Media for Hire and a Second Round Presidential Poll
Flog me if the Nigerian media are not for hire, at least some of them are. Not a day goes by without a notable print or TV medium blasting a headline that is patently procured. How do I know they are bought? The signs are not tell-tale, they are shout it loud. Test No. 1: If there is a ‘news worthy’ business or corporate article in a medium, check the others out. They will be sporting the same press release, with the same headline, intro and copy. Even with the same picture and caption.
Test No. 2: The media gives a nondescript business organisation an award, or a faceless enterprise or NGO gives the media awards. To some extent, it sounds like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A sampler: “Horizon Shores Nigeria wins ‘West Africa’s Most Reliable Oil and Gas Services Company’ Award,” Business Day. “More Laurels for Wike,” The Tide reports that Daily Independent gave Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike a YAAW (Yet Another Award). And who else has been receiving YAAWs? Kogi governor Yahaya Bello, whose wife, nephew and errand boys have been charged for criminal theft of public funds. Additionally, another court has order 14 properties in Lagos and Abuja to be temporarily forfeited by Bello’s government.
Test No. 3: You are shocked awake by a finality statement from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The media receive a PR plug and run with it, sans editors. They announce: “Tinubu will win, TB Bempah predicts,” The Sun. TB who? You ask. “Obi, Atiku rattled as Tinubu leads,” The Nation blurts out a hocus pocus poll, just two days to the poll. Any pride The Nation had as an independent medium was shattered months back by its ill-advised ethnic diatribe on Obidients, the group catalysing Peter Obi to contest against Bola Tinubu, The Nation’s politician publisher. “Tinubu: The divine path to Presidential power,” The Nation has God’s number!
Or even the absurd: “Only Atiku has capacity to solve Nigeria’s economic problems – Reno Omokri.” That is Vanguard, refusing to don its thinking cap. “Only Atiku has answers to Nigerias problems - CampaignOrganisation.” Vanguard again. “Udom Emmanuel: Atiku Is Only Candidate with Capacity to Solve Nigerias Problems,” Thisday. Another messianic delusion from a provincial potentate. State governors like Udom Emmanuel believe that the earth, the sun, rain, day and night are commanded by them.
The media have junked the Fleet Street maxim of reporting both sides of the story in favour of MAGA America’s ulcerating reporting led by Fox News and its ilk. For Fox, the chickens will come home to roost in April as a summary judgment seems likely in the $1.6 billion suit by Dominion Voting Systems.
Nigerian media, on the other hand, have failed in their duty to educate voters on the likely second round presidential poll. That likelihood was evident from as early as September 2022 when a poll by Bloomberg news service tipped Peter Obi as leading the other candidates, with no clear winner emerging.
Why has the media in Nigeria refused to address their education responsibility? First, they refuse to see electoral reporting as a civic and constitutional duty. From The Nation to the Independent to PM News, they see electoral reporting as transactional. They refuse to subject political party campaign statements, PR and press releases to the required editorial scrutiny that is entrusted to the media by the Constitution. The US Embassy had to address journalists on this last week as they urged the media to educate voters on the likely second round. When Bloomberg ran the story “A Surprise Presidential Candidate Leads the Race to Lead Nigeria, Poll Shows,” it was a wake-up call to the local media, but they were already in bed with the politicians, leaving their sacred mandate unattended.
One of the most loved illustrations of what is news is “Man bites dog.” The headline appropriately catches the zing and zest of contemporary life in Nigeria, showcasing that you can turn the tables on your traducers. If your neighbour’s ‘bingo’ takes such a longing for your calves and breaks free one day from his cage or leash, don’t take to your heels. Turn around, bare your own fangs at it with a top-dog growl and let him have it!
This philosophy of life is a hand-off from the eighties and nineties resistance street song, “Oga Police.” In those Babangida-Abacha years of terror, scores disappeared every night, from street pubs (in plain sight), from their homes or offices, from airports and motor parks, or even while walking on the street. The official charge then was wandering, a colonial hangover. So, streetwise Lagosians came up with the song: “Oga Police, Oga Police / If you want to fire me, fire me make I die / I will never follow you to that station!” I’d rather you shoot me dead on the streets than follow you to the police station.
In those dark days, the Nigeria media cut a towering image for itself, leading the fight against tyranny. Though media publishers were well known hob-nobbers with the blood-soaked generals and their crony bankers, businessmen and civil servants, the public regarded the media as their Spidermen, Captains Nigeria and Supermen – all rolled in one – due to the derring-do of journalists and the blistering firepower of editors. No thanks to publishers.
