The Media In Nigeria - Part 1


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The Media In Nigeria - Part 1




Seyi Oduyela



June 1, 2005


In 2003, I wrote an article on the Nigeriaworld, titled: “Professional Responsibility in the News Media” I stated that: “The role of the media is no doubt critical in promoting good governance and curbing corruption. The media does not only raises public awareness about corruption, causes consequences and possible remedies but also investigates and reports incidences of corruption aiding other over sight bodies.”  I also talked about of the media as a critical element of a country's anti-corruption programme; and the effectiveness of the media depends on access to information and freedom of expression, as well as a professional and ethical cadre of investigative journalists.


Events in the last six years, so to say, have proved that the media in Nigeria has contributed more to the killing of democracy than upholding it. It will be wrong for me to make a general statement; as a result I will refer to some sections of the media.


We see with helplessness how the watchdog of the society is fast becoming a collaborator in the raping of the society. We see astonishment how the media in Nigeria with the help of some hungry Media executives, editors, publishers and officers of journalism associations have turned the noble profession into a Public Liability Company.


We do not read distorted facts, we read stories polishing one side and demeaning the other side or total black out for who pays the lowest handout. The media has fast become a Public Relation outfit than a source of intelligible and credible information for its society. Just as the politicians have failed the country the media too has.


If journalists don’t lobby to become “Special Advisers,” they get “Chief Press Secretaries.” Journalists have rendered officials of the Federal Ministry of Information trained in the management of the Public Service information redundant. We see good reporters leaving reporting to become mouth piece of looting public office holders. They stoop from the respected position of journalists to become image makers and launderers for kleptomaniacs in office, whose main pre-occupation is the looting of the treasury. Those who are still reporting turn themselves to government reporters. When they cannot get the appointment as “Special Advisers” or “Chief Press Secretaries,” they lobby to be posted to State Government houses on the promise of delivering to their editors, when they don’t get that, they become informants for looters. They call them when there are hot stories on them and link them with those in charge to drop the story. Virtually all state correspondents are on payroll of respective state governments. So it is easy for the Commissioners for Information to call your bosses to replace you if you write “negative” stories and fail to allow censorship of your story.


What about the editors? I have seen and worked with greedy ones. Who sell news to make money.


Many of these public office holders being smart invested in the media, we know of newspapers owned by two State governors and we have journalists with many years of great achievements managing the newspapers for them, without a question on how they got so much money to establish such projects. We have replaced morality with the love of money and personal gains.


I read with disgust articles posted by press secretaries of public office holders, in defense of their paymasters. And I have heard of editors of newspapers telling contributors not to send articles against certain governors who are their friends, because they won’t publish such articles. One funny thing about these Special Advisers and Press Secretaries is that they sponsor their friends to come with information they themselves give them to black mail their bosses to make money. Their job is to ensure that negative stories don’t get to press about them. In 2003 a Governor in the southwest gave 500,000 Naira each to the three editors of a Newspaper in Lagos to ensure that negative stories don’t come out in their papers. This was during the 2003 elections. A certain media house also got 16million naira from a Governorship candidate, who is now a Governor of a state in April 2003 to kill a story of money laundering about his wife.


What these image makers have forgotten is that these politicians share something in common, looting. They may appear to be enemies at dagger’s drawn today; you will not be surprised to see them as good friends tomorrow. I think we should be very careful not to lose our senses over bread and butter. Many of those who have done hatchet jobs for their bosses find it difficult going back to journalism, because they cannot fit in to the profession. And we keep losing many to this new trade.


There are publishers who use their reporters to hound politicians, they use their newspapers to blackmail and make money. Their new idea is special projects on State Governors who have not done anything for their people, but what do they care about that? All they know is raking in 2.8Million Naira per Special Spotlight, which will take 16 pages of their papers. By these, we are partakers in the corrupt practices of these looters. I know a friend of mine who lost his job because he challenges his employers over cutting down his commission on a special project. What good is the work of Jigawa nomadic governor that he got 16 pages of one of the leading weekly magazines in Nigeria, is it because of the information technology he is establishing in a state devastated by desert encroachment, where more than 80% of the population live below poverty level?


It has also become the order of the day that if one newspaper accuses one public officer of corruption another paper will do an interview for the same man to launder his image. I am not going to make references because there are too many to make.


The Nigeria Union of Journalists under the leadership of Adeyemi Smart embarked on a media tour to inspect the activities of state governors and they all came back home as land owners in Zamfara, and car owners. Peter Odili of Rivers State, Abubakar Audu of Kogi and Joshua Dariye paid their ways for award. Dariye did not get award after the media tour and was disappointed despite all he gave to Smart Adeyemi and his Association of beggars who traveled round the country collecting their own part of the “national cake.” We do not need to talk of what happened in Enugu state. It is shocking to see journalists on 15,000 Naira a month riding Mercedes Benz 190 without explanation on how they got the money to buy it. Many of them are contractors; at least Mr. Nuhu Ribadu cannot deny the fact that he awarded contract to a journalist to print the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) 2004 calendar for 2.5Million Naira. I know of how some members of the State House Correspondent blackmailed a government contractor to get 2.5 Million Naira and lied to their colleagues that they got 250,000 naira.


Self discipline, self-consciousness of media workers, the code of ethics that members of the profession accepts as important elements of media accountability are fast disappearing and it is gradually leading to press irresponsibility. The press, unfortunately, is taking side with these rogues in power to insult the sensibility of poor Nigerians and deemed the hope of those who expect the truth from the media.


The issue of Press Freedom in Nigeria though means how the state controls and gags the press, but the greatest danger to the Freedom of the Press in Nigeria is the PRESS itself. Selling its pride for a pot of porridge.







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