The press must educate citizens on rules of election, says Momoh
Ahead of the 2019 general election, former Minister of Information and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh, has insisted that it is imperative for the media to enlighten the masses on the rules of election and ensure that their votes count and that whoever wins the election takes office.
In an exclusive chat with The Guardian, Momoh noted that the media is empowered to constitutionally monitor not just election, but governance and ensure it is for the good of the citizenry.According to him, “Section 22 of Nigeria Constitution specifically states that the media is to monitor what the government is doing to ensure that the welfare of the citizen is assured. The constitution guarantees not freedom of the press, but freedom of ownership of the press. It is also the duty of the press to monitor governance and that includes monitoring election This includes giving airtime, spaces, etc, to those that want to conduct election. The media also has oversight functions on the executive, legislative and judiciary.”
Specifically, he added, “National Orientation Agency needs to do more,” lamenting, “what the social media is doing is unfortunate. We have people in the social media that are not trained at the level of information dissemination. If a professional journalist has a story, he will find out if the story is true or false, then also do follow up. But nowadays, when anything comes up, it is just shared on social media without checking if the story is true or not. NOA also needs to tell the citizens about the government, opportunities and also tell the masses about the need to grow Nigeria. I believe that Nigeria does not only have a future but a mission.
On how he managed information as a former Minister of Information under former President Ibrahim Babangida, which led to the success of June 12 presidential election, he noted, “What I did was that I promoted the two parties at that time: Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Party (NRC). I had their constitution and manifesto; so, I went all over the country promoting the parties and answering questions at the end of each tour. I was asked in Kaduna State, ‘what will happen if IBB wants to contest?’
“And I responded that ‘the difference between the IBB you know and IBB of the future is that the former came to power through gun and for him to come to power again would be through the vote of the common man.’ I think that election was adjudged to be the most peaceful, credible, freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria where MKO Abiola even defeated Tofa in his own polling unit in Kano. That people (IBB and others) cancelled that election is another story.”
While speaking further, he said, “I wrote a book then titled Experimenting with Disintegration, publishing in 1993. I said at the time that if the result (of that election) was not reversed, it would destroy the works that IBB did. IBB did lots of work at that time and it was that annulment that undermined everything he did.
“In that book, I reported the leaders at that time to the future by writing a letter to those who were born in November 1993 and I said they would be 30 years old in 2024. When they read that letter, they will see what happened in 1993. If Abiola had been allowed to take over in 1993, the whole of Africa would be learning democracy from us. We would have gone ahead of other countries in the promotion of democracy.”
On remuneration of journalists by media owners, Momoh noted that due to the nature of work journalists do, they deserve to be well paid. According to him, “This is a contract affair and journalists should negotiate with their employers.”
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