As Nigeria’s economy flounders in its over-reliance on crude oil, the media must act to stop the worst from happening, writes Bayo Akinloye
The disruption by the only online media and other instant news platforms has intensified the competition in the media landscape. From general interests to the specialised publications, and from the hard news to soft sell, all media genres all have a common thread: the quest for relevance, which ultimately delivers a good share of the market and revenue to keep them in business.
At all times and seasons, the Nigerian media and the professionals within the industry have played pivotal roles in the country’s development. Despite the criticisms, society accepts that the Nigerian media have largely played their watch-dog roles right from when pioneer journalists got involved in the agitation for the country’s independence and the other significant developments that followed.
The history of Nigeria will not be complete without recalling the roles of distinguished media professionals such as Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, Lateef Jakande, Olusegun Osoba and Sani Zorro, among several others.
Significantly, the duty of the Nigerian media to the nation has become acknowledged such that there are provisions in the Constitution to justify their importance. Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution stipulates: “…the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.”
The chapter in reference is Chapter 2, which relates to the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.” It is the heartbeat of the Constitution as it covers the responsibilities of the government at all levels to the citizens and the nation. The media therefore have the obligation to hold government and its functionaries accountable to the public.
A respected elder in the media industry and former Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Aremo Taiwo Alimi stressed the importance of the media in the life of a nation. “While you may have information without development, you cannot have development without information,” he stated.
The present economic challenges have presented the media with another opportunity to set a new agenda for both the leaders and the general populace. Although Nigeria is endowed with many mineral resources, the agricultural sector, for instance, has failed to keep up with the rapid population growth. At one time in its history, Nigeria exported agricultural produce, now it is an importer of the same produce!
Dependence on crude oil over the years and the fluctuations in the international oil market has led to low revenue and the attendant massive infrastructural deficit. This is the dire condition which the media is now supposed to help in reshaping.
Diversifying Nigeria’s mono-economy is the direction out of the present economic downturn. Achieving this is, however, subject to some factors, including institutionalising a deliberate policy of backward integration. Consequently, the crusade for a diversified economy has been on the agenda of past and present administrations because it is apparent that oil is no longer the black gold that it used to be.
The media has been in the vanguard of drumming this into the ears of the ruling class, urging them to take bold and sincere steps required to drive the country away from this mono-economic road of avoidable disaster once and for all.
Some corporate entities have stood out as reliable partners in supporting media professionalism and excellence. For instance, Nigerian Breweries Plc instituted the Golden Pen Award 10 years ago with the primary objective of promoting professionalism and objective reportage of events in Nigeria. The award honours media professionals who abide by the fine ethics of the profession. It has since evolved into a reference point on how to encourage the media discharge their social responsibilities.
The Promasidor Quill Awards, the Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA), the Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME) and the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism are among the notable recognitions used to positively impact on professionalism in the media industry.
For the grand finale of its 10th edition, which was held recently in Lagos, the NB Plc Golden Pen Award focused discussion on Media and the Agenda Setting for Economic Development, with a renowned media professional and thought leader, Dr. Reuben Abati as the guest speaker. Abati maintained that the diversification of Nigeria’s economy has remained a topical agenda. He challenged the media to emphasise the story of diversification and generate conversation by emphasising the story and picture in the minds of the people.
After Abati delivered his paper, recognitions followed. Eric Dumo of The Punch emerged the NB Golden Pen Reporter of the Year. The first runner-up was Bayo Akinloye of THISDAY, while Chikodi Okereocha of The Nation was the second runner-up.
The photo-journalist of the Year award went to Bunmi Azeez of Vanguard newspapers. Odutayo Odusanya of The Punch finished as first runner-up, while Lucy Ladidi of The Guardian Newspapers was the second runner-up.
For the second year running, Mojeed Alabi of New Telegraph won the Nigerian Breweries Report of the Year award.
Dumo, the NB Golden Pen Reporter for 2018, received a cash prize of N2 million plus a gift. Akinloye, the first runner-up, got N1 million, while Okereocha, the second-runner-up in that category, went home with N750,000.
In the photo-journalist category, the overall winner, Azeez received N1 million plus a gift item while Odusanya, the first runner-up, got N750,000. Ladidi, who won the third prize, received N500,000.
Alabi, the winner of the Nigerian Breweries Golden Pen Report of the Year, received N1 million and a gift item.
In his welcome address, the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Jordi Borut Bel noted that since inception, the initiative has helped to enhance journalism practice in Nigeria, going by the quality of the entries received every year as attested to by the distinguished independent panel of judges.
He explained that between 2014 and 2016, the theme of the award was “Education, Youth Empowerment and Talent Development,” which he said was informed by the need to inspire the media to draw attention of stakeholders to the benefits of revamping Nigeria’s education sector and develop the innate potential and talents of Nigeria’s teeming youth population.
Borut Bel explained: “With the completion of that three-year phase, we directed the attention of the Nigerian media to ‘Agriculture, Local Sourcing and Industrial Development,’ as the thrust for the ninth Nigerian Breweries Golden Pen Award. This theme remains the focus for this milestone 10th edition of the awards.
“The emphasis on ‘Agriculture, Local Sourcing and Industrial Development’ is not only in tandem with the current push for economic recovery in the country, but also key to making it achieve her full potential to become a self-reliant nation.”
Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, Chairman of the Panel of Judges of the NB Golden Pen Award, commended Nigerian Breweries for the initiative and enjoined journalists to aspire to the highest standards. The erudite communications teacher maintained that the quality and quantity of entries have improved significantly and noted that Nigerian Breweries has set a standard for other organisations to follow.
Since its inception, the NB Golden Pen Award has produced 10 grand prize winners in the “Journalist of the Year” category, seven grand prize winners in the “Photo Journalist of the Year” category and five others in the “Report of the Year” category.