Paper Presented by Adewale Adeoye, Executive Director, Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) on 2023: Electioneering Activities: Setting the Agenda for Political Actors Through Reportage and Conversation at the workshop organized by CACOL with the theme : Election and the Troubled Democracy: The Role of the Media and CSO held in Lagos on Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen
I think this is a timely workshop that fits into the current socio-political milieu. The media has a traditional role that includes to:
·If a may add: To Set Agenda for Local, National and Global Sustainable Development Goals
The above responsibilities should be discharged to the public guided by objectivity, truth and transparency in the promotion of the greatest good of the greatest number.
The media has been part of Nigeria’s remarkable history, the country’s ups and downs, the country’s walk on valleys and in the mountains, through thick and thin.
Our society has a long history of media intervention which predated the 1914 amalgamation of Nigerian various ethnic groups.
I affirm that the media has performed creditably since December, 1859 when the first Newspaper, Iwe Irohin was printed in Abeokuta, now the capital of Ogun State, Nigeria. Long before Iwe Irohin, our ancestral communities employed traditional media to communicate and pass information to the people through the organs of traditional government and a vendor who broadcasted information in the night and day, in the market square or from home to home on the administration of the commonwealth.
From 1914, the media took a dramatic character with the publication of Iwe Irohin in 1859. Let me add that Nigeria has one of the most robust media traditions spanning close to two centuries.
The media played a leading role in the anti-colonialism campaign. After 1859, the Nigerian media mushroomed with speed of light. The focal point was a vigorous campaign against injustice, slavery and colonialism.
From 1880, since the outbreak of the Second World war, over 50 newspapers were published in Nigeria. Some of the newspapers were the Lagos Times, 1880,Lagos Observer, 1882, Eagle and Critic,1883, Lagos Weekly Record, 1891, Lagos Standard, 1894, Nigerian Daily Times, 1921. Indigenous newspaperswere not left out. Some of the newspapers published in indigenous language were -Eko Akete, 1922, Eleti Ofe, 1923, Irohin Osose, 1925. and West African Pilot ( 1937). The publications were not restricted to the West of Nigeria In the North, in 1939, the first Hausa Newspaper, Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo, based in Zaria, began publication. Even though the earliest journalists mostly had secondary education but they had deep knowledge about the challenges of their people. The sacrifices they made were enormous.
For instance, in 1909, there was Lagos Astrological Review published by Adeoye Deniga. He wrote his newspapers with his hand. It is important to mention that the newspaper industry flourished in the era of colonialism with chains of newspapers owned by private individuals. From 1940, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe controlled the largest chain of newspapers in Nigeria. He owned the following newspapers: Nigeria Eastern Nigerian Guardian (PH),Nigerian Spokesman (Onitsha), 1943; Southern Nigeria Defender, (Warri, 1943); Daily Comet (Lagos/Kano), 1944; Eastern Sentinel, (Enugu, 1955), Nigerian Monitor, (Uyo, 1960). He was for 16 years the Managing Director of Zik group of newspapers (Fred Omu-Journalism in Nigeria: Issues and Perspectives-Published by Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ-Lagos Council-1996)
It should be observed that many of Nigeria’s most outstanding anti-colonial leaders were media practitioners like Nnamdi Azikiwe, who established the West African Pilot, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who established Nigerian Tribune in 1948, Chief Anthony Enahoro who was Editor of Daily Times and reputed to have moved the motion for Nigerian independence, Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macaulay and many others. This shows remarkable contributions of media practitioners to the emergence of the modern Nigerian state.
The growth in print media was trailed by broadcast media with the establishment of the Western Nigeria Television Station in December 1959, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.After WNTV, the South West region set up the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service, (WNBS). The following year, the Eastern Regional Government established Eastern Nigeria Television in 1960. In 1962, the Nigerian Federal Authority established the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) which became the predecessor of the Nigerian Television Authority, (NTA)
Next was Wire Service. The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) was set by the Military Government in 1976 by Decree No 19 of 1976. The focus of NAN was purely information and news. Within a very short time, it became the largest wire service in West Africa and one of the largest in Africa. It grew to establish networks in all the major regions of the world including Asia, Europe and America providing first hand information about socio-political and economic developments in Nigeria to the world. NAN also played a major role in providing the platform for the advancement of Nigeria’s foreign policy which made Africa its centre piece as at that period. In 1992, NAN was empowered through Decree No 87 to engage in commercial activities and also to ‘Promote national unity and stability.’ The introduction of profit into its content was to ensure NAN was self independent as a long term strategy yet, the decline of NAN inability to balance commerce with public service remains a dark spot.
