Nigeria: The Media, Politics, State of the Nation and the Fear of the Truth

Adeola Aderounmu

There are obvious reasons why the Nigeria media is always short of expressions to drive home serious points when it concerns national issues and how it affects our lives. I can attest to the fact that Nigeria is not left alone in this media suppression of some sort. However the dimension it takes and the overall effects on the values of our lives in Nigeria leave much to be desired.

The other day one journalist with the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper was brutally murdered in his home. Bayo Ohu was a political journalist and his assassination will never be solved. The only thing we will get out of his death will be speculation and hypothesis. Those who work in the Guardian and his colleagues will probably have a clue as to what he was writing about or investigating before he met his brutal death.

There are countless other situations where journalists have been murdered in Nigeria. I am not surprised; journalists especially investigative journalists working on sensitive matters have met their untimely deaths in different parts of the world. Russia gives a typical situation here because quite a number of Russian journalists have been murdered too and like Nigeria the cases are never solved.

The Nigerian government does not usually tolerate criticism from media houses. The security service is always quick in seizing computers and closing down media houses in Nigeria. The Guardian, Channels TV and even AIT have at one time or the other experienced the evil and dictatorial arm of the Nigerian government. The craziest thing is that it doesn’t matter if it is the military or civilian government, once the government is uncomfortable with a report; it closes down the media outfit without notice or warning. Welcome to Nigeria..!

Now you can understand why authentic news or information about Nigeria are more reliable from external sources, I mean from outside Nigeria or on the web. Because if a Nigerian Newspaper for example carries an editorial tomorrow asking for the resignation of Mr. Yar Adua that media outfit will probably be closed down. The editors can be charged for treason and believe me, many families will be rendered helpless from the saga. Fathers will probably be behind cells for weeks or months and sources of livelihood will be terminated abruptly.

So there are no truths-saying media outfits in Nigeria. Sometimes some of them try to state the truth but they polish it and apply extreme diplomacy. It is hard to find a physical media outfit in Nigeria that takes a stand against the wrong doing of the politicians or the government at large. I have not read any newspaper that is bold enough to say that Mr. Ibori is a thief for example.

But seriously the Nigerian Media need to do a rethinking and despite the high risk they need to take a stand on national issues. Their passivity is contributing to the wretchedness in Nigeria. I know the risk but the truth is if all of them decide to start giving the government hard knocks I don’t think the government can close down all the media houses.

One key issue is that a number of the media houses are own by thieves and politicians who have stolen from the treasury. So in delicate principle it is hard for such media houses to crititicise the government. The hands of the owner are not clean and blackmail comes in cheap. Another related issue is that the pervading poverty has turned some aspects of journalism into a hand-to-mouth affair. Many journalists collect bribes to write favourable reports about thieves in power. Nigerian journalists are not immune from the corruption and hopelessness that has taken over the entire country.

It appears that in every aspect of our lives we are entangled, almost entirely entrapped. We have reached that point where there is no easy way forward. Nigeria is at a puzzled crossroad where the possibility to make one correct decision about our existence must drag along with it multiple options of how to deal with the entanglement. Indeed we are in trouble.

Out troubles are compounded by our actions and wrongfully inclined mentality inflicted by several years of misrule. In 2009 approaching 50 years of our existence as an independent country there are very few things to boast about.

If we are seeking ways out our media must start reporting things the way they are. We have no water in our homes unless we spend our hard earned money to make bore holes and buy pumping machines. There is no electricity and the people who stole the monies meant for the facility are walking free, our media houses should name them and shame them. The time to be bold is now. Our schools are in rot and almost no teaching is taking place. Cheats have taken over! We have a minister for education waiting for the media to scrutinize and expose more and more.

In our houses of assembly, both local and national, there are men and women of dishonour, sitting idly, awarding contracts, forming committees, paying themselves huge salaries and allowances!!! What is the media doing to expose these lazy thieves? If the media was good enough David Mark would never stay 1 week as the senate president! How can a looter and a known thief head the Nigerian senate? Where are our investigative journalists? I don’t mean the internet bloggers.

If the media had been sincere and bold we will never have allowed the fraud of 2007 to stay. Mr Iwu and Mr Obasanjo dictated for us, on behalf of the invisible cabal, who should be our next dictator. They gave us a terribly sick man and now we are all sick! Nigeria is a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

I must stop but I hope that the media would be bolder. I know the risk; I mean who wants to write that Obasanjo is a thief only to be found dead the next day, in cold blood? Who wants to write that Yar Adua is a stupid man for not building hospitals in Katsina or Abuja only to be shot dead or assassinated in the presence of his children? Nigeria is too delicate for the truth, but the TRUTH we must say even if it means laying down our lives. Afterall nobody will leave this world alive and only the truth can give us and our children that freedom, independence and justice that have eluded this failed country for almost 50 years…!