pleases the State to say it is half-full,
why would it displease the same State
that the Press says it is half empty?
Mokwugo Okoye …in Storms On The Niger
A public lecture of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN)
Diamond Hall, Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos,
Thursday, 23rd October, 2003
MCK Ajuluchukwu …
he fought like a man
and now his no more.
Could it ever be a completely easy task to stand before the chieftains of the
print media to dare tackle matters relating to their coveted profession with the
high ideals of the Nigerian State? Though not strictly absurd, in the context of
giving one’s view on the role of the press in the evolution of Nigeria,
situating the subsequent degree of media leverage, compelling as it were, some
textures of political behaviour, relating to the birth of every other political
hegemony, can be quite unsettling.
And following the truth of a certain level of trepidation which envelopes
interlopers in such courses of life as the muscle of the press, it can even
rattle the quiet mind that one could step into frays that are not necessarily
germane to on-going debates, if not appealing to the professional agenda
Whereas I am not intimidated by the task itself, it could not have been entirely
out of place for the hint of disquiet because of the caliber of men here today.
The high and mighty of the national print media institution form the lever upon
which our liberation fighters rode the storm of national affirmation and nation
I mean men and women who tore through the dead weight of social inertia and
ripped apart the ineptitude which had militated against our periodically renewed
journey toward the nation-state. It is indeed rewarding to know that it had to
be the press, which made the call to arms against the colonial armada. It was
the press which commenced the journey of reinventing the African after the
degradation of the slave enterprise. It was the press which declared the
possibilities of nationhood in the then collectives of colonial protectorates
and other entities under foster suzerainty.
I am indeed humbled by the invitation to speak and join in the celebration of a
practice, which has long lasted, and on whose promises of continued abilities,
we shall refocus the nation. In undertaking this assignment, I am mindful of the
fact of the press being quite sensitive to non-practitioners passing judgments
Of course, I wouldn’t blame the press in this frame of mind, given the fact that
its functions which come under the fullest public glare, have attracted both
erudite and limping admonitions, even if such would mean seeking the same press
as pedestals to climb on the public opinion ladder.
The thrust of my argument, in reviewing the press as a vehicle for social
re-engineering and political redirection, will go as far as I believe that it
must be compelled to assume its duty as the ultimate vehicle for social
rehabilitation and consolidation of the old values attendant upon the hopes of
national revival and eventual glorification.
I cannot pretend to be unaware of the argument on the need to reshape the press
to attenuate what looks like a hegemony that is tending towards a factor of
location. Such is even said to ride a carefully cultivated literary-trend, which
is seen to frighten fellow countrymen who have aspired to be reassured of the
good intensions of the practitioners. Possibly real, as the apprehension may
have been, I have never ceased from appreciating the media, primarily from the
stand of private initiatives and the commercial/profit undertone, which has
since altered the compulsory state media content as a balancing factor.
Moreover, the reality of third world socio-political and economic scenario
compels the need for the press, publicly or privately owned, to slant reality in
league with the texture of ownership and control, even as we may have sought to
impute that the individual practitioner is a direct testimony of personal,
intellectual or otherwise development.
The Nigerian Press, or the press in Nigeria, is a concept that predates colonial
state and society, as well as the Nigerian state project. In other words, the
idea of journalism in Nigeria, which began, one in Calabar in 1847 and another
in Abeokuta in 1859, in what eventually came to be a new nation-state, has
witnessed a chequered evolution and varied roles. It has run from that
evangelical (church) journalism in Calabar, alongside that
of Reverend Henry Townsend’s Iwe Irohin, in Abeokuta,
to the nationalism journalism of Herbert Macaulay’s
Lagos Daily News, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West
African Pilot, up through the post-independence
communication consciousness, which has now been closely followed
by what is seen as the hegemony-tending media barony of today.
Not just that because it predates the Nigerian state, the Nigerian press
intervened at various stages of the nation’s evolution. It also propped
arguments for hope and continuity of the project, irrespective of such vitiating
factors as ethnicism, myopia, corruption and ignorance.
