Mrs Ugonma Cokey, the Assistant Director, News, Voice of Nigeria was the reviewer of the media monitoring report, a publication of the Journalist for Christ (JFC) last week. Shortly after the programme, she spoke to Kemi Busari on the prospects of female journalists among other issues.
How has it been since you started?
I started with radio about 22 years ago and also did a bit on TV. It has been a very fruitful journey so far and I thank God for where I am today. Talking about challenges, I could remember a particular case of a program that will go on air by 6’0 clock and I was just given the signature tune by 1’0 clock. I have to think of what to talk about, begin to do my interviews and also produce the program all in that short period of time. It wasn’t easy because ordinarily that was not what I’m supposed to do; I’m not even in the department. But I told myself the program must not fail, I told myself I will not be penalized for not doing it so, I have to force myself to do things I shouldn’t have been able to do at that time and it helped. It improved my skills and to day I’m better for it.
In the media, there are few females who take on real journalism, what in your view accounts for this?
I’m not sure we have few females; I think we are looking at very few females at the top. In my organisation for instance we have more females but we have very few at the upper echelon especially publishers. We now have female editors which is a good one. I believe those that made it there worked hard and if others do the same, they are going to earn the same result. Its not easy, I need to say the truth. Sometimes, what takes a man two minutes to do, you have to use two hours to do it because a woman attends to so many things at a time and you have to prove that you can do better than him so you just have to put extra time and effort.
How can a female excel in the profession?
You have to assert yourself and know what you are doing. The first editor I worked with used to ask me a question; why are there no assistant directors here? She will always say she was looking forward to when the station will have a female assistant director. I used to tell her that I’m not ambitious; I just want to do my job. Today, that woman is a deputy director and we have several assistant directors in my department and many other departments. They should know what they are coming to face. Media job is not razzmatazz. It is beyond either fashion or entertainment that most editors push the females to. From day one, you should make up your mind that you want to be the best and that will translate to the stories you do.
Recently, there are many cases of rape and other female gender violence and the perpetrators going free. Is anything wrong with the judiciary?
It’s not totally about judiciary. First of all it’s about us. If a woman’s child is raped, what does she do? Does she report or cover it? Some women will say I don’t want to expose my child and cover it up. In such cases, there is no way it will even get to the judiciary. Secondly, even when you go to the police, the way they handle it is discouraging. Unfortunately sometimes, the rapist will go and settle and be released and the victim will be there suffering without help. The blame is from one point to another. Though there are lapses in the judiciary but with the rate of improvement, I’ m sure justice will always be upheld.
What is the role of the media in making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality?
If the media is not involved then it won’t work. As media people, we have to look at the objective and begin to create awareness about it otherwise we’ll just end up the same way with MDGs. we should also serve as watchdog, find out who is charge and what they are doing. Because if we just leave them, they probably won’t do anything but if we keep reporting that these are the expectations we have of them, they will be forced to do things.
As an analyst, how do you think Nigeria should face the challenges of climate change?
We have to look at simple things that affect us in the environment. There are some things I observe in the environment and I weep. For instance, you go on the way and you see vehicles with huge fumes and flames and nobody is doing anything about that. For me it is safety first, those vehicles should be off the road. Government should look for a way to ensure that some of these little things that affect us in the environment are fixed before we now start to say the big one which is climate change. If we are able to deal with these little issues, we will be able to handle climate change.