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2015: HOW MEDIA MEN CAN MAKE OR MAR ANY POLITICIAN

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Before now, one of the challenges I have faced in the course of practicing this noble profession called journalism is how to strike a balance between objectivity and neutrality, and still retain the profession's position as the fourth estate of the realm. While researching for this work, I came across the New Africa Magazine's cover page story entitled: “Exposed: Western Media Bias against Africa”. In the page 10—11 of the work by Baffour Ankomah, he said: “We don't even stop to ask why throughout the western world, the media is accepted as the fourth estate of the realm”. African Journalists even claim it for themselves without really understanding what we are talking about”. He added: “The last time I looked, the Collins English Dictionary still defined estate of the realm as: “An order or class of persons in a political community, regarded collectively as a part of the body politic; usually regarded [ in Britain ]as being the Lords Temporal(the peers, in the House of Lords), Lords Spiritual[the church of England]”. Noticing that some readers will not understand the dictionary quotation above, Mr. Ankomah paraphrased it in the following terms: “In effect, an estate of the realm is part and parcel of the body politic. We all know the first three estates of the realm--- the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Therefore, being the fourth estate of the realm is indeed the “fourth arm of the state” or the fourth pillar on which the state rests. The media… doesn't sit outside the state and throw stones at it as it is often alleged. “…the image of the media as a storming, howling enemy of the government is a myth that lives only in textbooks. It doesn't exist in the real world”.

Having said this, the next question is what role are we going to play in the fourth coming general elections in the country? According to Lord Beaverbrook quoted in the same news article by Mr. Ankomah on thunderous journalism: “When skillfully employed… no politician of any party can resist it. It is a flaming sword which will cut through any political armour. Many newspapers are harmless because they do not know how to strike or when to strike… But teach the man behind them how to load and what to shoot at, and they become deadly”. Should we toe Beaverbrook line of thought or should we remain with Walter Lippmann's “Agenda Setting Theory” even when the actors are not acting our agendas? As realities change, strategies must change along! The socio-economic and political realities we found ourselves in this country calls for the inclusion of the “Magic Bullet” in to our brand of journalism if we must continue with the agenda setting role! May be this is why one of our national dailies has its mission statement this way: “We shall be independent in all matters, but shall never be neutral on any matter, especially those concerning the well-being of the Nigerian people”.

In Nigeria, media houses are not allowed to endorse any aspirant for election, but in advanced countries, news media openly endorse and support their preferred candidates for elections. For instance, during the last UK election, The Financial Times, The Economist, Sun of UK etc openly endorsed and supported the Conservative Party and its leader, David Cameroon now the Prime Minister! But, during the 2011 general election in the country, one of our national dailies hired a foreign company with proven track records in market research to conduct polls about the election, but some persons started accusing it of being bias! The truth is that some of these politicians are not familiar with issues of the moment, and as a result, there need media men to help them in planning and executing their campaign strategies and slogans. For example, in December 2008, Time magazine documented the list of issues of the year. Under political matters, it documented the top 10 campaign slogans in USA. Let me list them so that any one reading this article will know or understand the need to adopt good campaign slogan as we approach the 2015 general elections. Barack Obama's campaign slogan was “Yes we can”. John McCain's slogan was “Country First”. Hillary Clinton's slogan was “Solutions for America”. Mike Huckabee's slogan was “Faith. Family. Freedom”. Mitt Romney's slogan was “True Strength for America's Future”. Rudy Giuliani's slogan was “Tested. Ready Now”. John Edward's slogan was “Tomorrow Begins Today”! Fred Thompson's slogan was “Security. Unity. Prosperity”. Ron Paul's slogan was “Hope for America” and finally, Mike Gravel's slogan was “Let the people Decide”.

When Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, a journalist was moving back to Chicago to prepare for Obama's re-election campaign strategies, Eleanor Clift and Daniel Stone of Newsweek Magazine asked him this question: “How will the next campaign message differ from the first one”? His answer was: “I know “Hope” and “Change” have taken a little beating in this political environment. But hope and change are still at the core… We are going to have a record to run on and a vision of the future that's distinct from the vision offered by the other side”. The question now is how can a politician adopt a slogan and other strategies that bests suit our political environment for a strong and successful outing in the 2015 general elections? I reserve this strategy for the main time!

Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is an activist and a public affairs commentator. He is also the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.

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Articles by Edwin Uhara