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Hurray! It’s Naija Times’ first anniversary

Hurray! It’s Naija Times’ first anniversary
September 12
08:12 2021

It was on September 15 last year that we invited family, friends and associates to the launch of Naija Times. It was a hybrid event. All too soon, Naija Times has completed one full circle of 365 days – it’s our first anniversary.

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We thank God for keeping us alive because Covid-19 is today’s grim reaper. So many lives have been lost to the deadly virus. It is indeed an irony that it was at the height of the lockdown last year that we decided it was time to launch Naija Times.

The clock keeps ticking – a constant reminder that time waits for no one. The idea of floating an online newspaper had always been on my mind but I kept it in the can. When I informed Jahman Anikulapo, art enthusiast and former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, that it was time to launch the newspaper, he told me he was in retirement.

Somehow, I managed to pull him out of his self-imposed retirement from journalism practice and he agreed to work part-time as Editorial Director. But Jahman has been doing more than our part-time agreement because he wanted us to produce a “complete” digital newspaper – no newsprint, printing press, circulation vans, or vendors. Technology has enabled us to operate a virtual suite for Naija Times.

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I’m happy to report that Jahman’s commanding influence in the newsroom and rock-solid commitment to the project has been beneficial to Naija Times and the team of reporters, writers, researchers, and contributors. Jahman has been doing a yeoman’s job – he’s a workaholic and newshound of the first rank. I still do not know how he manages to juggle his role at Naija Times with his other numerous engagements.

In order to achieve our goal of producing a “complete newspaper”, I contacted Akpandem James, another senior and experienced journalist who lives and works in Abuja, to join the team and he gladly accepted. Like most Nigerians, Akpandem and I are passionate about a Nigeria that works for everyone but we also believe Nigerians must learn to take responsibility for their individual roles.

Although leaders are the conscience of society, a country can only get the leader it deserves and we must understand that the leaders are not going to drop from the moon. They live amongst us. This was why we decided to work together on another “Proudly Nigerian” project.

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Previously, Akpandem was Editor and later CEO of Daily Independent before his appointment as Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications of the 2014 National Conference inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and subsequently as Special Adviser (Media) to Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, former Minister of Budget and National Planning.

With Jahman and Akpandem agreeing to support the dream, I knew I was the luckiest guy in the world. This was even more so because I have enduring relationships spanning several seasons with both of them.

In any event, I was not going to do the job alone; Jahman and Akpandem made it possible for us to build a great team from Day One – and we are having plenty of fun working together. I’m grateful for their friendship and goodwill.

To kick-start the project, I created a WhatsApp forum on July 25, 2020, for seamless sharing of information. After welcoming them to the forum, I wrote this: “Naija Times is planned to be an online newspaper and the vision is for the paper to become an easily recognisable brand in Nigeria within 24 months. I welcome ideas on how we can build a strong Naija Times brand that can be trusted.”

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That goal looked like a tall order but our Zoom meetings commenced immediately. We discussed the editorial policy and direction of Naija Times bearing in mind the overarching objective of publishing stories that are “factual, balanced and credible to achieve the highest standards of ethical journalism.”

Even choosing the name Naija Times was deliberate. It went through a thoughtful and iterative process to enable successful branding. What we had in mind 12 months ago was to position Naija Times as Nigeria’s voice for news around the world and it explains the choice of colours and dot ng domain.

No newspaper is complete without well-researched and interesting content. We went ahead to create multiple and diverse sections because of our vision for a “complete” newspaper. We also publish weekly editorials and the Editorial Advisory Board, chaired by Akpandem, holds two virtual meetings monthly.

Let me confess that we are truly blessed with a great team of distinguished professionals in different fields serving voluntarily on the Board. They include business persons, university dons, media practitioners and public policy analysts in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Jos, Ottawa (Canada), Austin, Texas (USA) and Boston, Massachusetts (USA).

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At the last Editorial meeting, the Board members unanimously agreed to write articles on key Nigerian issues from different perspectives to mark our first anniversary. It turned out to be the icing on the cake and they are highly appreciated.

In addition to being Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board, Akpandem uses his network of high profile contacts to source and send materials regularly to the newsroom from the presidency, state governments, political parties, MDAs and development agencies. He also interfaces with opinion writers and contributors to Naija Times – including the ones he invited to write for us.

I must especially commend the contributions of Dan Amor, lead editorial writer; Bankole Wright, assistant lead writer and our founding staff, Kolawole Ojebisi (News Editor), Paul Otaigbe (Copy Editor) – they have moved on to other assignments – and Prince Toby Udo, our Assistant Editor who works round the clock. He is a rare gem and he is ably supported by Hollins Esegba, our Assistant Content Manager who doubles as a reporter.

Kanayo Ume is one of the best graphic designers in town taking charge of our Creatives and projecting the right visual image for Naija Times. I salute Frederick Agbi who produced our Naija Times branded T-shirts and shipped them from the United Kingdom.

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I’m thankful to an amazing team comprising of Manuella Igori, Vincent Braimah, Bola Okoromadu, Mary Soremekun, Ifeoluwa Odunlade, Blessing Obi and Nkechi Njoku who provide back-office support.

