Wanted! Defence counsel to end media persecution

The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

The media is the weeping boy of the Nigerian system and the whipping never abates no matter the volume of tears of the weeping child. Everybody holds a whip and stands over the media to deliver a callous stroke at the slightest opportunity. It is such a pervading escapism that when a man fails to put his wife in a family way after 10 years of marriage, the media is called to account for why enough reports on reproductive health were not done to give the couple options.

Yes, it is as bad as that. It was the media that told the Nigerian Army to suddenly become very charitable and go on a vaccination spree of school children in their schools without a pre-campaign to sensitize the public of government’s good intention. And when parents reacted the way they did because the bizarre story in the public space was that the army’s kind gesture was actually a sinister plot by President Buhari (and in the ensuing melee nobody remembered to ask why a president and a father would do such a thing) to depopulate a particular section of the country, it was again the media that didn’t do enough to extract the good intention of the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Burutai from his heart and report same to keep parents well informed ahead of time.

There is much more that the media has been causing Nigerians. It is the media that has not written enough to force government to issue the usual white paper on the report of the presidential investigative panel that probed the N250 million grass cutting contract in the IDPs and the Ikoyi apartment dollars haul. On this and other allegations of corruption, the media has not reported enough to fire interest in Ibrahim Magu and the EFFC to begin investigation of these oddities. It is the reason nothing has been established against transport minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi in spite of the report of a judicial commission of Inquiry that he, Amaechi, who governed Rivers State between 2007 and 2015, has so much to explain about the finances of the state within the same period.

The entire health sector has been anaemic, awaiting blood transfusion from a Good Samaritan. All the workers in the sector – doctors, nurses, matrons, mid-wives, lab technicians, cleaners, name it – take turn to go on strike as if in competition to establish who will strike most. This apart, facilities in public hospitals exist only at the level of aspiration. Literally, there is nothing on ground anywhere in Nigeria to fit the description of adequately equipped general or teaching hospital.

As a result, every ailment, including common malaria, has become a serious medical challenge that requires offshore intervention. Even when the First Lady, not the President, didn’t want to go on medical vacation in UK on account of a small clinical matter according to her, she was forced to turn elsewhere from the Aso Rock Clinic for a solution. The clinic’s humongous budget of N3.1bn (this has been denied) has not meant a corresponding capacity to handle both simple and complex health matters and Aisha Buhari, who was visibly angry told the Chief Medical Director of the clinic Dr. Husain Munir to his face the other day that the management of the clinic would account for the budget.

The point I am making is that, the media has not published enough to direct government’s attention to the comatose health sector and other sectors like education where the media has not published enough to enable the federal government gain understanding of the agreement it signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). This has made the federal government to persistently breach the terms of the agreement, which in turn causes university teachers to stay almost persistently outside the classrooms.

It is also the media that has not told Babatunde Fashola to stop talking big about generating capacity of 7000 megawatts. The transmission and distribution infrastructures, which make it impossible to deliver this energy boost to consumers in homes and offices are absent. If the media does well, Fashola will understand at once that it takes evacuation and distribution to break down megawatts to kilowatts and far less for consumption in homes and offices. In other words, the media is behind the epileptic supply of public electricity.

There is something far more frightful that the media is doing. It is making arrest, prosecution and punishment of killer Fulani Herdsmen very difficult because newspapers, radio and television stations have not written and broadcast enough material to bring the issue to the attention of the authorities. Similarly, President Buhari has not been able to reverse or correct himself on the issue of parochial appointments and other breaches of the so-called Federal Character policy. This would have been avoided if the media had done enough to push the message of fairness and balance even in federal appointments into the ears of the President no matter the counter challenges of poor hearing on his part.

Today, no Nigerian understands the true status of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu. Among these three very powerful men – President Buhari, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Director-general, Department of State Security (DSS), Lawal Musa Daura – there is contention to establish whose opinion is supreme in the matter of the confirmation of Mr. Magu as substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency and the media has not helped to guide opinions. Even the newest matter in town, the contract bazaar at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is not being put on the front burner by the media and the matter risks entering under the carpet.

Maybe Nigeria will be truly better without the media, which encourages all the serious errors of omission and commission that make life less livable here. In Lagos State for instance, it is the media that is not doing enough to stop Governor Akinwunmi Ambode from regaling endlessly in the façade of big projects in strategic locations, while inner roads, like the roads in Ajao Estate, Mafoluku, Ejigbo, Ikotun, etc., where real people live are like pathways to death.

My submission today is that the media is on serious trial and I have taken it upon myself to search for a defence counsel to plead its case. Just one good lawyer who will remember to rightly place culpability where it rightly belongs and say the media is innocent of the heavy charges. Someone to say that there is no ill in Nigeria today that the media has not adequately framed, ventilated and presented for the intervention of relevant quarters. Someone to cut short the sanctimoniousness of the media critic who even lacks understanding of media content because he neither reads newspapers nor listens to radio and therefore not in a position to accuse the media across board of abdication, to look elsewhere for sinners.

What I have seen in Nigeria is that the media will run its race as required but people would want it to run endlessly. Even Apostle Paul ran his race and died. It is therefore most unfair to force the media to swallow paracetamol for every national headache. The swallowing should be democratized along the principle of cause and effect. If, for instance, the APC and the Buhari presidency have become a problem instead of the solution they had advertised, the blame should not come to the media.

In fact, the media has nothing to do with it. All matters arising from the 2015 miscalculation should be taken to the lion in Bourdillion and the two old men in Abeokuta; one a professor and award winning creative writer and the other, a two-time president, farmer and a non-award winning writer of autobiographies. And I guess you understand why the three of them have to entertain such matters!



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