From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Professor Nlerum Okogbule, and a Professor of Development Communication/Media Advocacy, Godwin Okon, have tasked the Nigerian press to play an active role in promoting and advocating change in society.
They gave the charge at the institution’s 70th inaugural lecture with the theme “Advocacy Paradigms: Unbundling the Albatross of Journalistic Inertia in Nigeria”, delivered by Prof Okon.
‘It is important to recognise that the media can actually play an active role in promoting and advocating change in society,’ Prof Okogbule declared.
‘That is the role that the media can play and, indeed, the constitution requires them to do that. That is to say, when the media is not doing what they are supposed to do under the constitution, it is, then, they are not performing their roles in society, which Professor Okon has ably drawn our attention to.
‘I hope the media will take a cue from this and begin to have a change of attitude in terms of ensuring that they play a role expected of them to promote and develop in Nigerian society,’ he stated.
Earlier, Prof Okon emphasised the importance of communication by showing that, as humans, society cannot do without communication.
He maintained that the media should be development-oriented, driven to bring change in society. According to him, the place of the media in society should be to respond to challenges with constructive reportage.
The inaugural lecturer drew attention to the relationship between advocacy and media nexus, saying that advocacy is active support for a course through multiple means and the process for capacity building.
Prof Okon examined various paradigms in media communication and argued that there is journalistic inertia in the Nigerian media, where journalists cannot determine some of the policies and actions of government.
The lecturer noted that because there are always issues around editorial policy and restrictions, journalists have no choice but to comply with the policies of their respective organisations.
According to him, Nigeria is an unhealthy environment to practice journalism, drawing attention to a pattern of self-interested media ownership in the country.
He went on to recommend the need for mainstreaming editorial policies, anchoring media ownership on excellence without compromise and the need for mentorship in Nigeria.