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Published On: Tue, Apr 15th, 2014

Democratic Interface: Memoirs of a Political Reporter

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Democratic Interface - Memoirs of a Political ReporterFRCN seasoned correspondent, Gbenga Onayiga, captures some remarkable moments in Nigeria’s quest for democracy in his 250- page book prelude to his retirement after 35 years of service.

Nigerian journalists are fast joining the league of book writers and emulating their counterparts in developed democracies by churning out books based on their experiences while performing their reportorial duties.

The latest insightful, scholarly and intellectually challenging work on contemporary Nigerian political history entitled “Democratic Interface: Memoirs of a Political Reporter” written by a Radio Nigeria veteran political correspondent, Gbenga Onayiga, will enrich the book shelves on Tuesday next week (15/4/14) when it will be presented to the public at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja.

Nigeria as a nation has passed through various political experiences under military and civilian administrations. This has contributed significantly in shaping the future of the country. Gbenga Onayiga is evidently one of those so strategically positioned by providence to chronicle some of the major events that contributed to the shaping of the destiny of the nation.

A ringside observer in the country’s political evolutionary process, Gbenga had seen the intrigues, blackmail and other vices in their conduct. The book is a product of his personal experience in his chequered journalism career as a political reporter spanning about three decades. The work is the outcome of surveillance kept over the attitude of successive governments and the citizens thereby ensuring the checks and balances required in a democracy. The work is a clear demonstration of the reference to journalists as people who write history in a hurry, as Gbenga chronicles major political developments, particularly during the various transition programmes in Nigeria since independence.

In furtherance of its constitutional injunction, the “Fourth Estate of the Realm”, as the media is usually referred to, has always been monitoring the activities of government and promoting strict adherence to the rule of law as well as the sustenance of democracy in the country. Right from the founding of the first newspaper in Nigeria “Iwe Irohin ni Ede Yoruba” by Reverend Henry Townsend in Abeokuta in 1859, the media in Nigeria has been in the fore-front of defending the rights of the masses. It played the advocacy role and helped to check the excesses of the government.

Indeed, the media led by nationalists like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Ernest Seisei Ikoli, used the power of the pen to champion the attainment of independence for the country. It is therefore not an over-statement to conclude that the media, more than any other profession, suffered and sacrificed a lot in lending a hand to bringing about whatever success has been recorded in the social, political and economic life of the country.

Nigeria can boast of having the freest and most outspoken press in the whole of Africa, one which has been credited for having helped in Nigeria’s transition to civilian government, but also one which has consistently (and understandably) been the target of harassment by past military dictatorships. Many agents of Nigeria’s press have been imprisoned, exiled, tortured or murdered as a result. Nevertheless, few still persevered, working to make the dreams of the founding fathers of Nigeria not to be in vain.

Our nation today needs people like Gbenga Onayiga in the media profession. Men who are honest, true to the heart, self made men, men with conscience, steady as the needle to the pole, men who would stand for their right even if the heavens and earth reel, men who can look the world in the face and tell the truth, men who have courage without being domineering, men who know their place and fill it, men who know their message and preach it, men who would not lie, shrink or dodge, men who are not lazy to work, nor too proud to be poor. He is a trusted, visionary and committed journalist.

The public service of Gbenga has given him a deep sense of commitment, honesty, enthusiasm, responsibility, the right mental attitude and other positive characteristics that are lacking in many in public positions which affect the lives of the less privileged in the country today.

This book is primarily a general interest encyclopedia about trust, transparency and accountability of the media to the project called Nigeria.

There has been a growing realization that the mass media has been under-used in development. The key realization has been that the mass media can be deployed in the fight against poverty, corruption, Niger Delta and Boko Haram insurgency as well as failing infrastructural development. There is also the need for an increased emphasis on good governance and strengthening democracy. The mass media is widely seen as playing a key part in supporting people’s rights under law, and in holding politicians and officials to account.

The book is written in simple language that is accessible to many grades of literacy. It is a must read for policy makers, critics of the media, teachers and students of history, education, sociology, anthropology, and political scientists at all levels. The book will no doubt give a fresh perspective and clear some doubts concerning this institution and at the same time arouse the very deep interest of the media in entrenching, deepening and sustaining democracy and good governance.

The author deploys his powerful skill in political reporting to full effect and comes up with a captivating masterpiece that should enrich Nigeria’s literary establishment. The book does not pretend to be a study of the media thought process and involvement in Nigeria’s democratic experience, but it provides the basis for the study of emerging trends and paradigm shift of the use of the media in Africa’s biggest democracy.

It is obvious that the book is going to set standards for media treatises that is bound to flow as Nigeria’s fledgling democracy finds firm footing in the years to come.

Media treatises that is bound to flow as Nigeria’s fledgling democracy finds firm footing in the years to come.

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