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When things happen in Nigeria today, this is the cycle it follows. First, newspapers, online and offline, report the event as breaking news. Then, depending on which side of the political divide those the news is about belong to, a sleuth of vicious attacks and blind defenses of the person and the actions ensue. The parties that defend and attack are often predictable, based on political affiliations. Then the actors will come out and claim not to have done anything. And then we move on to the next. Confusion as to whom to listen to, and whether or not the thing actually happened, then sets in.
And in all this, the press is culpable. Whether driven by the pressures of reporting things first, or releasing the exclusive, in a world where social media has made it extremely difficult to achieve this, the press releases happenings as facts before verifying them many times. Then, they put up subsequent reports that often contradict the initial reports without bringing down the first. In fact, as if to drive traffic, both the initial and subsequent reports are shared simultaneously. It makes it easy for those who seek to discombobulate us to achieve their purpose.
So we need our press to be critical. Instead of regurgitating claims by public or private officials, we need the editors to look at things critically and make sound editorial calls. As an example, when the police release the ages of the female suicide bombers within minutes of the attacks, shouldn’t the press raise eyebrows at how the age of someone blown to smithereens was determined so accurately so quickly?
We need our press to find things out and report them with authority. We don’t want a press that asks us if the president gave the Chibok parents Hundred Million Naira. Rather, the press should investigate what really happened, get evidence and tell us factually. Did the president release that money? To whom? What was the rationale? Did it get to the Chibok parents? How? What was the rationale for sharing? If it didn’t, who exactly has the money?
We need a press that asks hard questions and demands answers. Of course, in a place like Nigeria, this is a dangerous thing to do. But if anyone must do it, it must be the press. So they should ask why in spite of trillions released to the military over the years, we still require a fresh One Billion Dollar loan to fight Boko Haram. They should ask why the presidential fact finding committee found it hard to visit Chibok, but documentary teams from Ebony Life TV was able to get there and film extensively. And why, in spite of Borno being a warzone and Chibok being an area of repeated attack, the defense of the place is left to dane gun wielding militia. The army is practically absent.
We need our media to keep focus. The media is not social media and should not be fickle. Unlike the citizen reporting that goes on on social media, the media is manned by paid professionals and beyond reporting the stories, they must drive narrative. The reason why Gaza seems closer to many Nigerians than events in Potiskum is because media brings Gaza into their homes daily and keeps it in continuous focus.
We need our media to highlight injustice. Impunity thrives when those that carry it out are certain we will “move on” irrespective of what they do. But as we have seen in the Niger Delta before and in the madness that is Boko Haram today, there are those who will react violently. The alleged killing of Sheik Zakzaky’s sons and followers in Zaria therefore must be kept in focus by our media until the government is left with no choice but to ensure that justice is done in the matter.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.
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