" ITREALMS: Nigeria, ACCE and AU observer status

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nigeria, ACCE and AU observer status

At the end of a recent four-day conference on Communication Education and Practice in Africa in Accra-Ghana, REMMY NWEKE reports that Nigeria is likely to drive the African Council on Communication Education (ACCE)’s desire for observer status at the African Union (AU).

As Nigeria made a mark into the Security Council of the United Nations, recently it brings to mind the role of Nigeria in the birth, rebirth and sustenance of several African visions including the African Council on Communication Education (ACCE) as well as its resuscitation in recent years.

ACCE is a professional Pan-African organization charged with the responsibility of promoting journalism, development of communication resources in Africa and creating awareness among African policy makers as well as planners on the role of communication in national development.

It is a non-profit-making, non-governmental organization and was formed since 1975 with funding and support from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Although at inception, ACCE acted as an association of Heads of Schools of Journalism and Communication on the African continent, but later transformed into the only regional organization of Africanist communication scholars and practitioners on the continent, with headquarters in Nairobi-Kenya, until the political crisis on the continent crept into its affairs.

Its activities over the years include communication research, training, workshops, seminars, documentation, in addition to publishing books, monographs, a journal (Africa Media Review), occasional papers, and on top of it a newsletter (Africom).

In July 1983, ACCE established the Institute for Communication Development and Research (ACCE/ICDR) whose main task is to implement the above activities.

However, at the 2009 conference of ACCE held at the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, with the theme, “Communication Education and Practice in Africa – A social contract for the 21st century?” Nigeria assumed the centre stage once again, almost from all the speakers and participants generally. Precisely, in excess of 80 persons that took part in the weeklong conference, over 65 were Nigerians; made up of diaspora members and a bulk resident in the country.

Speaking at the forum, a Sierra Leonean communications scholar, Prof. Cecil Blake, who is of the Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennyslvania, gave a footpath to the organization’s history in a piece, entitled “How we got to Accra, Ghana today from Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

While full of eulogies for Nigerian chapter of ACCE for keeping the hope of the organization alive despite the seeming crisis that rocked it since 2003, noting that this resulted in a call for a framework that would create structures to seek redress for the increasing difficulties faced by the council at both the governing and operational levels.

“Thanks primarily to the Nigerian chapter of ACCE; the council has continued to function at the national level, preserving, at least, its name. Signs of a protracted crisis for the council were detected at the Abuja convention. To compound the problem, however, the host country Nigeria manifested an intergenerational rift that became so apparent that it nearly marred the convention. The intergenerational rift required immediate attention,” he declared.

In view of this, Prof. Blake said, a peace and reconciliation committee was organized and thanks to its diligent work, the rift did not result in the collapse of the council at the national level, in addition to a council of elders formed and presided by himself among others.

He, however, prayed that ACCE will rise up with the latest meeting and position itself as the harbinger of ‘good’ as in moral communication, as the on-going to engage the African development problems with a strong and firm emphasis on African ethos and agency.

Also, Prof. Blake, sought the manifestation of African governance, the reduction of blatant corruption grafts and personal aggrandizement, the rule of law which is neither absent nor strange in African tradition and culture, but required the collective robust attention of ACCE members, stressing that Africa has a rich and lofty tradition of core principles that surpass even those enunciated by some outside the continent who are using African brightest brains to detect how to govern Africa.

Equally, one unique point that arose from that conference was the call made by a Nigerian communications guru, Prof. Alfred Opubor, who canvassed for African Union (AU) to offer ACCE an observer status to further strengthen the professional group and African continent particularly.

Prof. Opubor who is the Secretary-General, West African News-media and Development Centre (WANAD), said in his address to the ACCE-09 at the, last weekend, Prof. Opubor, said that the group should seek for an observer status in the continental meet for African leaders.

Additionally, he advised, that ACCE should partner with the private sectors to boost its viability on the continent so as to contribute its quota in bridging the digital communication gap between professionals and the ordinary citizens. He pointed out that this would facilitate experts within ACCE membership to communicate and impress the essence of the group and on repositioning of Africa through qualitative communications education on the continent’s leadership.

In her presentation at the occasion, Head, Department, Mass Communications, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Dr. (Mrs) Kate Azuka Omenugha, warned that the usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), especially mobile phones’ value added service otherwise known as Short Messaging Service (SMS) may erode the effort at inculcating into Nigerian students the right spelling of English words.

Speaking at the event which took place at the Centre for Africa Wetlands auditorium, University of Accra, Legon-Ghana, whilst dwelling on “Nigerian students’ use of information and communication technology – A blessing or a curse?” she applauded the easy acceptance of the benefits of ICT’s value added service, especially the usage of SMS on mobile phones, but stressed that to a large extent, mobile phones have escalated the absolute disregard during written class works, more so for spellings.

According to her, the use of abbreviations has created an impression of a ‘generation in a hurry,’ with the attendant distracting looks of the students, emphasizing that this regard has assumed notorious dimension with the sounds of mobile phones either ringing or playing music during class engagements.

“This is quite distracting in the class and over the years we have set punitive measures to erring students,” she said, noting that some lecturers has complained of students ringing them as late as 1am in order to take advantage of the ‘free air time’ offered by some of the popular telecommunications networks in Nigeria.

Additionally, she noted that one of the lecturers recently had to contend with some explanation to convince his wife that there was no love-lust between him and a female student who had the courage to call him up at the ‘unholy’ hour because of free air time to make an inquiry.

Omenugha equally decried the attitude of some students who chose to play computer games in the class or listen to music using their ear piece while lectures are going on, just as she disclosed that some students record answers in their phones and play back using the ear piece, both cleverly concealed.

Further, she condemned the spread of students downloading information from the internet such as dictionary among others and using same in class work without authorization.

“Some students given home works would simply download materials from the Net and submit the same to the lecturer. They do not care for plagiarism; neither do they bother with the synthesis of any read work,” she lamented.

Cautioning Nigerian students of the negative use of ICT, she added that this was not to say that they do not make positive use of ICT tools, highlighting that examining some of the students’ answer scripts have shown that they seem very immersed in the ‘language’ of emails and text messaging which is reflected in their scripts very often than not.

As ACCE members await the outcome of the Accra Committee, who says Nigeria is not making progress and making Africa proud, especially at the international scene and use of ICT in 21st century.

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