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Nigeria: The Press, Morals and National Consciousness

Nigeria is blessed with human and natural resources.  However, the country has been dwarfed by the leadership conundrum. The divisive tendency of the citizenry has further compounded the problem. Apparently, the Executive, Judicial and Legislative arms of government have not provided the needed soothing balm for the country’s malaise.

The common man has often looked up to the media, the fourth estate of the realm, for possible solution. Granted that the media often flies on high pedestal, the country has not gained altitude in terms of ensuring national consciousness. It is imperative to investigate how the press is a vehicle for social change and integral development.

Morals stand for the science of right conduct based on an informed conscience. National consciousness is a patriotic way of life-based on one’s affiliation to a country either through birth or nationalization. It is the medicine for a divisive country which points to the National Anthem, the Pledge and National Flag as emblems for Unity and Faith, Peace and Progressas the motto of Nigeria depicts.

The print media in Nigeria has distinguished itself as a medium that facilitates attitudinal change. It would be recalled that it was Premium Times Newspaper exposed the National Youth Service Corps certificate forgery of the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. KemiAdeosun. This story eventually forced her to resign from her office.

The law provides that: “…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,” (1999 Constitution, Chapter II, Section 22). To this end, the print media in Nigeria controls and manages society.

The gatekeeping and gate-watching role of the media enables it to form agenda for public discussion and opinion. For instance, if the economy is bad, the media can decide to focus on the war on terror in the northeast. The erstwhile focus of the media on the general elections is a case in point. It was the print media that helped to bring back the democratic process Nigerians are enjoying.

As part of specialized reporting, journalists in the country have contributed in no small way to uncovering crime through investigative journalism. Journalists like Dele Giwa and Bagauda Kalto met their end in an attempt to unravel corruption in high places. Also, in 1999, The News magazine uncovered the certificate forgery scandal of Salisu Buhari, former Speaker of the House of Representatives which led to his exit from office.

That is not all, a former Senate President, Evan(s) Enwerem was exposed by Tell Magazine for using the credentials of his sibling hence the confusion about his true name between “Evan” and “Evans” which led to his impeachment. This was at a time when people in such positions were seen as gods. In like manner, the media exposed a one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Patricia Etteh for alleged corruption which led to her impeachment by her colleagues.

From General Buhari’s Degree 4 through Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha’s repression of the press, the media singled itself as an institution which spoke truth to power. For example, in 1993 Tell Magazine set up what it called an adversary press during the Babangida administration to taunt the regime.

Between the 70s to the mid-1980s, it took the resilience and doggedness of Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed and Dan Agbese to front Newswatch as an investigative magazine which kept the military junta on its toes. This continued until the return of Nigeria to civil rule on May 29, 1999.

There is no institution which has helped in the creation of awareness about human rights abuse in the country like the media. It has always upheld the dignity of the human person by advocating for the fundamental human rights of the oppressed in society. The case of EseDuru, a minor that was abducted from Bayelsa in lieu of forceful Islamization made headlines in national dailies.

In like manner, the case of the late Ochanya Ogbanje, in Benue State who was serially molested sexually by the male child and husband of her aunty leading to complications and eventual death caught the attention of the media demanding justice for the deceased and her family.

We cannot forget the gruesome murder of Saifura Khorsa and Hauwa Liman, aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by suspected Boko Haram Islamists. Newspapers and magazines rose in condemnation of the gruesome acts while demanding the security agencies to do the needful in providing security for other vulnerable groups in the area.

The case of Leah Sharibu and other Chibok abductees has gained media traction and saturation. The media has been at the fore front of advocating for their unconditional release and the protection of women and children who are often soft targets that are used as suicide bombers.

The “global village” philosophy has been glamourized by the media. This is because the media engenders social interaction and unity. For example, when various media groups were reporting the activities of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign who were advocating for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, both the conveners who are drawn from different ethnic groups across the country and the media did not see the issue as an isolated one.

Indeed, the media engenders social interaction and unity. Its informative and educating role places the media in a position to create awareness and promote national consciousness. For instance, it is the Nigerian media that brought to the consciousness of the citizenry concepts like doctrine of necessity, budget padding and postponement of elections.

In a country where people are likely to be divided based on vested interests, both the academia and the media ought to show the way. This is where the words of the Indian scholar and journalist, Seno GumiraAjidarmacome to the fore: “When journalism is silenced, literature must speak because while journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with truth.”

Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor–Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.



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