Of course, Dodan Barracks, then seat of power, responded in kind to journalists who failed to heed a warning. Hours before Nigeria’s first Nobel laureate was announced in October 1986, Dele Giwa a journalist and co-founder of Newswatch newsweekly magazine uttered his famous last words: “This must be from the president.” The letter was a bomb.
In 1996, Bagauda Kaltho, a journalist with The News newsweekly magazine was allegedly lured with the princely sum then of N1 million to plant a bomb at the Durbar Hotel, Kaduna and was blown up by it.
In the same nineties, Kris Imodibie and Tayo Awotusin, Nigerian journalists reporting the Liberian civil war for Lagos-based The Guardian and Champion newspapers were kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered by Charles Taylor’s rebels. Some say it was with the acquiescence of Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s pretend-president head of state. Whether untrue, it was obvious to the whole world that Nigeria that put boots back into Liberia, from where the USA hurriedly and shamefully ran off, could have rescued the journalists if it cared.
This brings us back to our media, led by veterans of the Babangida years. Publishers like Bayo Onanuga of The News and PM News should be crowing for labour leaders, civil society activists and their journalist colleagues who paid the ultimate price in those dark days, not documented, proceeds-of-crime persons. To claim that Bola Tinubu funded NADECO from abroad, therefore has paid his ‘dues’ and deserves to be rewarded president of Nigeria by us is a slap on the face of the rest of us who were witnesses and documented that era.
Have such publishers ever heard of conflict of interest? It appears not, if Onanuga’s ‘Chicago-trained’ paymaster never heard of it while dispossessing the weak and under-class from such places as Maroko (now renamed Iru land) and re-apportioning them like booty to himself and cronies.
Horizon Shores Nigeria wins ‘West Africa’s Most Reliable Oil and Gas Services Company’ Award. https://businessday.ng/brands-advertising/article/horizon-shores-nigeria-wins-west-africas-most-reliable-oil-and-gas-services-company-award/
More Laurels for Wike. https://www.thetidenewsonline.com/2023/02/20/more-laurels-for-wike/
Kogi Governor’s Wife, Rashida Bello, Nephew Charged With over N3bn Fraud. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2023/02/09/kogi-governors-wife-rashida-bello-nephew-charged-with-over-n3bn-fraud/
Kogi Govt To Forfeit Multibillion Naira Properties in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai. https://www.channelstv.com/2023/02/22/court-forfeits-multibillion-naira-properties-in-lagos-abuja-dubai-linked-to-kogi-govt/
‘Incredibly damning:’ Fox News documents stun some legal experts. https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2023/02/23/fox-news-dominion-lawsuit-legal-analysis/
Both Sides Seek Summary Judgment in Dominion, Fox News Defamation Case. https://www.law.com/dailyreportonline/2023/02/17/both-sides-seek-summary-judgment-in-dominion-fox-news-defamation-case/?slreturn=20230123194944
Tinubu will win, TB Bempah predicts. http://www.sunnewsonline.com/tinubu-will-win-tb-bempah-predicts/
Obi, Atiku rattled as Tinubu leads. https://thenationonlineng.net/obi-atiku-rattled-as-tinubu-leads/
Tinubu: The divine path to Presidential power. https://thenationonlineng.net/tinubu-the-divine-path-to-presidential-power/
Only Atiku has capacity to solve Nigeria’s economic problems – Reno Omokri. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/10/only-atiku-has-capacity-to-solve-nigerias-economic-problems-reno-omokri/
A Surprise Presidential Candidate Leads the Race to Lead Nigeria, Poll Shows. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-28/who-will-win-nigeria-s-presidential-election-peter-obi-leads-in-opinion-poll
Presidential Election: US urges Nigerian media to enlighten voters on possible run-off. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/582140-presidential-election-us-urges-nigerian-media-to-enlighten-voters-on-possible-run-off.html
Bagauda Kaltho: The News, Widow, Others Tackle Mahdi Shehu Over Bomb Claim. https://www.tell.ng/bagauda-kaltho-the-news-widow-others-tackle-mahdi-shehu-over-bomb-claim/
How Dele Giwa was Bombed to Death in 1986. https://www.thehistoryville.com/dele-giwa-bombed-1986/#Why_was_Dele_Giwa_killed
FG Gets 14-Day Ultimatum to Extradite Taylor. https://archive.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/163-general/29126.html