By Gbenga Oke
LAGOS—Some of Nigeria’s leading media professionals, yesterday, proffered solutions to what was described as the challenges that have stifled the sector from playing its veritable role in the development of the country’s democracy.
The industry leaders who spoke at a symposium to honour Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, the immediate past chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, noted that poor leadership, inclement business climate and the involvement of government in the policies of the Media business have remained major drawbacks.
Organized by Centre for Value and Leadership, CVL, in honour of Ogunshola who clocked 71 recently, the event, which is the 27th CVL’s Leader Without Title, LWT, was themed: ‘’The Media As The Fourth Estate of The Realm.’’
Publisher of Manufacturing Today Newspaper, Mr. Stanley Egbochuku; General Manager, Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye; Chairman The Punch Newspapers, Mr. Wale Aboderin; former Managing Director, Concord Newspaper, Dr. Doyin Abiola and Mr. Richard Ikiebe were the leading speakers.
Various speakers at the event agreed that the media is saddled with the responsibility of checking and holding government accountable but that the media could not function effectively because it has not played its role as the fourth estate of the realm.
According to Mr Gbenga Adefaye, if the media is not important, it would not have been recognized in the Constitution because Nigerian Constitution never provided any role for other professions.
His words: “Section 22 of the Nigeria Constitution requires the media to play a key role of holding government accountable. The media matters in our day to day activities but we have not played our role of being a watchdog because sometimes the information we give out are not accurate and reliable and we find it difficult to hold government accountable.
“The media is still very relevant today but it must make itself more relevant where it matters and the media must try to clean itself up and play the role given to it by the Constitution.”
Adefaye said further: “In the past, when government tried to play the role of running the media, they failed because they met stiff opposition from the private media. I believe media should be driven by ethics but diverse owners have made ethics very difficult today. However, the media industry needs to chase out the charlatans in this profession while editors and unions within the Journalism circle need to be up and doing to ensure the profession lives up to expectation.”
Dr. Doyin Abiola said without virile journalists who hold the ethics of media profession, we are not going anywhere.
She, however, pointed out that the problem of the media is not limited to Nigeria alone but also experienced all over the world.
She said: “If Washington Post is sold toAmazon.com, then something is wrong somewhere. The greatest enemies of the media today are the media themselves. They are not in solidarity. When Chief Abiola started Concord, the people who stood in his way were the journalists.
“The greatest problem of the media is that they cannot rise above the society and government. Once any member of the media gets a government job, they start behaving like politicians and we need to realize that government is powerful all over the world and they will want you to do their bidding at any point in time. It is generally agreed that you cannot fight government, but we need to make our stand known as the watchdog to the government.”
Mr. Stanley Egbochuku, in his submission, said majority of journalists in Nigeria today took up the job simply because they couldn’t find something else to do.
“As a foremost journalist, even my own children have not shown interest in journalism and this points to the fact that majority of people in the media today ended up there because they didn’t find anything else to do. So you will find out that today’s journalists are not working enough and the industry needs to wake up and they should not base their commitments on what they can only get from the job.”
He went further, “If Chief MKO Abiola had lived on today, he would probably have taken Concord group to the stock market. Lack of strong institutions and lack of order have made the journalism ethics redundant. If we have entrepreneurs running the Media business today, we would have seen many newspapers grow.”
On his part, Mr. Wale Aboderin said Nigerian journalists have to develop a reading culture, adding that the template set up by Chief Ajibola Aboderin is that of serious ethics.
Mr. Richard Ikiebe said the media has not played its role as the voice of ordinary man on the streets, adding “we still remember Chief Ogunshola after four years he left Punch because he encouraged leadership and boldness as the chairman of the newspapers.”
I never interfered with editorial content of Punch —Ogunshola
In his speech, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola said he never interfered with the editorial content of The Punch Newspapers when he reigned as Chairman of Punch.
He said: “I allowed professionals to do their job without any interference from me or the editors. I raise queries if the paper refused to live up to expectation but I do not have prior notice of what the editorial content of the paper is.
“Even though several politicians believe I am the one behind the editorial contents of the Newspapers, I can tell this gathering that I don’t personally get involved in stories that come out in the paper even if they affect any member of my family or friends.”
Notable personalities at the event included Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr Sam Amuka, Alhaji Razak Okoya, Dr. Lekan Are, Prof. Bashil Akande, Prince Adedoyin, Balogun Omidiora, Dr. Molaloye, Lola Aboderin, Seye Aboderin, Bunmi Awoleyin, Prof. Niyi Osuntogun, Dr Olusola Dada and Managing Director of Punch, Mr Ademola Osinubi.