In doing these, the press had set the stage, sometimes against the tide of
national primo-factors and so earned the wrath of friends of, or indeed, the
powers that be.
Progressively, too, the fangs of political suzerainty, coming of the angst of
men and women in the corridors of power, came as a recurrent reminder of the
gulf between the compelling factors of conscientisation as virtually monopolised
by the media against the supposed leverages of State, which also supposed a
right of possession of the key elements of building the society. It was like
riding a storm, from the colonial imperial government censure
of the 1903 Newspaper Act which sought a governmental
regulation and regimentation of the press, through the 1909 sedition
Law, the 1940 banning of the fiercely
outspoken West African Pilot, and to the most recent draconian gag of the
Decree Number 4 fame of 1984. Indeed, the Nigerian press
has shuttled with Nigeria, bonding, if you like, on a journey to nationhood that
is at best tortuous and steeped in institutional, as well as systemic gridlocks.
What is most emphatic about the evolution of the Nigerian press is that as the
Nigerian state evolves, so does the institution too. From its negligible, even
if decrepit, base level when it began in 1847 and 1859, a moment when Chief
Obafemi Awolowo, one of the earliest practitioners of the trade, described the
Nigerian press as “an unprofitable, frustrating and soul–depressing
career”, the emerging industrialization of the country has had a
sizeable impact on the press.
The press has actually come a long way. It rode a production tide, right through
the crude “hand-composition-of-type, to the system of
mechanical- typesetting and the introduction of
rotary-printing- press machinery with stereo–type
equipment and appropriate accessories to substitute for the wharf
dale flatbed printing machines which were in use”, in Nnamdi
Azikiwe’s assessment, up till the sophistication of computer printing technology
of the moment.
At the present, it is attractive and fashionable to declare that the technical
outlook of the Nigerian press has soared tremendously. So also has the quality
of its manpower, its institutional structure, complexity, as well as its roles
and influence. From the haphazard journalism-training era of Adeoye Deniga of
the 1909 Lagos Astrological Mercury, up through the
unusual literary gifts of Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo,
to the journalism scholarship and erudition of the present crop of paddlers of
the Nigerian press boat, it has been like a bittersweet
But, of course, as the press waged its internal structural war of making a
meaning and impact, even if to justify the necessity for recognition, it was not
long on arrival as swift tools of maximum political power, which, as usually
deployed, conferred on the holders such immense muscle to determine the trend,
sometimes to the chagrin of others. The capacity, then, to muscle in on the
awakening initiative, halting on its track such colonial attempts at totally
turning the Africa man into a black European, easily
confirmed the arrival of an intervening force capable of doing battles.
The organization and mobilization of interests prevalent in the pre-State of
Nigeria, made no pretensions of emerging the doorway, arms-in-the-hand, in the
interlocking of interests facing the collective nationalities, which formed the
converging entity. More so, the boldness of European exploitation, attendant
upon the ruthless termination of the values which propped our elements of native
dignity, compelled those who knew and had the media to articulate their
socio-political environment, to seek to alter the configuration.
In other words, it became a solid argument supporting the supposition that, save
for the religious chronicling of the first ever mass media attempt of 1847 in
Calabar and that of Townsend’s Iwe Irohin, the other
pioneers were pre-determined on the side of the particular political trend they
came to urge in their new-found careers.
And having commenced on that note as the first chieftains of the media industry
did, it was definite that the tests of battle, the victories and defeats would
confer on some of these pioneers the initiative to further deploy the acquired
media muscle to controlling the trend of political actions.
Of course, it was not unexpected that those who acquired such powers or who
suddenly realised the muscle they had developed, would not deploy them to exert
concessions and redirect the objectives of State. The first in this regard were
the liberation fighters who would not have been expected to attenuate their
earned influence, much as they could be termed blackmailers, so far such assured
them of inclusion and eventual consultation in the affairs of the State.
