By Kingsley Anaroke
The maritime media, last week, received another unsightly bashing from Princess Ronke Kosoko at the just concluded Stakeholders’ Roundtable on Advancing Sustainable Development in Nigeria’s Marine and Blue Economy, organized by Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy. It was a troll that reminds one of the usual spectacle at events. She happens to be one of the key facilitators of the event.
This presupposes that some people are still stuck with the ages-long gross ignorance and unyielding media phobia which should have given way for the pervading dynamism and social acceptance for better human and information management system.
I recall with sobering feeling the formative years of the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding In Nigeria(CRFFN)when I aided the initiation and facilitation of a major workshop in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
At the event, one of the invited resource persons took hold of the microphone and announced that the press should leave the hall. It was very unnerving. I and another colleague present and seated beside me wondered what secret he wanted to divulge that called for such segregation considered an insult. He stole a look at my direction with a subsumed guilt, obviously expressing that he wanted me out too. He went further to expose his ignorance when he echoed,” I want only the stakeholders here!” Who are indeed these stakeholders? And what makes one a stakeholder? I wondered if he understood what stakeholders’ mapping means.
I was struck with surprise stuck, wondering what secret was left unheard of the budding CRFFN and the disheveled freight forwarding industry, we came to fix. I thought of what he wanted to achieve if not just a chase for a vein glory and perhaps a fulfilment in emptiness spurred by lack of self- esteem or lack of confidence in what he was about to spew.
Some people indeed, talk off the radar sometimes in deep ignorance. But don’t forget, the same press people broached the need for the workshop and initiated the introductory meetings.
Without sounding immodest, I think that the only area in the maritime industry where the press is not yet rooted in is in ship ownership, building and repairs. I would like to be proved wrong. Many are also into the heart of maritime operation now and consulting in different areas for fees. They have also shown some strength in the academia while reporting and researching the maritime industry with strings of Ph.Ds and associate professorship. So, when you choose to define stakeholders as being “Critical” the maritime press falls into that tag.
It is a grandiose self-deceit for self-delusional stakeholders to think they have secret information to hide from the media. There is no secret to hide or discuss behind the press. Smart people entrust professional secrets with the press and go to sleep with promises of non-disclosure.
A journalist is under obligation to preserve the secret for as long as the owner retains the right over it. And the violation of this obligation is a sin against justice and charity because it was shared on the accepted understanding that it will be conserved by the journalist in the position or office of trust with the owner of the secret. Consequently, the secret is often identified with the trustee in event of leakage. No journalist under obligation will fritter his or her reputation or relationships with people away by violating the implicit or overt understanding.
It is against this background that many journalists took exception to the three-fold humiliation of the press at the stakeholders’ roundtable last week by Princess Kosoko. The first, was asking the media to leave the hall and get registered outside after they had all been seated as well as vacating their seats for stakeholders when it seemed more guests arrived, while the third was ordering them out of the hall to underscore the secrecy and importance of the emerging discourse session.
There was absolutely no need for these theatrics especially when she would later acknowledge that she had kept 50 invitation cards for the press in a media manager’s care for accreditation. “I invited 50 media people and I have their tag.” She owned up.
These actions were demeaning and scornfully opprobrious, to say the least. The consequential outburst in tacit condemnation of these irritable excesses by the audience spoke volume of the deliberate slight of the maritime media. Surprisingly, Ronke left no remorse behind by being apologetic. Could it be that she meant, ‘You guys can go to hell?”
The maritime media demand an unreserved apology from Ronke for undermining their profession and persons. It is too early to begin to create a divided house for the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, who is determined to leave footprints of achievements behind.
While I least expected this from Ronke who has used the media for her event management many times and fought serial battles of her life in the maritime industry, one wonders how the inefficiency of the organizers in the guests’ registration; number of seats to guests occupancy and absence of professional ushers to manage the sitting of guests were associated with the media that they had to suffer unwarranted humiliation. Could that be a case of transferred aggression?
Princess Ronke Kosoko was on the loose at the event, perhaps propped by a staccato of pre-event disorientation, bitterness, bad-blood and rancor with the disposition for vengeance, showiness and taste for change.
Of the truth, Ronke is a badly bruised damsel created and hardened by the rampant rapism in the maritime industry where dog eats dog. This scenario is a painful reincarnation of Thomas Hobbes state of nature where might was right, life was brutish, nasty, solitary and short.
I listened to the post-event viral 30-minute voice note made by our Princess and felt that it was dripping with unmoderated angst and unwarranted attack at people, mostly elders in the maritime industry. And as a friend, I felt she should have been more circumspect in her delivery of diatribe and vituperations irrespective of the degree of provocation.
The voice note x-rays her organizational strength; power of connection even in President Bola Tinubu’s administration ; how much efforts were put in organizing the stakeholders’ roundtable and of course, the loose ends of the event’s thread.
However, the content of the voice note brought to fore the brazen forests of absurdities that eclipse and retard growth in the maritime sector over the years, with the compelling compulsion for change.
In her acerbic and savage cynicism, Ronke called out names alleging betrayal of trust and age as well as confidence reposed in them in the industry.
“I am aware that people are saying I am fighting everybody. Anybody I have ever fought in my life should come and say this is why Ronke fought them, except for Engr. Greg Ogbeifun and the industry knows why and I have my personal reasons.
