By Yemi Adeleye and Uche Eletuo
Lagos, Nov. 5, 2020 (NAN) There was a mild drama on Thursday at the 2020 Triennial Delegates Conference and Elections of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, as the much anticipated election was halted midway into the polls.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the election, which was initially scheduled for Sept. 29, 2020 was postponed to Oct. 20,2020 due to the planned Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) strike.
However, it was yet again postponed because of the #EndSARS protests.
The exercise, rescheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, was midway when the Chairman, Lagos NUJ 2020 Credentials Committee, Mr Debo Adeniji, announced the suspension of the election citing security reasons.
Adeniji said: “We decided to put the election on hold based on security reports and we contacted the national body, I mean the National President of NUJ, Mr Chris Isiguzo.
“ We briefed him (Mr Chris Isiguzo) on the situation in Lagos and immediately we presented our case based on the security report we gathered, he said we should put the election on hold indefinitely.
“We are expecting the national body to give us another direction. The suspension cuts across all the issues that have to do with security matters,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the last delegates’ conference which held earlier on Thursday, was dissolved after a motion was moved by Mrs Grace Alegba of NAN and supported by Mr Solomon Nwoke of the NUJ Vanguard Chapel.
This was , however, not without a rowdy session, as an ardent supporter of the `outgone’ Chairman, Dr Qasim Akinreti, moved a motion for members who had not been verified and accredited to participate in the election.
This was countered by the majority.
The member discredited the verification exercise conducted by the national body of NUJ in the build up to the election.
The development, which angered some members, charged the atmosphere and turned the gathering to a noisy session, as members insisted that only verified and accredited members be allowed to vote.
The drama also continued as Akinreti insisted that the House could not be dissolved and that election would not hold saying he was still in charge.
The national officers assigned to monitor the process , however, prevailed and asked the Assistant National Secretary, Opeyemi Korede , to dissolve the house for election to hold.
Members thereafter proceeded to the Blue Roof of LTV 8, Agidingbi, the venue of the election, which had been occupied by security agents for the election, to cast their votes.
Some alleged hired thugs from the estranged outgoing chairman began to cause commotion at the venue trying to disrupt voting process.
The election, however, still commenced under heavy security watch by the police, the Department of State Security Service and OP MESA operatives of the military.
Two chapels of the Lagos state NUJ, the Vanguard and Sun newspapers, were already casting their votes, when suddenly the exercise was disrupted.
The Managing Director of the Sun Newspaper, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, was about casting his vote with other top editors of the Sun newspaper when the exercise was halted.
Ukeh, who was visibly disappointed over the suspension of the election, left immediately with other top editors including the Sun News Editor, Nath Osewele and the Business Editor, Amaechi Ogbonna.
Other senior editors and directors of media houses in Lagos , who had waited patiently to be called to put in their votes, left the venue disappointed as issues were not going to be resolved soon.
Journalists who were prepared for elections as well as some South west NUJ executive from the states of Osun, Oyo and Ogun watched the scenario in disbelief even as people asked questions and tempers flared.
Speaking on the development, Mrs Nike Sodipo, Director- General, Adeleye Ajayi Campaign Team, expressed sadness over the postponement of the election due to some persons’ desperation to still be in power.
“The alleged disenfranchisement cited by the Akinreti Team was baseless as all chapels were provided opportunity to do the verification exercise but some members from some chapels decided to boycott it.
“This election was again cancelled based on pressure on the opponent by some people who felt they were being disenfranchised.
“ The verification for the exercise was done twice and some decided to boycott.
“The first verification was by the Lagos NUJ 2020 Credential Committee. Then, the national body organised another and they still raised objections.
“We call ourselves watchdog of the society. I am highly disappointed this is happening,” she said.
Also, Mr Innocent Anaba, an former ex-officio of the council seeking reelection as Financial Secretary, said that the outgone chairman had held the union and members “hostage.’’
An elder in the council, Mr Gbenga Fatile, urged the council to follow the constitution.
Mr Ray Ugochuckwu, Former President of Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), said that the suspension of the election was a disappointment to all journalists.
Ugochukwu, said that the sit-tight syndrome put up by the chairman who is seeking re-election, was contributory to suspending the election.
Most of the journalists who spoke to NAN expressed disappointment at the way and manner the exercise was abruptly cancelled.
According to them, it is disappointing and unbecoming of a union that is supposed to be the “watchdog’’ of the society/government to be in such an embarrassing situation.