..Laments impact of negative media on Diasporas, investors

…Names NAN Hqtrs after late Wada Maida

…. As NAN seeks improved funding

By Chris Ochayi

ABUJA: The Federal Government, Thursday, challenged media practitioners to be fair and report accurately in their reportage of the security challenges in the country, especially efforts being made by it to tackle the menace.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who gave the task while speaking at a ceremony on the renaming of NAN Headquarters building after the late Wada Maida in Abuja, lamented that the media have succeeded in creating general impression that Nigeria is a country at war.

Late Wada Maida until his death on August 17, 2020, was the Chairman of Board of Directors of News Agency of Nigeria, NAN. He joined the agency in 1978 when NAN began operation, making him one of the pioneers.

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He rose to become Kaduna Zonal Editor, to London as Western Europe Correspondent, from Editor-In-Chief to the headship of the Agency as its Managing Director.  

Wada joined the agency in 1978 when NAN began operation, making him one of the pioneers. Traversing from Kaduna as Zonal Editor, to London as Western Europe Correspondent, from Editor-In-Chief to the headship of the Agency as its Managing Director, Wada kept trudging through. Even when he succumbed to death on August 17, 2020, Wada was still with NAN as Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Alhaji Mohammed regretted that the decisive manner in which gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East are never celebrated by the media, rather they chose to discourage them with negative reporting.

He said the manners at which the media painted the country has made Nigerians in diaspora to be afraid to come to their country, and likewise the foreigners, including investors and tourists, feeling unsafe about coming to the country.

Recommending brand journalism practice that can yield positive development, the minister said, Alhaji Wada’s brand of journalism was developmental.

“He believed that journalism serves a higher purpose, which includes ensuring the development, peace and unity of a nation.

“This is not a surprise, considering that the News Agency of Nigeria, where he served out most of his years as a journalist, is not just the apex news organization in Nigeria but also one committed to countering negative information about our country.

“It may seem obvious and trite, but for any professional, including a journalist, in Nigeria to be able to carry out his or her responsibility at all, the nation must first exist, in peace. In other words, if the country goes down, all professionals and everybody go down. It is that stark, and this is why I want to use this platform to appeal to our media to put Nigeria first.

“If one picks up most newspapers, watches most television stations or listens to most radio stations in Nigeria today, he or she will be right to think Nigeria is a country at war. Yes, we have challenges, especially in the area of security.

“But this Administration has not only acknowledged these challenges, it is earnestly tackling the challenges. A good example is the decisive manner in which our gallant troops are tackling the banditry in the North-West or the way they are combating the terrorists in the North-East.

“Our security agencies have also successfully tackled the separatists in the South-East and South-West and the militants in the South-South. Unfortunately, these efforts have only been perfunctorily reflected in the reportage of the security challenges that we face. This is not only unfair, especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us safe, it is unpatriotic.

“To illustrate the damage this non-acknowledgement of the efforts of the security agencies pose to the country, let me tell you what transpired when I recently hosted some members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) UK Chapter, who visited me in my office here in Abuja.

“They said some of their colleagues who would have come to Nigeria for their programme, tagged ”A Week in & For Nigeria’, during the month of July, did not come out of fear of the security situation in Nigeria. However, those who made the trip said they travelled to their hometowns across the country and returned to Abuja safely.

“If Nigerians in diaspora can be afraid to come to their country, imagine how foreigners, including investors and tourists, will feel about coming to the country.

“Whatever image problem Nigeria is suffering from today is mostly due to the unflattering portrayal of the country by the country’s media. Even when some media organizations report fake news, they never have the decency to retract such stories and apologise. They simply move on as if nothing has happened.

“We are not saying the media should not report on the security challenges we face. All we are saying is: be fair and report accurately the efforts being made by the state and federal governments to tackle the challenges.

“Even if you don’t want to encourage the men and women in uniform fighting to keep us safe, please don’t discourage them with negative reporting. The security challenges we face today will be successfully tackled and Nigeria will not cease to exist, despite the antics of naysayers.”

Alhaji Mohammed, while pouring encomium on the late media guru, Maida, said, “Let me start by commending the management and staff of the News Agency of Nigeria for coming up with the idea to immortalize the late Alhaji Wada Maida.

“The federal government’s decision to approve the proposal was not difficult, upon realizing the role played by Alhaji Wada in making NAN the respectable agency that it is today.

“A man who was everything from Zonal Editor to Foreign Correspondent to Editor-in-Chief to Managing Director to Board Chairman, a man who built this glistening NAN headquarters edifice deserves to be immortalized by the organization he served so well in his lifetime

“Alhaji Wada’s immense contribution to the development of journalism was not restricted to NAN alone. He also made his impact on the national and international stage.

“He was President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, a distinguished member of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria and a one-time Executive Director of the International Press Institute. Indeed, Alhaji Wada was a colossus of journalism and a national icon. He deserves the honour being bestowed on him today.

“Just before I round off, please permit me to congratulate the family, friends and associates of the late Alhaji Wada Maida for the great and much-deserved honour being done to him today.”

In his remarks, earlier, the Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Mr. Buki Ponle has lamented that the agency established 43 years ago was financially handicapped.

He therefore, called on the National Assembly make an urgent surgical amendment to the Act establishing the Agency, which according to him, constituting another set of hindrance to some extent.

 Ponle said, “Today, 43 years after, NAN is waxing stronger, as we have transformed the media landscape with the times, From text message which relied heavily on despatch riders, courier service, as well as obsolete posts and telegraph service in the late 70s, now to multimedia, dynamic departments and the best the ICT could offer, we have actually come of age.

“We are proud to say that NAN has proved to be a one-stop shop with all the media arsenals at its disposal because when you talk to NAN, you have talked to the whole world.

However, we are financially handicapped, and EXCEPTIONALLY too for that matter!
“While we can boast of dedicated men and women in all the departments, working round the clock to achieve results in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and even outside the country, and achieving maximally with little resources, the fact remains that we are underfunded, and this Is no exaggeration.

“Our core mandate’ is to truthfully and fairly report Nigeria to Nigerians as well as to the outside world, but this we do under extreme financial duress.

“We barely have enough to cater to the welfare of our members of staff as when due. In a world saturated with the menace of misinformers purveyors of fake news and those bent on destroying or selling our country to the lowest bidder, NAN has the standing army to defeat our common enemies!

“The Act establishing the Agency is 45 years old, constituting another set of hindrance to some extent, and requiring urgent surgical amendment. We are, therefore, appealing to relevant stakeholders, especially the National Assembly, to bail us out of this quagmire.”

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