“Many stakeholders invited by the Minister did not express interest to attend and help our planning but they came and expected to be attended to. They gate-crashed and went in their numbers to occupy the front seats and tables. When we say the country should work, the same people who say the country should work should not be unruly. These people should grow up. All the managing directors of the multinational companies that expressed interest to attend, are these people bigger than them? I did not receive expression of interest from Olisa Agbakoba , Ify Akerele or the others that came and were shouting outside. Chief Isaac Jolapomo came without expression of interest but he came with ten people and occupied the front seats. Is it that they did not know Ronke’s number? If the heads of agencies and others come are they supposed to sit at the back?
“You plan with numbers and the hotel needs to know the number of people to prepare food ahead. I know everybody and I reached everybody. It does not have anything to do with the office of the minister not planning or poor planning. It is the protocol everywhere that when you are having a public event and hosting a personality as the minister you should know who should be walking into the room and how things should be structured.
“Is it until the Minister is attacked? Who takes responsibility if anything goes wrong? They choose to do their thing their own way and when it is not working they begin to cry like babies in pampers! This unruly behavior in this cantankerous industry has to stop. They have done dirty politicking for three to four decades but it is not working for them. Why can’t they take another approach?
“A lot of people complain about how Nigeria is not respected anywhere. How can Nigeria be respected when the people don’t respect themselves? You want respect but you do not respect yourself. All I know is that Nigeria will change but many will not be able to function in that new Nigeria.
“All the people calling themselves shipowners, government should ask them their registry of ships. Let them go globally and bring billions of dollars, government knows what to do. A ship owner that cannot bring one million naira out will insist they must disburse Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund(CVFF) now and then begin to play politics in the media.
She pigeon-holed the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-owners Association(NISA) for assault and this has elicited reactions from concerned industry stakeholders. A source in NISA alleged that her “Attack is not unconnected with NISA’s recent disclaimer of her person in the media over her quest to use the Nigeria Maritime Expo(NIMAREX) platform for personal gains. She had committed herself in China with NIMAREX without due process and approval. But upon insistence, the association disclaimed her”.
“To be more specific, since everybody wants to be mad, let us all be publicly mad so that the Minister can begin to ask the right questions, if that is what they want. NISA came and said they should be recognized. Are they the only ones there not recognized? NISA cried for nine years, saying Greg scattered their platform and I stayed two years, working back to back in Jolapomo’s house and revived it,”Ronke said.
Conscious of the crisis in NISA and the factions which she said everybody knows, she emphasized, “I did not invite NISA, I wrote Jolapomo. Did he express interest? I wanted to go and give him the invitation myself but I had a lot of work to do, so I sent it to his phone. I gave him the honour and privilege to say, Ronke, I will be coming with X,Y,Z. But he did not show interest. Did Gbolahon express interest? I knew Taiwo and Kola were suspended but Taiwo said they were not suspended from NISA when I called him from Abuja. The two groups came and said they wanted to take pictures with the Minister. Which one will I call? Which one should we follow? I drove to SOAN office and dropped the copy myself, did anybody call back?
“We had our reasons for everything we did at the event,” she justified all.
For many stakeholders, especially those whose egos were bruised by Ronke, her action may only find explanation in Lord Acton’s assertion. Lord Acton is a British historian of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who asserted that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. Succinctly rephrased,” Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Ronke, from her narrative now has power as a dice in her palms.
She is self-acclaimed to be rooted in Aso Rock, Ministries and the National Assembly to which she claims with glee. ”The Chairman, Senate Committee is my brother from Lagos, anybody who does not like it should go and commit suicide!”
Even at this, it is important to note that politicians hate to carry or condone extraneous baggage. Irrespective of how close they find a friend or brother, the moment the person becomes a liability that could cost them electoral chances or benefits they fling the person away.
The seeming Tom and Jerry atmosphere characterized by palpable hostility that prevailed at the event and the following disarming voice note betrayed the personality of the damsel Ronke. A stakeholder was quick to address her as “That saucy girl.”This is an impression, not befitting of a capacity builder.
However, power is transient. Recall that many of the elders today were very powerful yesterday.
These are men and women who are torch-bearers and called the shots with distinguished power brokers globally and locally years back and still pull influential strings with their pedigree. Their relevance is better appreciated in a relay-race extrapolation in the industry. They used to be young and vibrant but are gradually handing over the baton to younger ones who obviously lack their wisdom and the experience. It goes without mincing words that grey hair is not a curse.
In clear terms, the organizers of this controversial stakeholders’ roundtable failed to take responsibility for their mistakes. They should take it, own it and run with it! A good event planner does not need to have the accurate number of guests to make reservations and budgeting. Estimation is the key for better event planning. Were there no ushers and gate-minders to guide guests for accreditations and to seats? Were there no reservation tags on tables inside the hall? Why would the gate- minders allow more than the number of persons allowed per association or company to access the hall? The organizers should eat the humble pie and accept their inefficiency at the planning!
It is the opinion of many stakeholders that Ronke should be a better ambassador of the maritime industry and should tender apologies to all those she addressed with uncharitable terms in the hall and the audio outpouring.
In specifics, the press, Jolapomo, Agbakoba, Akerele,among others, deserve unreserved apology from Ronke. Anything short of this is a wanton display of arrogance and brave warriors do not win battles always. In Arrow of God, Chinue Achebe says,” We often stay in the house of a coward to look at the ruined abode of the brave man.”