By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Many of the top business leaders, according to Justin Menkes, the author of the book; Executive Intelligence, may have attended elite academic institutions, and this education can serve as a good foundation-[developing] the ability to think critically and understand concepts. So a doctorate can be an indication of intellectual horsepower. But in business setting you must be able to not only generate ideas but translate those ideas into results. That is the hardest thing and requires abilities that go beyond academic skills.
Each time I ponder over how Gbaramatu Voice, a monthly tabloid based in Warri, Delta, published by the Gbaramatu Publishing Company Limited, With dissemination of information as it pertains to the Niger Delta as its top priority, against all odds in August 2015, hit the newsstands in all the states within South South geopolitical zone, memories of Justin Menkes words come flooding.
Though Jacob Abai the publisher has always declared that leaders who scale in the industry did so regardless of background, skill and talent but because they were open to learning, took deliberate steps to confront their shortcoming and modeled their vision to that of great leaders that did not flounder in the industry but became the leaders that their organizations want them to be. A fact he added that informs his choice of the likes of Uncle Sam Amuka, the founder of the Vanguard Newspaper Limited, Mr. Mike Ibru of the Guardian Newspapers among others.
Such explanation notwithstanding, like every other media practitioner that understands the shaky nature of the industry, I have always asked whether Abai, actually; capped himself with a well formulated strategy/tactics for building a sustainable media organization in Nigeria. If as an entrepreneur, be bold enough to face the daily demands of such calling? Did he consider the geographical location, reach and environmental dynamics? What about its technological capabilities and other strategic considerations? How and what will help him attract people and resources? Did the company’s strategy embody the vision of where the company is going instead of where it is? Or frame work for making the decisions and settling the policies that will take the company there?
Indeed, despite this catalogue of concerns, five years after that rough take off, it became clear to the vast majority of stakeholders that what made the survival possible was not its focus on mere information dissemination but how well Mr. Jacob Abai, ably supported by a dynamic management team and highly professional journalists understanding of the time honoured management principle that formulating a sound strategy is more basic to a young company than resolving hiring issues, designing control system, setting reporting relationship, or defining the founder’s role. Ventures based on a good strategy can survive confusion and poor leadership, but sophisticated control systems and organizational structures cannot compensate for an unsound strategy.
This understanding coupled with Gbaramatu Voice media practice of focusing on issues, not personalities, framing decisions as collaborations aimed at achieving the best possible solution, and establishing fairness and equity in the process has not only resulted in its capacity to carve a niche for itself in record time within its corporate existence-as it has become an authoritative gateway through which undiluted news about the Niger Delta is divulged to the world, but earnestly given the newspaper a quantum leap.
As an illustration, within this period, the newspaper has against permutation diversified to online news publishing. With dissemination of information as it pertains to the Niger Delta as its top priority, the GbaramatuVoice recently ventured into full-time electronic broadcasting with the establishment of the GbaramatuVoice Television that can be sourced online. These achievements however have earned the newspaper, The Ijaw National News of the Year 2017 awards. This was immediately followed by an international award given by the renowned Business Initiative Directions (BID) based in Germany. All these are for GbaramatuVoice’s quality news reportage, analysis and research.
But there is a more fundamental reason why the Gbaramatu Voice 5th anniversary must be considered as a celebration for all Niger Deltans and supported by the government-local, state(south south governors), the federal and of course the corporate bodies operating in the Niger Delta region particularly the International Oil Companies(IOCs). Such reason has to do with the restoration of peace in the region.
As captured by JAMES MOORE, in his forward in family of secrets, a book written by Russa Baker, the role of journalists in informing society about politicians. According to MOORE: “When a governor or any state official seeks elective national office, his (or her) reputation and what the country knows about the candidate’s background is initially determined by the work of local and regional media. Generally, those journalists do a competent job of reporting on the prospect’s record.”
In the case of the Niger Delta- a region characterized by perennial violence occasioned by mutual suspicion and hostilities between the IOCs and the Federal Government on one side and house communities on the other side, the advent of Gbaramatu Voice with a team of journalists that spend more time on the high seas and creeks than on the land has done one thing. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicine of air and light, the Gbaramatu Voice has become reputed for bringing to the surface the hidden injustices and tensions that is always alive in the region to where it can be seen and treated.
This point becomes particularly appreciated when one remembers that before now reports from the region were always slanted by some media groups in such a way that are ‘valid, but, prevents others from deciding for themselves whether the claim to validity is correct-by not including the data that others could use to decide for themselves whether the illustration was valid; And, by placing their conclusion in such that disguises their logical implications’.
Today, an important distinction to make is that Gbaramatu Voice has become not just another platform for disseminating the truth and information that can be controlled at will. Rather, it is a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas; in the same way, that government is a decentralized body for the promotion and protection of the people’s life chances. It is a platform, in other words, for development that the government must partner with.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant