Press role in politics and national growth – Part 2
In the current Nigerian political era, the press should become the agent of information and truth dissemination on national issues. It must remain the focal point for people to obtain the basic truths to fulfill their expectations about diverse occurrences in the nation. When this becomes a reality, press leadership has ensued for electorates and political-leaders to interact for mutually beneficial democratic relationships that will lead to elimination of ‘cash-and-carry-politics’ that sustained the stigma of ‘Lords of the Manor’ and desperado looter-rulers.
The Nigerian press is in a better position to educate or motivate electorates to demand from political leaders, the need to fulfill their electoral promises and good governance. The populace must seek from them absolute performance of their political agendas; vibrant economic policies, full employment, inflationary reduction, supportive business regulations, improve welfare of citizens, infrastructural elevation, educational growth, sustainable health programs, transport growth, realistic fiscal policies, poverty alleviation, foreign trade policy, etc., for avoidance of socio-economic disaster as presently witnessed in the country.
More importantly, the press must truly sustain itself as the government ‘watch-dog’ on the attempt to constitute viable economic team of advisers that can achieve formal indexes of national economic growth; and not rancorous and recycled politicians only interested in looting the national treasury. The press is expected to demand from political leaders their real levels of commitments or sustained efforts that can advance the cause of humanity through sustainable welfare programs. Today, Google has become the power-house for accessing global news and the Nigerian press must equally become dependable to act reasonably on behalf of poor masses. It must act with the right intents, honest, just and fair views while disseminating information that can affect the nation. Similar views relating to the above were expressed by James Madison, the father of American constitution and from which the Nigerian constitution was based. Nigerian press can institute professionalism and appropriate machinery to oblige the public with periodic reviews of government performances, competitive elections, etc., while using appropriate elements of investigative report as the nation’s watch-dog. This will bring to the ‘door-mouth’ of Nigerians, very vital, up-to-date and correct ‘hot news’ about the nation’s socio-political environment and economic activities.
We saw the incontestable power of the press during American civil rights revolution which transformed women’s movement rights. The press has acquired adequate power, worthwhile reputation under the constitution to inform electorates about ensuing happenings at local, national levels and international levels on constant basis. This legal responsibility is achieved through the institutionalization of popular editorials, monitoring programs and public briefings specifically designed to monitor unfolding political activities and leadership actions all over the nation. Furthermore, the press has the onus of responsibility to establish the infallible strategy for proper monitoring of political leaders and the extent to which they fulfilled their campaign promises to the people after their elections. In 1992, James Carvillere marked (during an election in United States of America) that; “it is an economic stupidity”. The same was true in 2012 when president Obama assumed office as the president of USA. Through the press, American citizens were rightly informed that Obama had the capacity to turn the American economy around (and he actually did it).The same press suggested to Obama the popular eight “important steps” to restore the national growth as listed below:
• “Continue the stimulus for workers income.
• Maintain assistance for housing scheme.
• Provide continued assistance to the fragmented states.
• Help Europe address its debt crisis.
• Set a framework for balanced budget.
• Bring in private capital.
• Maintain the supply of funds for infrastructural projects.
• Embrace the (then) trend of technological development, skills and competition in education.”
It was on record that Obama not only accepted the eight points but followed the press suggestions vigorously and the action led to rapid economic growth of USA. Furthermore, the same press advised that: “Obama should tell Americans, when he came to the office, that it would take several years for a solid economic recovery to take place, that the USA economic recession and the actual response to it would trigger off a large budget deficit, and that many of his signature programs would have to be postponed until reasonable recovery was certain.”
In my opinion, Nigerian press does not have the capacity to offer such strategic economic advice to the government. Party sentiments and unexplainable loyalty of people at the apex of authority will not only mire the advice but downplay the truths that can lead to national economic recovery. I also wonder if politicians at the corridors of power can vouch for positive advice from the press when it is flagrantly against their personal interests. Again, the question arises whether president Buhari would have been bold enough to accept and implement such economic recovery suggestions and get away with it under highly regimented party structure, absolute bureaucratic party leaders and supporters who believe that their time to milk the ‘national cow’ has come. The truth suffices that no Nigeria press can offer such advice and when it does, it will be considered as unserious. More so, it will be considered as a ‘recalcitrant element’ trying to run down the government and will not get away lightly with it. Perhaps, it will be marked down for decisive, subtle or flagrant punishment from holders of central political power.
Even, when the suggested alternative option to national economic recovery is the best approach to salvaging the nation from the path of economic doom, the cluster of powerful politicians, holding the ‘ace of power’, will still display utopianism power and leadership shenanigans to the extreme to show those in charge. Out of sheer arrogance, politicians lurking around the corridor of power would prefer the entrenchment of their diminutive knowledge and approaches than towing the ‘path of reasoning’ that can benefit all. When the national economy has derailed faster than they contemplated, their mutual will still be to live sophisticated lifestyles through the collective carting away of stolen public funds to private accounts abroad. This approach is no longer enough to satisfy the looting spree of our political leaders they now stuff jute bags with stolen money and stock-pile them in rented stores, apartments, overhead water tanks, coffins, etc.