It should be noted that the National Broadcasting Commission, (NBC) was established in 1992 by Decree No 38 of 1992. The Decree empowered the Commission among others to advice FG on the implementation of the National Mass Communication Policy.
Today, with some 33,071 television stations in the world backed with 193million hours broadcast, Nigeria has about 120 TV stations with some 96 networks belonging to the NTA. There are some 50 newspapers across the country and a countless chain of online media. There are some 625 broadcast stations in Nigeria. Only recently, President Buhari gave licenses to 159 new Radio stations.
Today, the print and electronic media have become the most dominant sources of information that influence the actions and inactions of Nigerians and also shape the past, present and future of the country. In Nigeria, about 40 percent of the people have access to TV in their homes while over 150million Nigerians have access to radio either through their phones, their radio sets or in their car. The radio is the most influential means of communication in Nigeria.
The Role of the Media is Democracy and Good Governance.
Governing a country is largely dependent on conception, distribution and interpretation of information by the people. Information dissemination shapes the form of stability, instability and sustainable development.
For more than a century, the Nigerian media has shaped the future of the country. The impact has been more positive than negative. The media has continued to set socio-political agenda for the country. The media on many occasions have come under vicious attacks from the state. During the era of military dictatorship, the media was a target. The media did not flinch. The media was one of the few bastions against tyranny and human rights abuses at a very great cost. In the years that succeeded independence, the media took up the battle against the military which ran and ruined Nigeria between 1966 and 1999 with a democratic interlude between 1979 and 1983. In the 13 years of Gen Ibrahim Babangida’s tyranny, the media were shut down on many occasions, offices ransacked and journalists either were killed or disappeared.
The media will therefore continue to stand up to the face of repression, corruption and ineptitude that characterize governance in Nigeria.
The character of the Nigerian Media
The next 100 years after 1859, there was no single media owned by the government either print or electronic until the establishment of the WNBS in December 1959 by the Western Nigerian Government.
However, the first radio station in Nigeria was established in Ibadan in 1932 through Radio Diffusion System using wire linked with microphone. Kano followed in 1944. The first private radio station, Raypower was established in 1994 while the first privately registered Television station, Galazy TV, was established in May 1994.
The post colonial government also did not establish any flourishing print media until the forceful takeover of Daily Times and later New Nigerian Newspapers by the Military Government. While the Nigerian print media has been driven by private ownership, it is not the case for the broadcast media, until recently. There was no single privately owned TV Station in Nigeria until 1994 and there was no privately owned radio station in Nigeria until 1994.
Objectivity, Truth and The Nigerian Media
While journalism has made tremendous contributions to socio-economic and political history of Nigeria, there are challenges that we need to overcome. First, we must realize that the Journalist is a social animal, a human being and an ethnic subject. S(he) is from a particular location in time and space. S(he) naturallyown biases, emotion, feeling, aspiration that reflect culture, faith values and civilization. The temptation of substituting individual consciousness for that of the community is always there. There in the temptation to be subjective.
However, the profession of Journalism is to report phenomena without prejudice either personal or collective. The journalist is not working for himself but for the community. Today in Nigeria, one of the major challenges of sustainable development is the drift of journalism from objectivity to subjectivity. In the past one decade, journalism has suffered unprofessional viral infections and ailments that undermine the essence of the profession itself as the fourth Estate of the Realm. There are a number of factors responsible for this which I may not be able to exhaust in this presentation. I wish to state here some of the challenges that threaten the historical and professional obligations of the Nigerian media:
Reporting DIVERSITY in Nigeria
With over 180miliion Nigerians, majority of who are poor and vulnerable, the media need to design an interventionist framework that allows voices from the valleys to be heard. Some of the diversity issues relate to women, the physically challenged, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women and children. Increasingly the media space is being dominated by the highbrow political class, the media space is being manipulated by the rich, by the ethnic majority, by religious majority and by the physically able and by men.
The media should realise that there are political minorities whose views needed to be heard to enrich the political discourse. In recent events, the media has focused strongly on its own understanding of the ‘big issues’ mainlyreflecting the opinion of influential politicians, high level personalities as if the whole world is all about them. Issues that affect the physically challenged, women, children and the impact of Government policies on vulnerable groups are largely submerged, reported as footnotes, not reported or viewed with contempt. I provide here a checklist of diversity issues that the media should necessarily address.
