Several drama ensued on Thursday November 5, 2020 at the premises of Lagos State Television (LTV 8) as the election into the elective seats of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, was abruptly put off by the National Officers of the NUJ led by the Vice President of B Zone, Mr Cosmos Oni and Zonal Secretary, Mr Michael Gbolagunte in conjunction with the security teams on grounds to avoid violence as tension rose to pinnacle height.
Many journalists expressed displeasure at the script that was attempted to be foisted on the Lagos journalists by some members of the state executive of the NUJ comprising Abiola Beckley, the Vice Chairman, Alfred Odifa, Secretary, Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe, Treasurer and Assistant Secretary, Philip Nwosu, supported by the National Secretariat, whom had earlier failed in their attempt to discredit and remove the incumbent Chairman, Dr Qasim Akinreti
The poll has been generating heat following the unrepentant stand of the interested parties to disfranchise over 3000 journalists and bonafide members of the union who duly paid their check-off dues and other fees as stated in the union’s constitution, prompting Chief Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to warn the leadership of the union to obey the union rules or face court action in a letter addressed to the NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo on November 3.
Prior to the poll, the elders of the council had also appealed to Isiguzo to play by the rules in accordance with the union constitution.
The media houses and chapels where the affected journalists operate are The Nation Newspapers, The New Telegraph, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Voice of Nigeria, The Guardian Newspapers, Powerful Pen, Business Plus Magazine, Local Government Chapel, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) among others.
Mid-way to the congress of the union, the atmosphere was charged, the Officers of the Department of State Security Services,DSS called for a peaceful resolutions of the issues for a smooth election. While this negotiations were on going , when Mr Opeyemi Akorede, a former clerical staff of the Lagos NUJ in charge of the admin and who was recently appointed as Assistant National Secretary of NUJ, led a team of bouncers accompanied by armed security operatives to order the commencement of the poll in total disregard to the rules of the union as the congress was yet to be concluded and the exco resolved.
To the surprise of many anxious journalists, Korede working hand in hand with Debo Adeniji, the Chairman of the Credentials Committee, ordered the commencement of the poll and hurriedly ushered in some journalists from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) where the Mr Adeleye Ajayi, the preferred chairmanship candidate of Isiguzo and his allies from Vanguard newspapers, and were all given cover to vote.
The situation almost degenerated into a fiasco between the supporters of the incumbent chairman of the Lagos NUJ, Dr Qasim Akinreti and Adeleye but for the spirited efforts of the some police officers and men from the Department of State Service (DSS) who discountenanced the notion that the poll was valid as the team were holding peace meeting with the Lagos State NUJ excos, national officers and others who were not part of the voting exercise hurriedly ordered by Korede.
Minutes after deliberations were concluded with the security details, Mr Cosmos Oni announced that the voting exercise ordered by Korede was of no effect as none of the national officers were aware of its commencement because the atmosphere was not conducive for election.
Cosmos left the meeting and ordered the purported voting be stopped. However late Thursday evening, Cosmos announced the dissolution of the Lagos NUJ exco and composition of a caretaker committee headed by Wale Akodu of Lagos Information Ministry put together after a virtual meeting with less than one third of members of the State Executive Committee (SEC) in the state in attendance.
However reactions have been trailing the actions, as Dr Qasim Akinreti supporters insisted that the due process was not followed as the exco was yet to be formally dissolved by the congress to warrant any vacuum of leadership.
Akinreti in a statement issued said his mandate as the chairman of the council remained intact while Adeleye’s camp were jubilating that the caretaker team who were all his loyalists had taken over.