By Ekemini Simon
For Patrick Albert, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Akwa Ibom State Council, the ancient city of Calabar, Cross River State means so many things to him.
Apart from the town being the headquarters of the then South Eastern State later rechristened Cross River of which the present Akwa Ibom was part of until 1987 State’s creation; Calabar is where Patrick Albert, got incubated as a journalist.
In an interaction with him today during the ongoing Zonal Executive Council meeting of NUJ – comprising the Six South-South States, held in Calabar, Cross River State, the Akwa Ibom State NUJ Chairman revealed what many pundits may describe as a venture into his memoir.
The Chairman noted that visiting Calabar for a significant NUJ event brings to him reminiscences on his beginning in the journalism profession as the ancient city was not just the place he had his internship in journalism but also the place where he came to be known as Patrick Albert.
He stated “After I got admission into the Institute of Mass Communication and Technology, Jos, Plateau State; the proprietor was Dr. Onyero Mgbejume, a renowned Mass Communication teacher in the country.
“I first went to the school for a Proficiency Certificate Programme and later National Diploma, it came to a time for my internship and I went to the Nigerian Chronicle, Calabar. The newspaper was very popular and reputed in the country.
“I gave myself diligently to the practical aspect of what I learnt at School. The Institute, IMCT, was quite known because of the credentials of Dr. Mgbejume. I worked hard discerning the nitty-gritty of the profession and my passion for journalism was very obvious.
“At Nigerian Chronicle, I was lucky to meet very established hands and names in the profession. There I met Nnamso Umoren, who was the News Editor in the Newspaper. Like the Editor-in-chief, Etim Anim and others, he picked great interest in me.
“You know my surname is Okon hence normally my name should be Patrick Okon. But since there was already another senior editorial staff with the name Patrick Okon, he, Nnamso, said I should be known by my first and middle name Patrick Albert for the sake of by-line identification and that was how I came to be known as Patrick Albert “.
Offering insight on journalism steps he has climbed since after his internship in Calabar, and on completion of the programme, he revealed that the Nigerian Chronicle later absorbed him into the practice. He practically started practice at 21 years. The newspaper later appointed him as Correspondent for Itu Local Government Area, which is the present day Ibiono Ibom and Itu LGAs, and he later switched over to The Pioneer Newspaper and then had posting to Kaduna State as City Editor in 1991.
He disclosed that just like many who have attained great feat today, his beginning was marked by some challenges which he was happy that he surmounted it.
“I sold off some of my properties to attend the Institute in 1984. My family members are alive to speak on my life and sojourn to the Institute of Mass Communication and Technology, my days as a reporter and my rise in the profession.
“I am proud of my background. I don’t despise my humble beginnings. I am glad that despite the humble beginning, God has blessed me with children trained in the best schools in America and Nigeria.
“My childhood was full of prophecies of greatness and I have seen the fulfilment right from my beginning here in Calabar and down to this time that Akwa Ibom journalists have given me their mandate to serve them as Chairman.”
“How did I get to know about the school? I had a family friend I used to go to his shop to read newspapers. One I day, my maternal uncle (mother’s brother) sent me to help his daughter – my first cousin, submit form at WAEC office in Calabar. I had left over from the transport money I was given by my uncle, so I bought a copy of a newspaper, yes National Concord. As I read from page to page I came across advertorial about the institute. I became interested. I applied for admission and had it posted a day after.
“Some weeks after, I got a reply and it was favourable. It was not easy to convince my parents to sojourn to Jos, Plateau State for the programme. The School fees, accommodation and feeding were discussed and it seemed a journey to Kilimanjaro Mountain. I braved it. As a young man, I got into some trading and was also involved in my brother’s business. I had to sell some properties I had accumulated – fridge, Motorcycle, etc.”
“I started the school in very difficult circumstances, but my parents after seeing my resoluteness came in to fund the programme until my successful completion. Today, I look back and I feel happy that I have served as President of Akwa Ibom Community in Kaduna, Personal Assistant to the then Governor Victor Attah and Governor Godswill Akpabio respectively as head of Press Affairs Department, Akwa Ibom Liaison Office, Abuja,” he added.
Elder Albert revealed that since the profession is dynamic, he has been adding to his reservoir of knowledge in the profession through retraining and furtherance of journalism programmes like the one started by him at a University, he prefers not to disclose for now.
He said that having reflected on the achievements he has recorded since he started the profession in Calabar, he remains grateful to God and Namnso Umoren, Parchi Umoh, Okon Osung, Unimke Nawa, Idongesit Ekpott, and late Etim Anim, Etop Williams and Ikpong Essien-Udom, those he said have helped to shape his career.
Albert charged upcoming journalists not to allow challenges which may come their way especially at the beginning of their career deter them, rather should work hard on developing their skills as that will give them the opportunity to soar higher.
His story and accomplishments fit the scriptures as recorded in Proverb 22:29 thus; “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings…”