OPINION!!! Ika Weekly Newspaper And A Catalyst For New Order—In the words of Ben Carson retired Director of Pediatrics Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital, and now a Washington Times Columnist and Fox News contributor, many people use the terms wisdom and knowledge interchangeably. They are, however, quite different, and have in no way confers the other.
Knowledge is familiarity with facts. The more knowledge one has, the more things one is capable of doing, but only with wisdom is one able to discern which of the many things they are capable of doing should be pursued and in what order.
Certainly, the above words/description fittingly captures the clarity of vision and singleness of purpose that set the stage for the advent of Ika Weekly Newspaper, a weekly tabloid published at Agbor in Delta State
Established in 1989, the Ika Weekly Newspaper which currently operates both print and online, is, for the purpose of clarity, a community newspaper based in Agbor, owned by the Ewuru, Ika South Local Government Area, born publisher, Steven Ekiri-Mekiriuwa Ashien, a former newspaper vendor/bookseller.
Among other objectives, the newspaper was birthed to disseminate across the world news/ information that is Ika nation-specific, act as a vehicle for the propagation and promotion of Ika culture and tradition while recognizing/celebrating Ika sons and daughters that demonstrate uncommon talent in their various fields of endeavors. The Newspaper’s interest/attention/focus was neither at war nor in conflict with any state, regional/provisional, or nationally owned Newspapers.
While the above information is important as it provides relevant direction for understanding the origin of the Newspaper, readers with critical minds may be tempted to put forward the following question; what is the kernel of this piece/ intervention? Why is the author fixated with a community newspaper and not even a national one, at this critical time when Nigeria as a country is going through the pangs of insecurity and the masses weakened by economic crunch?
One possible answer to the above questions is that aside from the fact that the Newspaper’s progress is a reflection of a leader’s search for new fields to increase the wealth, culture and socioeconomic well being of his people, Ika Weekly Newspaper’s odyssey, is laced with profound lessons to draw by the generality of mankind. Media professionals/industry on their part has enough insight to gain from how Ashien’s grappled with the problems of self-reinvention in order to keep the News organization afloat. Most superficially, similar to the knowledge of history which is useful to the scientist, the economist, or the student of literature or philosophy on the grounds that no science or art is static, the piece in a synoptic manner x-rays the account of problems faced by the publisher in his resolve to build the Newspaper House and how he set about solving those problems after pondering on them and the limited options available. To ignore or misstate this account could lead one to wonder in a dilemma.
Let’s take a detailed look at the particulars of the above claim.
Very fundamental is Ashien’s early consciousness/understanding that economic principles of wealth development is very important for the oppressed communities and will go a very long way towards liberating them from the influence of the elite class, even more, is education, he set out to use the media as a vehicle to educate, enlighten and socially influence his people.
Now, this is the first lesson arising from the ‘self-inflicted responsibility’ of educating the people. The task came in double folds. As he (the publisher) bothers to educate the people, he seizes the opportunity to educate himself and exit being educationally disadvantaged.
Says a commentator, the amazing contradiction is that, with little formal education, the man now embodies what it means to be educated. He has read more than the self-acclaimed educated people. His fascination with philosophy has guided his reading habit well. You can be forgiven for doubting his claim of lack of proper education when you consider his proven editing skill and publishing track records. For a man who claims as I remember it, to have started his career as a newspaper vendor in Warri, he has totally reinvented himself and has made his mark in the world of letters.
Before you hastily conclude that things became rosy from this point, wait till you cast a glance at the next paragraph.
But as it is a trademark of many media organizations across the world, 16 weeks of initial publications the newspaper left the newsstand- a factor attributable to macro and uncontrollable reasons.
With the collapse of this effort which Mr. Ashien had invested heavily, life again started to become very rough for him. Like many Nigerians at that time, the more he tried his hands on other ventures, the worst it became.
However, as a determined man who always thinks positively coupled with his love for education, he fell back on selling second-hand books, to the extent that he started traveling to Ghana to buy second-hand books which he was hawking from one higher institution in Nigeria to another.
The harder he tried, the more difficult things became.
At this time, Mr. Steve Ashien became virtually housebound, lonely, and desolate because finding money to travel out of Agbor became extremely difficult.
But as someone that understands that courage faces fear and masters it while cowardice represses fear, and is thereby mastered by it, he neither allowed himself to be overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life nor lost the will to live.
Rather, on one particular day in 2007, he did something theatrical.
He suddenly decided to go back to Ika Weekly Newspaper publishing. The surprising things about this decision were that at that time, Mr. Steve Ashien did not have any money to invest in his dream newspaper publishing.
Though a faith-based man who always put God first in all he does and whose habit of giving/generosity, many characterized as legendary. That notwithstanding, people who knew about his intention gave him neither the needed support nor a chance to succeed. They were skeptical about how possible it would be for him to do magic this time around.
But as native wisdom proclaims, ‘the protestation of the innocent chick does not prevent or stall the sacrifice. If anything, the protestations enriched the sacrifice and hasten its value and efficacy. Likewise, the flood of oppositions did not stop Mr. Steve Ashien from plunging into Ika Weekly Newspaper publication. Rather, such doubt and oppositions acted as a tonic. He prayed to God for direction and held on to honesty as his hardest currency while working night and day, sleeping on the floor of his office in order to ensure that the Newspaper hits the newsstand.
As luck will have it, help however came from a few people who were ready to report, highlight, and analyze the current affairs/events and topical issues happening in Ika land that was of interest to the people especially in the political and community leadership.
He promoted citizens/community-journalism.
Clearly, a bracing account particularly as the Newspaper has since then, remained uninterrupted at the newsstand for over years with workers salaries promptly and dutifully paid. Not even the dreaded outbreak of the Corona Virus pandemic which disrupted millions of businesses across the world could halt its publication.
Also alluring is the awareness that the organization has grown into other areas of interest. For example, it established the St. Steven’s Library of congress- a resource centre for research and documentation of critical information, and study of Ika history, people, culture, and tradition. However, this library is no longer functional but the knowledge impacted on the general public is still cherished till date.
Despite these achievements, Ashien has refused to be seen. Instead, he opts to function like a cameraman who records events/successes without getting noticed.
But there exists a difference, and that is the fact that even in his ‘hiding’, he remains not just a shining star but a source of inspiration to the youths, a good ambassador of Ika nation, and most importantly, a Catalyst for New Order. For its part, the newspaper has become a leading light reputed for filling the information gap in Ika Land.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;j[email protected]/08032725374
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