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Published On: Wed, Oct 30th, 2019

Investigative journalism: The cure to societal ills

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By Adejumo Kabir

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon” – Tom Stoppard
Journalism is defined as the act of writing, editing and publishing of news story. However, beyond these, journalism is expected to expose the irregularities in the system such as human right abuses, oppressions and illegal acts of stakeholders that would not have been read anywhere else.
George Orwell says “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.” This definition by Orwell was what led to a radical form of journalism whereby reporters probe extensively a specific topic for a period of time for the purpose of exposing the fact public needs to know and holding authority to account.
Section 22 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999 as amended provides that: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.
Various Nigerian governments – both civil and military – have been subjected to allegations of corruption due to investigative reporting which permits journalists to serve as watchdog monitoring the activities of policy makers. While the activities of policy makers are monitored, the press also helps the policy makers know what kinds of effects their previous decisions have had on the society.
The resignation of the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, over the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate scandal marks an important moment for independent investigative journalism and demonstrated how it can hold power to account.
In an era where the media has been cowed by those in power, a top minister was brought to ground zero through the power of investigative journalism. Premium Times Newspaper revelation proved that indeed, journalism is the remedy to societal wrong.
Before the outbreak of the investigative report that lasted six months, the newspaper without fear nor favor exposed how the finance minister released N10 billion for the National Assembly to settle liabilities, a fund that ended up in purchase of exotic vehicles for the legislators. All of these reports helped the public to see that their money is necessary and it is important they know how the country treasury is being spent.
While Kemi Adeosun resignation marked hope for the practice of investigative journalism Nigeria, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje case in Kano state was a ‘scar’ on the practice of investigative journalism. Despite hard core evidence by Daily Nigerian in a video showing the governor of Kano state taking bribe from contractor, there was no robust response to the incident. Instead, the court where sanity should reign banned the newspaper from publishing other videos on the scandal.
Fisayo Soyombo, one of the finest journalist in Nigeria investigated the rots in Nigeria’s criminal justice system with pain and inconveniences. Unfortunately, rather than taking proactive measures to look into the atrocities exposed by Soyombo, the Nigeria government in their ‘wisdom’ felt the best means of addressing the issue is forcing the reporter into ‘exile’ following alleged planned to arrest him and charge him for esponaige. Fisayo’s case is an example of what several journalists face in Nigeria after exposing authorities failure.
Yes, investigative journalism sometimes may not solve difficult issues overnight. Just like the #Gandujegate Scandal and the #Cash and Carry Prison reports. But, the reporters did not fail in their responsibility of serve as catalysts for societal development and advancement. They have given ‘voice’ to the voiceless, highlighted the cause of the oppressed, defended the defenseless, challenged the ‘status quo’ and held government accountable to the people.
Interestingly, student journalists are fast replicating what is obtainable in mainstream media. Like Governor Ganduje’s case, the publications of student journalists may not solve the problem of epileptic power supply nor decay infrastructures in their schools, but certainly, their publications will make readers have knowledge about these happenings through dissemination which will be the key to prevent ignorance and enforce students’ participation in demanding what is just. Aside from keeping the public informed with relevant issues, journalism plays huge role in preserving freedom of speech and expression.
Although, it is almost impossible to whistle blow without expecting a ‘come back’ from the indicted individuals or their loyalists. Fisayo’s case is not the first and won’t be the last. Even Newton’s law of motion says that for every action, there is an equal reaction. Dayo Aiyetan, the executive director of International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) says “reporting corruption means being prepared for the corrupt to throw mud at you.”
While passion and a sense of nationalism still motivates a generation of wide-eyed – young journalists to practice investigative journalism in Nigeria, the risk gets worse everyday as the profession is simply a life or death affairs. But, Henry Anatole Grunwald says “journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
Nigeria government continue to breach the provision of the section 22 of Nigeria’s constitution earlier quoted above. At the last check, a photojournalist with Leadership Ben Uwalaka is still battling for justice over six years after he was assaulted in the line of duty. Ben was attacked in LASU in 2012 by one Bayo Ogunsola, a director in the morgue at LASUTH. It is however pathetic that Ben who almost lost his eyes is yet to get justice since 2012 as the matter suffers uncountable adjournment before Magistrate Bola Osunsanmi. Report has it that the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, Inspector Dolapo of Area F Police Division has not appeared in court since, after appearing just once.
In 2018, a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),Taiye Elebiyo Edeni was reportedly brutalized by security operatives, at the venue where President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned Kaduna dry port on Thursday. On 2nd of January, a Nigerian newspaper publisher, Daniel Elombah, who publishes elombah.com, was arrested around 4:30a.m. in his residence by SARS. Kemi Olunloyo celebrated New Year in Prison.
In 2017, over 22 attacks were recorded, Premium Times head office in Abuja was raided, the Publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi alongside with the Evelyn Okakwu, udiciary correspondent were arrested on 19th of January, 2017 over a story exposing the irregularities of the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. The people in power seem to have forgotten that: “If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature” – Julian Assange
Franz Kafka says: “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”
Samuel Ogundipe also spent weeks in prison for trying to expose irregularities. Just to mention but few. These attacks are slap on democracy. For no reasonable should a journalist keep shut when he or she sees oppression of the poor and how government trampled on justice.

Adejumo Kabir is a journalist studying at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. He is the author of “Campus Journalism Beginners’ Handbook” and can be reached on twitter @AdejumoKabir2

Journalists are arguably moralists. A moralist in a democratic setting should however, be able to speak out when there are traces of inequalities in the country. If the profession is no longer weapon to fight oppressors, corruption will trend and untold stories will never be known.
The reason for the victimization of investigative journalists cannot be disconnected from the ‘idi amin’ tendency of our leaders who are mostly pained and affected by the positions of the press against injustice. Press men are responsible to the masses and Helen Thomas argued that: “We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers”.
To have a safe environment for media practitioners, there is need for an independent commission to protect journalists who maintain the integrity of the profession for to serve as motivation to younger ones willing to hold authorities to account. News agencies must also quickly review the salary structure of their staff to enable them carry out their activities effectively.

Adejumo Kabir is a journalist studying at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. He is the author of “Campus Journalism Beginners’ Handbook” and can be reached on twitter @AdejumoKabir2

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