In that regard, then, it could not be called a perfect argument that the
capacity for intervention of the media or the inclination to bend the objectives
of the State, as may have been deciphered in recent times, had come of
unnecessary bullishness of new practitioners but indeed had ridden a culture of
confrontation, arising of intent to be consulted, considered and related with,
in the ensuing administration of the nation-state.
Of course, it could not have been entirely unexpected that having come of the
tradition of anti-establishment practice, factors of the press would continue on
the vestiges of non-conformity and hostility to elements of state power. That
way, also, the further establishment of various indigenous governments, each
relating to political tendencies arising from different colourations of the
liberation struggles, the media were certainly going to be polarized alongside
governmental compartmentalization and subsequent ethnic tracking.
For example, the hegemonic and counter-hegemonic politics of the period before
independence wriggled itself into the Nigerian press, with a very corrosive
implication for the Nigerian state. Calculations for the appropriation of space
and power and the push for hegemony on the status of pre-independence Lagos,
threw Azikiwe’s West African Pilot chain and the
Daily Service on collision courses.
It must be quickly stated that the Pilot and Service, aside their rival
journalism trades, were also political megaphones of the National Council of
Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the Action Group (AG) respectively. More than this,
however, they were also at the forefront of the spatial politics of pushing for
the ownership and tribal ascendancy of the city of Lagos. It must, nevertheless,
be said, to the credit of the Nigerian press of the time, that it quickly
snatched itself from the vortex of partisan politics, after very acidic
editorial diatribes from both newspapers, to prepare itself for the crucial
fireworks of national development, which led inexorably to the 1960
So, amidst these incendiary exchanges, both the Pilot
and Service immediately entered a détente when a
higher and more substantive issue of independence date came afloat. They both –
and as such their Igbo and Yoruba ethnic stocks – changed gear to attack the
Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) which, to them, had suddenly become
“the imperialist stooge”. To them, the “as soon as
possible” caveat on the date of independence, which the NPC
entered into, was nothing but retrogressive, as they both collectively had an
eye on 1960 as the year of independence.
In spite of these periodic shuttles into pervasive mutual mudslinging, the
Nigerian press of the period was nationalistic to the core. The British imperial
lords were collectively identified as the common blight that vitiated self-rule
and development for Nigeria. As such, the Nigerian press of the time became
fecund grounds for militant nationalism against its perceived racial and
imperialist policies. But immediately it became apparent that the colonial lords
had an irrevocable eye on leaving Nigerian shores for self-government,
fundamental differences in struggles became manifest.
As the political class became fragmented into factions and hegemonic interests,
so did the tenor and tone of the Nigerian press advocations. And this coursed
through the period immediately after independence, to government involvement and
take-over of some newspapers, while some, like the Morning Post,
established by the Federal Government in 1961, the Daily Sketch
of the Western region government established in 1964, the
Eastern Nigerian Outlook (1960) and Kaduna-based
New Nigerian (1966), came on stream.
What I hope I have succeeded in doing with these illustrations is the fact that
the Nigerian press has always oscillated on the same plane as the circumstantial
and environmental shuttles of the Nigerian state.
The question, however is, what is the mileage of the Nigerian press in the
evolvement of the Nigeria project? How well has the press fared in the onerous
journey towards that social and political ideal of a Nigeria that can stand its
own in the medley of international actors and players? In that global ideal of
the press acting as the beacon of light for the sustenance of democracy,
“a force for freedom lying between ignorance, chauvinism, lack of direction,
infirm government and the citizens, a protector of the innocent”,
what has been the credentials of the Nigerian press?
In taking a part of these questions, I will hastily refer this august audience
to the expectations of a nation in the making. A British colonial officer,
William Crocker, by way of admonition, in 1929, declared that “it
would take a long time before there can be any hope of effective…homogeneity of
feeling (in Africa, nay Nigeria, where he operated); (that is)
…experiences such as the influence extending over centuries of
common corpus of beliefs and loyalties.”