How do we report ethnic issues without reflecting our personal biases? Issues of ethnicity should be reported within the framework of global standards that reflect conventions and treaties of which Nigeria is a signatory, in the absence of national and local laws that strengthen self determination. For instance, the coverage of self determination activities including those who adopt peaceful means have been largely reported within the context of violence and banditry forgetting about global obligation of Nigeria to the universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO convention 169, the convention on biodiversity and the African charter on peoples’ right.
The media portray the issues as ‘banditry, unknown gunmen, hoodlums’ which undermined the very serious issues of self determination, exclusion, weak legal framework, absence of the rule of law, poverty and the growing resistance against over centralisation of power and politics in Nigeria. The media sometimes substitute ethnic consciousness with tribalism, supplants the right to self determination with official statements that emphanise ‘threat to Nigerian unity’ without understanding the importance of justice.
Official statements are sometimes reported without a critical appraised within the purview of human rights and available data. For example, self-determination is protected in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all of which recognize the right of “all peoples” as contained in Article 1 of the UN Charter states ‘the right of self determination clearly while in Chapter 1 it also recognizes the integrity of the state. (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). We cannot discourse or report conflict and violence in Nigeria without a clear understanding of the history of our country, its emergence in 1914 and the various constitutional conferences, the post-colonial administrators who have failed to include the people in determining the nature and form of their constitution which is partly responsible for the crisis we have at hand today.
INDIGENIOUS ISSUES AND ENVIRONMENT
This is one of the major issues in Nigeria that demands the correct perspective of the media. Communities across Nigeria are showing deep resentment about the encroachment on their land, the threat to their language, their ancestral values and their heritage. This remains a source of conflict across Nigeria. The media has the historic responsibility to put in proper prospective the position of the indigenous communities and their ingrained fear.
The environmental is linked to the survival of the people which is connected to the prospect of peace or instability in Nigeria. Environment has to do with land, resources and spirituality.
The UN stated in the book Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity thus: ‘Spirituality it the highest form of consciousness, and spiritual consciousness is the highest form of awareness. In this sense, a dimension of traditional knowledge is not local knowledge, but knowledge of the universal as expressed in the local. In indigenous and local cultures, experts exist who are peculiarly aware of nature’s organising principles, sometimes described as entities, spirits or natural law. Thus knowledge of the environment depends not only on the relationship between humans and nature, but also between the visible world and the invincible spirit world. ‘Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity- A complementary Contribution to the Global Biodiversity Assessment-United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP-By Darell Addison Posey-pg 4, 1999)
When reporting the environment and the economy, the media space should not be dominated by corporate institutions, multi-nationals and big time investors and their profit. Equally important are in what ways do their activities negate the livelihood of the indigenous communities, their land, their forest dependency, their spirituality and their language? How does the multi-billion dollar Federal Capital City (FCT) impact on local communities, the indigenous owners of the land? While the media report corporate activities on sustainable bases, the pains of local communities where corporate institutions make their money on a seasonal basis are undermined except when the communities have cultural festivals. Issues of environment should take into cognisance the international framework like the The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which “is the international legal instrument for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources” that has been ratified by 196 nations including Nigeria. Recently, the Indigenous Inhabitants of Abuja came out to speak on their agony. Their land was taken away in 1976 with stipend paid as compensation. Today, they are threatening brimstone. We owe Nigerians the obligation to report their travails in historic context with the right perspectives.
WOMEN AND YOUTHS
We cannot deny the improvement associated with the rights of Nigerian women in the past decades, but there are many rivers to cross. On paper, Nigeria lay claim to being committed to women empowerment and there are laws that advance the course of women. But generally, the Nigeria woman remains constantly disempowered. For instance, women are employed as entertainers, cooks, dancers in political rallies. Their participation is used for photo opportunism, while political actors rarely present their actionable programmes on women rights. Politicians conceive of empowerment as giving out crumbs to women, providing cosmetic assistance that does not establish any sustainable and institutionalised policies.
The media should be the voice for women and youth empowerment. It should be the leading campaigner for greater inclusion of younger people who are today largely attracted to drugs, alcoholism and have provided a potential pool for constant recruitment by extremist groups. There are reports that some 84% of the newly registered 10.4m voters are young people, between the age of 18-30.
As the 2023 general election approaches, younger people have demonstrated their strength. Last year September, young people (18 and 34) recorded 71.33 percent registration out of which 40.63n percent were students. At the end of the last registration exercise, 8,784,677 young people newly registered out of the 12,298,944. Students were 4,501,595 out of the figure. This is an indication that reporting the place of youths in the democratic process is an obligation of the media.
