Journalism practice in Nigeria: pains and pains

By Kayode Crown
The Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, was at the 10th anniversary celebration of Adaba FM, Akure and attested to the fact that the station’s existence gave voice to the opposition in the state.

Truly, the advent of the radio station changed the face of broadcasting in the state.

I want to use the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the first private station in this state to bring to fore the pains and gains of journalism practice in Nigeria.

No one can disregarded the power of journalism in this nation. One thing that poignantly highlights that is the fact that the media is recognised by the constitution.

According to the Nigerian constitution, “The press, radio, television and other agencies of 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.”

The “chapter” referred to is the “fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy”. In a layman’s language, that means the constitution recognises the media as the voice of the people, and with the responsibility of speaking truth to power and holding them accountable to the people at all times.

However, in recent times, journalists, who are supposed to discharge their duty of being the “bridge” between the government and the people, have been walking a difficult road.

An exclamation mark on that issue is the recent experience of a Premium Times reporter, Mr Samuel Ogundipe, in the hands of the police.

According to that online paper, Mr Ogundipe was arrested and driven from the SARS headquarters in Abuja to the IGP Monitoring Unit at Force Headquarters where he was made to write a statement concerning the source of a recent story he wrote.

Premium Times declared that he declined giving his source as allowed by journalism ethics.

However, it said, “Mr Ogundipe’s salary account with Ecobank was frozen in an attempt to frustrate him. One of the police officers handling the investigation,  Emmanuel Onyeneho, an inspector, was heard saying they had to freeze the account to incapacitate the reporter.”

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That reflects the danger journalists are involved in as they carry out their constitutionally assigned role. We are supposed to be a land of freedom, but Mr Ogundipe, based on his experience, would not easily agree with that sentiment.

Also, a journalist and publisher of a paper based in Bayelsa state, Jones Abiri was imprisoned on July 2016.

Abiri was incommunicado for about two years, and was recently released on bail. Ogundipe has also been released on bail. Both had appeared in court.

But none of the two journalists were released without public outcry against what could be regarded as the injustice meted to them.

The security personnel needs to stop the harassment of journalists.

Another trending issue which borders on media practice is the demolition of the building housing Fresh FM in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The state government said the proper permit was not sought for the establishment of that broadcast station, which is owned by a popular musician, Yinka Ayefele.

But it has been reported that the reason for the demolition is not just because of a purported flouting of building regulations, the governor of the state, Abiola Ajimobi reportedly said that he expected the owner to have come to beg him. But Ayefele reportedly said that he made some efforts in that direction.

Ayefele’s publicist, David Ajiboye was reported as saying, “He (Governor Ajimobi) told us that he could have saved the situation if only we had come to see him. He felt we ought to have come to beg him and our chairman, Yinka Ayefele, pointed it out that we had since told the commissioner for information to book an appointment with the governor. He further said that he called the SSG to help him book an appointment with the governor even before this incident happened and the commissioner corroborated his claims but said that the governor was unavailable at the time.”

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If you ask me, I will say that government used its power the wrong way. The story smacks of executive rascality and lack of sensitivity.

In the same vein, the building housing Breeze FM 99.9 FM in Nasarawa state was last year demolished and till now nothing has been done about it. The government said it took the action because the building flouted some urban planning law. That is the same premise the government of Oyo State mentioned as the basis for the partial demolition of Yinka Ayefele’s N800m Music House.

The wheelchair-bound “tungba” maestro  said he spent three days in the hospital because of the shock of the demolition. And I am very sure that not a few eyes remained wet after seeing the partially demolished house. That number includes yours truly.

So the practice of journalism is fraught with dangers as those stories I have shared show.

Accordingly, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called on its members nationwide to protest the ways journalists are treated by security officers and politicians. They want to raise their voice so that the impunity will end.

Enugu State held it’s own protest last Thursday, while that of Ondo State is scheduled for tomorrow.

According to a report on the protest of the Enugu State NUJ chapter in Today.ng, “The protest march, which took place within the premises of the NUJ Press Centre on Rangers Avenue, was led by the Chairman of the Council, Rex Arum.

“Mr Arum said that the protest followed a directive by the national leadership of the union over the impunity of security agencies and politicians against journalists.

“He said that events of recent times had made media men endangered species along their duty line.”

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They want to remind the general public of the important role the media played in getting us to where we are as a nation, so that they would be given the proper respect.

If need be, stronger laws should be promulgated to protect Journalists as they carry out their constitutionally assigned duties. An act against the media should be regarded as an act against the existence of Nigeria as a nation.

We truly need to move away from the era of the use of state power against journalists.

Power belongs to the people and the political class exists for the sake of the people and not the other way round. And someone who has nothing to hide would not be afraid of journalistic exposure, to the extent of levelling trump up charges against them.

Someone like Jones Abiri  who was incarcerated for two years should, after the dust on his case is settled, have another day in court when he will seek reparations for the two years of his life that he lost. Not only was he kept away, possibly at the behest of an overbearing politician, he was a year three law student in 2016 and he should have graduated by now. That is how serious the pain that he was made to go through is.

Those that should be the voice for the voiceless should not be hounded down like dogs.

Both Nasarawa and Oyo state governments have gone into the black record book of governments which demolished privately owned radio stations where some of their citizens enjoyed gainful employment.

It is, therefore, pertinent to note that Adaba FM is able to commemorate ten years on a good note, seeing that it is age mate with the Fresh FM, which is commemorating its 10th year on such a sad note.

Adaba FM should forge ahead with its journalistic pursuit towards making the world a better place. I also wish them well.

Journalism practice in Nigeria: pains and pains

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