By John Mgbe
APCON is an acronym for ?Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria?. It is a Federal Government regulatory agency set up to control advertising in all its aspects and ramifications in Nigeria. It was set up under Act 55 of 1988, as amended by Act 93 of 1992.APCON is the umbrella body which ensures decorum in the advertising profession as it co-ordinates the activities of a wide spectrum of advertising groups in Nigeria. Some of the groups which operate under the canopy and strict surveillance of APCON include advertising agencies, media independents, media professionals and the like. In order to inject sanity and discipline in the advertising profession, APCON has a number of departments which focus on several areas of its operations .One of such departments is the Advertising Standards Panel(ASP) which severely monitors all advertisements and any offensive ones are censured. In order to facilitate efficiency in its operations, the ASP has classified products into ?Controlled Products ? and ?General Goods and Services? . It is mandatory that vetting by the ASP must be carried out on all controlled products.
Fact is that APCON as a federal government regulatory agency is in the same family with other regulatory agencies in Nigeria. Such other regulatory agencies include the Consumer Protections Council,(CPC), the Nigerian Stock Exchange(NSE), the Standard Organization of Nigeria(SON), the National Agency for Foods Drugs and Administration Control(NAFDAC),the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC), the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria(CIBN), the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations(NIPR) and some others. This brief outline is an attempt to sensitize the reader on the relevance of the topic under discussion.
The crux of this report is to inform the people of Imo State in general and the executive and legislative arms of government in Imo State that the APCON South East Zonal Headquarters which has been in Owerri for over ten years was secretly and surreptitiously hijacked by some greedy cabal in Igbo nation and relocated to Onitsha in Anambra State. This heinous impunity by Imo haters took place about four months ago. It is deplorable that a few people in Igbo nation could gang up to convince the top management of APCON in Lagos to swiftly relocate a Federal Government institution out of Imo State to Anambra State. It is even more despicable and condemnable that those who perpetrated this guerilla act did not even have the courtesy or any modicum of respect and deference to the State Governor, Owelle Okorocha, who they know is a warrior on issues of conflict . I am thoroughly perplexed that any group could exhibit such impunity even under the watch of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, a politician every body knows will not be found wanting on issues of stoking or managing conflict. If any group could exhibit this temerarious impunity under the present combative regime of Governor Rochas Okorocha, then Ndimo are in for worse scenarios in the future.
I am therefore making a passionate appeal to the state Governor and the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Hon Ben Uwajumogu, to mobilize now and ensure that this intra-ethnic racial prejudice is redressed now. What has happened is a threat to the territorial integrity of Imo State under the able leadership of Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha. It will not augur well for the profile of Governor Okorocha political hagiographers to note that it was during the regime of Governor Okorocha that some groups used guerilla approach to a federal institution under cover of darkness and relocated it to Anambra State. This is not the kind of record an active and hyperactive governor like Owelle Rochas Okorocha will like to leave behind. I am appealing to Governor Okorocha to take necessary steps to invite the top management of APCON in Lagos to come and explain their reasons for engaging in this guerilla and covert approach to political engineering.
Perhaps, at this point, I need say that that I am an Associate Member of APCON and my membership is active. There are other indigenes of Imo State who as Fellows of the Council are ranking members in APCON. In this group are advertising /media professionals who have acquitted themselves creditably in the Mass Media Industry through their contribution to Advertising in particular and to the Mass Media Industry in general. It is reprehensible that those who perpetrated this scam of relocating APCON South East Zonal Headquarters from Owerri to Onitsha in Anambra State did not have the courtesy and deference to bring this agenda on the table for discussion at any of our monthly meetings. On the other hand, there was no time the Head Office of APCON Lagos convened a meeting to tell us either in a plenary session or through correspondence that there was a plan to pull APCON Zonal Office outside Imo State. It was a covert action which was executed under cover of hate, villainy and utter disdain and contempt to the integrity of Ndi Imo .
Imo State is one of the ranking States in Nigeria in general and in the South East in particular and any person who thinks he can stand on the head of Ndi Imo and get a balance has miscalculated. Such a group must be told in clear terms that they have made the wrong people; it?s a blunder too many. Anybody who thinks he can take advantage of the political face off between Imo State Government and Federal Government to use devious means to disposes Imo State of a federal institution that has been in Imo State for over ten years is reveling in a state of fantasy and phantasmagoria, not when we have a State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who is a warrior and who can take risks to ensure that nobody takes any action that will shortchange the territorial integrity of the State of Imo. It is reprehensible and cowardly that those who perpetrated this heinous crime did not have the simple courtesy to apprise the State Governor or even the supervising Commissioner that they were having some challenges in their continuous stay and that such challenges if not redressed might culminate in their relocation to a comfort zone in Anambra State. I am confident that if the intervention of the State Governor, the appropriate Commissioner, or even members of the APCON was solicited, efforts would have been made to avert a pullout from Imo State.
