Sylvanus Obasi, FOMI Founder Wins 2017 Maritime Journalist Of The Year

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As a matter of National Discourse, Maritime industry is one of the major sectors contributing immensely to national economy. Hence, it is only appreciative to applaud maritime media practitioners who are in the business of disseminating maritime information to Nigerians and the world over.

In the light of the above assertion, National Impact Magazine in January 2017 instituted AN AWARD OF EXCELLENCE FOR MARITIME JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR. We had a lot of journalists from the sector on our watch list for 2017 award. At the end of our close analysis, Mr Sylvanus Obasi, the CEO of Platforms Communications was the man for the award for 2017.

The noble gentleman, we believe added lots of values to the Maritime sector, his fans and to Nigerians at large. He was so consistent and active to his responsibilities.

His company, Platforms Communications are the producers of Maritime Platform Radio, Platform Reporters Online, A Day With Nigerian Maritime Students, Face of Maritime International (FOMI) and Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign (GGOTSEC) which is a catch them young campaign targeted at secondary schools girls with view to sensitizing and encouraging them to build a career in the maritime sector. It is germane to inform you that the Face of Maritime International champions the Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign.

Maritime Platform Radio is a 30 minutes weekly audience-participatory radio program where major news and topical maritime matters are extensively discussed by maritime professionals every Tuesday by 10:30 – 11am on Star FM 101.5. The program is a live phone –in program which gives listeners the opportunity of immediate feedback through direct participation by way of comments, questions and contributions via phone calls, sms, whatsapp, facebook, twitter and other social media platforms.

Sylvanus Obasi taking red carpet interview during FOMI 2016 Grand Finale in Apapa.

In an exclusive interview with National Impact’s Deputy Editor, Victor Cletus, Sylvanus Obasi revealed that the FOMI pageant commenced in 2016, hence 2017 was the second edition. He also explains objectives of FOMI.

“It was designed to achieve three aims, first, to change the perception that it is only men that can build active maritime career. It’s obvious that this wrong public perception accounts for the low participation of females in core maritime profession and that is why in 2015 when the International Transport Workers Federation released its research work which indicates that only 2% of the world’s Maritime workforce is made up of women, when we saw the report, we were touched and asked, ‘what can be done to bring this research home’? Then we organized our own research.

We looked at the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). Here, we found out that 2259 Nigerian youths were shortlisted as beneficiaries for this programme and out of that number, 1909 are male whereas 350 are females. So we went to Class One Maritime Engineers, we found out that Nigeria has about 200 Class one Maritime Engineers and all of these are male and none  is a female and when it comes to Master Mariners, Nigeria has about 350 of them and 349 are male while one is a female.

looking at Oceanographers, Nigeria has produced about 75 of them and 60 are male while 15 are female, in Maritime Lawyers, we have 200, 140 are male and 60 are female, this is where we have a good number. Coming to the Freight Forwarders which is common, we got in touch with the Council for the Regulation of the Freight Forwarders (CRFFN) and the Registrar revealed that the Council has about 1331 registered members of which 1227 are male and 104 are females. For the Crewing Agents, we have 100 of them registered of which 99 are male and only one is a female.

So when you look at this report, it shows that if the report by the International Transport Workers Federation says that only 2% of the world’s maritime workforce are female, then in Nigeria, it is lower than 2%. We were troubled as media practitioners by this development, and we thought of a platform to create adequate awareness for young girls to make them understand that maritime is not just for men. Knowing that today’s young ladies have flare for anything that has to do with entertainment, we started Face Of Maritime International.

Sylvanus Obasi addressing students during Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign in Alimoson.

Going further, he said,” FOMI is also in line with the Go To Sea Campaign by the International Maritime Organization. Recall that some years back, IMO discovered that there was global shortage of seafarers. So they started Go To Sea Campaign wherein they urged member nations to encourage their youth to take to the sea, that is, to take a career at sea.

In line with this, decided to focus on girls, so we initiated Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign as the pet-project of winners of Face Of Maritime International (FOMI). So one is not just winning for winning sake, the winners are to champion the Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign as their pet project for the period of their one year reign.

The Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign is basically a catch them young campaign program targeted at secondary school students. It entails visitation to girls Secondary schools, talking to them and convincing them about career opportunities in the maritime industry because we believe that it is at that level you can still catch them young and the moment the girls finish secondary school, they have made up their mind on the courses they want to study.

Sylvanus Obasi, Founder and project Director, FOMI

So we are talking to girl students in SS1 – SS3 telling them that instead of you going to study Accounting, Marketing, Banking and Finance and all that which are already filled up in terms of job availability, why not go for Marine Engineering, Nautical Sciences, Shipping Management, Transport Technology Management and other maritime courses where getting a job will not be an issue.

Thirdly, the Face Of Maritime International is an empowerment programme designed to empower these young girls. When we adopted the slogan “beauty for the sea”, we found out that some of these beautiful girls  don’t tend to use their beauty meaningfully, so the moment we identify you as the beautiful one, we want you to channel your beauty for use in the maritime sector and that is why the winner undertakes the Girls Go To Sea Campaign as pet-project.

So we empower them in our own little way with the support of our sponsors. The overall winner gets #500,000, the 1st runner up gets #300,000, while the 2nd runner up gets #200,000. Other award winners are given consolation prizes and with that money one can do something meaningful.”

Talking about the challenges so far, he said, “The challenge is basically finance, Platform Communications Concept is a new company. We depend solely on the financial support of stakeholders for most of our programmes, of which the girls Go To Sea Campaign is a nation-wide Campaign and we are planning to take it to the Northern states and also the South South, especially the littoral states so the people there will also benefit from the campaign”.

As a philosophy, Mr Obasi believes that ‘what is worth doing, is worth doing well’. “I always believe in improvising. I try to be more creative in my approach and all the programmes we have done in this industry are things that nobody has done before and our own way of giving award is by inducting people into what we call Panel of Maritime Analysts (PMA)”

Queen Greatest-love Uwadiale with MD of NPA during Girls -Go-To-Sea campaign in Ijoyi

Reacting to how he relaxes, he said “I am a young man, pretty young but this work can make one look older than ones age and It’s stressful most especially in Lagos particularly here in Apapa. In any case, I do relax on Saturdays and Sundays because I work Monday to Friday and am not the type that like being stressed up. As a creative person, I like having a quiet time because things are always clear when you read, write, think or work in a quiet environment.”

Revealing his model, he said “Dr. Chris Asoluka, Former Chairman, Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Lekki. He is my role model because he is an authority in issues of maritime policy and Shipping developments. Otunba Kunle Folarin is also my role model, he has worked in the maritime industry all his life since he became a graduate. Otunba talks a lot of sense whenever he speaks on issues of port operations and maritime generally. He is old but still very strong in knowledge.

When I look at these two persons, I realize I have so much work ahead of me. I want to challenge myself this 2018 to read more maritime books because the more knowledge you get, the more creative you are too. So when I look at them, it pushes me to read more and understand the fact that we can play a greater role in this industry in the future.”

Advising Nigerian leaders, he said “Anybody leading a nation should see it as an opportunity. My understanding of leadership is all about service and from the scriptural perspective; Jesus made it clear to his apostles that a leader should be a servant. I challenge Nigerians to sit up to their responsibilities and ask relevant questions to their leaders, just like the case of this 1 billion dollars being budgeted to fight insurgency in the country. Lets ask questions”.

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