreign audience, but he should focus the station’s programming on the Nigerian Image Project initiated by the detribalized Minister of Information and National Orientation, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu. Syndication of the programmes to other partner foreign radio stations is desirable in sharing ideas and information vital to promotion of our image and sustenance of democracy.
It is widely known that the overall radio listening audience is larger than the television viewers as it is not only targeting specialized audiences but coincidentally too, the general populace. Therefore external radio services should provide a wealth of cultural diversity across frontiers. Statistics indicates that foreigners and non-Nigerians enjoy some of the varieties of VON’s programmes especially on our indigenous musical rhythms and sports exploits.
Mr. Jijiwa should also realized that VON’s website which was launched not long ago needs to be regularly, on daily basis, updated with news items from their programmes in the major global and local languages. A visit to the website would indicates that, it lags far behind compared to other such media, where one does not need to tune to their stations to get the gist of latest development.
While it is easy to tune to VON within some selected location in Nigeria through the two Short Wave frequencies 7255KH and 1512KH, there is need to upgrade the equipment for clearer reception and signal to all parts of the country.
His experience as former Commissioner of Finance in Adamawa State, where he distinguished himself as manager of men and material should enable him to design programmes and welfare packages to boost the morale of the staff in the unsung media outfit.
While one may wish that his confirmation would be announced as soon as possible to strike a balance on the federal character, it would also be a fulfillment of desire of staff in government institutions who pray to reach the peak in their establishment through career progression.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Guardian Sept 10, New Nigerian 11, Champion Sept 14, Tribune Sept 14, Daily Trust Sept.22, 2004