Nigerian journalists have a union, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) that, surprisingly, predates the country’s Independence. It was founded in 1955, five years before Nigeria broke away from its colonial masters. The trade union was conceptualised to be the umbrella body for all journalists. However, many journalists are not registered with it, largely because it is weak to protect their interest in an active sense, and also because it is too political. NUJ speaks for journalists often by issuing statements of protest against harassment of journalists, but can itself do little to stop it; its key officials in recent years hobnob with political office holders. Journalists aspiring for political offices often use NUJ as launchpad, the clearest example being Smart Adeyemi, former President of the union who was subsequently elected to the Senate for two consecutive terms between 2007 and 2015.
Higher up the career ladder is the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the association of the country’s gatekeepers. Like the NUJ, NGE is more like a pressure group, powerless to offer tangible protection to editors’ most pressing concern. Also, its arrowheads are too close for comfort with politicians. Again, like the NUJ, serving at the top of NGE is a passport to political appointments. Classic example: GarbaShehu and Femi Adesina, the two spokespersons of President Muhammadu Buhari, were NGE presidents — the former for 16 years, and the latter’s three-year reign truncated by his appointment as presidential spokesman.