Saturday, 17 May 2014

“How The Political elites killed Media Business in Nigeria”----THE MOMENT Publisher, Moffat Ekoriko + Reveals the inspiring story of his life as a career journalist/Media Entrepreneur + The untold secret of his Publishing deal with Gov Akpabio

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GDA and Moffat celebrates a copy of THE MOMENT
 The Prelude
Although when his pet project The Moment Newspaper birthed across Nigeria in the month of January 2011, tongues wagged about his personality and the likely sponsor of his project. In a country where nothing ever happen without insinuations running riot; The Moment Newspaper instantly became the target of several opinions in high and low places.
To some, the paper was a ‘kill and go’ project meant to help push the presidential project of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan who was at the peak of his campaign for re-election into power at the time. The News paper was largely seen as an agenda setting platform for some Niger-Delta political jingoists. Again, when many saw the kind of editorial that was emanating from the paper, they deviated and said it was a south-south voice. What they meant actually is that the paper is being promoted and sponsored by some South-South governors. However, the most prominent man on the list of possible owners of The Moment Newspaper became that of Mr. God’swill Akpabio the executive Governor of Akwa Ibom state—South-South Nigeria. It was alleged that he is the governor bank rolling the newspaper and that opinion nearly held waters. But few months into the experiment, the newspaper went daily and as if that was the only thing needed for the over-blown balloon to blow off, the paper soon went to rest in the later part of 2012 with no official reason for the abrupt stoppage of the publication.  Few months before his brand went off the newsstand, asabeafrika met with the face behind the short-lived project which took Nigeria by storm. The dandy publisher, Moffat Ekoriko told this blog some of the challenges he was facing as a first time media entrepreneur on that scale in Nigeria and what the future held for the publication. In a 2 hours explosive encounter inside his posh Ogudu GRA, Lagos—South West Nigeria office, Mr. Ekoriko, a media entrepreneur of over two decade experience told asabeafrika some of the factors that  makes publishing in Nigeria a tasking passion and why the game is not always for the professionals but money back politician with no record in media entrepreneurship.  Although Moffat dissuaded the opinion that his new publication was owned by a South-South Governor but claimed to have founded it in conjunction  with some other investors. The interview which is breaking for the very first time on this blog is an interesting one---directly from our “Never Heard before Archive”.
Moffat.....'Our Media Sector can work if only we
have brilliant investment bankers'
My Name is Moffat Ekoriko
 The veteran journalist started with his name and resume “My name is Moffat Ekoriko. I am a journalist; I have been a journalist all my life. I come from Okanako in Akwa-Ibom state. I started my journalism career with The Nigerian Tide newspaper in Portharcourt in 1985. I also worked with Sunray Newspaper in Port Harcourt—Rivers State before I went to join Newswatch in 1993. I was with Newswatch till early 1996 when I left and joined Africa Today (under Kayode Soyinka). I was the first bureau editor they had in Lagos. I later left for overseas for studies; then I joined The Financial Times in 1998 and left in June 1999 to set up News Africa which is a Pan-Africa news magazine which covers the lifestyle of Africans in the Diaspora. News Africa is still running and in 2009, I teamed up with some investors to look at the idea of setting up a daily paper in Nigeria. We started operation sometimes in 2010 and went into the market on January 6, 2011. And three days ago, we became a daily newspaper. Education wise, I read mass communication at the Polytechnic of Calabar from 1983-1985. I was the best graduating student in my set. I left and went to work with Nigeria Tide. 
In 1989, I got admission to the federal polytechnic, Okoh, Anambra state to do my HND in Mass Communication. I left in 1991. I did my National Youth Service in Abeokuta with the 82 Artillery Brigade, Alamala. I finished in 1992, went back to The Nigerian Tide and then joined Sunray before Newswatch. In 1996, I got a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge as a press fellow. I was there for three months. I left Cambridge and came back to Nigeria. Then in 1997, I went back to England for a master degree in Communications studies at the University of Leeds. I finished from Leeds in 1998. All my life I have been a journalist, you can as well call me a media entrepreneur if you like. In 1995 I was the Nigeria National Merit Award journalist of the year. That same year was the year I also won the NUFFIELD Press fellowship which is the one that took me to undergo a program at The University of Cambridge. Family life; I am married with six children and three grand children. We wondered how a very cool looking guy like him was already a grand father, Moffat laughed before speaking further “I actually got married at 19, so I am really ground in the(marriage) institution. I have a twenty four years old daughter that has graduated me to the level of a grand dad”.

