One fast and fairly accurate way of gauging the development of any country is to appraise the quality of its press. Journalists, whether in the print or electronic media, are priests on the altar of nation building and by virtue of their professional calling, they carry a most powerful and compelling burden of responsibility. It is a known fact that the fourth estate of the realm in well organised climes can actually be more powerful and more influential than the top three estates of the same realm put together. A quick turn through the pages of the Nigerian history (apologies to the great Zik) would reveal that it is replete with several incidences of responsible, patriotic and commendable journalistic practice; the type that places the national interest above sectional or individual considerations. One quick example suffices: some fifteen years ago, the country was on the verge of disintegration due to an unjustifiable annulment of an election by a military president. The nation owes its survival and continued existence today, to the courage of a section of the press. Like the proverbial rock of Gibraltar, they stood steadfastly on the side of truth, unwavering in the face of horrendous persecutions unleashed on them by the illegitimate impostors of the time. Though, there have been some rather disappointing practices by some journalists over the years, I think on the whole, the Nigerian press has comported itself creditably, and earned itself a hallowed place of honour in the annals for its commitment to national interest and the common good. However, the reward for hard work is more hard work. This is a call to more action for our most respected journalists. Nigeria as a country is still far away from where it ought to be, and the press has a significant role to play in guiding the ship of state, which is at the moment, precariously wobbly, along the route to the desired destination. More than at any other time in its chequered history, the country needs their direction and support on the route to greatness. The reluctance of the legislature to pass the FoI bill has no doubt raised the bar on the expectations from journalists. It simply goes to show that the lawmakers have aligned with the executive in covering up the enormous plundering of resources going on in government. They have inadvertently turned us to toothless bulldogs, which would just bark, but can not bite. Their affairs and dealings would be continually shrouded in secrecy, thus making it extremely difficult to track any evidence of criminal appropriation of public funds for personal use. What do we do in that situation? The convenient response is to go to sleep and continue to wallow in self pity. However, nowhere in history have self pity and gloom overcome adversity; and the most monumental achievements by any people have always been in the face of the thickest fog of hostilities. As the nation celebrates its 48th independence anniversary, the reality on ground is clearly one of failed dreams and tonnes of unfulfilled aspirations. We are currently placed on a plane so far from our potential. Now is the time for all Nigerians to come together, united in our resolve to redouble our efforts to nation building, and to hold those at the helms of affairs accountable for their actions and inactions. It is now common knowledge that the most profitable venture in the nation today is to land a role in government. The resources that should ordinarily be put to the use of all end up serving the greed of a few. This is as disheartening as it is devilish. The least we owe ourselves is to beam the searchlight on all the looters in government and expose them, and the press must lead the charge towards this.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters