Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The Media In Nigeria - Part 2
continued from http://www.dawodu.com/oduyela21.htm
August 20, 2005
The Nigerian media has been credited for standing against the oppressive rule of the Military and was said to have been part of the struggle that removed the military from power. During the military era, we witnessed in Nigeria publications like Tell, The News, Newswatch, African Concord and the most vociferous of them all, Tempo Magazine. These news organizations and others fought with their pen. From the regime of General Yakubu Gowon (1966-1975), General Obasanjo’s government (1976-1979), General Buhari’s Government (1983-1985), General Babangida’s government (1985-1993), General Sani Abacha (1993-1998) and General Abdusalami Abubakar (1998-1999).
We remember Nduka Irabor who was jailed with Tunde Thompson by the Buhari government with Decree 4, but what do we see of Irabor? He ended up as Chief Press Secretary to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu the second-in-command to the government that institutionalized corruption in Nigeria. We also remember Dele Giwa who was killed with a letter bomb under Babangida’s government. We cannot count the number of journalists detained and jailed by General Sani Abacha during his 5-years reign of terror. Soji Omotunde, Nosa Igiebor, Ben Charles, Bayo Onanuga, Babafemi Ojudu, Kunle Ajibade, Tokunbo Fakeye and many others were alumni of the Abacha gulag. At a point in detention Babafemi Ojudu had to drink his own urine to cure himself of diarrhea. You need to read Kunle Ajibade’s “Jailed for Life,” on his experience under Abacha. Austin Uganwa who is now the Press Secretary to the Deputy Speaker was also detained. Many journalists escaped to exile and they never returned.
But shortly after the demise of the military and with the installation of a retired military general with a cosmetic democratic government, things began to change. We now began to see a new media. This is not like the pro-democracy media, but pro-naira media. We now see media executives jostling for appointments, contracts and advertisements from those they are suppose to watch. We now see partnership with the enemies of the people and they now tell the harmless Nigerian public what there benefactors want them to say. Most of these news organizations became public relations consultants for these politicians.
We now have the likes of James Ibori, Orji Kalu as publishers of newspapers. Definitely you can never read anything negative about these two governors in their newspapers. We see an executive Director of a newspaper becoming the supplier of newspaper to Aso Villa, and his own newspaper did not get to the Villa.
What happened to the firebrand we saw during the military oppressive rules? Why do we now have media executives pursing money, installing bathroom in their houses with 3.8 million Naira when they pay their reporters 10,000 naira as monthly salary? Securing their windows and doors with bullet proof. Media executives who are not public office holders are government contractors, friends of governors, Ministers and cousins or relations. Ogbeni Lanre Banjo recently had approached an editor of one of the new generation newspapers in Lagos of his article on the Mr. Gbenga Daniel, Governor of Ogun State; the editor outrightly told Ogbeni Lanre Banjo that he would not publish the article because Gbenga Daniel is his friend. I have read with disgust articles published on Nigeriaworld by an ex-journalist now a Special Assistant of a Minister of Works.
Journalism in Nigeria now has shifted from mirroring the society to protecting the rogues in power. It has moved from its position as the watchdog to collaborator in the killing of a nation through mis-information and covering-up for dis-honest public office holders. It is no more a news that editors and publishers called Ministers, Governors to inform them of stories about them and the possibility of killing it.
There are also cases of state government requesting the withdrawal of correspondents posted to the state based on “unfavorable” stories published. Anne Damisa was posted to Eboinyi State in 2002; the State requested that the guy recalled by the This Day Management should be returned. Dele Alake once requested the withdrawal of an Anchor newspaper correspondent to Alausa when Niran Malaolu and Segun were running Anchor Newspaper and they yielded to the request. Funny enough, Niran Malaolu is now a Commissioner for Information in Ogun State. This is ridiculous!
There are cases of “seasoned journalists” entrusted with position of authority to run media houses, but they failed and ruined the business, because they placed their selfish interest above the organization’s interest.