Crocker held this view because, as he had observed in the course of imperial
duties, if you walk along a straight line, merely a hundred miles or
so in the then colonies, you traverse peoples and cultures which for their
similarities, scarcely touch on a single point down at bottom.
As every other colonial officer or European who had to be in Nigeria or any part
of Africa where such vast territorial recognition was not prevalent, it was
confusing. The most frustrating of this was that as Crocker observed, there was
hardly ever going to be such binding force as the imperial enterprises of great
European expansionists, which claimed territories and compelled alteration,
rationalization and harmonization of elements of cultures. In that frame, the
colonial masters were chagrined by the disparity, which, when put side-by-side
European society, you find such compelling commonality as the common
stamp of Greeco-Roman civilization and Christianity.
But if Crocker’s admonition could be termed an unnecessary colonial outburst,
the latter-day question of Pearl Nadse on lack of an all-African
inclusion unsettles the mind. Appalled that there was never a
Caesar (Julius and Augustus) to seize and chisel Africa into one political
culture and there was no supra-military hegemony to force a harmonized trend of
cultural evolution as the milito-westernising influence of NATO or even as in
the russification of Eastern Europe according to the communist whims of the
presidium of the Soviet machinery, she argued that the fact of democracy
appointed the press unto that divine function.
Reviewing the order of social influences touching on commonality, Sarglia Uysius
declared that no nation is ever built without one inspiring institution
straddling and commanding the order of relations between ethnic, linguistic and
Our own Ade Ajayi, the Professor of History, did as much argue that discussions
of the factors of social relations in Nigeria couldn’t escape aggregation and
moderation, which must come of a certain force building on the attributes of the
emerging nation. Perhaps, it was on the strength of this that reviewers of
propagandist contents in modern Nigeria caution that the press may have failed
or altered the sacred duty of showing the way.
I will not hastily pass judgment on the Nigerian Press, if as it were; I cannot
even alter the conception and founding principles which motivated the media
barons seated before me today. But if as it has now been accepted that the press
must assume the mantle and act as the conscience of the nation, the question
will now be, how ready can it be? If we say that it is as ready as the nation
is, then can we say that the press would have been our own Caesar, our own NATO
and own Communist Regime?
Somehow, I may have baffled you in the direction I have decided to take this
discussion to. Of course, I owe you an explanation. The press, to me, has taken
up a duty and it is, in my opinion, under the obligation to discharge it. But as
it is today, as we have embraced democracy as our socio-political culture and as
we have elected to let the more popular view ride the day, it becomes imperative
to raise questions on the conduct of the media in the current dispensation.
In doing this, it is important to ascertain whether the current disposition of
the media actually fitted the ideals of a Caesar, a NATO and of imperial Russia.
It indeed compels an attention on the trend of the press vis-à-vis the
indoctrination towards serial rancour, tirade, feeding frenzy, divisiveness,
mediocrity, siege mentality and lynch mob disposition, among others.
Mind you, the press in Nigeria and in league with the old liberation fighters
had strongly defined our high ideals. Take for instance the declaration of J.
Bright Davies of the defunct Nigerian Times in 1910: “even like the
tower of Babel, the political, the social and economic fabric the nation’s
(Nigeria) existence…can only be established in oneness of motive and interest to
consolidate our gains.” Amplifying him, Richard Akiwande Savage of
the defunct Nigerian Spectator, May 29, 1923, wrote, “The safety of
the people in modern society (Nigeria) depends upon the free and untrammeled
expression of enlightened public opinion…through an objective press.”
Certainly, we expect so much from the press but what we are not sure is whether
it has such muscle as the imperial matadors who reined over Europe and who
designed and implemented the NATO doctrine. But if we have to excuse the press
of not having such powers to proceed to making a nation as it can hardly do
anything without inviting the opinion of the people, how then do we acquit the
same institution, which appears determined to ride the feelings of persons, in
designing juicy stories and fables about factors of national leadership?
