Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday in Abuja stated that the Green Chamber Magazine unveiled by the House of Representatives would help curb the scourge of fake news and dis-information that has become the order of the day in the country.
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said prior to the birth of this magazine, information about the activities, including sponsored motions, passage of bills and committee assignments, was obtained mostly from reports in newspapers, the electronic media and the new media. He added that in some cases such information was distorted, leading to the poor perception of lawmakers and what they do.
The President explained that the magazine would however correct any distortion and become the authoritative voice of the House.
He noted that access to correct information would not only furnish the image of the House, it would also illuminate the great work that members are doing in the House, including the enormous work that goes into the passage of a bill as well as committee duties.
According to him, “This magazine is long overdue. But like the saying goes, it’s better late than never. Coming at this time, when fake news and disinformation have become an avalanche, it is a most welcome innovation that I am sure will help counter the scourge of fake news and disinformation, especially as it affects the House.”
Buhari noted that the magazine would be the authoritative source of anything that goes on in the House – motions being moved, bills being passed, national issues being discussed and constituency projects – the public would be better informed on the activities of the House, and this would in turn reflect in an improved public perception.
Also speaking at the event, the Director, Kenya Law School and a social critic, Prof. Patrick Lumumba, told the lawmakers that the kind of service they render to Nigeria and Nigerians who elected them into office would determine whether they are “honourable members” or “horrible members.”
He said that Africa is a continent where many people misunderstand the roles and functions of legislators and where legislators are measured by the number of funerals that they attend; where the efficacy of legislators is measured by the number of weddings they attend; where their significance is measured by the number of men and women that they support on the day of their wedding.
“We live in a continent where the legislator is misunderstood; where legislators are not called and expected to perform their traditional functions. And that is why the launch of a magazine such as this speaks to the demands of a nation such as Nigeria and I dare say many African countries,” he said.
Lumumba explained that African countries, having gained their independence, were told to embrace democracy, and were told that democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
He noted that he read about the founding fathers of Nigeria, adding that he read the works of Nnamdi Azikiwe and listened to him in those early days, saying he was as eloquent as he was passionate in telling Nigerians and Africans – because he was called the Zik fo Africa – that leadership is about service.
Lumumba added: “I did not only read about Nnamdi Azikiwe, I also read about Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in his younger days – eloquent and passionate about Nigeria. You may not have agreed with all that he said and did, but you cannot deny the fact, the clarity of vision and the need for marshalling the people as the only antidote the problem that has afflicted Nigeria, and by extension Africa.
“I did not stop at merely listening to Tafawa Balewa, I also had the occasion of listening to the Saudana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. Whether you liked him or not, the clarity and the passion with which he spoke about his country was as sterling as it was titillating.”
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said over the years there have been great distrust in relationship between voters and parliamentarians, adding that Nigerian people have deep and corrosive doubts about how the National Assembly works, explaining that the severe erosion of trust in government has no doubt become a real problem.
Earlier, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the magazine was not established to massage the ego of the lawmakers.
He stated categorically that the country’s democratic settlement could never have been achieved without the noble daring of the press, adding that journalists are unsung heroes who understood the power of the written word and wielded it in passionate denunciation of the tyranny that sought to consume us all.
“The Green Chamber magazine is not a propagandist outlet. Our service to the people who elected us is not enabled in any way by having at our peck and call, a media outfit that exists to massage our egos and tell us what we want to hear,” he said.