The fourth estate of the realm, the media cannot be considered indispensable in the development of any democratic setting. In Nigeria, the media has been criticized, as well as, appraised for its various roles in molding the Nigerian people. Evelyn Okakwu writes:
By Evelyn Okakwu
However, the Nigerian polity which leaves a culture of impunity and gross corruption as a way of life, has not endeared much praises to the Nigerian media.
Some critics, even including media men say that the media is influenced by sentiments and the factor that supports the saying; “He who pays the piper, dictates the tune.’
In this interview with the president of the Nigerian Union of Journalist, Mohammed Garba, he speakers about the role of the media in Nigeria and the challenges of nation building.
“I agree that he who pays the piper dictates the tune, but in all the profession in Nigeria; I think the media is the only one fighting
corruption, always at the fore front of the fight against the crimes of impunity”.
It is only on the pages of the paper that you will see some of these issues been published. The judiciary is our major problem in this country. Once you do not have justice, then what can you have?. Ther are instances where we see a case of somebody who stole N10 billion and it will take the court 3 to four years to determine the case, then when someone steals N5,000 the case will be decided, in less than 3, to 4 weeks. Yet after all said and done, stealing is stealing.
Justice is what matters; people are not fair in their dealings. If every sector of Nigeria will do exactly what they are supposed to do, I believe Nigeria will certainly be a better place.
If the legislators know what they are supposed to do, why they are elected, then Nigeria will be a better place.
But during elections do the media practitioners really play their role of telling the electorates about major political aspirants.
“The media does in-depth reporting about contestants. In Kano I saw a recent analysis on some aspirants I do not think that was a paid report because of the kind of analysis that was done. They wrote about the various current contestants, like Aminu Dabo who was once a leader of the Nigerian ports authority, and how he was involved in a case that made him stay in prison for 2 years. Other stories are there, in that analysis. The nature of that report was such that it contained details about aspirants, their strengths, weaknesses and other issues.
I know that the media may have its own challenges, but we must respect the media for what they are doing in Nigeria. In many radio stations, they have made profiles of these aspirants”.
He adds that the problem is a general one for Nigeria; “The problem we have is that we have brought the issues of religion and ethnicity to the fore front. For example, if we are talking about true democracy, do we need to talk about the president coming from the south or from the north? I personally do not believe that. Even if it is there, let it be a matter of common understanding or ideology”. “I am the president of the NU;, I am from the Northern part of this county, and so even if we do not say much about it, we know that when my tenure is over, a person from the south should take over, naturally.
So that is how it should be, not what we are experiencing at the moment. Democracy is not a source of division that will generate the kind of discord we have, if not for the way we have handled issues.
What should Nigerians do to ensure that the judicial arm of government comes back to its feet?
“Nigerians must continue to tell the judiciary to do what it is supposed to do. There was a man from the military pension board who
was accused of stealing about N12 billion from the pension board. He was a deputy director. He was taken to court and was fined less than N1, million as penalty for his actions. Dering that period, the media, made series of reports commenting on the injustice perpetrated in that judgment.
“That I think is all that the media can do. The media cannot do more than bringing these issues to light. I think it is even more difficult for the media to highlight issues of justice, because you are not legal professionals, but today we even have media practitioners,
mainly on law desks. We also have media professionals who go to prisons to find out how many prisoners are held there without trial.
Some reports have revealed the injustice of cases where people are held in prisons for as long as 2 to3 years standing trial.”
In a similar manner, Mr Louis Achi a senior reporter based in Abuja says that; “it is only in Nigeria that you will see such in-depth
reporting that brings out facts about what the government does that is bad, and nothing will be done about it”.
It is a fact that the media has its own weaknesses like many other sectors of the Nigerian society, yet given the present circumstances, all that can be hoped for is a set of media men willing to remain resilient in the face of occupational challenges