Alternatively, if we say that it is not the duty of the press to build this
nation, what with its lack of the coercive armour wielded by the Caesars, NATO
and the Communists in Russia, it appears attractive to review the attitude of
the press to the emerging nation state itself. Of course, consolidated in its
sacred duty of shocking the society with the revelations of absurdities in high
and low places, it appears to me that there is this mix-up in matters of
ownership control, in contention with extraneous influence in the industry.
The disturbing development in this is that what we have seen lately is not an
all-season media attitude but deliberate manipulation of the society by
latter-day democrats, new civil society converts, cheer leaders of negativism
and political revisionists, all of whom never elected to formally join in the
sacred duty of acting Caesar or NATO or Russia or even the Opinion-editorial
Put differently, if the press cannot realistically be a sword-wielding Caesar,
et al, why can’t it be a Suhto who employs the positive elements to alter
cultures and on whose values the vestiges of the conquering Arga Khan were
altered for good and empires of goodwill built?
Indeed, it is not for nothing that the question has been extended to include how
well, or how much, the Nigerian press is implicated in the civic malaise that
permeates society today.
Participatory democracy has, however, foisted on the media as a whole and the
Nigerian press in particular, the tripodal responsibility of acting as:
a civic forum,
a watchdog and
a mobilizing agent.
Pippa Norris encapsulates this graphically when she states that: “Conceptions of
representative democracy suggest three basic roles for the news media; as:
1. a Civic forum encouraging pluralistic debate about public
2. a watch dog against the abuse of power; and
3. a mobilizing agent encouraging public learning and participation in the
In other words, the social responsibility ability or disability of the Nigerian
press is the very vortex where its contribution towards the building of society
could be located.
Cultivating generational trends, moods and shifting preferences, media emphases
have, allegedly, been erroneously on very disparaging issues of violence, urban
conflict, cultivated fear and interpersonal mistrust. These, Austin Ranney says,
“…altered the culture by intensifying ordinary… traditional low
opinion of politics and politicians, by exacerbating the decline in their trust
and confidence in their government and its institutions, and by helping them to
vote than they used to be”.
These all brewed in the minds of the people angst about how vital democracy is
and how the nation state project could be prosecuted via a free press working a
Paradoxically, in the task of having the Nigerian press bond with the rest of
Nigerians, on the way towards realizing the Nigeria project, the press is not
being expected to bend over backwards to take on roles outside of its canonical
scope and duties. With a transformative potential for democratic participation,
the press ought to itemize and prioritise human desires, want and expectations,
to place same by the doorsteps of those who administer the state.
Doing this avails the Nigerian press of a dual responsibility. One is ‘not
totally severing itself from the activities of the state, though not, in the
process, getting inebriated by it’ while the other is ‘not, for a moment,
forgetting that, ultimately, the utilitarian requirement for the uplift of man
is the baseline, the bench mark, of its professional consideration.’
In the quest for a Nigerian nationhood and a Nigeria idea that perfectly
synchronizes with the desire of all, it behoves us all to, without bias, itemize
those operational gridlocks which have, or are likely to inhibit the emergence
of a Nigerian Press. Until very recently when the Nigerian systemic environment
gratefully underwent a measure of stability, with the advent of democracy, the
socio-political milieu had been very hostile and marked by perennial political
and social instability.
Lately, however, there appears a certain level of vehemence in a carefree drive
at claiming some messianic roles arising from overstating periodic national
misadventures and mistakes of leadership. Of course, I do recognize the
challenge of competition for readership and audience but in reality, would a
Caesar or Suhto emerge where there is no intention to build bridges, establish a
culture and harmonise divergences?
