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Promoting Good Governance.

The IPI World Congress and Nigeria’s diversity problem

BETWEEN the 21st and 23rd of June, 2018, the International Press Institute (IPI) held its annual World Congress in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. With the theme “Why Good Journalism Matters”, the World Congress sought to affirm the indispensable role of quality media in building strong societies.

The program, in keeping with the theme of the congress, offered a wide array of conversations, workshops and plenary sessions. Each program was anchored by journalists who are experts in their field. There were also galas, award ceremonies and dinners, which provided a downtime for the attendees.

However, the theme and platform only served as a stark backdrop to how far Nigeria is from the main goal of using her media to build a strong society. Her myopic view of diversity and inclusivity were shown up on world stage, but not only that, it had a negative impact on the manner in which the congress was run.

On Thursday, the 21st of June, at the Opening Ceremony held at Aso Rock, not only did the program start over one hour after schedule, forcing the organizers to shift events around, but the “Conversation with the Government of Nigeria”, anchored by John Momoh was marred by the poor quality of microphones used during the event. The audience could barely hear the conversation between John Momoh and the ministers; Lai Mohammed, Folakemi Adeosun, Okey Enelamah and Abdulrahman Dambazau. Things did not improve even when the president, Mohammadu Buhari was giving the welcome speech. Lateness and poor sound system became the hallmark of every plenary session after the first one at Aso Rock.

There was also a problem with the distribution of program materials, which were eventually given to people from outside the country, well-known editors and journalists, and a few Nigerian participants with the ‘right’ connection.

One of the workshops held during the IPI World Congress was titled “Gender Hack: What Change can I Bring?” which was handled by Free Press Unlimited. On the panel were Roukaya Kasenally, Bethel Tsegaye, Motunrayo Alaka, Gwen Lister and Lekan Otufodunrin.

During the workshop a parallel session was also taking place, “Under Press(ure): Covering Natural Resources and the Extractive Sector”, (Martha Steffens, Oludotun Babayemi, Umaru Fofana and Khadija Sharife). Although well attended, these two parallel sessions were the perfect portrayal of the gender imbalance that characterises both the Nigerian public and private sectors.

The Gender Hack session was mostly attended by women, with a sprinkling of men, while the session on the Natural Resources and Extractive Sector was attended exclusively by men, although two of the panelists were women.

The question is: are women not smart enough to understand the technicalities of the extractive sector? Or as one participant cracked, “maybe the money is too much for women.”

In a conference that had over 150 attendees from all over the world, and 105 participants from Nigeria, only 22 of the Nigerian participants were women, and of this the number of people below the age of 35 was lower still.

Motunrayo Alaka, one of the panelists on the Gender Hack session, presented data supporting the fact that in media houses across Nigeria, there are hardly women in management positions or in the boardrooms. The glass ceiling makes an appearance once they cross to mid-managerial positions. This is actually a reflection of what is happening across the public and private sectors in Nigeria. Women and young people are dismissed as unimportant and gender roles enforced.

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