13-12-14, UCJ INTER-PRESS DEBATE, FINAL ROUND
In the year 2009, 23rd of January to be exact; we heard a shocking and quite embarrassing news caption – ‘Police parade goat as robbery suspect in Kwara for attempting to snatch a Mazda car’. This headline incidentally came at a time when the nation started her head-to-head with insecurity; a time when terrorists had carved out headquarters in our territory. It only makes us wonder; whether our journalists are in the business of exposure, or that of mere humour.
Good afternoon, to you all. Presently addressing you is no other than Adebajo Adekunle Adefisayo, an ambassador of the Mellanby Hall Press Organisation … and I am here to say and justify the saying that journalism in Nigeria has done more harm than good to National Security.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, journalism is ‘the collection, preparation and distribution of news … and feature materials.’ But I would like to see good journalism it in the light of making everybody’s business your business that we may all be rid of mess. And then Macmillan dictionary defines National security as ‘the protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens.’
Ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer news that this country is not safe, both for masses and the leaders, both for the poor and the rich, both for the pressmen and laymen. We, the people, live in fear every day of our lives; the fear of poverty, the fear of unemployment, the fear of armed-robbery, the fear that there may be a mad man amidst us now ready to die and take all of us along… In fact, to back up this fact is the 2014 Global Peace Index which ranks Nigeria as the 12th most precarious and dangerous nation in the world.
But then, the question of the day is not whether this country is unsafe, we know that too well. The question, the bone of contention is – have Nigerian journalists contributed to this state of social jeopardy. Has journalism done more harm than good to National security? To this, I say yes.
My first justification is the fact that Nigerian journalism is nothing but a willing tool and an ever-ready defence for those with influence and affluence in this interpersonal confluence. They seem to often enjoy the licence and obedience of our poor journalists despite their indolence and incompetence, A good instance is what transpired on the 14th day of September when journalists promised to sacrifice truth on the altar of ₦50,000 … this is in respect of the Synagogue church collapse saga. We may say it is due to their low income, but it still does not negate the fact that Nigerian journalists are willing to taint their stories in support of insecurity and loss of lives if only they are given brown envelopes, or as Nicholas Ibekwe revealed, even Dangote spaghetti.
In addition, the press in Nigeria is fond of brewing violence and rivalry through biased, chauvinistic publications. They see white and call it black, they see black and call it the devil himself. You see, persons who are privileged to own a media-house often use it to attack their ethnic and religious-enemies, without regard to facts and popular interest. This is very obvious in the cases of Stella Oduah and Pastor Bosun Emmanuel.
Furthermore, Nigerian journalism continuously strikes psychological terror in our hearts, as evident in the cases of Ebola and the Boko-Haram insurgency … so much so that even if you could live for 120 years, with the type of news we hear every day, you just may not go past 20.
Friends, this is the key to room 85, block A, Mellanby hall, my room. However, I’m sure this same key can easily open lots of other rooms around U.I., just as many other persons’ keys too can open the door to my room. That, is how insecure we are on this campus…but what has the UCJ, established as far back as 1987, been able to do about this ugly fact? As far as I’m concerned: absolutely nothing. Same thing goes for journalism across the country.
George Bernard Shaw once said ‘Beware of false knowledge for it is more dangerous than ignorance.’ In the same, misinformation is worse than a lack of information. Thus, it is better that we have no press, than one with which we are not impressed; one which only knows how to oppress … Journalism in Nigeria has not only done more harm than good to national security, we cannot say with certainty that it has done any real good at all.
I find it really sad that my opponent have come here to argue that journalism uncovers cases of corruption; that it serves as a watchdog of some sort. But then, here is a watchdog that has been silenced long ago through biscuits thrown at it by the political bigwigs. Besides, they uncover nothing except what statesmen willingly show them so as to score political points.
They also cited the Halliburton saga and other foreign scandals to buttress their point. They said ‘America does not win a war unless the CNN says so’. But may I remind them that the crux of today’s debate is not journalism in America, but, journalism in Nigeria.
Ethics of journalism, they equally argue, states that news reports should never be sensational. But I say – that is ethics; and this, is reality.
Ladies and gentlemen, I remain Adebajo Adekunle.