One easy claim of the press of today is that even though we are in a democracy,
it appears slightly difficult to pick valid information since according to them,
much of the system still carries the exclusivity and secrecy of the past
Thus, as it is claimed, speculative journalism took
centre stage. ‘Rumour’ or ‘concoction’
became substitutes for information flow and the governed became easy preys of
such concocted news items. The danger was that, the people became more alienated
and distanced in inter-ethnic relations, economic enterprises, political
organization and cohesion and government. This was even worsened by the fad of
attacking government policies – just as the norm – even when they were
We cannot forget the incidences of combating the military as if we were back to
the liberation struggles. There was no doubt that because Nigerians desired
democracy and indeed should be governed by persons of their choice, the task of
stampeding the military out of power was considered an all-fair enterprise, even
if unprofessional in style. This was the consolidation of the adversarial
culture, which never relaxed, long after the liberation fighters concluded and
left the field.
To me, we may be getting it all wrong if we feel that at the exit of military
rule, we could not, advertently or inadvertently, be replicating this dangerous
trend, even in a democracy. If, as particularly noted, the nascence of the
political culture has yet to give birth to effective civil society, then
tolerance in relations and sustainable awareness can be impaired if the press
rides the fable stable rather than the course of leadership.
Indeed, such blight, as in stultifying the process of information flows, in a
democratic and representative government, can breed a more restive political
situation arising from the newfound openness of the society and a half-baked
The economy is, perhaps, one of the greatest indicators of the path to take in
bonding the press to the Nigeria project train. With the progressive
haemorrhaging of the economy, the relevance and institutional bite of the
Nigerian press also began to suffer a serious haemorrhage. As other social
services in the country began to kiss the canvass, so did the press. The costs
of production sought a handshake with the firmament, which were inexorably
transferred to the people who themselves are one of the subjects of
The result is self-atrophy in the reduction of readership and circulation. The
latter necessitated that the press was wheeled to the infirmary and
rationalization of staff, as well as payment of peanuts as wages and emoluments,
became the order of the day.
Strung closely to this is the nose–dive that honour took in the newsroom, and
its replacement by mercantilism and market bargaining. Moral decay effectively
reared its head and sensationalism, tabloidization, infotainment
(all focusing on human-interest stories about scandal) became the
order of the day. Those vital information of the requirement and ingredients of
development suffered serious blows and ultimately, atrophy. Celebrities,
typified in the triad of sex, power and money (spm)
took over, with the major aim of railroading the unsuspecting reader into the
Considered from the point of right and wrong, morality and conscience,
fact was one of the earliest casualties of this new wave
journalism. The tendency to pull back and pursue subjective considerations
altered the global picture of truth and it so became compartmentalized to suit
whims and caprices of groups and interests. In most cases, the proprietor’s
interest is well protected, while those of non-owners are moved to the slaughter
Expectedly, these, in all, necessitated the country being dragged backwards from
the path of nationhood and ultimately, the achievement of a holistic Nigeria
Elsewhere in the recent past, I have had causes to point out the surging media
tendency forcing the wrong expectation framework on Nigerians. While I did that,
I never contended that the agenda, the priority, and indeed, the fancies of more
vocal citizens, should quickly form the basis for national discourse.
It was my argument that it was indeed surprising, if not absurd, that the press
would ignore the priority function of shaping the nation’s expectation framework
so as to achieve societal cohesion and leadership focus. It was in one of my
lectures in early 2001 that this issue of the press ignoring, or is it failing,
in appreciating and transmitting the expectation framework, became prominent.
Much as I do not dismiss the other arguments, particularly the one relating to
the press working on the tempo of the society, we cannot negate the fact of
statutory duty and social responsibility, compelling bold actions in toeing the
right path, not necessarily the very popular track.
Someday, I hope the press, in self-study, will seek to understand what now looks
like a hunger for heroes and subsequent lowering of
the standards in the now emerging culture of ‘scaling it down to create
celebrities,’ any how. In the first place, the failure to project the right
social frame for Nigerians to consider their society, and for the citizenry to
relate their expectation framework, exposed the press as having failed to take
up the challenge of positioning their beloved country for progressive, not
necessarily a leaping, chugging and bluffing, race to sustainable growth and
Put the other way, Nigerians who unfortunately suffer the plummeting of the
national economy, emerging from eras of great uncertainty, needed to appreciate
the quantum of neglect and dislocation, which should take time to streamline.