The Anchor Newspaper was established by a non-journalist but he allowed so-called seasoned journalists to run it and they killed it within two years. Segun Babatope left Concord, and Niran an ex-convict of Abacha government with two terrible records from This Day Newspaper, where he was suspended more than three times for seemingly inefficiency and Diet Newspaper that went dead after he became its Editor were made the Managing Director and Executive Director of Anchor Newspaper respectfully, (Please see my Vagabond in Power (http://nigeriaworld.com/feature/publication/oduyela/111303.html). Anchor was a promising newspaper, but the handlers killed it and Adewale Adeeyo was left to lick the wound of about 40Million Naira debt to settle. Dapo Aderionla, Ebun Alesinloye, Joke Kujenya and two others were fired by duo of Segun Babatope and Niran Malaolu on the allegation that they were irritants and contaminants. Kunle Fagbemi the Editor of Anchor resigned in protest.
By early February 2002, we knew Anchor was on its way to grave. And by Mid August 2002, Anchor was owing salaries. Mr. Adeeyo had to stop production to reduce debt to workers in August 2002. The worst part and the most annoying was the use of journalists as casual workers (Freelance) without pay for more than 11months. These poor guys worked tirelessly in Abuja, Ibadan, Benue and other outstations filing stories on deadlines but without salaries for close to a year. These are men with wives and children.
In 1999 I witnessed where two top editors of a Lagos-based Magazine lobbied Obasanjo campaign manager to let them organize a state-managed debate for Obasanjo and Chief Falae after the one-man show of Falae at the debate boycotted by Obasanjo. This meeting took place at the Ota Farm House of Chief Obasanjo. Unfortunately, Chief Falae did not attend the Lagos debate.
There are editors who specialize in blackmailing, either subtle or direct. How do you expect a Managing Editor of a magazine who goes begging for money from a State governor to complete the building of his house to report the corrupt practices of that State governor? There are cases of these high-ranking editors traveling from their stations to the east and returning to Lagos with Ghana-Must-Go bags full of Naira notes.
We thought the Media will retain its role against the military and put the present civilian government on edge, but what we have is conspiracy and promotion of profligacy, stealing, and publicity for looters as champions. How can we justify that Turaki of Jigawa State has touched the lives of his people that he got pages of magazines in Nigeria for Achievements. On what? The media in Nigeria are now outplaying themselves on quotes for special Projects for non-performing governors. It is now the order of the day for Media Directors, editors to receive roof-tall Hampers for Christmas and Hampers now during Sallah in form of live rams and bags of rice. We see editors even short-changing their reporters over distribution of Dangote Spaghetti sachets.
What about killing stories? Simon Kolawole left The Week after a story on Bola Tinubu of Lagos was not allowed to be published by the Publisher and Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The magazines that are playing the role of the opposition, attacking the government are denied advertisement on “orders from above.” Insider Weekly does not get as much advertisement as others because they are anti-Obasanjo government. In September 2004, when Mr. Alex Kabba raised the question of why Insider Weekly was shut by Obasanjo mad dogs (State Security Service), at a World Press Conference, in New York, to my surprise, Mrs. Remi Oyo, the Special Adviser on Media responded after the press conference by asking Mr. Kabba if he knew the publisher of Insider Weekly. Was Insider shut because of its Publisher or because of its publications? We know the publisher, but what has that got to do with the issue of a “democratically elected” government attacking the press?
Insider Weekly, I remember told the story of the “Alliance of Deception” between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD), but it has come out to be true that it was indeed an alliance of deception, the 4/19 2003 election has shown this.
The media covered the election but was selective in its report on who cheated and who did not, especially in Lagos State. Why was it difficult for the media in Lagos to report that both AD and PDP rigged the election in Lagos State, but that AD out-rigged PDP due to some logistics problem in PDP? Reporters who went round knew what they saw, but their editors will not publish it, even if the editors wanted to, the senior editors will throw the reports to trash can, why? Your guess is as good as mine. What about the house where ballot boxes were stuffed with PDP thumb-printed papers in Anambra State on the morning of 4/19 2003? I saw this on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), but the reporter did not mention the party involved.
It is still surprising that in spite of the fact that we have 574 cases of extra-judicial killings of innocent Nigerian citizens from 1999-2004, we have not seen this reported by any crime correspondent in Nigeria! This is the highest under any government in Nigeria, not even under Abacha.
The Appeal Court declared that there misconduct in Ogun State and the Supreme court nullify the ruling, when we all know that Obasanjo’s election was not fair, our media in Nigeria cannot give insight to this. That the Chief Justice of the Federation has a scandal looming is not news, this has been on since 2001 and Obasanjo waited for the appropriate time to use it. I am sorry for the Supreme Court Justices and the judgment they handed down to us recently on the 4/19 2003 elections.
The Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) was shut down for over three years because the students were asking for accreditation. Who are the proprietors of NIJ? They are publishers of newspapers in Nigeria and it was so difficult for them to come to the aid of the institute. It is a BIG shame on the Newspaper Proprietors Association for allowing the institute to be at the level it is now. I know that many journalists in Nigeria cannot afford to buy a personal Computer; some do not even know how to use it. Talking about Computer-Assisted Reporting to a typical Nigerian journalist is like speaking in tongue in a Pentecostal church. It is not their fault; it is the fault of their employers, who are more interested in selling the newspaper than training their employees. In this age of Information and Communication Technologies, Nigerian journalists are no doubt way behind their colleagues in some other African countries, not to mention western countries. I was in South Africa in 2002 August and I saw it all. While journalists elsewhere file stories through Internet, we still see journalists writing stories on off-cuts!
Apart from Punch Newspaper, I am not aware of any other media organization that organizes capacity building for its reporters; here I stand to be corrected. I am aware of packages for Punch employees. Every correspondent of Punch in Abuja carries a laptop, digital camera and other gadgets needed for efficient reporting. They are also paid well. I know of Tell Magazine too. There are other news organizations that treat their employees well, but I want to limit myself to ones I know well. It took an industrial action by workers of Guardian Newspaper to get pay rise in 2001. I know that some media houses still pay 14,000 Naira as take home pay while their directors live in million naira houses equipped with bullet-proof widows and doors, a case of “Monkey dey work baboon dey chop.” While my colleagues were earning N30, 000, I was earning 10,000 as monthly salary with a paltry N4, 000 as transport allowance to source for stories within Lagos in a month. The N1, 000 weekly Transport Allowance (TA) was our lifeline then. I feel pity for myself and my colleagues then as we line up to sign for the N1,000 every week. These are university graduates. The sad part of it is that many of these journalists risk their lives to get exclusive stories but got nothing in return. I have instances. There are other newspaper companies where journalists get paid in arrears. Outstation correspondents will have to travel to Lagos before they are paid.
All these are openings for these poor journalists to be bought over by corrupt officials. It takes the glory and grace of God for a journalist on N20,000 monthly to close his eyes to N250,000 bribe to cover a corruption story. That is why we see journalists buying and riding cars worth N500,000 with their take home pay that cannot take them home and no one seems to ask them the source of the money. Why would they ask when editors too travel to get their Ghana-Must-Go? The simple answer is that the bosses lack the moral sense to question their employees because they are guiltier of this corruption syndrome than their boys. Hardly can you find a journalist in Nigeria that does not have a price. From the Editor-in-Chief to the just employed reporter. Your bargaining power depends on your position in the organization. I remember the Sunday Editor of a newspaper in Lagos who organized a PR write-up for one of the Yoruba actors, the editor had expected something substantial, but disappointedly, the actor, who is also a producer sent N5,000 to the editor, who, with annoyance reduced the full page story to few paragraphs to cover the amount sent.
The serious issue facing the media in Nigeria today is that of morality, it has failed its own ethics test. Please do not get me wrong, this issue affect some not all. And I am sure we all know the Public Relations Media organizations.
How do we explain the article of one Amaze Obi in the Sun Newspaper of Monday August 8 2005 on Governor Orji Kalu’s visit to the U.S.? Amanze Obi is quoted as saying:
It is a settled fact that Orji Uzor Kalu, the executive Governor of Abia State, has a Spartan disposition. He is not only a man of great courage and self-discipline, he is undaunted by pain or danger. You need not get too close to the man to appreciate these attributes of his. That is why it has come to be taken for granted in political circles that Kalu is the gadfly who, when lily-livered mortals hide their head in fear, steps out boldly to take on touchy, sometimes inflammatory, issues of the moment. Unquote.
Who settled what fact? When and where? What are Kalu’s Spartan Dispositions? I am sure Amanze still remembers why Orji Kalu left University of Maiduguri, the donation that turned out to be hoax and many other issues surrounding the enigma called Uzo Orji Kalu. Where is the courage of a man who lied after he granted interview to Omoyele Sowore? Or has he substantiated his allegation on the allegation that Tony Anenih Killed Chief Bola Ige? Soon, the truth about Governor Orji Kalu’s visit to the US would be revealed soon, we are working on the true story. We are here we saw what he came here and we shall tell we saw soon.
