EXPRESSO 》》By Steve Osuji
Immediately my son read the report, he called out: “Dad, have you seen the current BBC report on the presidential elections?”
Of course I had seen it. How come it’s BBC that gets reports like this in Nigeria, the lad pursued? What really do Nigerian journalists do? He deadpanned. I was in the dock for sure and I rallied to the rescue of my profession.
Nigeria happened to the profession as it happened to nigh everything else within it’s boundaries. The industry is no longer viable; people in it are barely going through the motion, I managed to explain.
I told him further that the BBC reporter is sure to have an insurance cover; he must have adequate travel expense and sundry allowances if not a blank cheque for such assignment. He just has to retire them satisfactorily. But his Nigerian counterpart covering the presidential election in Rivers State or anywhere else at that hardly gets basic travel expense. In 90% of cases, there’s an understanding that the reporter would be catered for by the state governor, the contestants and perhaps the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission).
Many of these hapless journalists actually make demands on these news sources as a matter of right. In extreme cases, line editors and even editors back in the office expect returns from such assignments and would post only reporters who understand the deal.
Why then would a reporter who has been “well taken care of” by INEC for instance, worry whether the returning officer was a ghost or a fake lecturer as BBC was later to reveal? Why would a reporter who has been suborned by a governor interrogate the election figures emanating from the governor’s camp even when there are glaring anomalies? He has been paid to look the other way, he has been paid off to gleefully announce nebulous “official results.”
Most of Nigeria’s journalists today serve their masters at various levels and cadres and not the people and the society they are duty bound to serve. We all saw the largest network in Africa, NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) crazedly broadcast the fabulous Adamawa guber result declaring the APC candidate, Sen. Aisha Binani winner. The network even affirmed the daylight roguery further by allowing Binani an interview.
But the incident turned out to be a classic case of anticipatory self-decapitation by a news organisation. NTA was wont to support any brigandage by any ruling party and was already at work affirming and justifying APC’S Binani until it turned out that even the ruling party was not party to the Adamawa barbarity.
NTA would never have given vent to Binani if she was from an opposition party, it would have insisted on getting official/authentic results from Abuja as the rule stipulates. But with any ruling party, NTA would submit to even sodomy without prompting.
Yet it’s business as usual at the station, no remorse, no apologies, no consequences. It’s common knowledge that NTA stopped practising journalism long ago and it does not pretend to give the people any sort of value. When my children were younger, consigning them to watching NTA was an effective kind of punishment because they would rather be flogged than to watch NTA.
NTA had created a strange kind of journalism profession in its own weird image. A journalism of total surrender and indeed, collusion with the powers that be – mind, body and soul. Not that one expects it to be antagonistic to its pay masters but over the years, it has increasingly marinated itself in the savoury sauces of bureaucracy. The giant broadcast outfit which prides itself as the largest network in Africa has serially become like an accessory after the fact of the relentless misrule in Nigeria.
Even under the ambit of the establishment, media channels like television , radio and newspapers can be great tools for quality developmental news, information and entertainment. The People’s Daily of China, (probably the world’s largest circulating newspaper) and CGTN, the Tv counterpart are well run professional media outlets dishing quality content regardless that they are government controlled.
Therefore, the problem of NTA and other flailing government media outfits may be more of incompetence – shoving square pegs in round holes – more than censorship.
But even the Independent media outlets in Nigeria which used to be the pride of Africa have deteriorated in the last two decades with a large number gone extinct and the remaining few barely existing. Many can hardly keep up staff salaries within the harsh economic situation of the country made blight in the last eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari maladministration.
The media in Nigeria is currently hollowed out. It merely traipse about, waif-like, gasping for life. The Nigerian media is now like the chambermaid kept to give comfort to the dowager. The press today is a mere courtier in the courts of Nigeria’s emperors of graft and plunder. Nobody puts anyone feet in the fire anymore as we were trained to do.
On the other hand, the media scramble to anoint the brigands amidst us and rub their feet with virgin oils. The media prostitute unmerited awards to the rogues amongst us – for the chow of it.
Indeed, the media in Nigeria today cannot be classified to be alive in the true sense it. If it were, so much would be different. For instance, the #ENDSARS protests would have achieved a better closure. But it took the CNN to give some clue as to what transpired at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020. No Nigerian newspaper, radio or TV house could recount the ENDSARS story with any authority. To think that STV is a stone throw from the scene and major radio stations are within walking distances. A book or two should have emerged from the stables of The Guardian, Punch and Thisday deconstructing the ENDSARS epoch.
If our media was awake Buhari would never have made 2nd term in 2019 after a disastrous four years. If there was a media, ministers like Hadi Sirika and Adamu Adamu would have been fired four years ago. Why is Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General who reportedly stole N103b (EFCC confirmed recovering N30b) still a free man? Why is Diezani Alison-Madueke allowed to live large in an island nation she purchased with the proceeds of Nigeria plunder?
If there still be fire in the belly of the press, a Bola Tinubu who is evidently ailing and therefore incapable of bearing the weight of the presidency of a nation would never have stood for office in the first place.
Where in the world is the media in the face of Tinubu’s overwhelming drugaton of a caper? Why is the EFCC chairman and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice still sitting in office in the face of the Seyi Tinubu’s $11 million (cash) UK mansion scandal? And why has the Nigerian press dove for cover instead of raising hell with a million questions? How have we interrogated the APC tragedy?
Finally, why does the press look on dumbfounded as Nigeria inaugurates an unfit and a lame-duck president who is set to be a reproach in the comity of presidents? Isn’t it the same media that has brought down presidents and revamped institutions in other climes?
With violent new technologies smacking the media on the other cheek, there doesn’t seem to be any respite in the near future for the media in Nigeria. Unless something like a deus ex mediana happens, we would have to make do with the likes of CNN and BBC helping out around here for a long while.