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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Emotions, Uncertainty as Anambra Govt Officially Shuts Down National Light Newspaper

 

By Izunna Okafor, Awka

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the state and left many disenchanted, the Anambra State Government, under the leadership of Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, has officially announced the ‘winding up’ of the cherished institution, the Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC).

Recall that rumors had been circulating for months about the closure, leaving the staff in a state of uncertainty and despair. Denials from the government had raised hopes, but those hopes were ultimately shattered when the news was confirmed by the Managing Director/Chief Executive members of the institution, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, in a solemn meeting with the staff at the Corporation’s Headquarters, on Tuesday July 25 2023, where it was officially announced to them that the institution would make its final existence on the last day of August 2023, according to a letter received from the government.

The fate of the dedicated and hardworking staff members hangs precariously in the balance. Many of them have spent their entire careers at the National Light, pouring their hearts and souls into their work. They are now confronted with an uncertain future in a country grappling with challenging economic realities. As they process the news, a mix of emotions engulfs them, ranging from shock and anger to fear and sadness.

The closure of National Light has struck a deep chord with the employees, who are not only losing their jobs but also losing a sense of belonging to a community that has been like a family to them for decades. The National Light Newspaper has been a beacon of intellectualism and a voice of the people for over 30 years, weathering storms and providing valuable insights to the citizens. Its Ka Ọ Dị Taa Igbo Newspaper, which is the only Igbo language newspaper in the world today, has contributed immensely in the preservation and promotion of the Igbo cultural values and heritage in every sense of, as could be seen in the number of national and international awards and national recognitions won by the newspaper.

National Light has been an institution that the staff were proud to be a part of, and now, its sudden demise leaves them questioning their worth and future prospects.

The letter from the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, received by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the institution, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, dated 21 July 2023, confirmed the government’s decision to “wind up” the activities of the Corporation. The reasons cited for the closure, including economic inviability and the Corporation becoming moribund, have left the staff feeling disillusioned and hurt at the same time. They had put their hearts into their work, which makes the closure appear like a betrayal of their dedication.

The four-paragraph letter with the ref. no. “ANS/SSG/SSD/136/T.1/146”, as was seen on the various notice boards of the organisation, was titled “RE: WINDING UP OF ANAMBRA NEWSPAPERS AND PRINTING CORPORATION (ANPC)”; and it reads:

“1. Sequel to ANSEC decision on 1 February, 2023 and confirmed on 8 February, 2023 to wind up the activities of the Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), I write to inform you that the Corporation now ceases to exist and should wind down all its activities.

“2. This decision of ANSEC is based on the fact that the Corporation has become moribund, economically unviable and no longer fit for purpose.

“3. The Head of Service will take other establishment measures as it relates to the staff and assets of your organisation for their proper disengagement and documentation.

“4. Accept my warmest regards.”

As the news spread like wildfire, the wider public also expressed their dismay and concern over the government’s decision. The National Light Newspaper has been an integral part of Anambra’s history, shaping opinions and documenting the state’s journey for decades. The closure leaves many pondering the government’s priorities, with some speculating that the grounds of the once-revered institution may be converted into an amusement park by the government. This has only added to the bitterness felt by the staff, as they question whether an amusement park holds greater value in the eyes of the government than a revered institution that has contributed so much to the state’s intellectual landscape.

Among the staff, there is a palpable sense of worry and anxiety about their future. With the economic situation of the country, job opportunities are scarce, and the prospect of starting afresh in a new field is daunting. They are unsure about the true nature of the “disengagement” mentioned in the SSG’s letter and what it means for their severance packages and benefits. Though, another letter from the State Head of Service has provided some reassurance, promising to work it out with the staff, but uncertainty still lingers like a dark cloud over the National Light workers’ heads.

It is worthy to note that the closure of the National Light Newspaper is not merely the shutting down of a building or or the end of a business; it also represents the shattering of some dreams and the unraveling of lives. National Light and the institution’s legacy and history will forever be etched in the hearts of the staff, and the impact of its closure will be felt far beyond the pages of a newspaper. History and posterity will also remember Soludo as the Governor in whose tenure this National Light faded. ONYE ỌKỤ NYỤRỤ N’AKA YA MENYỤRỤ ỌKỤ.

Regrettably, the closure of the National Light Newspaper comes at a time when other states are actively making efforts to establish or revive their own newspapers. This stark contrast highlights the importance of having a state-owned print medium, not only as a source of information but also as a means of fostering intellectual growth, promoting local culture, and providing a platform for the voices of the people. Other states seem to have recognized this significance and are therefore making frantic efforts to keep their print media alive and thriving.

The absence of the National Light Newspaper will undoubtedly leave a void in the state’s media landscape and deprive the citizens of a well-established and respected source of information and one written and published in their native language. Forget not that the current motto of Anambra State “Light of the Nation” was coined from National Light. And this also raises questions about the government’s commitment to promoting intellectualism and preserving historical institutions that have served as the voice of the state for decades.

Furthermore, Governor Soludo’s reputation as a well-respected economist raises questions about his approach to the situation. During his tenure as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he earned a distinguished track record of economic achievements and innovative policies. Given this background, many wonder why he did not consider taking other necessary measures to revamp the National Light Newspaper and make it a profitable and economically viable venture, rather than resorting to its closure.

No doubt, Reviving the institution and implementing economic revival tools could have not only preserved its historical significance but also contributed to the growth of revenue in the state. A well-run newspaper has the potential to attract advertisers, increase readership, and stimulate economic activity in the region. By employing his economic expertise and strategic planning, Governor Soludo could have explored viable solutions to address the said financial challenges faced by the institution. Or, were National Light’s problem irredeemable? Was the shutting down and the dispersing of these flock of staff truly the best and most viable alternative?

Indeed, emotions are high as the staff of the National Light reminisce about the nostalgic and unforgettable moments they shared as a family. Beholding the walls of the office adorned with framed photographs that capture the newspaper’s remarkable journey over the years, reminds them of the impacts they had on the lives of the people they served.

As the workers struggle to brace for the uncertain road ahead, they hold on to the hope that their skills and dedication will find them new avenues to shine, even as they prepare to say the hard final goodbye to the once-great and heroic National Light.

National Light, a beloved organisation I would dearly miss.

Ya dịba…

Izunna Okafor

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