Me & Journalism
On why he chose journalism as a career, Moffat revealed to asabeafrika the motive behind his passion for the biro and paper profession “From the on set I have always seen journalism not as a career or a job. I have seen journalism more as an opportunity to build a better society, to make a contribution to society. That has had an impact in some ways because that is what has made me to stay in journalism. There was a time most of my colleagues were leaving for the oil companies, leaving for the banks as corporate affairs managers, I refused to leave. Refusing to leave wasn’t an easy decision because you are refusing to leave in those days to collect a salary of N2500 when by moving, you would have collected a salary of N250.000 every month. But I just believe that with journalism, the world is your theatre and you can use it to make positive change in the society. I believe so passionately in my country. I believe that Nigeria can work. I believe that the reason the country is not working is because we are not getting a few things right. And why are we not getting a few things right? It is because of the culture of impunity. People do things and they can get away with it. So, what journalism actually does is to afford us the opportunity to say ‘no, what are those things we can do right? What are the contributions we can make to foster the growth of the society?’, So, to me, journalism is not a career but a tool for positive change. I have always looked at it as an opportunity to effect change. But to what extent I can do that, I don’t know”.
GDA and Moffat poses with a copy of the newspaper
Why Journalism is dying in Nigeria
Moffat as a short term publisher saw some of the ills bedeviling his profession and he made his regrets known to asabeafrika “What has happened to journalism in Nigeria is that we have not been able to train and retain our best hands. I once went to an oil company and inside that oil company I discovered they had enough first class journalists to produce a first rate newspaper. The question is why did they leave journalism?. The answer is ‘who wouldn’t if you get peanuts at the end of the month?’. That peanut doesn’t even come and then you are offered a good life elsewhere. Even if you didn’t want to go, your wife will ask if they swear for you. So we have not been able to retain the good hands. And what that has done over time is that the Nigerian journalism has become demoralized. Because you are demoralized you can not also put in your best. Something else has also happened to Nigerian journalism. 
“if you are an editor in The Moment, I do not also expect you to be a public relations consultant to a state governor. Because there is no way you can combine both. You are either in public relations or you are in journalism. We have also said that if you are a journalist in The Moment we don’t want you to collect any advert for the newspaper because the moment you start doing that, your eyes will be on the advert and not on the story”.
For the past couple of years, we have not had many very professional newspapers. So, it is a matter of one politician having a political interest and setting up a political newspaper. So, what we have is that we have more political party’s newsletters masquerading as newspapers than we should really have newspapers because if you are a newspaper you can’t also be partisan; If I can only see good in PDP, the truth is I am not a newspaper. If I am a newspaper, I have to be objective and impartial in my views. That is what has happened. 
Now, when you set up a newspaper for a political purpose, it has to serve that purpose. So, the very professional newspapers like we used to have Daily Times of those days are no longer there. Now, you have few newspapers that are very professional and objective in their views. But in that same market, you have so many other newspapers tied to political and economic interest. That is the problem with journalism. And they will tell you, who pays the piper dictates the tune. So, the public itself has come to start losing faith and trust in the newspapers. And I always tell people that trust is like virginity, it is either you are a virgin or you are not one. Once you lose your virginity, you can not recover it back. Because of our alignment to political forces, we (media) are losing the trust of the public which we are supposed to serve. Now, your question was, “what are we doing to make a change?” What we are doing to change the trend is to say ‘ok, let’s run a very, very professional newspaper, a newspaper that runs on professional principles. Let us restore self confidence among the journalists we require; if you come here (The Moment) from the first day we ask you ‘what are the working tools you need?’ We try to make sure we make all that available for you. You are expected to take strict professional roles. 
