By Chido Nwakanma
Opportunity met preparation and would lead to success in Enugu State when during the past week Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi appointed a professional in the first ranks, Ogbuagu Anikwe, to run the Ministry of Information.
Anikwe is the proverbial square peg for the square hole. He has apposite education, expertise, experience and exposure to serve Enugu State in the exalted seat of commissioner. He also has one of the most important attributes for leadership: a high quotient in emotional and social intelligence.
My testimony of 32-years of interaction is that Robert Ogbuagu Anikwe is the kind of professional most suitable to manage public communication in these complex times. He understands the necessity for communication, information, education and citizen mobilisation for values and positive ends.
Over a 30-year period, he had a well-rounded experience as a reporter, line editor, editor, general manager and chief executive/editor-in-chief of influential national media (newspaper, online, and radio). He has formal training and specialization in public policy analysis and human resource management (from the University of Lagos), as well as media and marketing communications from the Pan-Atlantic University (PAU), Lagos.
Anikwe is at home with the socio-political environment of reforms projects in Nigeria, serving on various World Bank communication efforts at Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Ministry of Power as well as on the World Bank Economic Reforms and Governance Project in Ondo State and Kogi State. Ondo and Kogi states? Yes, because it was merit-driven.
Leadership comes naturally to Bob Anikwe. He led his class in Mass Communication when the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu ranked as one of the foremost citadels for communication training. IMT had on its faculty icons such as Onwuchekwa Jemie, and David Edeani, both now professors as well as the first female to earn a professorship in Mass Communication in Nigeria, Stella Okunna, and the late Prof Ike Nwosu. He gained production experience on the copy desk of the Satellite when it ranked as one of the foremost papers in the land. In our field, production gives a more rounded exposure and understanding of why, when, where, what and how.
He obtained a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Lagos, another masters in Media and Communication from Pan Atlantic University and is concluding his PhD also at the Pan Atlantic University
He was leader of our Platoon 8 at the NYSC camp in Owo. We lived together as corps members in Akure, joyfully serving Mr J.T. Aiyegbayo for whom we both produced guidance books for primary schools in Mathematics (Anikwe) and English (Nwakanma). It did not take long for the management of The Guardian to recognise the capabilities of this journalist with an all-round perspective in the process and they made him News Editor, The Guardian on Sunday and News Editor of The Guardian.
He would later enter the pantheon as Editor of the venerable Daily Times in the turnaround period of Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo team. Thence to a rescue mission as Chief Operating Officer of The Post Express.
Ogbuagu has experience in strategic and public communication. He was in the team of the Office of Government Communication in the Presidency. He served to design and define a communication structure for the Federal Inland Revenue Service under the auspices of the World Bank. He was later in the Technical team on Communication for the Ministry of Power as Bart Nnaji worked to outline policy and processes for power.
His cross cutting experience includes managing radio as General Manager of Hot FM, Abuja and Owerri. He last served as chairman of the Editorial Board at BusinessDay with responsibility for business development in the Media2.0 era.
My friend Ogbuagu is usually understated, of a quiet demeanour and deep. No noise, no affectations, no show off. No time for the obsession with hedonism. He is a committed family man, husband to Umeshie and father to a clan of brilliant offspring!He is dependable and disciplined.
He led our cultural rebranding in our Akure days. Filled with the energy and idealism of youth in NYSC, we made our received English names secondary to our indigenous ones. Robert or Bob changed to Ogbuagu and I dropped Ben for Chidorum. He articulated our stand in an Op-Ed in The Guardian, when appearing on that platform was an honour.
Enugu State and Igboland need professionals who can apply communication strategically for mobilisation, engagement, socialisation, integration, entertainment and cultural promotion. It needs one who understands that the remit of the Ministry of Communication is not merely press agentry or speaking for the Governor but putting in place structures, processes and actions to provide effective two-way communication between the State and all its stakeholders. Anikwe understands development and policy communication as well as its market-oriented variant and the nuances.
There are many challenges, including confusion among citizens on what to believe, the challenge to the legitimacy of governments in the region, external threats and internal division. If any man can cut through the clutter and verbiage, it is the cerebral Obuagu Robert Anikwe. There is excitement, acclamation and great expectations. Go, forth, my brother. Deliver, as usual.