Dele Atunbi, a staff of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) had served Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as Chairman of Ondo State NUJ Council and Vice President of B Zone. In 2015, he contested the presidency of the union but lost to the incumbent, Abdulwaheed Odusile. The Prince of Laomo ruling home of Ajaawa in Ogo Oluwa Local Government area of Oyo State and grandson of Oba Ajadiogun Atunbi of Alajaawa of Ajaawa Land is in the race again and says this time around, he is contesting to win. He speaks with Ajibola Abayomi, the Managing Editor on his ambition.
How are you looking up to the NUJ presidency, why do you think you should be voted for?
The Presidency of the NUJ for us is a place to serve and not a place to lord. We believe strongly that in the last three years, the welfare of journalists in the country has suffered serious setbacks and the NUJ leadership looks so helpless while members’ welfare is unattended to. We believe we have something better to offer in order to set journalism on the part of professionalism than what is currently obtainable in the country. In line with Article 2 of the NUJ Constitution, negotiation of condition of service for members is an obligation on the part of the union, which we seek to pursue vigorously if elected by the grace of God. We will equally validate, in the next three years, the remaining 7 objectives of the union to give journalists a sense of belonging.
As former Vice President of the union what contributions have you made?
As Vice President, it is on record that we did our best to protect the interest of journalists and journalism in our dear country. For the avoidance of doubt, these are some of our achievements: It is apt to bring to the fore my moderate achievements as a dogged labour leader that gives premium to the welfare of its members. Through proper husbandry of the union’s resources, as Chairman of the Ondo State Council of the NUJ, our administration was able to save cost and purchased a Toyota Corolla for the union nine months to the expiration of our tenure. Others are: Resuscitated Ondo National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) that was in limbo on assumption of office, Secured weigh-in allowance for Journalists in the Ondo state Ministry of Information in 2010 before the Federal government approved it for their counterpart at the Federal level, Got approval for 250 plots of land for the use of Journalist in Ondo state, an opening which members didn’t take advantage of. Also, we purchased the plot of land in the East wing of the Ondo state NUJ Press Centre for expansion, brought back the elders of the union who had deserted the Press Center to form League of Veteran Journalists and through the assistance of Government sunk borehole at the Press Center that served our center since 2000 till date. We maintained the union’s clinic at no cost to members and their families and participated actively in all struggles that brought smiles on the faces of workers in Ondo state between 2005 and 2011. We got 22 sacked workers of the Ondo State Radio Vision Corporation reinstated a feat yet to be beaten by any industrial union in the state including two journalists sacked in Owena Press Limited Akure reinstated. We brought integrity into leadership and mutual respect to members by all right thinking people of the state and warded off attempts to trample on members’ rights and ensure job security. The Press Center a was given facelift.It is equally on record that as a member of the National Executive Committee and Central Working Committee, I have contributed my quota to the development of our great union at the national level.
Some have alleged that you were in the race to spoil the fun for the incumbent president Waheed Odusile, how do you react to that?
The truth of the matter is if the incumbent had been able to address the cardinal objectives of the NUJ vis-a-vis preferring solutions to the myriads of challenges facing the union and its members in the last three years, we would have dropped our ambition of coming out again to contest the presidency of the union. We must put the record straight that we contested the presidency of the union alongside the incumbent in 2015. Since the issue in question is an allegation, we believe it remains in the realm of allegation that cannot be substantiated. We equally challenge those alleging to prove their allegation beyond reasonable doubt. This is a mere conjecture and a figment of the imagination of those peddling the rumour.
What zone can we say you are representing now? Is it north or West because at the moment you work in Abuja and your base is in South West as former Ondo council chairman and Oyo council secretary?
The NUJ in line with its Constitution outlaws tribal and primordial sentiments. We are contesting this election as bonafide members of the union and have been screened and cleared in line with the election guidelines of the union. Going by the primordial sentiment on tribalism that you are raising, by the grace of God, I am a Prince from Laomo ruling home of Ajaawa in Ogo Oluwa Local Government area of Oyo State and my great grandfather, Oba Ajadiogun Atunbi was a king as Alajaawa of Ajaawa. It may interest you to note that I practiced journalism substantially in Ondo State where I served the union in various capacities from chapel to state council and later as Vice President of the South West zone of the union in Nigeria. By the virtue of my employment with the Nigerian Television Authority, I am currently in the headquarters of the establishment in Abuja as Manager in its News Directorate. Thus, my current council is FCT. However, why not sharing this primordial sentiment of yours, the fact remains that my current geographical location cannot in anyway deny me of my South West geopolitical zone.
What do you think the NUJ lacks and you want to fix?
As stated earlier, the union in the last three years has lost focus, direction and above all, its integrity which used to earn it the respect from the political class. For instance, Abiri Jones a member of the union was incarcerated for two years without NUJ lifting a finger until an external body (IPI) came into the country to intervene and secure the release of the journalist. We will restore the integrity of the union and place premium on professionalism.
Do you think you have what it takes to really defeat the incumbent president and others because we have days to the poll and not much has been heard about your campaign trail, where have you been to so far?
Incumbency only matters when the holder of the office performs. You may wish to know that we had contested against two incumbent Vice Presidents in Zone B in 2012 and God gave us victory. This definitely will not be an exemption. As per the campaign, our team (the Transformation Agenda) has visited 28 state councils as at Thursday 20th September, 2018 with just 8 more states to go. Ours is not about propaganda but taking the issues to the doorsteps of the delegates in their respective councils.
How will you assess the Union in the last three years?
Tales of woes and outright failure.
If you win, what major impact are you going to make?
Restoration of integrity, improved welfare for members and the lost glory of the union.