That Nigeria is still this backward and unfocused in spite of her plethora of media organisations is worrisome.It is either Nigeria is irredeemable or her media is irresponsible – as the fourth estate of the realm.
If the Normatve Theory of the press – that the press takes on the coloration of its socio-political setting – is anything to reckon with, then Nigeria definitely has tarred or corrupted her press – has fated its performance to her retrogressive peculiarities. The realization of this theory in an authoritarian or communist state is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
But Nigeria , at least, is a ghost of a democracy .She is free – like the J.J.Rosseau man – but everywhere in chains. Likewise her mushrooming, but mediocre press. So we expect the ugly normative theory to give way to something sexy – the Bullet Theory .
And that bullet theory, realizable even in a groggy democracy like Nigeria’s, holds that media influence could be pervasive and sweeping on society.
It’s, however, the contrary here.
Nigeria is unfocused; her leadership has a short attention span; and her press is distracted. So everybody is adrift.
This has been the perennial curse afflicting Nigeria since 1960.
So many issues of national and international implications have been raised and dumped over the ten chequered years of democratic experiment in Nigeria. And the buck lies with her rudderless leadership.
The press as well as every Nigerian knows that Obasanjo and Yar’ Adua have bitten more than they can chew.
Obasanjo took on the legion of problems facing Nigeria up till 1999.He made to solve the power problem, nuke down corruption, annihilate poverty, white-wash Nigeria’s unsightly image, tame the Dokubos and Atakes of the wild wild Niger Delta, deify himself in the PDP as the god of democracy, and ultimately attempt what only the gods can – run for the third term.
He did make some impact – like a rolling stone does. Telecommunication, with all its profiteering and environmental hazard, has come to stay. Nuhu Ribadu,that fall guy, kicked up a little dust – in the anti-corruption crusade – that settled down no sooner than Michael Aondoakaa and Mike Okiro were delegated to shield the monster in the hallowed sanctum of justice. History won’t forget Obasanjo trotted round the globe, cap in hand, begging the Paris club for debt relief – past debt that a couple of very important politicians in the PDP could pay – from their shares of the national booty – without batting an eyelid.
And for democracy, his brainchild, to survive, he installed Mr. Yar Adua in a do-or-die fashion.
Here is President Yar Adua – sickly, gelatinous, and apologetic. He summed up all the misfortune plaguing Nigeria in a seven-point(less) agenda, turned it to a melodious lullaby which he pipes out softly each time his frustrated countrymen bare their teeth.
Again, the press and Nigerians are watching. They all know Yar Adua takes his kidney more seriously than his seven-point agenda or whatever happens to the disgruntled lot in Nigeria .They know he is too fragile to tackle the daily routine in his office not to talk of accomplishing an agenda of such magnitude in a country like his. His co-workers know this, too, and are already maxing out their chances to hog the national cake, thus brutalizing Nigerians more and more.
What is expected of a pluralist and fairly free press like Nigeria’s – in a floundering situation like this – is to bring to bear its agenda-setting role. It is a golden moment for the press to show its stuff – that journalism is not all about land-grabbing, brown envelopes, junketing , or uneconomic vapourings of the unemployable, as Obasanjo once described it.
It is now the press is supposed to provide some sort of leadership as the fourth estate of the realm, since the other three are a wreck.
Unfortunately, the press has chosen not only to be decoyed ,at this crucial point, by Yar’ Adua’s inconsistencies ,but also to be rendered unreliable by its own short memory.
The agenda-setting role is not as easy as a pie, either .It comes as a result of sustained and exhaustive correlation of a number of predetermined issues irrespective of government’s action or inaction. It derives its nuts and bolts from the content of thorough investigative reporting .It is void of Afghanistianism – a brand of escapist journalism described by Prof. Chinyere. It is objective and incorruptible by the sleight of hands of the politicians.
But the Nigerian media has blundered woefully here.It lacks the persistence and concentration that characterized the masterly performance of the press leadership role in history. We still celebrate the Watergate scandal, its heroes – Carl Woodward and Bob Bernstein of The Washington Post – and its villains – Richard Nixon and co. Here was a story that was followed up by the two reporters for two years before the knot was unravelled. Lawyers, politicians, government staff were sucked in and indicted in the scandal – a replica of Bola Ige’s death, M.K.O Abiola’s death, the NEPA probe, the Harliburton mess, the PTF scandal, the rapacious rigging of the 2007 elections, hundreds of others.
We know the villains, too, but as it were in glass.Our media has been unable to unearth the facts ;it has not been dogged enough in in-depth reporting of any of these mysteries to a creditable conclusion. Time does not tell here ; it kills fast.
Reporting – the mainstay of serious journalism – is wanting in Nigeria. Print pages and airtime have been bought up by big businesses, politicians, and sponsors of reality shows ,soap operas, and other distractions. Yellow journalism, with its galleries of loud pictures of vainglorious looters and despoilers, has arm-twisted the media, and wrenched off the leadership mandate. Journalism is now the occupation of lazy editors, mediocre reporters, bad spellers, and pedestrian writers.
Things are this horrible.
It cannot be worse than this, though. Now that the media – the fourth institution of government, the watchdog – is incapable of focused leadership, Nigerians will help themselves.
They will find other potent means – Alternative Journalism – to articulate their yearnings. It is already happening. Traditional Journalism is having it tough across the world as people are turning away from its hypocrisy and inconsistencies. Nigeria will be no exception. It is a matter of time.