Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the trend of disunity in the country on the lapses of media reportage occasioned by dissemination of rumour-based stories without verification by journalists.
Chief Obasanjo, represented by former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola at the maiden national summit of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, holding in Abeokuta, Ogun State, noted that the media holds the key to the national cohesion that could prepare Nigeria for the leadership of the African continent, to living up to the global demands of the twenty-first century and called on journalists to strive to meet the expectation.
The former president further challenged the media sector to use the advantage of the societal dependence on their information, to end the divisive elements bedevilling the country in tune with the constitutional mandate apportioned to them a social responsibility.
Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, in his remark, advocated stronger investigative drive in the practice of journalism in the country to complement the efforts of the government to serve the people better by giving the needed information that could stimulate public support for policies and programmes of the government.
Amosun commended the initiative of the nuj to chart ways of encouraging good governance and urged them to use the summit to advance the cause of massive development in the country.
Talking on the theme of the summit, ‘the media and national unity’ the NUJ National President, Abdulwaheed Odusile, promised that the union’s new thinking would generate the required social force for redirecting the focus of all segments of the country towards the promotion of the corporate existence of country as a matter of priority.
“You may want to ask why is the media bothered by these tendencies threatening our unity. Are journalists not supposed to just report events as they happen and leave the public to judge? We are bothered because we have a stake in this country as patriots, and considering the role the Nigeria Press played in securing independence from our colonial masters, championed the cause of unity when we were threatened by civil war and enthroning the democracy that all are now enjoying, keeping quiet would amount to a disservice to the labour of our heroes past which in the words of our national anthem shall never be in vain.
Drawing the challenges and constraints facing the media and journalists in the country, NUJ president said Nigeria media industry is in crisis as media houses are on their knees and struggling to continue as business concerns, the fortune of journalists is not improving either.
“The operating environment is so hostile and the recent federal government policy on government advertisement will further compound the problem. As he called the government to review this policy as it could affect the ability and capacity of the media to perform its role in the society.
“Many media owners are defaulting in the payment of salaries to their workers with some in arrears of one year and above.
Stressing that a journalist not paid by his employer for months is hungry and vulnerable to corruption and therefore, is a danger to the society; Odusile said he could call black …white, depending on what is on offer. “Make no mistake about it, this is unethical and NUJ as a responsible professional body frowns at it, but our jobs are being made difficult by these debtor employers.”