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CASE BACKGROUND: According to the Students’ Union Constitution, as reviewed in the 1998/1999 Session, the Public Relations Officer “shall be the Chairman of the Press Club of the Union.” Repeatedly, different PROs of the Union have all tried in the past to sustain or revive the Students’ Union Press Club to varying degrees of success. Today, the Press Club is nothing but an object of fantasy whose existence is relegated to a mere abstract entity wearing the coat of black ink on paper. But the current PRO, Alayande Ayantola is determined to bring it back to life with big names in the world of campus journalism. UCJ Political Editor, Ojo Aderemi is rumoured to be at the helm of affairs.

IT IS NECESSARY, AS LONG AS…

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Only a wicked man frowns at the cry of a new-born baby” – African Aphorism.

The issue of the Students’ Union Press Club is one which has already begun to create some form of bad blood between the Students’ Union executives and the Union of Campus Journalists. To a layman, the dispute seems unfounded. After all, the UCJ and the SU Press Club should not be at odds. This is one of those cases when the layman is indeed right.
Journalism is all about truth and free speech. These two things are generally seen as the most important virtues in any given society. Consequently, press organisations all over campus get their due reverence and respect for upholding those crucial values. If this is so, we can conclude that it is a good thing -in fact it is very necessary- for the campus to have as many press organisations as possible. The more the merrier! What better motive is there than to encourage the resurrection of a club whose being is not only laudable but fully backed by the constitution?

I know, My Lords, one might shrug at the thought of the Students’ Union executive arm having its own press club, which seems to contradict the very idea of the press as “the fourth estate of the realm.” But, we all know of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which all have strong affiliations with the Federal Government, Oyo State Government and the Crown respectively. Does it now mean that the existence of these three media houses is a threat to the whole conception of the press?  No! Why then should we become guilty of double standard and claim that the SU Press Club is frivolous.

Before you are fed with lies about how the SU executives intend to use the club to their advantage, let me enlighten you, My Lords. The constitution does not give any executive member besides the PRO the direct power to influence the SU Press Club. Even then, Alayande Ayantola (the PRO) personally vowed during an informal meeting in which I was present, that he had no intention of exercising carte blanche power over the club and Ojo Aderemi would in fact be the one to call the shots most of the time. Trust me when I tell you that this is not a man to go back on his word, especially not when he has said that to a pressman with unlimited access to the student-populace. If this is not democracy at its best, what is?

While the SU Press Club’s existence is necessary, it also needs to be registered under the Union of Campus Journalists. Since the UCJ already exists to perform the same duties the SU Press Club sets out to do, it should at least be registered under it. If not, establishing an official affiliation will go a long way to ensure its continued existence. This would surely eliminate the problem of inconsistency with its publications and so on. If this is in place, I see no reason whatsoever as to why it should not be allowed to thrive.

As long as it works beneath the caring auspices of the PRO and UCJ, I am blind to how it is not to be welcomed with open arms. No one fears the birth of a child unless it is a threat to him or something he holds dear. No one with good will frown when a new baby is born. If we do not feel inadequate, why should we oppose the Students’ Union Press Club? I rest my case!

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IF IT IS NOT FRIVOLITY, WHAT IS?

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We shall act with good intentions, but at times we will be wrong. When we are, let us admit it and try to right the situation – Joe Paterno

As conflicts and proximate contradictions are what make life lively and worthy of living, it follows that oxymora are naturally a funny thing. Back in high school, it was no doubt my favourite figurative device and it still is. In fact, if you want to get a people to laugh, perhaps as a Master of Ceremony, simply throw them some morsels of it like ‘detailed summary’, ‘only choice’, ‘pretty ugly’, ‘found missing’, ‘original copies’ or ‘happily married’. It is because of my fondness for this device that the news which recently made my week was one which informed us of Julius Agwu’s plan to open a CHRISTIAN NIGHTCLUB at Lekki. “The Believer’s Lounge” will be the name he said. This reminded me of the so-called ‘Church of Satan’, and it has saturated me with hope that perhaps one day, we can even have virgin prostitutes, honest legislators and reverend cultists.

Milords, forgive me if I have digressed too much. However, that prelude is necessary if we must understand the amount of farcicality and silliness inherent in today’s subject matter – the Students’ Union Press Club. In my view, this is nothing but a commendable and novel addition to the long list of oxymora already in existence. As a matter of fact, the Students’ Union University of Ibadan should get a Nobel Prize in Literature for this mind-blowing invention.

Sarcasm asides, it is common knowledge that the concepts of ‘press’ and ‘politics’ (which the Students’ Union stands for) are like the yin and yang, oil and water and perhaps truth and manifestos. They can never mix. We cannot have politicians working under the same bedcover as journalists and vice versa. And similarly, we cannot have a person acting in both capacities at a single point in time. This is why we have the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. It is why a senator must resign if he accepts appointment as a Minister. And it is why the Students’ Union Press Club is not only frivolous but legally ridiculous. The Students’ Union, for me, is allowed to have media agents, information ministers or even propaganda warriors who are charged to tell its sides of stories. There’s absolutely no problem with that. But pressmen? Or the aforementioned disguised in journalistic fur? No way! Let us call a spade a spade Milords.

Moreover, we must also avert our consciousness to the fact that there is nothing the press club is claiming to provide which the Union of Campus Journalist, through her many local bodies, is not providing already on a much larger scale. In the circulated broadcast, applicants are promised improved writing skills, sharpened intellects and knowledge of how to articulate views on contemporary issues. For those who know how the UCJ operates and the programmes it organises, this is just a quintessential case of going to Sokoto (a far-flung place) to find what is in ones sokoto (pocket). Even if it is argued that the UCJ is a shadow of her former self, there is nothing wrong if the Students’ Union explores ways to correct this anomaly if they are truly sincere.

Also, it must be noted the present P.R. Officer of the Students’ Union presented grand plans during the electioneering not excluding the introduction of a Students Union Debate inter alia. Programmes need not just money but also time and will to survive. If as a Students Union leader, you plug your tentacles into too many things, you will either end up flopping in them or spilling over (in other words, getting dashed more time for aluta). We all know the story of Late Musa Yar’adua and his 7 cardinal points. Sadly today, both the agent and the agenda are no more. And so it is more than necessary that every office focuses on key issues while ignoring time-wasting and money-blowing frivolities.

Finally milords, I would like to quote from Albert Camus – the evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. The Public Relations Office, under whose jurisdiction the Press Club is, may have revived it in good faith and with honesty of intention. But then again you know what they say about the road to hell being paved, walled and roofed with grand intentions. I trust the literary titans in the Students’ Union know better than to take my words literally.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.

THE S.U. PRESS CLUB REVIVAL: A NECESSARY PHENOMENON OR FRIVOLITY?
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