From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Journalists in Nigeria have been tasked on raising their onus in executing their responsibilities as the watchdog of the society by always grilling politicians and public servants on their performance in office.
They were advised not to seek to make them comfortable, but always put them on their toes on issues of public interest and performance of their duties.
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President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr. Mustapha Isah, gave the charge at South-South Town Hall meeting organised by the editors in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday.
Isah said that the meeting was organised to assess media performance in consolidating Nigeria’s democracy, aggregate citizens verdict and set agenda for the future.
He condemned a situation where governors who have no appreciable track records of performance in their states, put themselves forward to be elected into higher positions.
NGE president stressed the importance for journalist to grill such candidates by demanding accountability from them.
Isah, however, disagreed with the insinuation that the media has not been doing enough by raising the red flag against the indiscretion of the political class.
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He said that the Nigerian media has always lived up to its responsibilities through the years in the nation.
Speaking on the outcry on the exorbitant cost of nomination and expression of interest forms of political parties for the upcoming 2023 elections, Isah stated that the media had roundly condemned the decision and still condemns it, through news reports, editorials, analysis and commentaries.
He said: “The media always raises the alarm to the nation and that is where its responsutilities stop. It cannot carry placards to go to the streets to challenge the government.”
On the theme of the town hall meeting; “Agenda Setting for Sustainable Democratic Culture”, NGE president urged journalists not to relent or be deterred by the hazards and challenges.
He noted that every profession has its own hazards, urging them to raise the bar on their performance and continue to enhance the deepening of the country democracy and development.
Also, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim,
tasked journalists to see the build ups to the 2023 general election as a viable opportunity for the media to interrogate the leadership recruitment process of the country.
Nsirim stressed that the time has come for the media to thoroughly examine those who aspire to leadership positions, what their credentials are, with a view to projecting those credentials to the voting populace for them to make their choice.
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He emphasised that as members of the fourth estate of the realm, journalists must no longer hide under the cover of societal challenges and allow Nigeria remain in doldrums.
He said: “I always call our attention to the fact that as a people, we have lost our value, the values of honesty, hardwork and integrity are lost. So, this is the society where the media should be operating to set agenda.
“We must stand firm at this political season to show the political gladiators that we have the professional competence to project issue-based campaigns and not campaigns of calumny, because we fall prey when we allow such campaigns to flood the channels.
“Nigeria is at crossroads and we are looking for those who will bring us out of the doldrums. Therefore, we must promote issue-based campaigns in this season.”
He restated that the country has been divided along ethnic and religious lines, adding that it is the media that should set the agenda for a united Nigeria again.
The commissioner continued: “Let me underscore the fact that this country is divided and it is the media that will bring about a united Nigeria. We must take that as a responsibility as we match into 2023.
“The time has come for journalists to refuse to be dumping ground for politicians. It is sad today to see the volume of libellous publications flood our print and broadcast media platforms because we have refused to be professional. Anything goes, and when anything goes, society will be the worst for it.”
He charged the media to rise up to the challenges of increasing level of savaging the country by educating the people that as humans, nobody deserves to be slaughtered.
Nsirim decried the manner in which Nigerians slaughter themselves as if they are slaughtering cows.
He asked: “How did we get here? When did we lose our sense of humanity? The media needs to play a role here. We must begin to tell our people that we are all humans. Nobody deserves to be slaughtered like a cow.”
He said the missing link has been that those who promote this violence somehow are protected by the Nigerian society.
“We all must rise up to say no to savagery. I feel a lot of pain when I watch some of this things and it is something that should give us concern as media people.
“Somebody said recently, that journalists write history, but let us remember that history will also write us. And that should be a food for thought for all of us.”