The former Lagos governor urged editors to help rescue Nigeria’s democracy.
A leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, has lashed out at a section of the Nigeria media, describing their newsrooms as “shopping centers where interests shop for the most pliable editor or reporter to push their point of view or story.”
He said though a section of the media had performed creditably well, a growing section seems besotted with power, often crossing the line.
He lamented that the media no longer have knack for investigative reports and that the fire of patriotism had continued to be extinguished while that of professionalism was now only a flicker.
Mr. Tinubu made these remarks at the launching of the building fund of the Nigeria Guild of Editors, NGE, in Abuja on Thursday.
The former governor of Lagos State said the journalism profession had become not just a danger to itself as a profession, but now inflicts harm to the republic by knowingly feeding the people half truths, innuendos, and outright falsehood.
According to him, the profession had ceased and propaganda had begun, stressing that a nation awash in propaganda was a nation dry and devoid of democracy much like a desert was devoid of water.
Mr. Tinubu said, “I have chosen today to strike at the heart of the perils confronting journalism and the dwindling influence of the media because no matter how big and beautiful the physical edifice we build, unless the practitioners of the profession and the occupiers of the building reform internally and commit themselves to be professional, the building becomes more of a symbol of wasted opportunity than a model of right and justice. It serves to extol but to indict.”
The APC leaders said the NGE had the responsibility to ensure that the media leaders were held to the highest standard.
“It must lead the crusade side by side with the NUJ to tackle this problem. Once an editor is upright, it will be difficult for his reporter’s compromise.
“You must revive the spirit of courageous and non compromising journalism that described the fight against military rule. Then, the media became the last hope of the common man. Even the judiciary had caved.
“Those were days when dictatorship reigned supreme and impunity was the order. Under a suspended constitution our rights, freedoms and privileges were taken away. All opposition groups and points of dissent were decimated. Only the media remained standing. You the journalists, the editors will not stand down. Rather you stared dictatorship in the face until it blinked and returned to the barracks.”
Mr. Tinubu, however, praised the media for being an advanced guard for democracy in Nigeria, noting that when its practitioners were needed during the dark moments of dictatorship they answered the historic call.
He wondered where Nigeria would have been without those who demanded a free press and what would have happened to its democratic destiny if the media did not stand in defence of the people’s rights, freedom and constitutional rule.
He said, “Nigeria would have become a huge barracks run by the men in uniform and their civilian confederates. Because you manned the barricades alongside pro-democracy activists and progressive civil society, the reign of the jackboots ended. Nigeria rediscovered constitutional rule.
The former governor said as the general elections approached, the media was at risk because the incumbent elite would be pitted against a band of reformers.
He said, “If things go as they are, many of you will meekly report what the government suggests. Or you will report at the superficial level regarding the various personalities and interests groups that comprise both camps.
“However, few of you will get to the core issue: that the two sides have vastly different visions for the nation. We are engaged in a ideological battle for the soul and future of the nation. Yet, you report as if such a struggle does not exist.
‘Those of you who say this battle does not exist are simply being disingenuous, lazy or cynical. The contrast is there but you must have the intellectual courage to report it. That is your job. Once you have done so, the people will be amply informed and they will make the choice according to their collective wisdom.”
Mr. Tinubu appealed to the media to help to rescue the nation’s democracy by giving the people a chance to exercise that collective wisdom and also displayed best journalistic product at this time.
He warned that the media would be endangered again if democracy faltered in the country.
He said, “If you do less than this, you fail your national mission. If Nigeria fails, if democracy falters, your profession is again endangered. Why risk a return to a time when being principled journalists made you an enemy of the state and placed your life and limb at risk?
“As editors you hold the key to change our society. The media has a role in upholding the rule of law, justice and fairness for all. Let us build this democracy together. Then, the edifice you launch today will sand the rest of time.
“The storm of change is blowing. There is change in the air. I urge you to be part of that change.”
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