Without journalists and the intellectual class, society would stagnate, regress, or even decay. Indeed, no society in the modern era has made progress without an honest and enterprising pool of journalists and intellectuals.
Every society needs men and women of conscience; truth and courage. Governance and the wellbeing of the people cannot be wholly entrusted on politicians, the elite and bureaucrats as the vast majority of them are like the fabled vampires that suck blood and sap human energy.
In Nigeria for example, governance is no longer about efficient public service but stealing and violating people’s rights. Crimes against humanity and posterity are routinely committed by Nigerian politicians. In almost fifty years, there has been no harsh deterrent against criminality. In such a country and under such circumstances, you cannot go to bed with both eyes closed. To do so is to court danger and disaster.
For more than 50 years, the Nigerian intellectual class was the envy of the world. At home and abroad, their voices, writings and services were acknowledged. Gradually, most of its members became afflicted with several social diseases, and in no time succumbed to internal and external inducements. A few succumbed to threats and poverty; many forsake intellectual pursuits for political power.
As with their thinking-counterparts, Nigerian journalism also has a long history of service and excellence. For a while, some of the nation’s nationalists had their roots in the art and science of journalism or in the written world. Hence, post-independence Nigeria was home to some of the best and the brightest journalists and writers the world had to offer.
Several Nigerian media houses produced gadflies, intellectuals, and social critics of no mean feat. Indeed, many social critics, intellectuals and gadflies worked for or were associated with several media houses. They battled military regimes, fought against corruption and indiscipline, and championed the peoples’ rights. They also helped to shape national conversations vis-à-vis domestic and foreign policies.
Despite the fact that Nigerian journalists had their shortcomings (they are humans,) collectively and individually and for the vast majority of the times, they were a credit to the nation and their profession. They made us proud. That was then. That was the time when journalism meant something to the nation and to the people. That was the time when journalists practiced their craft the way it was meant to be practiced.They had several obligations and responsibilities which included reporting the truth, shinning light in dark places, and educating the people and government.
In 1995 or thereabout, things took turn for the worse. The rot became apparent. True, a few valiant and courageous voices fought the Ibrahim Babangida, and later, the Sani Abacha regime; but for the most part, the stench became widespread and unbearable. By the time Obasanjo came into office, “all hell was loose and the center could not hold.” Journalism went to the dogs!
Nigerian journalism has been in the cesspool since. To say all practicing journalists are stained and tainted would not be correct. There are a few good men and women who are dedicated to the idea and the ideals of the profession: journalists who toil day and night to the glory of their craft.
For a dollar, majority of journalists in Nigeria would sell or kill a story. For a dime, they’d write speeches for politicians. For a nickel, they’d fabricate stories.
The editorial board members/columnists plus the publishers have “access” to power at all levels. They are filthy rich in filthy and unaccountable sort of way with choice lands and landed properties. They travel round the world and stay in preferred hotels. For this group, it is all about money and power -- not journalism, and certainly not the people’s interest.
Now that intellectual pursuit is (mostly) a thing of the past and journalism is deep in the gutter, what hope do the people have? What hope do we have against government abuse and excesses? Who will defend the people against foul winds blowing from all corners of the country? To whom do we leave the job of shaping public discourse and public policies? Without our intellectuals and our journalists, who is left to defend our national interest?
As it is, intellectual pursuit as a craft is in a state of despondency. The Fourth Estate is in shambles. The legislative branch is on a leash, and the executive branch is nothing but a pit of waste and corruption. As for the judiciary, well, every so often it exhibits flashes of brilliance. And that’s about it. Otherwise, it is mostly a chamber of tired and old hands.
In a democratic dispensation, journalism is the last hope for the nation. The profession should clean itself up. It should look inward, retool itself and retrain its members.If nothing is done to resuscitate, repair and reenergize this once glorious profession, one may not be able to tell the difference between it and carriers of social ills and malfeasance that roam Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.
By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Sabella is a PhD Candidate & SYLFF Fellow. He is with Howard University, Washington DC. He can be reached at Sabidde@yahoo.com
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