The journalist should always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice and corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always opposed to privileged class and plunderers, never lacked sympathy with the poor, always devoted to the public welfare, never satisfied with merely printing news, always be dramatically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty
– Joseph Pulitzer
Just like any rat will not feel comfortable at the sight of an oncoming cat, it is typical of any politician to be wary of journalists to avoid what is called bad press. In most cases, the people that stand in the way between politicians and their dreams (either of wining elections or stealing the people dry) are the eagle-eyed journalists who want to know and see everything. The fear of journalist is therefore the beginningof wisdom.
This is because even section 22 of the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria give the press power to watch over the activities of leaders and hold them accountable to the people. It is then wise to assert that politicians naturally hate journalists and on getting to power, they need to do something to clip the wings of the ‘press boys’ if they have to have their ways always in governance.
This situation makes politician to adopt a divide and rule approach: they look for the best pressman around who can use this connection gathered in the media to garner good press for them. It is not that the political office holder love the media aide or even care for his journalism career, he just need to use him to beat criticism from his colleagues. That is why an average politician now in Nigeria can afford to fore example kill someone and expect the media aide to do his job. The media man goes out and starts defending the indefensible, he begins to find logic for the illogical and reason for the irrational. He begins to find biblical quotation for the ungodly as if resigning is a taboo (it is in Nigeria).
This journalist might be a former editor of a leading National daily, firebrand columnist and a consistent critic of any thing anti-people who has won the hearts of Nigerians in the course of his crusade as a pen pusher. Now, as a spokesperson to a politician, he would be forced to start defending the same things he had condemned vigorously in his practice days. This goes a long way in rubbishing and erasing his integrity. That is why I have concluded that these politicians that give journalists jobs do not love them, they only want to rubbish them.
That is why I feel pains and am always flabbergasted each time I hear that another journalist has taken a dirty job that will erase the years of his meritorious service to the noble profession.
This trend is bad and it needs to be checked by the relevant authorities. Since independence, bad governance has always been our lot- no food, no water, no light, no road, no job, insecurity everywhere and the Niger Delta situation is embarrassing, no meaningful progress in 47 years!!! It has always been a leadership problem and in the midst of all these, we have always relied on the ever vibrant and courageous media men to light the torch so that we can find the way to the Promised Land (Just like the late Zik’s West African Pilot did in the colonial days). Now, these same pressmen are now crossing to the other side to the detriment of their own profession and the future of this country. Is there no difference between light and darkness? Why is it that our journalists are always in a hurry to stain themselves with the filth of politics? Is it logical to put in 30 years of untainted service to the people using the pen and end up serving two years under a governor defending the silly things politicians do that you used to condemn in those 30 years?
The people that used to criticize the satanic regime of Obasanjo can best be categorized into two- the disgruntled politician and the inconsistent and unprincipled journalists some of whom had earlier served and defended an autocratic regime earlier or who will serve a PDP government someday. Imagine the Chief Press Secretary to IBB, Duro Onabule launching vitriolic attacks on the OBJ regime especially the anti-corruption crusade personified by Ribadu as if he never defended the same autocracy and dictatorship under the evil genius.
When I remember the nasty things the then Captain Emeka Omeruah said about journalists who criticized his boss’ decree 4, I will think no government will ever go close to any government. But i am wrong, Tony Momoh, a practsing journalist then was in the vanguard of the campaign against the decree but he too ate the forbidden apple under IBB by accepting to serve as Information Minister and defending worse anti-people policies than that of Buhari. That means, if Buhari had given the spokesperons job to Tony Momoh, he would have been defending the obnoxious decree. Equally, if OBJ had remembered Onabule for spokespersons job, Ribadu would have been his role model. Each time I read Tony Momoh and Duro Onabule’s column in the Sunday Vanguard and Friday Sun respectively and see the way they ctriticize everything they consider bad about OBJ’s regime, I just laugh at a good show of hypocrisy.
The list is endless. Dapo Olrunyomi and his colleagues in the The News magazine fought relentlessly for democracy in the military days and were even incarcerated on many occasions for their gut. Now as an officer under Ribadu in EFCC, the man was always writing rejoinders to attack his former colleagues who were doing their jobs- the same thing he used to do before losing focus and taking a dirty job.
Breaking news!!! The hypocrisy of Thisday newspaper is now obvious. Since the days of Obasanjo, Nigeria’s worst leader ever, I have always had this feeling that Thisday is PDP paper. The closeness between their publisher, Nduka Obiagbena and James Ibori is public knowledge and the hidden support they gave to third term is well known. While they pretended to be fighting for the masses on their back page columns, they openly advertised third term on the front pages.
Now, Olusegun Adeniyi for using the paper to serve OBJ well has been rewarded with a spokespersons job for the illegitimate president, Umaru Yar’Adua. If this veteran journalist is a principled man, what business has he serving a leader whose election has been adjudged the worst since voting was invented. Moses Jolayemi of the same newspaper has also been sent to serve another master rigger in Segun Oni as spokesperson. That means the illegal and undemocratic steps the caretaker governor is taking will be supported and defended by Jolayemi who is supposed to be a journalists! Na wah!!
Some of them even stoop so low to serve politicians that were less popular and less successful than them in politics the way the have been successful in the pen pushing job. Do you know that elegant woman, that firebrand journalist, the versatile writer who can educate you on just any topic? I am talking about the erstwhile deputy managing editor of Daily Independent and writer of blunt pen, Funke Egbemode who has dropped the pen to serve as spokesperson to Patricia Etteh, the speaker of House of Rep. Let’s see whether Madam Funke will turn a blind eye when Ghana Must go bags are being shared.
Usoro Usoro too is now with the governor of Akwa Ibom state, Godswill Apkabio while Hakeem Bello, former editor of National Interest is now serving Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos. The growing list of this cross carpeting is disturbing indeed. Be not surprised if the profession start talking about brain drain because we will wake up one day to notice that they are all gone to the politicians!
No one is saying journalists should not practice politics but resigning to be in charge of a state for example is not bad but serving under people that are not even worth the title of governor is the problem. If it is hunger driving them to do this, then there is an urgent need to raise the wages of media men if the best ones must be retained. If that does not solve it, then legislation from the NUJ to check the dangerous trend is highly needed.
There is also an urgent call for the entrance of honest, sincere, consistent and principled men into the journalism profession. People who can hold on to their belief no matter the temptation or pressure is. Those who had served repressive regimes should be ostracized for the noble profession is for clean hands, not hypocrites.