By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
The over 23 years of sustained democracy in Nigeria after many years of military incursion in governance, owes credit to the gallant efforts of journalists in spite of the harsh environments they operate from, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of DAAR Communications, Chief Tony Akiotu has said.
He made this commendation during the 2022 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, ongoing in Abuja with the theme, “In Search of a Better Nigeria through Responsible Journalism”.
Akiotu noted that journalists stood resolutely against military dictatorship and became the heroes of Nigeria’s hard earned democracy.
Presenting a keynote address titled, “The Tragetory of Nigeria Media: Past, Present and Future” Chief Akiotu who was represented by Mr. Adebayo Bodurin, the Group News Editor of the Company, said modern day journalists and their organisations too have lived above board.
According to him, journalists stood resolutely against military rule and became the heroes of Nigeria’s hard earned democratic freedom established on May 29, 1999. A similar effort facilitated the second Republic in 1979 and the aborted Third Republic in the early 1990s, stressing that the struggle it has been globally acknowledged.
He also highlighted that notwithstanding operating under an unfavourable political atmosphere, which recorded unjust imprisonment, arrest detention, physical elimination, repression, persecution, seizure of market-ready publications and forced closure of media houses, the Nigerian media was resolute in the discharge of its responsibility.
“It remained the last bastion of hope for the people. Journalists in the privately owned newspapers, many of who survived deprivations including loss of means of livelihood, played heroic roles.
“Some paid the supreme price.The privately owned news magazines and newspapers played appreciable roles in the rebirth of hope in our national life after the several decades of military dictatorship”.
“Not thinking of wages or remuneration,” the journalists put their lives on the line in the struggle for freedom, civil liberties and constitutional rule. Even some government financed Newspapers such as Sketch, Observer etc. boldly stood against dictatorship just like the News, Tempo, THE WEEK, TSM, THE SOURCE, AFRICAN GUARDIAN, NEWSWATCH, AFRICAN CONCORD, TELL AND INSIDER”.
Akiotu however, lamented that even after two decades the plant of democracy was not yet matured stressing that it must be nurtured so that its lofty values can flourish.
He further opined, “The greatest challenge before the media, both print and electronic in Nigeria is how they engage with election coverage in a season of anomie when things are seemingly no longer at ease and things falling apart.
“For the media, perhaps the watchword is eternal vigilance. The agenda which the media must champion is the continued existence of the Nigerian nation, the protection of our democratic values, the resistance against arbitrary, autocratic and unconstitutional rule, the upholding of the rule of law, the promotion of mass participation in the entire electoral process, the guarantee of civil rights and liberties, the promotion of universal adult suffrage, the protection and upholding of the mandate of the people, the orderly conduct of the entire electoral process and the installation of credible democratic institutions founded on openness, integrity and transparency”.
DAAR GMD further highlighted that the world cannot afford a failed Nigerian state, “The media has an abiding responsibility to ensure a successful transition from one civilian government to another civilian administration, elected and installed through the instrumentality of our national constitution in February next year. No more, no less”.
Akiotu appealed to the Media not to undermine public patronage and confidence by strengthening with unwavering zeal of the bond in their own enlightened interest.
“One sure way of achieving this is the promotion of ethical journalism is to ensure equitable access to all political parties and their standard bearers’ credibility, integrity, good ethical conduct, fairness, accuracy and balance. Professionalism in handling opinion polls. No endorsement of political parties and their candidates. Avoidance of hate speech and fake news” he enthused.
He also appealed to journalists to ensure unyielding desire to promote credible, free, fair, peaceful and popular polls. “Be a watchdog to expose electoral fraud, impose on themselves the task of promoting good governance as well as good democratic practices. Inform, educate and if possible, entertain the voters to freely make informed and right choices at the polls”.