Friday, December 24, 2010

Naija Leaks?

In all successful societies of the world there are three aspects of human endeavor that permeates all facets of daily living. 1. That well thought out laws exist, are made or modified to fit the ever changing environment. 2. An effective means of enforcing the law by way of police, civil defense and other law enforcement agencies. 3. A proactive media to report both sides of any issue to all and sundry.

For my dear nation, Nigeria - I have written severally about the inefficiency of running this colossal engine of representative governance, its inherent cost implications, and its self-servicing policies, but I have said little of the (lack of) law enforcement. That is a story for another day. For today, I am going to write about the importance of the media.

Societies who fight oppression have often employed the "Power of the Pen" to garner grassroot support. As it is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. From the French revolution, through the American civil war, to every society that has had an uprising or revolution of some sort. The importance of the media can not be over emphasized. Even in times of oppression and anarchy, participants have used the media as a catalyst to promote their objectives. From The Jacobite, Hitler and the holocaust, Mao and Red China, Castro, Rawlings, etc.

I therefore find it appalling to open every other newspaper to find non-critical issues been pushed forward everyday. Considering the fact that for decades on end, the Nigerian masses have cried out for a change, for transparency, for a new order.

I could not find any empirical evidence to show what the average Nigerian news paper publishes - matters of public interest, sports, politics, general information VS those that generate income - paid adverts, etc. This would have created a rich picture of what the media is doing. this data will preclude pure commercial adverts that promote a product or service. None-the-less, a cursory look at the top nations tabliods shows that many published items are skewed towards creating an opinion (suggesting they were paid for) rather than giving both sides of the story and allowing the readers to draw a conclusion. Little wonder why in a bid to ensure their relevance in today's Nigeria, unnecessary attention is given to the same people who have plundered and raped this nation over the years.

What is the National Union of Journalist thinking? Are they aware of this? Or is the ever-present Naija demon forcing us to do it our way. Why do we give politics so much audience and ignore other important things like promoting efficiency, education, preventing crime and violence? Why do we promote opulence to the detriment of our generation? What is the NUJ doing to restore honor and dignity amongst our people? Even a little child in Nigeria values money more than his name, and young girls would rather suffer under an abusive relationship as long as the dough keeps flowing. Little wonder why the corridors of power are full of people who have little to offer, people whose only passion is to amass wealth at the expense of their fellow citizens.

Don't get me wrong, while I agree that there must be paid adverts, one expects objectivity, reasoning and creativity that all adds up to the greater good of the poor and downtrodden. A balance between the truth and commerce. To condone the sale of publicity is akin to selling the polity to the highest bidder and keeping the masses in perpetual darkness. It is only in Nigeria we talk about brown envelopes (the act of bribing a journalist) - to me, its nothing but black mail. Nigerian press will publish anything if you pay the price.

I asked my good friends Ndu Okeke, and Kari (both seasoned journalist), to inform their technology correspondents about my wind turbine project they both thought I must present some brown envelopes before this can be published.

For the past decade, been responsible for web communications of two separate corporate bodies has exposed me to many journalist within and outside Nigeria. One simple question I always put forward to them is "Why don't you write about what is really going on [the truth]?" Their response has also interestingly been simple... "Those stories don't sell newspapers or pay the bills". Obviously, newspapers and other electronic media need money to run, however they owe a greater responsibility to the societies they serve.

World over, journalist syndicate (publish) on other tabloids using pseudo names to avoid been victimized by the powers that be. In countries where the media is reluctant to publish the materials, journalist have gone a step further to publish internationally. With the advent of internet technology, more and more people are turning into journalist (even me - blogging for over 3 years now). Yet the average Nigerian journalist has chosen to be docile, and report only what is paid for and ignore the rest. Programs like "Newsline" that focused on tell the truth on the street and investigating issues that concern the average man have all been hijacked by the rich. Newline today is a showcase of the rich and the powerful, their childrens weddings, and what new toys they buy at the expense of the masses.

Since I was a teen, I have heard rumors of IBBs refineries in south America, reasons why an oil giant imports refined products. No journalist has investigated and published a single article. I have read over the years that Peter Odilli owns one of the finest hospitals in Africa, and not a single investigative work has been carried out. This brings to question their professionalism. The freedom of information bill (wonder under which table it sits now) may not help to wrestle power out of the hands of the powers that be in Nigeria, it requires a courageous and creative mindset that is lacking in the crop of present brown envelope hunting journalist. A few serious blogs have evolved, but I fear they may be in cohort with some notable politicians. Non-the-less, the likes of seems to be getting it right on a local level.

Perhaps one of 2010 ground breaking phenomenon is Wikileaks - a body that has existed for over 4 years and has a mission to tell the truth that others are too scared to tell by assuring the anonymity of their sources. Their profile says

"We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their own government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government through the media."

The question now is if the Nigerian journalist would take advantage of this and supply the truth to a more courageous [my emphasis], creative reporter far removed form the our oppressive regimes. Will nations potentially come to face legal consequences as a result of evidence posted on WikiLeaks? Even the USA is in awe of this mode of enforcing transparency.

But like Wikileaks, I believe publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny will lead to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society's institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.

Scrutiny requires information. Historically, information has been costly in terms of human life, human rights and economics. As a result of technical advances particularly the internet and cryptography - the risks of conveying important information can be lowered. In its landmark ruling on the Pentagon Papers, the US Supreme Court ruled that "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." We agree. Nigerian journalists over to you.


  1. Sounds like the WikiLeaks has focused on Nigeria or is it Nigerian journalist giving us what we want to hear.

  2. Yet another leaked cable. there will sure be a day of reckoning. That day is nearer than you think.