This writer stood at the podium at the side hall at Bon Hotel in Warri, Delta State, on Thursday, January 6, 2022, among the journalism greats in the Niger Delta. It was a moment to receive an award of Niger Delta Journalism Excellence from the GbaramatuVoice Media Group.
The presenters recounted his 44 years of steady reporting that highlights the career of this writer from the Daily Times (December 1977) then edited by a Niger Delta son (Tony Momoh). He later moved to Guardian established by a Niger Deltan, briefly to ThisDay owned by another Niger Deltan, to Post Express, NewsAfrica (London) and eventually BusinessDay, all owned and founded by Niger Deltans.
They recalled his 44 years as a professional journalist with what many call 22-22, meaning that he served 22 years in Benue/Middlebelt and 22 years in PH/Niger Delta. They did not forget the fact that he currently writes the longest running column in Nigerian known as Port Harcourt By Boat that started in Post Express decades ago, moved with him to BusinessDay, migrated to NewsAfrica-London for one year (in another format) and returned to BusinessDay.Niger Delta
The 22 years covering and judging the Niger Delta has been eventful; starting from the Bonny Youths riots of 1999 when the NLNG was about to be commissioned and the natives felt their interests were not being factored in; the Odi massacre, the long years of militancy where some reporters dodged bullets in the creeks; the night boat trips dodging pirates; tracking development programmes such as MoU to GMoU, monitoring community engagement tools such as Indorama’s 7.5% equity to host communities that has become a model yet to be adopted in other areas; the rise/fall/rise again of Ogoni Clean Up; the first-ever president of Niger Delta extraction and what the people did to lose it; first-ever man to be crowned governor by the Supreme Court without contesting an election; the fall of OMPADEC and rise of NDDC plus the whereabouts of N6 trillion allocated to it, and many other issues in the region. Many may forget the battles for the creation of the NDDC when the man who muted the idea (Obj) turned round to reject it until an Act of Parliament made it work without presidential assent. Little wonder the amount stipulated in the Act was never the right percentage being remitted to the Commission until PMB came and ordered it to be done.
Any man who has covered all these and many plus reporting the Brick House in PH from Peter Odili-Chibuike-Celestine Omehia/Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-Nyesom Wike is truly a man on duty. To traverse the Swamps Full of Dollars is not easy. Most times, it has been Swamps full of Blood. Today, the same Niger Delta is the safest place in Nigeria. It is not a small tour of duty.
The presenters did not forget that this awardee is married with four children; two boys and two girls. Such family detail is important in a continent that counts success in family prowess.
Jacob Abai, Publisher/CEO of GbaramatuVoice behind the Niger Delta Annual Media Dinner Series, said the awardees had invested deep commitment, innovative efforts, distinction and excellence over the years.
He said GbaramatuVoice boasts of some of the most articulate minds in the media business known for accurate and timely information.
Some other persons honoured along such as Jimitota and Egufe (all of Vanguard group) were tested men in the fight for Niger Delta emancipation.
The voice of the commissioner from Kogi State, Kingsley Fanwo, sealed the night and journalists left with happiness in their hearts.
Those who produce heroes are hardly celebrated but GbaramatuVoice has opened the Voice.
This writer was last two years rewarded with an all-time excellence award from Benue State, and now Niger Delta excellence award. Glory belongs only to God.