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Gentlemen, It All Goes With Responsibility




His Excellency
Chimaraoke Nnamani
Governor of Enugu State

As always the case, I have currently been seized by the exuberance of the Nigeria Press and the tendency to stay on the issue with the vehemence of a suddenly liberated victim of pervading exploitation.

I have had causes to think that we are so imbued with the vigour of such press institutions, which dethrone seasonal cabals and offending oligarchs as they upturn the values for good.

Though admittedly, I have had to be seized with the apprehension of a participant observer immersed in a threatening rhythm of compatriots who in turn had over beaten the drum and so exerted unusually threatening dance steps from erstwhile co-operative dancers of the age. It indeed marvels that we have sustained this culture of hostility as depicting proper practice of journalism.

In then considering the issues of our efforts at national cohabitation, cohesion and of course stability, I once got drawn into viewing with deep concern the admonition of Jimmy Carter to the American Press, after the failed rescue mission in Iran: "Minimize as severely as possible, (your) presence and activities in Iran," he thundered at a press conference.

In viewing the matters attendant upon that admonition and the subsequent response of the American Press, it became a bit fussy to relate a likely scenario to the Nigeria Press and the continuity of the Nigeria Project.

Indeed, I have had causes to give a serious thought to the Nigeria Project. I have even had causes to pursue a brief study of the ramifications of the setting State, which has preceded the Nation-State except in its splinter forms.

At the end of each effort, I had perceived great possibilities with such elaborate and buoyant press, which though un-streamlined, offers the greatest vehicle for the fuller national integration and re-engineering. Buoyed by this discovery, I have always celebrated the appreciable progression of the media, particularly in its firm indoctrination of personnel and general purpose in the direction of redemption and social conscious.

Somehow, I have also detected a hint of redeemer-commitment, sometime pandering on messianic selflessness in aggregation of the national goals. Usually overjoyed and hopeful that the path to nation building which had the blessing of the more elaborately developed and committed mind as the press is like a trip in certainty, I had always anchored my unflinching optimism on the clout of the growing public which draws its fillip in the ample boisterousness of the national media.

Simply put, the somewhat media grandstanding, threatening as it seems sometimes, opens the possibilities of due probity and festering conscience desired of an erstwhile pampered ruling elite.

But deserving of the hammer and blows as the elite may be and as the national media have been willing to give, my personal findings point to the reality of apprehension among the common folk when the scolding tended to steam up national feelings and led to eventual overheating of the polity.

Sometimes I had shuddered at the vehemence of this carefree drive at pushing this messianic role of the press against the possibility of national apprehension and fright arising from overstating periodic national misadventures and or distasteful conducts of leadership. I am not too worried by the hint of vicious competition for attention and circulation which has induced most of the screaming headlines and stories but I have had causes to marvel at the failure of the chieftains of the national media to relate the role of the press in Nigeria with those of United States and United Kingdom.

We cannot say that whereas the US media decided to spot the values of patriotism in reporting the American war with Iraq, in the present as in the decade before; what also with the British Press having to consider national pride rather than brutish pursuit of the head-tingeing headlines; it could amount to compromising the standards for our national media to once-in-a-while attenuate.

Prior to this moment, I have had this feeling that each citizen of Nigeria has this duty of re-measuring his functions, be it the professions, trade, commerce, industry, leadership and whatever with such sound comprehension and pursuit of the entire responsibilities of the practice. For once I have never had my eyes off the injunction of Rousseau on Social Contract as relating to Social Responsibility in our respective enterprises.

To me, it has remained a massive wonder, if not absurd, that whereas we readily hold leadership responsible for the entire points inherent in Rousseau's declaration, it has become convenient for us to adjust our respective roles to be virtually devoid of accountability to the people who though may not have directly contributed to our ascendance, are the ultimate public for which our products or arguments sail or flop.

In then examining the national press, not necessarily setting such parameters, which are likely alien, I see at each turn a marked negation of the due consideration for the national possibilities which can only arrive with the full exploitation of matters in toleration and accommodation.

I have never really viewed our press as pandering to undue influences of political hegemony, as pursued by those who have had causes to be frustrated by the penchance of the media for stating it without moderation and without reservation. Rather, I have wondered sometimes

if we have not unknowingly promoted national intolerance and coercion, possibly patented by the press and certainly on the whims and caprices of these doomsday-philosopher kings and political revisionists.

No doubt, our press can arguably be described as the freest in the world, being as it turned out, quite unhampered by law and never fettered in close monitoring by the famished citizenry. For all intents and purposes, it has to remain free and fruitful, having also been proudly strong and effective in times of national struggles.

Yet, there is this nagging burden riding the crest of both professional and national responsibility which needs to be fully exhibited rather than the yo-yo applause of the common herd whose being would go with the wind if the system is brought down on the train of sentiment and undue apprehension as may have been promoted by the mass media.

As I have been made to understand, from Casswell to Wilbur Schramm, to Burton, Emery and Emery Dicken-Garcia, Olien and even the standards of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the principles are the same; the set of defined responsibilities are well underscored and cannot be negated. Even in our native parlance, "it may have all happened," we say, "but you do not bring down the blow (or the hammer) the same way you took up the swing".

Democracy comes with a great deal of freedom. It elaborates the society and unchains the creative energy of all. But as it rides popular will, it carries its burden of responsibility on leadership and followership alike. Conscious of this, the press ought to work on the truism that for the polity to suffer a major upset the press will even be the worse for it.

On this I have anchored my argument that indeed, it is incumbent on national leadership or any one for that matter to exhibit the highest level of responsibility anchored on tolerance, moderation and patriotism. If then that is the case for leadership, should we declare the press as existing in a world alien to the environment it has to build? Certainly not!

But mind you, my view, as it is, has not much to do with the press per se, but with this culture or carnival of feeding frenzy, siege mentality and lynch mob disposition of some professionals who turn predators.

The disturbing development in this is that it has not come of inherent media attitude but the deliberate manipulation of the society by later-day democrats, new civil society converts, cheerleaders of negativism and political revisionists, who achieve their own brand of relevance by the staid call for the interruption of the presence or alteration of the existing order.

We have had causes to celebrate our freedom in this democracy but we have also had causes to wonder if we all realized the burden of expressing this reasonably so that we do not drag our expanding civil society to chaos. I had expected the press to raise this question on respect for the nation state. I have had occasions declaring that the press must appreciate the proper expectation framework and so must not help justify the daydreams of the confusionists and nation wreckers.

It is a wonder to me that we have not asked: If we realize that after going through ASUU strikes, the elections, petrol strikes, an upcoming international adventure in Liberia and a near mishap in Sao Tome and Principe, it is indeed time to attenuate the heat and show patriotism and loyalty to State and Nation? Why do we have to worry about those who holler, thunder and threaten fire and brimstone; those cheerleaders of negativism and perpetual pessimists who continue in a game of postponing the doomsday. Today, they say that it would all crumble tomorrow; but tomorrow they say that it is now the next quarter. To them, the system will never last. They have seen it all.

Give me a break, there must be something good, however little, at the Rock City.

The pinnacle of leadership means well and it goes to bat daily at full steam.

It is not that bad after all.

culled from, Thisday The Sunday Newspaper (Backpage Extra)
Sunday, August 3, 2003


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