NIGERIA MEDIA UNDER SIEGE: AWARD CEREMONIES, MUSIC JAMBOREE AND FASHION SHOWS REPLACES INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
“Was it graft? The crooks of Tammany Hall distinguished between honest graft—which they considered respectable—and dishonest graft. Honest grafters used political connections, such as tips as to where a new bridge was going to be built, to make surefire investments. Dishonest grafters stole directly from the treasury.”
- By Jack Shafer
- “The Honest Graft of Lady Bird Johnson: How she and Lyndon came by their millions.” Posted online at Slate.com Monday, July 16, 2007, at 5:06 PM ET
There is a new way of doing business, especially if you are a newspaper proprietor in Nigeria and it will make you rich, I mean “stinking rich,” and you don’t have to employ a journalist to run your newspaper anymore. The new deals can be called Award Ceremonies, Pop music concerts and Fashion Show Extravaganza. All you need do is announce through the front page of your national newspapers that you are organizing an award ceremonies for companies and government “parastatals” and agencies. The crassness of the deals lies in its buffooneries. There is no semblance of merits in such an award. All it does is get these private companies and government agencies tripping over themselves to advertise in such newspapers. It is interesting to note that the winners of such awards end up locking down an advertising contract with such newspapers.
The problem I have with such scams is the damage it does to the already “battered” integrity of journalism in Nigeria. Let me hasten to state that Nigeria journalism used to be the freest and the most professional in Africa. Nigeria journalist had a long history of standing up to dictatorship in Nigeria and indeed in Africa; be it colonial dictators or Military dictatorship.
I recalled fondly reading about an attempt by Late President Mobutu Sese Seko of the then Zaire (now called the Republic of Congo) to withdraw his country’s diplomat in Nigeria because of a newspapers articles critical of him by a Nigerian journalist. Journalism has come a long way in Nigeria, from the alcions days of Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s “West African Pilot” to Babatunde Jose’s leadership of “Daily Times of Nigeria,” with their dogged fight against colonialism in Nigeria. And of course we all could recalled with fond memories the days when Late M. K.O. Abiola’s Concord newspapers with editors like Late Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, and Yakubu Mohammed and their principled stand against corrupt civilian regime of the second republic even when their proprietor was part of that regime. During the Babangida and Abacha years Nigerian masses voices could be heard loud and clear from such publications as Guardian Newspapers, Tell Magazine, The News and of course the hydra headed indomitable Tempo magazine.
We all vicariously lived through the many vagaries and assault upon these publications; we empathize with their editors when they get arrested for speaking truth to power. We sympathize with their proprietors when the News paper offices get turned into soldiers barrack by a preemptive strike of military junta.
Here comes the fourth republic, with all the pervasive corruption and carnage stalking our land, Nigerian journalist and journalism seems to have divorced and jilted the Nigerian masses for a new lover called filthy lucre. You hardly found any news medium with integrity. It is as if investigative journalism is presently on vacation. You stand a better chance of finding quality investigative report from online news media such as The Times of Nigeria, Sahara Reporters, NigeriaVillageSquare.com. Even with their obvious financial and professional limitations, some of these media, established by Nigerian abroad have exposed more corruptions in Nigeria than the mainstream media in Nigeria (MMN). We have had more breaking news from these medium than the MMN.
It is as if the mainstream media in Nigeria have been completely emasculated and castrated by its cowardly approach to investigative journalism. We are indeed in dire strait when the fourth estate of the realm, as we fondly refer to the news media in the second republic, have to depend on foreign based online investigative journal for news break. There are obvious limitations for these foreign based news media, they are under-funded, and some of them literally had to solicit for money from their online readers to continue publication. They are often inaccurate in their report and some have even argued that they have done more harm than good. There are myriads of reports of hard earned image tarnished because opposing politicians used these media to tarnish each other reputation. Many of these online journal do not give opportunity to their subject to respond to the varied allegations they peddled. In fact some of their online response forms do not work and many attempt to contact the editors by email yield little or no success. The lifeline is short and ubiquitous. They are here today and gone tomorrow.
