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Governor Mutfwang’s date with destiny

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Plateau State Governor, Barrister Caleb Mutfwang with General Manager, Plateau Publishing Corporation, Mr. Chris Gyang, right, during the Governor’s visit to the company

During the first board meeting of THE NIGERIA STANDARD newspapers on October 31, 1972, its founder, the legendary Joseph Dechi Gomwalk, stated: “I believe that it is in the interest of good government and healthy society that a variety of organs are available for the effective enlightenment of our people on matters affecting their lives locally, nationally, and internationally.”

More than 51 years later, those very aspirations have been echoed by Governor Caleb Mutfwang as he continues to express a deep commitment towards pursuing those lofty ideals.

But, sadly, the fortunes of the newspaper and its subsidiaries have today plummeted to an all-time low.

When he inspected the Plateau Publishing Corporation, PPC, on April 4, 2024, the governor stepped onto the corridors of that once bustling media hub where renowned journalists like Razak Aremu, Sale Iliya, Chris Anana, Gideon Barde, Ezeoke Odi, Clem Oluwole, Dan Agbese, Rufa’i Ibrahim and Jonathan Ishaku plied their trade with so much relish.

Some of the finest journalists in Nigeria once proudly walked these famous hallways into their offices to pen and produce some of the most remarkable works in the print media industry.

But what Governor Mutfwang met on ground was not good. He was not a happy man as Labaran Maku, Nuhu Gagara, Harris Dawurang, Emma Gogwim, Matthew Kuju, Gideon Mitu, and those other mercurial journalists had been in the heyday of THE NIGERIA STANDARD when they practised their craft with great love and devotion.

Today, the few remaining journalists in the newsroom sit on plastic chairs and write their stories on furniture supplied more than 30 years ago. Some administrative staff use wooden benches in an abandoned clinic-turned-offices. All over, the threadbare carpets are relics from the early 1970s.

The newspaper, the main product of PPC, comes out only once a week – printed at a private commercial facility on bond paper because we cannot afford the cost of utilizing the state of the art Cityline machine.

Nigerians still recall with nostalgia when all the three titles of the newspaper were on the newsstands daily in most parts of the country. They set the tone for national discourse and influenced government policies at all levels.

Gomwalk also constructed the iconic nine-story edifice, once the dominant landmark on the Jos city skyline, boasting one of the few elevators in northern Nigeria at the time. It was a means of boosting the revenue base of the organisation and indeed the entire state.

This same vision inspired the setting up of the paper conversion plant, today the only remaining one in the north. It produced the once famous Cactus Exercise Book, typing and duplicating papers. There was also a bustling commercial printing press.

All of these have either literally collapsed or are in various stages of decay due to sheer neglect by past leaders to whom economic independence, history and legacy mean nothing.

But rather than dampen his morale, these challenges have strengthened Governor Mutfwang’s resolve to revive the PPC. He finds it incumbent upon himself to undertake this Herculean task so as to re-connect with the past and restore the pride and glory it confers on the state.

This is because PPC is deeply embedded in the Plateau and Middle Belt identity.

Although the governor’s visit resonated well with most staff, as they see it as a mark of good things to come, others are taking it with a dose of skepticism. This cautious optimism is quite understandable. In the last three decades, successive governments have reeled out ample promises that have largely amounted to naught.

But 2005 marked a turning point when the state government turned PPC into a scheduled entity, finally making its staff pensionable. That was mainly due to the untiring efforts of then Governor Joshua Chibi Dariye, who had once served as PPC Chief Accountant.

And in 2014, the Jonah Jang administration installed the Cityline printing press, a 500kva power plant and supplied circulation and other vehicles. The contract he also awarded that year for the complete renovation of the Gomwalk House was stalled during the next government by intrigues that led to a lingering litigation.

Those laudable interventions should have been complemented by his predecessor through staff recruitment, provision of consumables, continuation of work on the Gomwalk House and revamping the exercise book production plant and commercial printing press in order to have the required, wholistic, impact. But that was not the case.

That is the vacuum Governor Mutfwang plans to fill. He has, therefore, espoused comprehensive short and long-term goals towards the total restoration of the PPC to make all of its arms, especially THE NIGERIA STANDARD, viable once again.

Overjoyed by the sheer novelty of that inspection visit, the PPC management, staff and indeed the entire people of the Middle Belt resolutely stand with Governor Mutfwang as he takes on this historical assignment.

For it’s not by accident that destiny placed him here and at this moment in time, saddled with the burden of salvaging Gomwalk’s legacy.

That much he firmly declared in these words he wrote in the PPC visitors’ book: “I decided to visit this Legacy Building to see things for myself. It is unfortunate that the legacy of our founding father has been left in ruins.

“By the grace of God we shall put in our best efforts to ensure that the labour of our heroes past are not allowed to waste. Restoring J.D. Gomwalk House is therefore a task that must be done!

“The new management is showing great determination to restore THE NIGERIA STANDARD newspaper. Kudos.”

An editorial of The Nigeria Standard newspaper, Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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