Thomas Jefferson, American founding father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and that country’s third president is famous for his philosophical pronouncement on free speech, access to information and the independence of the media. As American president, he will at all times, rather have a free press without a government than a government without a press.
Spirow Agnew, one time United States vice president, regarded journalists as “nattering nabob of negativism”.
Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s current President, thinks the media is too critical and antagonistic of government.
Perhaps all of them are right. The three political leaders must have spoken from varied perspectives; reflecting their different appreciations of the role of the media and men of the pen profession.
With the greatest respect to today’s guest speaker and all his comrades in arms who have put their lives on the line to keep Nigeria united, I dare say that the journalism profession parades the most patriotic, the most passionate and the most painstaking citizens desirous of making this country habitable, prosperous and truly great.
The newspaper business, no doubt, is a thankless one. With a very suspicious political class, a dwindling readership composed largely of pauperized elders and highly disinterested young people, going into that business is like deliberately opting to throw money into a bottomless pit. It takes a rare courage and sheer determination as exhibited in the past 16 months by the publisher and chairman of Blueprint Newspapers Limited.
Blueprint made its debut, as a weekly, in May, last year. Its preview edition appeared on the newsstands proclaiming a new beginning. Its creed or motto was stated as adherence to quality journalism; forthrightness, integrity and fearlessness. Indeed, the newspaper has been bold and fearless so far.
Mr. Chairman, let me borrow from the newspaper’s mission statement. It reads, in part, “Blueprint is committed to the tenets of democracy and the task of restoring hope to our lives as a nation. We endeavour to ensure that this news publication is well-produced, while adhering to high ethical and professional standards of the journalism profession.”
Has this newspaper discharged its self-assigned responsibilities? Mr. Chairman, eminent guest speaker, special guests, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt in my estimation that Blueprint has been faithful to its mission and vision. Indeed, the newspaper, with its insightful stories and numerous scoops has woken up the Northern intelligentsia and the entire Nigerian political class from their slumber.
At inception, the newspaper pledged to provide “a high readership market through its attractive content, ethical standard and creative layout.” It also promised to “appeal to a large section of readers.”
I am not privy to the circulation figures and the advertisement revenue of the newspaper. Mr. Chairman, my intelligence report indicates that Blueprint is available on the newsstands, Monday through Friday, in Port Harcourt, Abor Mbaise, Obolo Afor, Effurum, Ekpoma, Okiti Pupa, Oye Ekiti, Apomu, Omu Aran, Badagry, Ijebu Ode, Bacita, Kontagora, Kaura Namoda, Zango Kataf, Mubi, Nassarawa Eggon, Birni Kebbi, Oturpo, Lafia, Talata Mafara, Bama, Jalingo and Kuru among other major towns and cities across the country.
This wide readership must be the product of good packaging; creative engineering and a knack for digging out people-oriented stories; stories which affect and influence the lives of the people. Indeed, human angle stories crafted to wake up the ordinary, struggling Nigerians from slumber and wipe the cobwebs from their eyes.
Besides strong stories on Politics and the Economy, Blueprint has a special menu for the reader every day of the week. On Monday it has Professions, Media and Agriculture. On Tuesday it serves Property, Environment and Motoring. Wednesday, we ride on the Boulevard, and get updates on Energy and ICT. Thursday, it’s the world of Women, Places and our Health. And we say thank God it’s Friday with Celebrity Gist, Art, Books, Education and Tourism.
Mr. Chairman, it takes a rare courage for the newspaper to appear daily on the stands after barely four months in operation. That was in September, last year. But we recall that within two months of publishing, the newspaper took giant strides in print journalism, breaking exclusive stories, one after the other. Specifically in issue No 7, June 26, 2011, it revealed the face of the suicide bomber who attacked the Nigerian Police Headquarters ten days earlier. The newspaper had a vivid description of Mohammed Manga, his family background and the car he used. While other newspapers were rehashing the story from the police, Blueprint served an insightful menu, giving not only the meat but also the bone and the bone marrow of the story.
As we say in the newsroom, the story was well-rounded and actually provided enough lead for the government and the security agencies to understand the Boko Haram debacle and plan how to tackle it.
I recall vividly that this particular edition, on the front page, had a rider, and I quote: OVER 100 SUICIDE BOMBERS READY FOR ACTION. This is a remarkable fulfillment of the role of the media as the fourth estate of the realm.
Yet another major scoop accomplished by this young newspaper was published on September 5, last year. The FACE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HOUSE BOMBER. It was exhaustive, insightful and thought-provoking. It was vintage Blueprint. The newspaper has also published well-investigated, development-oriented stories. A few samples. The Search for Oil in the North. How Diplomatic Missions Enslave Nigerians. The Poisonous Ponds of Zamfara and The Illegal Public Service Institute in Kubwa, Abuja.
In its quest to promote good governance, it has exposed dirty official and private linens in high and low places. No doubt, the avid readers of Blueprint, like the guest speaker, have had good value for their money with the thought-provoking interviews, political and business reports and analyses; breezy and human-angle stories on education, health, entertainment, family life, and sports.
To the managers, editors, reporters, and production hands at BLUEPRINT, I say kudos for your amazing performance within one year. It is my sincere wish that all those gathered here today will continue to identify with and support this newspaper in the interest of all of us and to the greater glory of a united, prosperous and peaceful country.
On this note, let me leave you with the wise counsel of Thomas Jefferson: Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe. Mr. Chairman, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let us all continue to patronize BLUEPRINT. I thank you all.