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From Jijiwa to Worlu… change of baton at VON

New Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Sampson Ogbonda Worlu has assumed duty. A glance at him on his first day at VON suggests a man on a mission to consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors. Worlu is the fourth DG of VON since it was excised from the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime in 1990. The pioneer DG, Mallam Yaya Abubakar served from 1990 to 1998. Abubakar was succeeded by Mr. Taiwo Allimi who was DG from 1999 to 2004. Together the three former Directors-General have succeeded in elevating the status and operations of the radio station from its former domestic categorization to the international broadcasting station that it is today.

As expected, the new DG hit the ground running. On assumption of office on March 9, 2015, Worlu assured his Directors of his determination to take the corporation to higher pedestal by building on the achievements of his predecessors in office. He has visited the station’s broadcasting house in Ikoyi and its transmitting stations in Lugbe, Abuja and Ikorodu, Lagos State.

Worlu brings with him into VON intimidating academic record as well as distinguished public and private sectors experience that are expected to be brought to bear on his new assignment.

Worlu has a lot going for him as he assumes office as Director-General of VON. First, he has extensive international exposure to move the organization to greater heights. Added to this is the fact that Worlu is inheriting about 1,250 dedicated and well-trained professionals on who he could leverage for better performance. Worlu himself acknowledged this when, during his first visit to the transmitting station of the Corporation in Ikorodu, Lagos, described the staff there as capable of squeezing water out of rock.

Also, Worlu is coming into an international broadcasting station with state-of-the-art equipment. From the first-in-Africa 250 kw Thomcast AG Transmitter with rotatable antennae, to the high-tech studios among other ultra-modern equipment in its pool, VON has nothing to fear.

VON has a tradition of winning laurels, both local and international annually. Awards have been bequeathed to it by highly-rated domestic and international organizations in recognition of its contributions to media excellence. The Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), Red Ribbon Awards, Nigerian Broadcasters’ Awards, Nigerian Media Merit Awards (NMMA) and Celebrity Awards are some of the local honours and recognitions that VON has become accustomed to winning.

At VON, winning international awards such as from the Association of International Broadcasting (AIB), Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA), UNICEF International Children’s Day Broadcasting Awards (ICDB) and Iran Radio Festival Awards has become commonplace.

One of the tasks facing Worlu as he takes over the mantle of leadership at VON is how to sustain the winning streak. The new DG must ensure that he does not only sustain the tradition of winning national and international awards in broadcasting but also surpass his predecessors.

VON remains one of the most poorly funded government agencies in Nigeria even though it is the only broadcasting station statutorily mandated to broadcast outside the country by radio. The law establishing VON forbids it from engaging in commercial activities such as advertising. It depends solely on government subvention to carry out its operations.

It is ironic that the station was better funded under military regimes. In the last one and a half decades or so, funding has been coming in trickles if they came at all. Year after year it has become increasingly difficult for the corporation to settle staff claims, utility bills and suppliers as a result of inadequate funding.

Also, VON remains one of the few federal government’s agencies that are yet to relocate its major operations to Abuja, the country’s capital in line with government’s directive. Its operations are still largely based in Lagos while its headquarters is located in Radio House, Abuja with the FRCN as its landlord. The tasks of constructing a befitting corporate headquarters for VON and moving its major operations to the federal capital as done by other Federal Government-owned media organizations such as FRCN, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) rest on Worlu’s shoulders.

Born on August 28, 1960, Worlu hails from Choba in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. He holds a first class degree in Political Science and Administration from the University of Port Harcourt. He also studied Business Leadership at the University of South Africa, Pretoria and attended Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Academy, Lagos where he studied Diplomacy and International Relations.

The new Director-General of VON is a seasoned diplomat and administrator. He served as Desk Officer/Second Secretary (Information and Consular Matters) at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, China from 1989 to 1992. He also served as Desk Officer/Special Analyst on Southern African Affairs before being promoted to First Secretary, Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 1998.

Later in his career, Worlu became the Speech Writer and Head, Public Relations in the Office of the First Lady of Nigeria from the beginning of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 1999 to 2003.

Worlu was Minister-Plenipotentiary (In charge of Consular and Information Matters), Embassy of Nigeria in Rome, Italy from 2005 to 2007. He had earlier served in the same Embassy as Minister Counsellor from 2003 to 2005. Between 2007 and 2009 he was the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President in charge of matters related to National Economic Council, the National Council on Privatization, Inter-party Consultative Forum/Committee, the Steering Council of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) among other sundry issues.

He was Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Economic and Bi-National matters between 2009 and 2010 and later Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Economic and Strategic Matters from 2010 to 2011. He voluntarily retired from the civil service in May 2011 after 24 years of meritorious service and went into private business.

• Elewodalu is Deputy Director, News, Voice of Nigeria

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