Amanze should have provided the pictures of Americans who were at the rally. Did he forget to mention that the Governors of Rivers and Bayelsa came with Kalu too? Was it at the Chicago rally or Potomac, Maryland USA? You can fool all the people sometime, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Amanze should go further to describe Governor Kalu’s mansion in Potomac, Maryland and tell the people of Abia State how much the house worth in American real estate market. It is surprising and disappointing that it is a person like Amanze Obi that will be making a mountain out of a mole hill on Orji Kalu’s declaration for presidency. We all know that the guy is just showing off. How can we take a Governor who left the serious business of governance in his state to come to the US and conduct press interview with President Bill Clinton? Did he travel on the sponsorship of Sun Newspaper to conduct the interview or at the expense of taxpayers’ money of Abia State? This is one of the many examples of the deterioration of the Nigerian Media, reduced to praise singing of people we know with questionable characters, just because they have the money.
Because of the problem of getting information out to the public in some of the Nigerian newspapers, especially the ones owned by public office holders and ones owned by contractors and friends of those in power, the internet became a veritable tool to fight the auto-democratic government of Obasanjo. Internet publication became an avenue for Nigerians in Diaspora to air their views. I honestly commend the efforts of those who created websites, internet groups like Yahoo groups for this purpose, but the problem now is that we have some publishers of some of these websites censoring works of journalists and writers. I commend the efforts of Mr. Segun Dawodu of Dawodu.com, a website with updated information on Nigeria and forum for Nigerians home and abroad to educate and inform. Martins Akindana did well with the Chatafrik.com until the controversial award for Obasanjo. Kenneth Emetulu has been wonderful with the yahoo group. I also enjoy Professor Bolaji Aluko’s Nigerianmuse.com. Nigerianmuse.com is a resource for Nigerians all over the globe. And many other online news providers that have made it possible for Nigerians abroad to keep abreast of what is happening back home.
Recent development on the nigeriaworld.com deserves attention; this is because most Nigerians visit this site more than other websites I have mentioned above. No single contributor on the website receive any form of gratification. I know I do not, Laolu Akande does not, Professor Bolaji Aluko does not, Godwin Offoaro does not and many others. We have used our resources to help develop nigeriaworld for the publisher to benefit through advertisement, but what we get back is insult and undeserved censorship of articles.
The unprofessional attitude of the publisher of nigeriaworld has driven these selfless writers and dedicated Nigerians away and the victims are Nigerians who enjoy their write-ups. For example, the likes of Professor Bolaji Aluko, Laolu Akande, and Rudolph Okwonkwo who helped build Nigeriaworld.com do not publish their articles on Nigeriaworld. Why? It was not because they do not like to write there, but because the publisher of the website does not want their articles anymore. If the website is for community service, why are they denied the access to it? No one has asked the publisher of the website how much he makes on the website. In spite of the fact that what makes the website are the columnists, that is why people go there, while you make your money why do you deny Nigerians information from these writers?
We practice fairness in journalism, where you give other person write of reply to whatever you publish or write about them. This is a golden rule in journalism, it gives you as a journalist respect, integrity and credibility, but this is not the rule as far as nigeriaworld publisher is concerned. In December after my article on Vice President Atiku as an Opportunist, his ex-Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, promptly responded with an email disputing my opinions on his boss. I sent Mr. Adinoyi-Ojo’s rejoinder and my response to the Nigeriaworld publisher for publication, he turned it down. According to him, it is the policy of Nigeriaworld to publish rejoinder. Who are those on the editorial board of Nigeriaworld? None, but the publisher himself.
At the birth of africananews.com, I wrote as my introduction on the article on “Abuja circus show” ( http://nigeriaworld.com/feature/publication/oduyela/031705.html) the first two paragraphs were edited because it contained information on the birth of Africananews.com. Laolu Akande could not get his articles published because he publishes on Nigeriavillagesquare.com, Omoyele Sowore too had a taste of such insult and embarrassment because his article on the Nigerian Finance Minister was published on our website Africananews.com.
I think rather than been treated with such contempt, contributors deserve respect for what they do. I traveled to New York in September 2003 to cover the United Nations general Assembly and reported the president Obasanjo world press conference interview on Nigeriaworld on my own account. And I know many others do that without requesting for a dime as compensation.
To be continued¦
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.