In recent time, the whole world has read so much about bluffing and blushing of president’s Trump of United States since he took over less than a year ago. This was considered as the worst open criticism of the press against an American president over the years. Similarly, the press boldly published the “Top 10 Trump Controversies of 2017” without any challenge whatsoever from the government. This is the secret of ‘American Press’ for you that invigorates for unbiased freedom associated with their trade. Can this happen in Nigeria without the press being seriously gagged by ill-motivated laws to silence it? Can it happen in our society without overzealous security agents bulldozing their ways overnight to the press office to destroy its state-of-art facilities, kill and maim employees with mien tendency? Ironically, some ‘political powers that be’ elected by the people will hide behind the screen to dish out inconsequential orders to security agents to deal ruthlessly with members of the press for daring to publish unpalatable articles against them.
Sometimes, the press helps to detect election frauds involving electoral manipulations, intimidation of lesser opposition members, bribing of electorates, hooliganism and ballot snatching when they are difficult to detect by the appropriate authority. Before now, election manipulation through violence was not common in Nigeria like other developing countries where their presidents are systematically engaged in violence to sustain the ‘sit-tight syndrome’ in power. Presidents of some third world countries have resorted to ‘violence and intimidation’ to thoroughly weaken their oppositions in order to continue their winnings during general elections. It is a well-known fact that the democratic norms are not perfectly fool-proof anywhere in the world; even in the developed nations. However, the press has always acted as the watch-dog in voting centers during general elections. The detection of electoral fraud is a very difficult exercise even in United States but the press has a reasonable role to play in to institute worthwhile parameters for fool-proof elections.
There has been in-depth study of electoral frauds in many nations of the world to no avail. As evidenced in Nigeria, there were ballot boxes stuffing or snatching, blatant and motivated attacks on strong members of opposition to prevent them from recording election victories. Unfortunately, there is no reasonable data on election frauds in the country. This makes it difficult to determine the modus operandi of culprits in electoral frauds. Partially reliable information is the unconfirmed report from the press during elections. Some of these allegations are made by political agents, rivals and government officials at polling booths during elections and barely go beyond mere mentions. Such allegations are not escalated to authority for democratic study where appropriate mitigating factors can be proffered. There are many literatures already complied by the press in United States on political corruption that helped to bring sanity to their electioneering process. Of course, there are potential illegal inputs and outputs during the electioneering process that were pointed out by the press. These include (formal and informal) electioneering and procedural vulnerabilities that can lay unfair ‘bobby traps’ for non-influential political contestants. When the press turns the other eye or deaf ear to such allegations, they become a culture in the electioneering process.
The conclusion from above write-up is to emphasize that Nigerians must regard the press as a leader in advocating for the masses to achieve good governance. While the Central Bank of Nigeria provides fiscal guidelines that can shape the national economy, the press is the only authority that can successfully act as the watch-dog of our socio-political growth. The press can identify and unify essential political-knots that block our national economic growth and communicate them to the people. This must be done with the clear intention of eliminating social rancor that cause economic stagnation, political imbroglio, tribal bickering, sectional rigidity and religious bigotry; these negative conditions have daringly blocked the national cogs of growth and prevented the total economic recovery.
The only political game presently on-going in Nigeria is the birth of new political parties and strengthening of existing ones. This is with the common desire to control power in the next political dispensation. It is based on the group desire to enjoy better part of the ‘national cake’ and to show remarkable deviation from the past unsatisfactory leadership approach. The recognized partner noted for promoting and propagating the above ideals in the social system is the press. It has professional members and auxiliary agents constantly moving from one place to another and acting as political mercenaries, cautious and impartial observers of unfolding national events. Unfortunately, the press does not have enough financial power to cover all locations in the attempt to move the nation forward.
So, all we get is stereotyped information without credibility. Lack of finance has been the reason which subjected some members of the press to become enmeshed in corrupt practices through bribery. Dubious politicians who can pay their prices easily ‘buy them’ to do their biddings of reporting nonsensically-doctored information to mislead the people to the chagrins of decent fellows.
All Nigerians need to support the press so that it can execute the onerous task as a ‘leader-of-thought’ saddled with the responsibility of effective communication that can ensure that the nation attains social decency and economic growth. The above responsibility is a task that must be done by the press. It must be sustained by shouting the press’ voice absolutely hoax, if most Nigerians must awake from their ‘deep political slumber’ to achieve leadership relevance and good governance.
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