By Sunday Ani
Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has urged media practitioners to join hands with the government to build a just, progressive and prosperous Nigeria, stressing that nation-building is not an exclusive preserve of the government and politicians.
The vice president made the call yesterday in Lagos at the event put together by the Nigeria Press Organisation to honour nine departed media icons. The nine departed media legends were those who died between July last year and January this year. They included Malam Ismaila Isa, Malam Wada Maida, Mr. Bisi Lawrence, Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Mr. Eddie Aderionkun, Mr. Ben Egbuna, Prince Tony Momoh and Alhaji Lateef Jakande.
He extolled the virtues and journalistic prowess of the honoured media icons even as he urged the media to reject the temptation to fracture Nigeria but instead elevate those constructive elements that could promote justice, healing and togetherness among the diverse tribes and tongues in the country.
He also charged the media to always hold leaders of the country accountable, saying, “Those of us who govern must do so with the understanding that power is a public trust. It is also the calling of the journalists to invigilate us and hold us accountable. I urge you to do so relentlessly, fairly and unapologetically. When we are both true to our respective callings, our democracy is strengthened.”
The vice president noted that Nigeria is not perfect but the cure for its imperfection is most certainly not destruction or a heedless descent into anarchy as being promoted by some voices. He, therefore, called on the media to have a share in the much needed work of rebuilding, redesigning, reforming and healing the country, even as he stressed that creating a commonality of purpose in a uniquely diverse and culturally diverse society like Nigeria was a challenging task the world over.
He lamented that the country was at a point where so many forces were at play to tear it apart, but urged the media to emulate the virtue of those being celebrated. “We are at a time of our national odyssey in which retailers of discord and matrons of strife are working assiduously against our collective potentials as a people. However, the giants that we celebrate today understood that journalism operates in a social context and cannot be value neutral. This same cognitive commitment is incumbent upon all media practitioners. Media practitioners have a responsibility to exercise discernment in the deployment of their platforms.”
He noted that in spite of all the tensions in the land today, the media have the capacity to douse it and promote peace. He said: “As we struggle to build our nation with the brick of neutrality, plurality and tolerance, those of us who stand as gatekeepers in the Fourth Estate must demonstrate a greater awareness of the sensibilities and sensitivities of our society. Debate over our country’s future will always be intense and passionate but they need not be toxic or polarizing. The media can help to promote a climate of civility in which the most contentious issues can be discussed in full and frank terms without degenerating into chaos.”
He commended the media for being at the forefront of all the epochal struggles in Nigeria right from the fight against colonialism to the enthronement of democracy, but noted that the fourth struggle was under way. “It is the quest to deepen democracy and to realise our collective possibilities as a just, prosperous and progressive nation,” he added.
He commended the organisers of the event, the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Broadcast Organisation of Nigeria (BON) for conceiving a memorial of such taste and magnitude. “The care or loyalty demonstrated by those championing our causes when we are no longer present is more genuine than the obsequiousness of those that engage in eye service when we are still in a position to pay back. I salute the exemplary leadership exhibited by the organisers because by this they have really lived up to expectation as the ultimate custodian of the finest profession of the media tradition,” he said.
Apart from the Vice President, Governors of Lagos and Ekiti States, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Kayode Fayemi, as well as the Deputy Governor of Ogun State and representatives of Katsina and Niger States governments also graced the occasion. Others included publishers, media owners, editors, and journalists among others.