Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday said the Nigerian media must reinvent itself if it must overcome the crisis of confidence, decline in readership, technological disruption and other challenges it is grappling with.
Mr. Osinbajo spoke on Saturday in Lagos at an event organised to celebrate the 50th birthday of ace broadcaster and journalist, Kadaria Ahmed.
“We are at the beginning of an explosion of media contents and technological innovations,” the vice president said while noting that the Nigerian media has not responded well to these changes and innovations.
Mr Osinbajo said the Nigerian media is not immune to some of the problems holding the country back as corruption has poisoned the trust the people used to have in the media.
“Nigerian contemporary press is caught up in a crisis of confidence,” he said. “The faith in the media is at all time low because faith in all things in the country is at all-time low. The crisis of corruption is systemic and every institution is infected. Justice can be bought so also headlines can be bought.
“The combine sales of the major print newspapers are less than that of Daily Times 40 years ago.”
Mr. Osinbajo wondered why the media, as “the custodian of our collective memory” has not archived the happening in the country from at least the return to democratic rule in 1999.
He said rather than blame it on poor finance, “the blame should be placed on the absence of vision.”
He said media owners should come up with a sustainable business model that can pay journalists well while noting that a poorly paid journalist should not be expected to be ethical.
Comparing the media with the judiciary, the vice president said: “wherever you find a judiciary that is poorly paid, you will find a judiciary that is compromised. Same applies to the media.”
He also called the press to question on the performance of its watchdog role as enshrined in the country’s constitution when it has failed to put its house in order first, saying that a media house which has not paid its journalists for months should not question a state government which also owes civil servants.
Mr. Osinbajo made the observation while delivering the keynote address of the event titled “A Conversation on Media Renewal in Nigeria.”
The event also included the launch of a book titled: “50 voices” and the presentation of scholarships to 50 undergraduate students from Nigerian universities.
“50 Voices” is a compendium of some of the most notable interviews from Ms Ahmed’s now defunct popular talk show, “Straight Talk with Kadaria”.
The Chairman of Channels Television, John Momoh, who delivered the opening address said the world today is “inundated with information overload” but rather than beaten down by the chaos, Nigerian journalists should see the chaos as the “antecedent of opportunities.”
During the event, former colleagues, friends and family members spent time to pour accolades on Ms. Ahmed.
The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, where Ms Ahmed worked for a while, Wale Babalakin, said Ms. Ahmed was one of the most passionate persons he has worked with.
“She did her role so well that I have never reminded her of an assignment or corrected whatever she had done,” he said.
“I look forward to a Nigeria where Kadaria will gain the status and reputation of Oprah Winfrey,” he added.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of NN24, Tony Dara, said Ms. Ahmed is a “quintessential” journalist.
“She is the best we have and a shiny light to those who want to be journalists in Nigeria,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session, Ms. Ahmed, who started her career in journalism with the BBC, took time to explain her work ethics and how she managed to rise to the very top of her profession.
“Working for the BBC is also like going back to school,” she said.
Ms. Ahmed, who was the Managing Editor of defunct Next Newspapers, also took time to advocate for better welfare for journalists.
She suggested that instead of castigating journalists for demanding and accepting financial gratification from politicians and people they write about, we should rather strive to make sure that journalists are well paid.
“Once you have financial independence, your journalism can be well founded. In my case, I can say no because I have a huge safety net. It is easier to have ethics when you can pay your children’s school fees.
“So, what we need, rather than just preaching to journalists, is to provide the means that allow them to be independent,” she said.