By Merit Ibe
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( LCCI ) and media stakeholders recently highlighted the roles of the media as the fourth estate of the realm, in shaping and designing the national economic agenda for successful implementation.
In a virtual LCCI-Media Stakeholders’ Forum, organised by the chamber, themed: “Economic Stability and Security as Tools for National Development: The Media Perspective,” its president, Michael Olawale-Cole, noted that at no better time than now do we need all stakeholders to join in the national economic discourse to set Nigeria on the path of growth.
Olawale-Cole explained that implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, the National Development Plan (2021-2025) and the reforms in various sectors, are expected to create opportunities that will catalyse industrialisation of the economy to achieve overall national development goals.
Noting that the preoccupation of successive governments in Nigeria has been to engender national development whereby growth is holistic, inclusive and broad-based, he however, lamented that entrenched security challenges have consistently undermined outcomes of national development plans, initiatives and programmes.
The LCCI boss asserted that the downside to the optimistic outlook included elevated double-digit inflation, increasing debt liabilities, renewed global supply chain disruptions occasioned by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, forex liquidity challenges and rising cost of production.
For his part, Mr Olufemi Awoyemi, Chairman, Proshare, noted that how well the private sector-led media and the governments information and communication architecture operate in synch will go a long way in determining how well national development goals are achieved.
He lamented that sadly, the link is in need of a recalibration to allow for a matching of communications with the economic aspirations of Nigeria. “Indeed, management of the media should now be elevated to the level of a national security imperative; one that emphasises self-regulation and not self-censorship.
Awoyemi said communication is thus an important tool for national development because it helps people at all levels to exchange positions, empowers them to recognise important issues, find common grounds for action, and builds a sense of identity and participation in order to implement their decisions.
Business Editor, The Guardian, Dr. Femi Adekoya observed that the media is not isolated from the society and they are expected to be socially responsible. He said the media also operate as business entity. He, however asked, “are Nigerians ready to pay for good journalism? until we remodel business of journalism towards subscription where citizens pay, it is going to be tough.”
He also expressed concern over the harsh terrain media operates in the country. He said, if “you write anything that does not make the government happy, you are either sanctioned or fines would be imposed. There are lots of disincentives for journalists.”
Programmes Manager, Nigeria Info FM, Sheriff Quadry said if you have a weak economy, you cannot have a strong media.
He argued that “quality media business is not cheap. Though it is not an excuse for the media to be a sell-out. It’s expensive to run a media house. If care is not taken, media houses will be shutting down.” He said the atmosphere in which the media operate is very hostile. He queried: “who defends the media?” He also admitted that the media is doing the best it could do.
Ms Mofe Oyatogun, On-Air Personality, Star FM., proffered purposeful spending, adding that so much has been sunk into the power sector yet nothing has been achieved. “With the huge borrowing, are we achieving what we are borrowing for. How can we move from developing to developed when we don’t have a foundry. We need to spend money in projects that can actually generate interest for us aa a nation. The Nigerian business environment seems to be working only for a handful of people, can’t it be tweaked to work for a million Dangotes.
Co-founder, Social Media Week, Lagos, Obi Asika said the media, for too long, had relied on subventions from the government and politicians.
He stressed the need for the media to focus on value creation.
According to Asika, what brings people to you is the value of what you are doing.
Pointing out that the media industry is reflective of the society and can also influence the society, he stressed the need to tell the Nigerian stories to learn from the past, honour the present and move forward.
Other media stakeholders who shared their views included Mr Boason Omofaye, Show Anchor, Arise news channel; Mr Tolulope Ogunjobi, Business Editor, TVC and Mallam Mukhtar Sirajo, President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).