It is pertinent to state that a couple of years ago, the Zonal Headquarter of the Consumer Protections Council(CPC) was zoned to Anambra State against the overriding facts that favoured Imo State. At that time Imo State CPC had won the award of the most effective in the South East Zone. That was in the era when the State Chairman of Imo CPC was Hon Ikegwuruka from Ohaji/Egbema LGA. In a normal situation, the Zonal office of CPC should have been built in Owerri, but they used self-help to zone it to Awka because the then Chairman of CPC is from Anambra State. In the same vein, Professor Dora Akunyili built a state of the art Laboratory complex in Awka for the services of NAFDAC when she was the Director General(DG) of NAFDAC. Professor Chukwuma Soludo built an exotic and modern Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies in Anambra State. The centre which was built in his capacity as the then Central Bank Governor has done so much in empowering the people of Anambra State. Our politicians in Imo State have not attracted such federal largesse to Imo State, yet the only one ( the APCON zonal office) which was facilitated by the Late May Nzeribe who hailed from Oguta LGA is being hijacked to Anambra State. When he was on this planet, May Nzeribe was the face of Adverting in Nigeria, hence he was able to facilitate the location of the zonal office of APCON to Owerri. But today, those he left behind have ganged up to kill the APCON Zonal office in Owerri within just one year of May Nzeribe?s transition, even when they know full well that the APCON Zonal office in Owerri is a baby of the Late May Nzeribe who was the arrow head of advertising in Nigeria. In spite of everything, I am convinced that the top management of APCON in Lagos might have acted in good faith based on the wrong information presented to them by the cabal from the Old Anambra Axis who were desperate to sabotage and undermine Imo State. It is my hope that once the State Governor and the Speaker of the State Assembly as well as other prominent politicians in Imo State in the National Assembly intervene, the EXCO of APCON will not hesitate to reverse the bad decision.
I wish to draw attention to the fact that there is this unfortunate mindset that the mass media industry is about Journalism and the Nigerian Union of Journalists(NUJ).The inescapable fact is that the Mass Media industry is composed of a number of professions. The Mass Media industry is made up of the following professions:(1)Journalism; (2)Public Relations; (3)Broadcasting; (4) Advertising and (6)Book Publishing. So the NUJ is just a small fraction of the mass media industry. In fact, on a serious note, the NUJ is not even a professional body; it?s more of a trade union which caters for the welfare of journalists in their relationship with their employers. The NUJ is not as professionally grounded as the NIPR, APCON or The Institute of Mass Communication and Information Management of Nigeria((IMIM).The IMIM is a professional body of media professionals which was established under CAMA 1, CAP 59 of 1990. This clarification becomes necessary because one of the reasons given by the APCON zonal coordinator for pulling out of Imo State is that the government of Imo State recognizes only the NUJ as the Alpha and Omega in the mass media industry. The APCON is also not happy that the print and electronic media organizations in Imo State are not complying with stipulated regulations in regard to advertising code and as a regulatory agency, APCON will not operate in an environment where a large segment of the operators in the print and electronic media are lawless, reckless and exhibit a perfunctory approach to regulations. \
While this assertion may be true, the pertinent question is that APCON is merely exhibiting its lack of courage to play its role as a regulatory agency. After all, I am not aware that this issue was ever discussed in any of our meetings or even with the State Government. In any case, the essence of setting up a zonal office of APCON is to checkmate the impunity and professional recklessness in the industry. So, it is a dereliction of duty for the APCON to flee Imo State on the flimsy grounds that the there is a preponderance of aberrations to APCON regulations in Imo State. If so, how many of such violators of the APCON regulations were apprehended or sanctioned by the zonal office of APCON. Can one say in conscience that the operators in Anambra State are more law compliant than those in Imo State? The answer to this poser is not far to seek; it?s a case of ?quod ipsa loquitur?- a fact that speaks for itself.
It is pertinent to emphasize that in order to effectively regulate the industry, APCON has classified products into two groups: the controlled products and the general goods.
Controlled Products: The controlled products include foods, consumables, personal hygiene products, drinks, medicines(over the counter and consumer preparations) multivitamins and minerals, all advertising directed at children, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, home video promos, financial services(banks, insurance, discount houses and finance houses), religious revivals and conventions, political advertising, trado-medicine advertisements, ensuring effective services in telecommunication services such as service providers of GSM services as well as sundry consumer sales promotions of all categories. It is the responsibility of APCON to ensure that the above listed controlled products must be vetted and monitored by the Standards Advertising Panel(ASP)
General Goods: The products that fall under ?General Goods and Services? include Corporate ads of a general nature, Medical equipment, Automobiles, Electronics and electrical equipment, notices and financial statements. Others include congratulatory messages, in memoriam/obituaries, station promos(Radio/TV) Household items, property and Oil and Energy.
It is true that the operators in Imo State do not comply with laid down guidelines. This is no reason for APCON to flee Imo State even without throwing a punch or barking. It has no reason to shirk responsibility. The Nigerian Police have not abandoned Imo State or any state on the grounds of the incidence of criminalities. If members of the Nigerian military are still fighting the Boko Haram Group in the Boko Haram States, why should APCON shut down its office in Imo State on the pretext that there is lawlessness and noncompliance with guidelines? Members of the PDP who are desperate to become governors in 2015 must be talking about this guerilla attack on Imo State by agents of the federal Government. What plans do they have to redress this anomaly and bring back APCON Zonal office to Imo State.
Finally, I appeal to our governor, the irrepressible and indomitable Governor Rochas Okorocha to mobilize his bureaucracy now in order to bring back the Zonal office of APCON. Owelle is able and those who embarked on this campaign of humiliating Imo State will not be spared by His Excellency, Governor Rochas Okorocha. A stitch in time saves nine.