Of course, Nigerians were not wrong in hoping variously for immediate rewards or
revamping of their economy, improvement of their social worth and stabilization
of their environment, but such could not have been well articulated given the
known extent of decay before May 1999.
Let me make one point clear here. The fact that it remains imperative for the
press to sustain the campaign for the transformation of the society also confers
on it the duty to arrive the arena with such facts of stability that the very
state it seeks to revive or sustain is not truncated on account of the stampede
to have things mature right away. I may have to illustrate this with the stand
of Anthropologist Marshall Sahlins: “that an event is not just a
happening in the world, it is a relation between a certain happening and a
symbolic system of reporting…”
Mind you, I am not advocating a stultification of facts; rather, I am more
inclined to a consolidation of the fact as the instrument to weave the truth
along the realistic line on which the society must
sail. In other words, the press, as pointed out by James Curran and Michael
Gurevitch (in Mass Media and Society), cannot and should not seek to turn the
ideal into the real. The
ideal, they argue, is ceaselessly pursued. But on the
track are points of realism, which cannot be ignored,
how much ever we may have hoped for the ideal.
My translation of this is that the ideals of attaining
political independence for Nigeria, the ideals of
achieving economic growth and stability and the ideals
of living in a democracy, all rode the train of realism
with global antecedents standing ahead as beacons, which beckon on the
citizenry. But in the same vein, the ideals of
achieving the same speed of development, possibly sweeping off the political
economy questions and as characterized by democracies across the globe, the
press in Nigeria may have ignored the function of a peculiar environment and
in-cohesive elements of culture, which affect patterns of reporting.
Again, much as it remains the ideal to achieve a oneness of Nigeria, in both
political and socio-economic spheres, the reality of this being a large and
expressive hope, has not dawned on the press as necessarily evolutionary and
compellingly gradual that such attempts at forcing it would breed mistrust and
My argument, of course, is not a vitiation of the feats of our great press. I am
only worried that having craved heroes as it were, having responded too
vigorously to the yearnings of the people for quick overhaul of the system, and
having driven the adversarial way too long, the institutions responsible for the
training of journalists must revive its pursuit of the principles of the
profession. But perhaps, the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN),
the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
will do more in redirecting the ship to harbour.
I have been amply advised that the personality makes the news, but I have had
causes to wonder whether such personalities had to be invented and made heroes
by the press! Once, in one of my lectures this year, I had wondered whether the
press enjoyed creating men out of women; whether the press believed it could not
function without making heroes of little figures and whether the press knew the
personal tragedy it compelled on localized citizens whose limited ambition would
not have exceeded the immediate localities if they were not dragged to the front
pages and forced to earn unmerited statuses which precede failure and disaster.
I got worried as was the case because, much as we can say that the nation will
move on as it must outlive all, the fact is yet un-impeached that the state runs
on the reality of the right quality of men and women taking the front seats. It
can never be on the sudden invention of heroes as we have done through our
Certainly, we cannot have a Caesar or NATO and we cannot have a sweeping
Communist regime to bluff through our varieties and force cohesion. We can
hardly even dream of such empire builders who never invited opinions of people
before ramming them through political cultures. But the possibility of a Suhto
A Suhto informs the chances and opportunities for a more representative
reporting pattern, a further examination of the challenges of the national
expectation framework, an intent at building bridges, great patriotism, less
feeding frenzy and less siege mentality.
Ultimately, it is the renewal of the promises of optimistic prognosis and social
repositioning, for which we say, as usual, in Enugu State:
To God be the glory.
1. Azikiwe, Nnamdi: My Odyssey (autobiography); Ibadan:
Spectrum Books, 1994.
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