We also have a long list of regular contributors, opinion writers and columnists, wonderful people who are supportive of the Naija Times dream. They include Armsfree Ajanaku (who is also on the Editorial Advisory Board), Joseph Afamhe, Nurudeen Obalola, Oyindamola Lawal, Jane Peters, Ubongabasi James, Moses Ebong, Samuel Benjamin, Enemona Atamodu, Maja Fawole, Olayinka Oyegbile, Benson Idonije, Femi Odugbemi and others.

My wife, Oluwakemi, a first-class caregiver, has been managing the last line of defence, ensuring that we did not score “own goals”. We have received tonnes of constant encouragement and we remain grateful to her.

We also thank our advertisers who have been there for us. They include UBA, Access Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank, Nigerian Breweries Plc and NASCO Group. But like Oliver Twist, we want them to do more.

In our first year, we set out to create rich and interesting content that would be supported by a user-friendly website. In today’s digital world with millions of websites, a robust digital marketing strategy that can enable a meaningful global ranking is inevitable.

That was how Ayo Banjo, a website architectural professional, joined the team and he initially supervised MacDonald Chigozie and Deji Oluwadare – two creative and hardworking web designers.

Ayo who studied Computer Science at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa practiced journalism in the 90s. He brought to the table his wealth of experience in robust website security architecture and outstanding user-interface experience for our readers.

His role is basically to oversee the functionality of Naija Times website, evaluate and manage its performance, facilitate hosting and server management. In addition, he develops, maintains and updates Naija Times website content with critical oversight responsibility for internal and external security against malware and any other infection.

Ayo and I, by the way, have also come a long way together as friends, brothers and associates. We are both Rotarians and we belong to the same Club – the Rotary Club of Lagos, the oldest Club in Rotary International, District 9110, and the second oldest Club in Nigeria (after the Rotary Club of Kano, District 9125), having been chartered on May 30, 1961.

As a deliberate policy, we targeted Nigerians in the diaspora. They are a key audience. Apart from having a “Diaspora News” section and “Diaspora Files” (from contributors around the world), we also launched “Naija Times Diaspora Conversations”, a virtual colloquium, on April 17, 2021, with the following objectives:

Engage our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and give them a voice on issues that affect us;
Find a common ground from the discussions and make recommendations to the government;
Promote patriotism amongst this demography — we do not have any other country to call our own, and
Publish a summary of the conversations on Naija Times website for the benefit of our readers.

As we look ahead to the next cycle of elections, our 3rd Naija Times Diaspora Conversations will discuss the leaders we want in 2023. We have in mind visionary and competent leaders that can be trusted. Who are they? I’m using this opportunity to appreciate all our previous discussants and participants for their various contributions to the task of nation-building.

Part of our strategic positioning is to tell the Nigerian story as it is without fear or favour and promote a developmental agenda. All Nigerians, regardless of where we come from, must take on the patriotic duty of selling the positive attributes of our great country to the rest of the world, no matter our circumstances.

It is true that Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources which confer unique advantages on the largest black nation in the world. Apart from being the most populous country in Africa (208 million people), Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa.

It is being projected that by 2050, Nigeria’s rapidly growing population will be about 400 million, making it the third-most populous country in the world after China and India. However, our burgeoning population will also become our albatross because of poor local productive capacity.

If there’s no incentive to produce locally, our appetite for imported goods will continue to grow. The downside will be a further devaluation of our currency thereby reducing the purchasing power of the Naira which is already in a free fall.

Due to current economic hardship and uncertainties (it is difficult to plan and the security challenges are unhelpful), there is an exodus of our best and brightest out of the country but the trend can be reversed, and we cannot give up because Nigeria is too big to fail.

History has shown that nations rise out of the ashes of difficult periods; all stakeholders – including journalists – must come together to fast-track the renaissance process for a “New Nigeria”.

In reporting the news, Naija Times will continue to expand the frontiers of development journalism by using such reports to shape public policy to build strong institutions for a better society. This explains why we adopted the slogan: Journalism in the service of society.

As stated in our Vision Statement, “Naija Times is committed to building an egalitarian society that is founded on equity, justice and respect for fundamental human rights”. To achieve these noble objectives, Naija Times needs to be strong and independent.

As we begin another circle of 365 days, what do we want to achieve? Ultimately, we want our footprints to be on solid ground. We intend to use the platform for advocacy to control our birth rate because the population explosion is a time bomb waiting to go off. The federal government should begin to articulate and implement policies on birth control as a matter of national emergency.

Secondly, we shall promote transparency in the implementation of government policies and spending — it is the only way we can win back people’s trust. Our reports will therefore highlight the essence of building social capital and its numerous benefits; good governance mechanisms, gender equity, and social inclusion.

Another area of interest will be reviewing the impact of yearly appropriations on the development of healthcare and education. The measurement of the human development index in any society cannot ignore the well-being and literacy rate of its people.

Finally, we cannot run away from reporting the devastating impact of climate change in all its ramifications – a clear and present danger threatening our common humanity.

In Nigeria, for instance, we have seen how increased flooding from heavy downpours is wreaking havoc across the land. The story is not different in Europe and the United States with ravaging tornadoes, extremely high summer temperatures, horrific storms, wildfires, record rainfall, and floods.

The Naija Times project has not been a bed of roses — we had our challenges and disappointments but we summoned the courage to forge ahead. Getting to the first-anniversary finish line and crossing it is like winning a gold medal but Naija Times is still work-in-progress and the future is bright.

We definitely hope to do more in our second year by God’s grace and with the support of our readers, advertisers, well-wishers, and other stakeholders. God bless you!

Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

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