The Nigerian Press is Becoming Lazy, Corrupt, and Moribund

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

In most societies around the world, the Media, sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate, is as important as the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. Considered incorruptible by most, the media is society’s watch-dog. Generally speaking, the role of the Media is to educate, inform and entertain the masses; it does so by remaining objective and impartial in a status quo mode. In great and progressive societies however, the Media may expand its role by becoming an activist: advocating and campaigning for reforms for the overall good of the people. It goes about its activism by challenging conventional wisdom, engaging in investigative journalism, arousing the conscience of the state, doing the people’s biddings and helping to shape intermestic debates. A nation without an independent media is a nation without conscience, without hope.

In years gone by, the Nigerian Media was an activist-media making it the most vibrant and purposeful in the whole of the Black world, if not in the developing world. It had a good reputation, and also had a visible role in shaping national debates. It greatly influenced the thinking, actions and pronouncements of policy-makers and decision-makers; played a vital role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence and in the liberation struggle of other African countries. For instance, the Nigerian Media was in the forefront of the liberation struggles of countries like Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. And in fact, the International Press gauged the pulse of the Black world by taking a reading of what was being said and written about in the Nigeria Media. That was then.

Today, the Nigerian Media is a shell of its once plump self: it has lost its way. And more so since 1999, the Nigerian Media has become lazy and moribund. And corruptible! Most of the newspapers and magazines in circulation today do not hide their allegiance to the party and or government in power (at any given time). And in fact, it is increasingly becoming difficult to distinguish one paper from another as most of these papers are home to some third-rate columnists and reporters. On any given day, sloppy writing and poor editing can be found all over the pages of the newspapers and magazines — making one to wonder if anyone can just walk off the streets to become a journalist in today’s Nigeria. One can forgive nonprofessional writers, but trained journalists?

Yellow-journalism, sensational news, coronation news, congratulatory messages, and the likes have become the order of the day. And in most cases, the Media ignores real stories coming out of villages and rural areas in favor of big city news. Even so, there is not much of an analysis involved. In virtually all the papers and magazines, there are no foreign news items, except those culled form foreign news sources.

When was the last great investigative journalism done? With the obscene amount of legal and illegal money floating in and through the political landscape, did the Media even attempt to investigate their sources? When was the last time the Nigerian Media affected the thinking of policy-makers and decision-makers in high and low places? What role did the Media play in the Nigerian Democracy experiment? For instance, did the Media educate the people about democracy and human rights? Why have the Media not told the people how the just concluded elections were rigged? Or, is it that the Media have no great insights and no scoops? Journalists, it seems to me, no longer take their trade and craft seriously.

Additionally, the Media missed great stories and great investigative report concerning the shenanigans of President Obasanjo, the National Assembly and the various State Houses vis-à-vis corruption allegations and the impeachment sagas. In all, one gets the feeling that the Media allowed itself to be dictated to. In this regard, it won’t be a surprise if Aso Rock was able to intimidate and blackmail publishers and editors and reporters. It won’t be a surprise if it came to light that some publishers, editors and reporters were winning and dinning with Governors and other government officials. I won’t be surprised to know that journalists and influential writers were on the payroll of the people they were supposed to keep an eye on. In other word, corruption may have overtaken the newsroom and news desks of the great majority of Nigerian publishers, editors and reporters.

A look at the post-1999 Nigeria Media seem to indicate that the Media suffered much the same fate as the Nigerian Intelligentsia: they were frustrated, bought, bribed, and then subjugated so much so the Media has, for the most part, become government puppet and errand boy. But unlike the Intelligentsia, it didn’t take much to crush the Nigerian Media.

Questions: how many newspaper and magazine publishers, editors and reporters were bought over or knocked around to cooperate with government and her agents? How many members of the Editorial Board were/are on government payroll? How many of them are receiving periodic financial allowance from police commissioners and the Inspector General of Police and from governors, assembly members, the presidency, and other private and public individuals?

Except for a few shining stars, most journalists and writers are monumental disgraces to the journalism profession. Excerpt for a few publishers and editors and editorial board members, most are a letdown to their craft and pedigree, and to themselves. While they were napping, the government and other private and public individuals exploited and debased the nation without as much as a protest from the Media. The thoroughbreds of the 1960s through the mid-1980s would have been alert to the stealing of the nation’s purse; they would have informed the nation of how Nigerians and non-Nigerians are busy stealing the nation’s lootable and nonlootable resources; and they would have investigated “who, why and how” the elections were stolen.

There are too many abnormalities and political machinations going on in the country today. But sadly, most people are in the dark, they have no understanding of how they and their children are being robbed of their dreams and prosperity. Instead of informing and educating the people, the Nigerian Media is busy engaged in frivolities, praise-singing, and bootlicking. What nonsense! Our nation is burning, but the media is silent, sleeping, snoring, and snorting. What a freak show, this 1999-2007 Nigerian Media.

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2 comments June 3, 2007 - 1:08 pm

You are dead right about the state of the Nigerian media. But wrong about when the media became the megaphone of private individuals. I do not recall when the defunct Daily Times, New Nigerian, Observer and Daily Sketch seriously criticized the governments that owned them. On the other hand, I recall how The Tribune and the defunct Concord were used by their respective owners – Awolowo and M.K.O. – to serve their political whims, in spite of having been peopled by brilliant reporters.

I think, like most things Nigerian, the media have, at best, regressed.

N. Ngbude June 1, 2007 - 11:19 am

A good piece of fiction. Did you read the cover story of TheNews magazine this week (dated June 4), on the stolen wealth of OBJ? Where were you during the fight to kill the Third Term? Without the media, wouldn't OBJ be still there today? Haven't you been reading the stories how the elections were rigged? Whoever paid you to rubbish the media should have provided you with potent weapon. You failed in the mission.


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