NGE conference: Allow opposition to thrive, Okowa tells Buhari, APC

As Osinbajo urges media to report without prejudice

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South–South & Festus Ahon





ASABA—DELTA State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday, said for democracy to thrive in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, should allow the opposition to play its role the way former President Goodluck Jonathan did when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was in power.

He spoke at the opening ceremony of the All Nigerian Editors’ Conference, ANEC 2018, holding in Asaba.

From left; Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Deputy Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Moses Frank Ekpo, during the 14th Conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, held in Asaba.

The theme of the confab is Credible Elections, Sustainable Democracy and the Nigerian Media.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who declared the event open, urged the media to be objective.

He specifically charged the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, as leaders of the journalism profession, to make personal sacrifices by ensuring strict adherence to the ethics of journalism.

According to Okowo:”One of the biggest steps towards sustaining democracy in Nigeria was when in 2015 the PDP conducted an election, lost and handed over to the opposition.

“This was a scenario previously thought impossible but when that happened to the chagrin of critics and naysayers, a solid foundation was laid for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.

“For democracy to flourish, the opposition must be allowed to exist and play its role without hindrance.

“The current APC-led Federal Government should build on this foundation and resist the temptation to oppress the opposition.

“The abiding principle of a democratic government is majority rule where power is held by the people under a free and fair electoral system.

‘’In a democracy, the people choose who governs them at any point in time. That is why the constitution proclaimed that sovereignty belongs to the people.

“The first thing in a sustainable democracy, therefore, is for the people to choose their leader in a free, fair and transparent electoral process. This means that from the party primaries, the process of choosing candidates to represent political parties must be one that guarantees and upholds these fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens.

“Since 1999 when the current political dispensation started, the media has not failed in its battle against corruption.

“The Nigerian media has stayed on the side of the people and must be commended for its heroic role in standing against what is wrong.

“But there are three key issues the media must urgently address. The first is that of media practitioners, who are known to be engaged as consultants to politicians and political office holders.

“That ought not to be because it compromises the editorial independence and objectivity of the press. “Finally, the issue of staff welfare, a situation where a reporter is unsure of his next paycheck does not augur well for the journalism profession for it exposes to undue influences from politicians and public office holders. Survival is a basic instinct of man and the person whose survival is threatened can care less about integrity and fairness. We need our journalists to report the truth but they cannot do that with boldness if they are not paid the reward for labour.’’

Osinbajo

On his part, Osinbajo, who spoke on the topic:  End of the Professions said: “Are you at the end of your profession? Is your profession also in its dying days. Today, social media has practically become the source of news for the growing generation. Anybody can own a medium and they can say literally anything.

His words: “There are people, who are now called online and social media personalities. They usually have no training in journalism or its ethics. And some have even found more readership than newspapers and more viewership than television.

“Though newspapers now have online versions, what that means is that they also have been dragged into the competition by the digital media. The journalism profession is at risk more than any other profession.

“What can be done for the dearth of the profession? The first culprit is technology but it is fruitless blaming technology. This inevitable evil also has the capacity for overwhelming good.

“Most of the investigative reports today are done by the online blogs.  The likes of Newswatch, Tell and The News that told the big stories had all gradually disappeared. So the Guild, a society of gatekeepers, upon you is the burden of setting the acceptable rules and practices of the profession.

“The burden is made greater in a society where corruption is systemic and it is not just setting the rules, but to bear the burden of the gatekeepers.

“You are leaders by choice and the will of your colleagues, so what is my own advice? First, corruption is like cancer. If it is permitted or overlooked, it will eventually kill the profession.’’

The President of NGE, Mrs. Funke Egbemode,  said the media was determined to play its role as the watchdog of the society.

Former Director General of Nigerian Television Authority, NTA and Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Tonnie Iredia, pleaded with the media to take control by making politicians accountable to the people.

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