But then let’s go back to the issue of mainstream media in Nigeria. How did we get to this point? The most prominent newspaper in Nigeria today is likely to lead its front page with an announcement of an award ceremonies organized by it for banks or governors, or governmental agencies. Recently I have seen serious newspapers front page leads with fashion and musical shows organized by newspapers. It is as if we don’t have a war going on at the Niger Delta. It is as if Nigeria is suddenly an “Eldorado” for American based hip hop and Rap artiste. In a country where millions are dying of hunger every year, in a country where the aviation industry killed more people than bilharzias, in a country where armed robbers freely roam the streets with impunity whilst police officers “run for cover,” in a country where sixty percent of National revenue cannot be accounted for, in a country where road accidents claimed lives in dozens everyday; Nigeria newspaper industry has no business promoting American artiste such as Beyonce, Jay Z and others.
Some of these circus shows are usually interspersed with Nigerian musicians and so called fashion moguls and models based abroad. The few invited artiste who live in Nigeria are badly remunerated and treated shabbily during such concert. The news papers then concocted rifts between the American artiste and the Nigerian based artiste and inundate us with stories about their skirmish. All of these go on whilst thousands of Nigerians who are graduating from colleges had no where to work.
Recently, a prominent Nigerian news paper organized banks/banker award, the idiocy inherent in such award is laughable if you are willing to ignore the comatose economy inflicted on Nigerian by these “glorified trading companies” and “bureau de change” called Nigerian banks. And of course the banks ran over themselves to lobby for the awards. I have had that money changed hands, even though that is hard to prove. They are what Jack Shaffer called in the excerpted quote above “honest graft.” What we can prove is that the bank and banker that won the said yearly award had nothing to show as their contribution to the Nigerian economy other than drive our currency down and aid corrupt politicians in siphoning money out of Nigeria to South African and Caribbean banks.
This is the current state of Nigeria media. It is sad and saddening indeed. I wrote about the broadcast medium sometimes ago and I got few emails from well meaning Nigerian abroad asking about and at the same time applauding my recommendations that we should turn Nigeria Television authority (NTA) stations into research institutions for Mass communication departments in Nigeria Universities. My call today is for Nigerian abroad to invest and actively participate in developing alternative media online to the Mainstream media. It is good to have a one place online destination where you could read all Nigerian newspapers in one fell swoop as represented by Gamji.com, Nigeriaworld.com, and Nigeriaexchange.com. It is also laudable that these online media provide avenues to publish and read informative and incisive articles on the Nigerian experience. We all enjoy the contributions of Cybereagles.com to the upliftment of our national soccer team.
But now, we need more. We need to create, develop, encourage and patronize online investigative magazine, journals and forum that will serve as countervailing force for the dying art of journalism in Nigeria. The fact that the richest Nigeria news medium today makes its profit from glossy reprints of photos of corrupt Nigerian politicians celebrating their birthday and new wives in London speaks volume about the decadence in our mainstream media. We can no longer entrust them with the future of our dear country. The impact of U.S online alternative media and blogs such as Dailykos.com , Drudge.com, and Freerepublic.com on American politicians and political parties should serve as lessons to every nation and every person that old media is no longer sufficient in the fight against dictatorships in the present age. We need to afflict those who have been made comfortable through the ongoing pillage of Nigeria by its politicians and comfort the afflicted victims of such pillage, with exposure which leaves no room for anyone to hide.
So next time you read an incisive piece in an online investigative journal on Nigeria, write to thank the editors and laud them for their courage. When they get it wrong excoriate them, but don’t join others in throwing the baby away with the bath water. If you are a student journalist, take pride in working for these online publications. Recently the board of directors of Cybereagles.com fed up with the shenanigans of Nigerian Football Association and their collaborators in the media opted to recruit Nigerian students’ journalist to ferret out information about the tragedy called Nigeria national soccer team-the Super Eagles. This is a patriotic call to stand for truth and justice in our land and eschew continued celebration of mediocrity and corruption in the last existing vanguard for the defense of Nigeria democracy.