Journalism and professional obligations
The journalist either conservative or progressive should discharge duties professionally. This means the journalists must never substitute personal consciousness for the consciousness of the people. The media should understand issues from their historic contexts. You cannot be a good journalist without understanding the history of your country’s political economy and the main actors. You cannot be a good journalist without a good and deep sense of history. You are not a good journalist if the people you are expected to educate are ahead, at all times and more knowledgeable than you are.
It means to educate, inform and entertain, the journalist requires constant reading, not just consuming internet information but the journalist must keep the mind open to history, to local and global information, to the changing dynamics of socio-political economy so that the media actor will be able to properly educate, inform and entertain the people.
THREAT TO MEDIA INDEPENDENCE
Political and economy influence. The media ownership in Nigeria is skewed in favour of the rich, those who control the means of production and distribution, who are anxious and even desperate to protect personal interests and provide iron cast class-shield for themselves and their contemporaries. The media is constantly confronted with the desire to balance public interests with corporate and socio-economic and political interests of the ruling class.
Increasingly, in Nigeria, politicians, some of who are corrupt are taking over the media space not just as owners but also as managersThe Nigerian state has constantly provided the environment for the domination of media ownership by the affluence glaringly expressed in the form of the high cost of obtaining licenses for either radio or television. The political elite whose actions are expected to be challenged by the media are themselves investing in the media industry.
Public Media Institutions as Political instruments
There is also a major challenge in the way publicly owned media are administered. Even though State TV and Radio stations are owned by the public, financed from public funds, they are administered as if they are the private organs of the State Governors and State Officials. The same applies to media institutions owned by the Federal Government. State owned media at the Federal and Local levels fail to provide equitable access to vulnerable communities and the opposition political parties at the state and Federal levels.
The media also faces sustained threats from economic depression which affects many publishers. Today, only very few media institutions pay sustainable wages while majority of them owe their workers. The consequences are high inter-labour mobility, brain drain, lack of access to working tools, low morale and diminishing interests of young graduates in journalism as a profession.
The State, Terrorism and Free Speech
The media also faces increasing threats from intolerant regimes at the local and national levels which come in the form of arbitrary arrests, detention and even threats to life. The recent case is that of Mr Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters who has been grounded in Nigeria by the Nigerian state since his arbitrary arrest in 2019. These are also tricks devised to subdue free speech.
Apart from state sponsored attacks, the media is facing threats from mushrooming armed gangs, terrorists and bandits who recently have made the media their targets. With a state that cannot even protect her own top officials, how can such a state protect ordinary citizens?
Summary ofWhat Agenda the Media Should set?
·The responsibility of the media is to set agenda for peace and stability, sustainable development and livelihood based on truth, the rule of law and objectivity.
·Set agenda for content and form of governance which includes but not limited to Environmental, economic, political and cultural issues.
·The media should set agenda for reporting diversity, ethnic minorities, the national question, terrorism in historic context without overlooking the class variables. The media should not only deepen the debate but also enrich it.
·The media should set agenda for the drastic reduction of corruption, electoral violence, work for ethnic conflict prevention and peace building.
·The media should set agenda for the physically unable and the challenges they face in assessing polling booths, politics, power and the dividends of democracy.
·Women and Gender issues
·Youth political and economic empowerment while challenging under-aged voting, exclusion and ensure electoral accountability.
·The administration of public media institutions to reflect the content and form of ownership.
·Corruption in the electoral process. This is a major challenge for the media.
·The Media should constructively engage the political aspirants not for the purpose of advertising their programmes but for the purpose of engaging them on their policies.
What is to be done?
·In countering the offensive from repressive institutions and violent non state actors,the media needs a very strong vision not only for collective action but for joint campaign for freedom, justice and media right.
·The pro-media rights groups, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ) need to strengthen their capacity, network with traditional allies like the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) for collective democratic bargaining.
·Training of journalists should be the kernel focus of all media institutions. Veterans should be engaged to share experiences with the younger generation of media practitioners.
·Civil society groups should invest in media ownership to stop the monopoly of the media stake-holding by the political class.
As Nigerian trudges on through exceptionally tough and delicate terrain, the media should rise to the occasion to confront corruption, mismanagement of public resources, moral decline and ineptitude in high and low places. We do this not just for the society but also to the sake of the very foundation laid by the fathers of journalism, free speech and democracy in Nigeria. Ultimately,a media that condones the errors of those in power end up as victims of the vicious system they nurture and promote.