The GDA displays a copy of the newspaper
In other words, if you are an editor in The Moment, I do not also expect you to be a public relations consultant to a state governor. Because there is no way you can combine both. You are either in public relations or you are in journalism. We have also said that if you are a journalist in The Moment we don’t want you to collect any advert for the newspaper because the moment you start doing that, your eyes will be on the advert and not on the story. We have our advert department. We have given them vehicles; we have given them everything they need. Journalists, face journalism. But if you expect so much from your journalist, you also have to deliver so much. So, what have we done?  We have decided that ‘ok, whatever happens in this organization, we can not have salary in arrears. That is the promise between us and our staff. At the end of every month, you collect your salary; you go home and sort out yourself. You come back and you can do the work. We have also invested in training; we bring in (media) trainers from the UK to train our journalists. We have done that almost four times now. One of them just left last weekend. We are saying that there is a global standard. 
There is best practice journalism, what we are having in Nigeria is not really there. So, by bringing our trainers we are able to impact new set of skills to our reporters. You might not see the impact immediately, but I tell you if you look at this paper in the next few months you will see how we are evolving. In fact if you read this newspaper three months ago, you won’t believe you are dealing with the same newspaper today. In summary, what we have done is to create a professional environment for the Nigerian journalist to be able to practice and excel. 
GDA meets Moffat....few hours after the interview session
The country I lived in, I mean the United Kingdom where I happened to live in for twelve years, the most influential person in that country after the prime minister is actually the BBC political editor. But if you are to ask who the most influential person in Nigeria is after the president, it is actually either the pastor of a church, or one business man or one politician. We can get there but to get there we have to put our house in order. The Nigerian journalist must start earning the respect of the society. The Nigerian journalist must start respecting himself. If you go for an assignment and a man at the end of the day gives you five thousand naira there is no way he can have respect for you. Because to him, the next story he reads in your newspaper was only published because somebody might have given you ten thousand naira. So, in otherwise, we have to go back to basis. And the basis is that, a journalist is objective. He must be objective. He must be impartial. He must be non partisan. If you are a partisan journalist, you can’t get it. It is like asking the devil to serve communion in the Catholic Church. I just don’t know how a journalist is a practitioner and at the same time a PR man to the group you are expected to peruse. He is also aligned to a particular political party. That is not the journalism I was thought and that is not the kind of journalism we want to practice in The Moment”.
Moffat Ekoriko....'The Media as a public
trust has been captured by the elites'
The Mob and the Revolution by Moffat Ekoriko
 As if we were clairvoyant enough to see what could happen to his experiment in few months time, this blog had asked Moffat if his voice was not going to be a lone one in the wilderness of media corruption that has eaten fat into Nigeria and this was his reply  “I will tell you my experience in life. Look, the mob has never led a revolution. The mob can follow after the revolution has started but it has never led one”. Asabeafrika  wanted to know what the Akwa Ibom born media entrepreneur had up sleeve that could make him survive where other more determined ones like Wole Olojede’s NEXT publication stumbled. But Moffat insisted that a revolution was not for the mob and ironically he was right. Hear him “Even the French revolution was instigated by a few people before the population joined. It will be difficult for you to get the mob to sit down and say ‘we are starting a revolution today’. What I am saying is that any attempt at change must start with one individual believing that change is possible. And that individual will convince others that change is possible; and a few others buying into the vision, that change is possible. And then the greatest-possible number of people now believes that change is possible. So, we are trying to say that with The Moment and that is why you don’t get to read a lot about us in the newspapers. I am not in the business of making noise. I am in the business of delivering on substance, in the business of change. We are doing something gradual and even among our journalists here; I am beginning to see the impact of what we have been trying to preach over the years. So, it is coming together”.
