By Ini Ekott
President Goodluck Jonathan issued a damning verdict on the Nigerian media Wednesday, portraying the industry as a highly politicized and unreliable establishment that has lost his administration’s trust as an independent and fair assessor of government’s performance.
Mr. Jonathan’s blistering remarks came at the signing of a new performance assessment procedure for government officials, intended as an assessment tool to spotlight the government’s service delivery.
The president said the unreliability of the media had informed his government’s decision to introduce a new model of appraisal.
Under the arrangement, ministers, permanent secretaries, directors and other staff, are to be evaluated based on set goals.
“Before, the media used to be the voice of the ordinary people,” he told a gathering of ministers and other officials who signed the performance agreement on Wednesday.
“But now, the media is the voice of those who own the media houses and those who owned the media houses have private jets and those who own private jets are not ordinary people.”
“So the media is now the voice of the powerful people. So, we have to have a way of assessing ourselves,’’ he said.
Mr. Jonathan’s comment appears a subtle attack on former Governor Bola Tinubu, who owns some powerful newspapers and electronic media in the country.
Mr. Tinubu, an immensely wealthy man, is a leader of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria and one of the most vocal critics of the administration.
More often than not, his media establishments reflect his political leaning, regularly hitting hard at Mr. Jonathan and his administration.
But the former governor is not the only top politician with extensive media interests.
Former Governors Uzor Orji Kalu, Gbenga Daniel, and James Ibori also have newspapers. But these are not known to be as critical of the president and his government like Mr. Tinubu’s.
The president’s comments, deviating from a traditionally complimentary view of the media as a gauge of public opinion and interest, aimed deep at the heart of an industry fraught with scandals and seen to be increasingly corrupt and sectionalized.
As president, Mr. Jonathan said, he had realized the data put forward by the media were clearly biased and, in several cases, did not reflect reality.
The new assessment tool he unveiled, Mr Jonathan said, will help highlight government’s targets and achievements in all sectors of governance, and will be administered to the lowest rungs of the civil service.
“Beyond the periodic Ministerial Press briefings as witnessed prior to the last Democracy Day Celebrations, we must continue to set targets for ourselves by agreeing on outcomes to be achieved,” he said.