By Dr. Emeka Arinze and Daniel Ezeigwe
When the curtains are finally drawn on Governor Willie Obiano’s eight-year stellar administration in Anambra State, many of his aides and appointees who equally served Ndi Anambra would look back with immense pride. And when the roll call slices through the quiet Anambra air, Chief Uche Nworah, Ph.D, the managing director and chief executive officer (MD/CEO) of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), would be among the first to stand up to be counted. It is no surprise that he was among those that Gov. Obiano honoured on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, at the brand new International Convention Centre, Awka, with the second highest state honour, as Anambra State Distinguished Commander.
Gov. Obiano had previously in 2019 presented Nworah an “Award of Commendation” on behalf of Anambra State government for “dedication and sterling performance” as MD/CEO of ABS, the first public servant in Anambra to be so honoured.
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Nworah , who was a general manager in charge of outdoor advertising at Globacom, was appointed the MD/CEO of ABS in July, 2014, following a competitive nationwide recruitment process conducted by the Anambra State government.
At inception, he met an organization in steep decline, low staff morale due to long years of lack of promotion, mounting pension and gratuity arrears and other legacy debts, decayed broadcast equipment and infrastructure, low brand profile, etcetera.
Nworah was never fazed by the enormous challenges he faced. He had his sights on the goal, which was to reposition ABS and make it a competitive publicly-owned media not only in the South East but in Nigeria. He was also driven by the desire to leave his footsteps in the sands of time.
Nworah presented his work plan for the repositioning of ABS to Gov. Obiano and other members of the State Executive Council at a special session convened sometime in 2014 to chart the way forward for Anambra’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). His plans were promptly approved.
The governor, who was also in a hurry to achieve greater things in Anambra State, inaugurated a board of directors for ABS under the chairmanship of veteran broadcaster and public relations expert, Mr. Nnaemeka Maduegbuna. Nollywood legends, Pete Edochie and Bob-Manuel Udokwu, and Prof. Kate Omenugha are among those on the 10-man board of directors of the ABS.
With Nworah in the saddle as MD/CEO, and the board firmly in place, the journey for the repositioning of ABS began in ernest.
Nworah first secured the funding of a donor agency to organise a strategy session for management and staff. The session developed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for ABS as a brand. The implementation of the analysis began almost immediately with a radical change of the ABS brand identity. An exciting new logo was created, comparable to the logos of global media giants such as CNN, NBC, etcetera. A new slogan, “Hearbeat of the East,” was also created and adopted. This now resonates with Ndi Anambra. These brand repositioning activities did not cost ABS or the state government any money, as Nworah used his marketing communications industry contacts to secure those services pro-bono.
Shortly afterwards, the state government awarded the contract for the construction of a brand new 21st century radio and television complex, complete with the latest digital broadcast equipment. Having received the necessary approvals, Nworah championed the next phase of the repositioning of the ABS, and that was the refreshing and de-aging of the ABS workforce. Young new talents were brought in to help drive several of the projects and broadcasting activities.
The outcome was improved content and programmes production, and a can-do, bold, creative and fearless work attitude that only energetic young people could bring to the workplace.
Nworah and the ABS board approached the state government and made a case for staff promotion to be conducted. This hadn’t been done for over 10 years prior to his assumption of duty. At the same time, they secured the state government’s approval, which paid arrears of over N300 million gratuity, dating back over 25 years. These feats added smiles to the faces of both staff and ABS retirees, and gave the staff in particular hope to continue to do their best for the organisation.
Not one to always wait for the state government to fund its many activities, Nworah introduced several other privately-sponsored projects to help shore up the revenue profile of ABS. For example, he introduced the Miss Anambra Beauty Pageant, live music concerts, drama and comedy shows, partnering with corporate organisations. He made the annual ABS Christmas Carol and Awards more colourful, attracting top members of the society to the yearly awards.
Nworah leveraged a lot on his private sector contacts to arrange free training for ABS staff in Lagos, Abuja and other places. He also partnered with international media houses and donor agencies such as BBC, Ford Foundation, etc, who funded content production for ABS, and also sent some ABS staff on training to the New York Film Academy, Montana Film School, U.S.A, and London Film School.
It was under Dr. Nworah that ABS became a truly global media brand launching ABS on national satellite TV, Startimes Cable TV, and also ABS TV and Radio online. Now Ndi Anambra and others can watch ABS TV and listen to ABS radio from any part of the world. ABS today boasts of millions of followers on its different social media platforms. No other state-owned media in Nigeria can boast of such impressive social media traffic.