Moffat....'In Britain the most influential person after the
Prime Minister is the BBC Political editor, but in Nigeria it is a Pastor'
How I will change the media
On a second ground we equally asked Mr. Moffat who appeared austerely and spartanly like some one that will ever find it hard to break his bond; we asked if in the long run he will be able to keep the journalists in the news room in the face of a dwindling business modem faced with multi-faceted challenges like the invention of internet based media, heavy cost of production that resist to give immediate reward for productivity and dwindling sales coupled with low advert revenue. Good enough, the Publisher agreed with this blog that publishing was quite daunting in Nigeria but his ray of hope shone better than an early morning sun. Hear him speak “The business can work. Look at Punch, Punch is a very, very professional newspaper. You don’t hear that Punch is owing salaries; do you? You don’t hear that Guardian owes salaries, do you? In fact, in Punch they tell you ‘bring your advert and pay we will place your advert. If you don’t have money to pay, go away with your advert, we don’t want. And you still find advert in PUNCH”
Moffat.....'I don't have Governor Godswill
Akpabio's phone number'
Yes, Punch suffered but we can…
When we reminded Mr. Ekoriko that Punch has so many years of near liquidation and death to itself to reach that milestone of earning fat patronage in advert and print sale, Moffat boldly agreed again but not without his usual caveat emptor; hear him talk hard  “fine, It took years of pain. That is also a point in this business. If you can not do a long haul, don’t venture in to the media business. This is not a business for the short term. Media business is not trading. You know a trader buys three mobile phones for ten naira and he sells them for twelve naira and make a profit of two naira maybe between a month and goes his way. He may even buy more. In this business you have to plant a seed, nurture it, tend it, prune it and wait for it to germinate. And one day you can start plucking the fruit. And let me shock you; for you to go into media business, you must not be seeking profit. Let me put it this way, for you to be well, you need to run the business on strong professional motives. But if profit is your overriding motive, you will do better selling cars or even selling electronics. 
There must be something that is pushing you to journalism. In our own case, it is that passion for a better Nigeria. I tell my people I say this project is about Nigeria. It is not about profit. I know how to make money; smatter and faster ways to make money. It is not even about career. But we are trying to say that if other countries can work, this country can work. Nigeria can work. Do you know this country is not supposed to be in the position it is. We are where we are today because of something very simple---unrestrained greed. That is what is destroying Nigeria, that greed that has no query. A minister of works leaves office and you go to his bank account and you meet billions of Naira. The same billions meant to repair roads. This is the only country such a thing can triumph. If you listen to the corruption cases in the UK, we talk about something as little as five pounds. You went to church and you put five pounds in the box and you claim it as an expense. And so they say ‘how could you an MP (Member of The parliament) do that?. And you lose your position because of that. But in Nigeria, at a stage, the law makers sat down and cornered twenty-five percent of the entire federal budgets for their own welfare and didn’t see anything wrong in it. They weren’t exposed by the journalists. The Nigerian journalists became blind. It took a Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (former CBN Governor) to wake Nigerians to say ‘look at what these guys are doing.  They are literally stealing from the pot’. That is the kind of practice our journalists indulge in and that is why the state of corruption is alarming”.
Moffat.....'Journalism will only work when we start seeing
it as a service rather then a career'
I am not afraid of fear
The London trained media entrepreneur spoke like someone who was ready to thread why angels feared to thread and maybe was equally ready to pay the obvious price for such? His answer again confirmed his optimism which unfortunately was short-lived “I don’t think the issue of being afraid for your life is there. If you have to be successful in life, the first thing to do is to be able to conquer the fear of fear. You can become a prisoner to fear. You are afraid of failure, you are afraid of death. You are afraid of being killed. You are afraid of loosing your friend, you are afraid of things not going your way. You are afraid of being disgraced tomorrow, you are afraid of humiliation, you are afraid of not being well again, you are afraid of falling. You are afraid of not being born again. So, if you want to be successful, the starting point is to be able to conquer that fear of fear itself because some of the things we are afraid of end like that at the end of the day. You may not die, you may not be poor. But because you have allowed fear to conquer you, then you become a prisoner of fear. So, I don’t think I have a fear for being able to practice an objective course”.

(Watch out for Part 2 of this exclusive titled “Governor Akpabio and the funding of The Moment Newspaper” to birth on this blog in 48 hours from now)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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