A former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, has said journalists and information managers in Nigeria must shun propaganda if the country is to progress.
Mr. Daniel spoke on Sunday on a social media network, known as Pen-pushing Platform. At the forum, he reminisced on his experience with the media as a governor and as a media proprietor.
”I have followed the discussion of the challenges faced by media practitioners and the larger implications for the society and hope by my own experience, lessons can be learnt that can help the course of governance and humanity for the larger society’s interest.,” he told participants in the forum.
He first spoke on his intervention in the media industry as a promoter.
“Our intervention was to conceptualise and start a media house where journalists are well looked after, well profiled and well trained, such that they will not require ‘mobilisation’ from any quarters to do their jobs professionally”, he said.
Mr. Daniel said that as governor for eight years, his administration did not engage in propaganda. He said, instead, his media team worked hard to project correctly the image of the government while it lasted.
“We had two perfect and most honourable gentlemen in our media team; one as Information Commissioner and the other as Chief Press Secretary. They worked hard to project correctly the image of the government while it lasted.But they were not propagandists.
“I had no issues with that because I also, being an engineer, believed the work is sufficient to speak for anyone without unnecessary propaganda.”
The former governor said the political situation his administration found itself “persuaded (it) to settle for a more robust approach with a more rugged information management personnel.
”Looking back, I am not so sure if we took the right decisions as far as this issue is concerned.
“I will first give two illustrative examples; Build up to the 2003 elections in Ogun State, the authoritative and most respected Guardian came out with an opinion poll and submitted that I will lose the election scoring at best 32% of the votes. When the result came it was the exact opposite. In civilised climes we know what will happen to the readership and reputation of such a medium. There was not even a public apology like “we goofed”. It was just business as usual….’
“A most respected columnist in Thisday recently confessed that he told the former President that he would win the Presidential elections even a few months before that election; and changed his mind later.
“What happened to empirical research? Every intelligent observer knew that with the crisis in the PDP, the defection of several governors serving and retired, the OBJ exit etc, it would have been a miracle to have a different result.”
Imagine the number of people who would have relapsed into a comfort zone (including the sitting President himself) by such confidence giving reports.
“My first commissioner was completely pissed off and disillusioned, as a Christian that he was, on the attitude of his brother journalists especially the junior ones that had to be ‘mobilised’ to write the truth versus ‘the fiction’ that was sometimes written. He just did not believe in it and could not also be bothered.
“The negative press we went through remains an open secret to most practitioners till date,” he said.
Mr. Daniel also gave reasons he decided to own his private news media.
These are “the need to be correctly reported coupled with one’s belief that media practitioners must be treated with respect that goes with their intelligence; as I believe and still believe till today that media practitioners are supposed to be the most brilliant and intelligent people in the value chain of the polity.”
He said the desire to uplift journalism practice led him to look for “the best and most experienced hands in the industry to establish Compass Newspapers.
“At a stage we were excited, because we started achieving part of our objectives. For example, no fewer than four media houses started buying new vehicles for their editors and started looking after media practitioners in their stable in response to the way we raised the bar.”
Mr. Daniel said one of the conditions given him by the senior journalists he approached to start the newspapers was that they must have “the freedom to publish stuff, even against the promoter and his party, provided it is the truth”.
He lamented the circumstances that led to the closure of the newspaper a few years after.
“For once, we felt we had gotten it right and the pens started to roll. Many of the practitioners there did not however share that dream. For some of them, it was another opportunity to help themselves at the detriment of the company ’whose promoter is rich anyway.”
“Propaganda and deliberate misinformation by opposition, which is music in the ears of our people more than the truth; this is where the practitioners failed – conspiracy by competition, carelessness and un-researched write-ups leading to litigations.
“Talking about litigations, there are over 30 cases of libel still in various courts nationwide today, most of which some of us don’t even know who the writers are.
“In one instance, a court in Ekiti awarded N2 billion damages in favour of Fayemi, a former Governor in Ekiti. We don’t even know the reporter!”
Mr. Daniel denied ownership of a radio station, Rainbow F.M., saying he only contributed to its establishment like “several others in order to fight unemployment, which has long been recognised as the biggest cancer that will afflict our country.
“In fact, when I became governor, I stopped all investment of mine directly or indirectly outside Ogun State and concentrated and encouraged all my friends and associates to invest in the state.”
He also faulted speculations that he took some equipment of the state-owned radio station away to set up the radio station.
“I am hearing this rumour for the first time. There was not one pin of government property that was moved to Rainbow or anywhere, to the best of my knowledge. That was not the kind of government we ran, with due respects.
“Yes, there was an intention to upgrade the equipment. In fact, we toyed with eliminating AM transmission and even introduced a second Gateway Radio FM2 simply for entertainment with full commercialisation.
“We wanted to do several things; then the economic meltdown of 2008 started, as it’s happening now. We then had no choice but reprioritize our intentions.