As a result, ABS under Dr. Nworah has won several industry awards for the quality of its broadcast contents. Many of the staff have also won individual awards.
Perhaps, one of the biggest legacies that Dr. Nworah will bequeath Ndi Anambra is the establishment of the ABS Film Academy. The Academy has trained over 300 students in film making and broadcast journalism since inception in 2018. It is currently training 230 students. According to Dr. Nworah, “This is our own way of getting young Ndi Anambra ready to meet the skills requirements of the emerging creative economy, and the 4th industrial revolution”.
Dr. Nworah also partnered Alkebulan Productions to set up the ABS Film Village, a marvel to behold in the ABS Awka premises, where epic Igbo movies and other productions will be shot.
The Film village will attract revenue to ABS and the state government.
The COVID-19 global health crises disrupted learning in Anambra and other places. However, Dr. Nworah and ABS partnered the Anambra State Ministry of Basic Education to launch the Anambra Teaching on Air programme which was broadcast on all ABS multimedia platforms. ABS was the first state owned media to do so. Other states later visited ABS to understudy the model. Both Dr. Nworah and ABS have been variously honoured for pioneering this innovative blended learning programme.
Dr. Nworah authored three books during his tenure as MD/CEO of ABS, the first which he co-edited with Dr. Emeka Arinze is ‘ABS Book of Commentaries’ published in 2017. They also co-edited the 2021 publication, ‘Governor Willie Obiano, Seven Years of Delivering Good Governance in Anambra State, 2014-2021’. In 2021, Nworah published the book, ‘Media Practice and Security Challenges In South East Nigeria’.
Dr. Nworah set up the ABS Abuja Bureau and proudly, ABS microphone is now seen proudly at major functions in Abuja. ABS is the only state government owned media operating in the federal capital territory. He also strengthened the Lagos and Nnewi offices, and proposed to set up other bureaus in Kaduna/Kano, Aba/Port Harcourt, London etc. Dr. Nworah said,”Ndi Anambra live all over the world. We have the ambition to be in the major cities where Ndi Anambra live, to report and cover their activities. This is possible with technology”.
Dr. Nworah pioneered event culture at ABS and successfully organised many which were sponsored. He organised the ABS 30th anniversary lecture in 2015. Prof. Pat. Utomi was the keynote speaker at the event which had in the audience Governor Willie Obiano and other notable personalities. Perhaps the biggest event which Dr. Nworah organised, which Ndi Anambra will always remember him for is the National Summit on Igbo Entrepreneurship (Igba -Boi) which he convened on Thursday, 10th March, 2022. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo joined the summit virtually while Chief Obiora Okonkwo, Ph.D, Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines was the keynote speaker.
A recipient of several honours and awards during his tour of duty as the MD/CEO of ABS, Dr. Nworah is a 2020 Federal Government of Nigeria/Presidential awardee, and recipient of the National Productivity Centre, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment Public Service Leadership and Productivity Award.
Dr. Nworah is a team player and expert in public diplomacy. During his tenure, he managed both internal and external stakeholders creditably, including the labour Unions, hence the cooperation management enjoyed under his tenure with both Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Radio and Television Workers Union (RATTAWU). To encourage team bonding in ABS, Dr. Nworah encouraged the setting up of ABS Football Club, and ABS Female Volleyball Team. The football club has won NUJ and other awards. He also procured table tennis boards and other sports equipment and developed practice football and volleyball pitches. Dr. Nworah also built a mini-park for staff relaxation which the staff have named ‘Ezeudo Square’.
Dr. Nworah helped to facilitate Governor Willie Obiano personally appreciating the staff of ABS for their hardwork. The Governor hosted staff of ABS at his Aguleri country home in 2019. Dr. Nworah also helped to facilitate Governor Obiano making over 20 ABS staff political appointees.
Dr. Nworah has an unassuming personality, and is a
role model to many. His passion for the promotion of Igbo culture is legendary. He was inducted into Enugwu-Ukwu royalty as a cabinet Chief in 2019 as Ezeudo Enugwu-Ukwu na Umunri. He was also honoured with the Chieftaincy titles of Ezeudo Abagana in 2016, and Udoka Awka in 2021, in appreciation of his meritorious services to Ndi Anambra.
As Dr. Uche Nworah bows out of the services of Anambra Broadcasting Service as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, it is hoped that like the proverbial eagle, he will always find taller trees to perch on.
The staff of Anambra Broadcasting Service are already missing him, and wish him well in his future endeavours. The same goes for Ndi Anambra who are ever appreciative of his stewardship.