Nigeria Mass Media - The Fourth Estate of Graft
The dark clouds hanging over the Nigerian nation have refused to lift. However, nature in its extreme kindness continues to shine light over areas of our national life that symbolise supreme decay. The recent juicy stories of corruption and mega-corruption filtering into public domain fall into such.
Suddenly, it is the season of revelations of corrupt practices. Not that such have been hidden in Nigeria. However, this particular season further raises question about the depth of moral decay in our dear land. Reports are suddenly indicating that our anti-corruption Czar (apologies to Akintokunbo Adejuwon) is herself a very corrupt entity. The peculiar roles of the fourth estate of the realm in the quagmire called Nigeria are suddenly coming to the surface. The whole fabric of the Nigerian nation calls for a thorough cleansing in order for sanity to prevail and development to assume its natural place. Our unalloyed commitment to massive corruption in Nigeria makes a mockery of our claim to membership of civilised comity of nations. Our country is renowned worldwide for all manners of vices but graft remains the king. Our so-called leaders are immersed in unbelievable sharp practices. It is indeed becoming extremely difficult if not almost impossible to point to one leader whose code is far above corruption. Our national psyche is such that graft has become accepted as an ordinary everyday phenomenon.
Stories of mega-corruption started with Azubuike Ishiekwene and have spread its octopus-like fangs to embrace our dear anti-corruption chief, Farida Waziri. The mischief of Yar'adua in replacing Nuhu Ribadu with Farida Waziri has been finally laid bare. It is now obvious that Yar'adua was being mischievous with his expressed commitment to fight graft. In any case, it becomes difficult to see how a man who could not even control his wife would effectively rule a nation not to talk of fighting corruption. Thus my consternation when in the not too distant past, a respected colleague wrote an article seeking for support for the then newly appointed anti-graft “Czar”. I would never cease to show my amazement at the bad timing of that article! Farida Waziri had only exposed the fundamental hypocrisy on which the foundation of our national life and politics is built. It is indeed an irony when a thief catcher is suddenly found to be a master thief.
Stories are daily filtering out of the many atrocities of Azubuike, but I daresay that for every Azubuike that is accused of corruption, there are many undiscovered Yakubus and Falanas. The Nigerian Fourth Estate of the Realm is one hotbed of corrupt and sharp practices. The case of Azubuike is only a tip of the iceberg. To buttress this fact, Mojid Musikilu also narrated his ordeal at the hands of super-powerful newspaper barons who had sold their consciences to greed. In the mould of these infamous pen pushers is another one called Babajide Kolade-Otitoju of The News magazine. Here is an expert “yellow” journalist adept at portraying falsehood and litigation evidence as “investigative” journalism. In an era when Nigerians are aghast at the unreserved penchants of some evangelists of Mormon at dispensing all sorts of abuses to the Nigerian child, this one-penny journalist deceptively used all the falsehood and inaccuracies submitted by Helen Ukpabio in the pursuit of her “detractors” at the law court, as the basis of an article titled: Child Witchcraft; One Big Scam (The News of March 01, 2010). It was obvious that “brown envelopes” must have exchanged hands before such absurdity was written and published. The likes of Azubuike and Kolade-Otitoju litter the Nigerian mass media.
The Nigerian press have always been a corrupt body, the level of corruption being almost legendary. The only difference with current revelations is that stories are filtering out from within its camp. Nigerian journalists (most of them) are merely a reflection of the Nigerian sickness. However, the level of uncontrolled greed, avarice and lack of self respect amongst them is alarming, almost out of proportion to the malaise afflicting the Nigerian nation. They are greedy, shameless and simply operate on no moral code of conduct. They will write anything as long as money can exchange hands. It is nothing new to learn that stories are buried in Nigeria. It is also a well known fact that Nigerian journalists would publish any useless story as long as such have been paid for. The public have been fed with half-truths and distorted concoctions borne out of kleptomaniac dispositions.The myth about the liberal nature of Nigerian journalism remain just that – a myth. There can be no iota of truth in a body that clearly subscribes to the fine print of the rule of corruption.
It also stands to be emphasised that corruption in the Nigerian press is not confined to the top echelon alone. It involves the rank and file. Some not too long years ago, I used to have a friend who for the initial part of our friendship was jobless with a first degree in the humanities. He tried some few jobs but could hardly hold down any for a prolonged period of time. One day, this friend informed that he had settled on journalism as his choice of profession. The reason for this peculiar choice remains a mystery. As luck would have it, after pulling strings here and there, my friend got a job with a respected newspaper in Nigeria. He has to date spent less than 10 years within this organisation. However, within the first 5 years, my friend had completed three massive buildings and had a compound filled with cars. I was curious as to how these momentous achievements could be accomplished in so short a time. My friend regaled me with stories of brown envelopes that change hands at press conferences. He told stories of the extent to which the Nigerian politicians and other affluent Nigerians would go to suppress stories or promote rubbish. Accepting brown envelopes is a mere part of the trade for the Nigerian journalist. In fact, they are expected and looked forward to.
The Nigerian journalist remains an indictable part of the Nigerian problem begging for an urgent solution. They worship money and would rather prefer to serve on the altar of Mormon. Gone is the old breed that gave birth to eponyms like “Aiyekoto”, “John West” and so on. Now is the era of the greedy and hungry, the glorification of the flotsams and jetsam's of the profession, amply encouraged and sustained by unscrupulous and corrupt Nigerians. It is indeed a field day for corruption. Steve Ayorinde's claims are being viewed as outrageous in some quarters, taking ethnic colourations in others. However, further revelations have shown that the man was not mad when he was making his allegations. In fact, he only helped in opening a can of worms, a bustling Pandora box.
The lacklustre reaction of The Punch could be viewed as typical of this organisation which has assumed a characteristic non-progressive approach since Chief Olu Aboderin said goodbye to mother earth. In same vein, the apparent lack of an official government response to the allegations of corruption levelled against Farida Waziri is equally symptomatic of the pedigree of the current government in power. The will to prosecute corruption could not be there for anyone in power whether in an acting capacity or not, if the atrocities of his dear wife could lead to the payment of a whole day's production of a national newspaper. You only need to read the exclusive crime reports of iReports-ng of 21st March (http://ireports- ng.com/2010/ 03/21/corruption -charges- azu-to-refund- n17million- to-punch/). The pseudo-commitment and sycophancy of Azubuike raises a food for thought. It is unimaginable that this horrible individual had the temerity to write a book on the war against corruption in Nigeria titled: The Trial of Nuhu Ribadu. Just so that a balance is created, it is perhaps appropriate for him to write another one titled: The shame and hypocrisy of Azubuike Ishiekwene.
However, it would be so difficult to crucify the Nigerian press without taking into consideration the environment that led to the germination, fertilisation and breeding of so much corruption. Nigeria remains a maze, a contradiction par excellence. Here is a country that glorifies everything beautiful and yet perpetuates everything so odious and evil. It is only in Nigeria that an arm-chair General would be allocated an oil block only for him to realise over 100million dollars for which he was at loss as to how to spend. Our National Assembly remains the international headquarters of graft and corruption. Our unchecked giant strides in this regard would ultimately lead to the enshrining of graft in our nation's laws and statues as a national heritage. The Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representative boldly invested over 800 million naira in a custom-made bullet-proof vehicle. Appointed ministers routinely pay “homage” in different currencies to our esteemed legislators. Even the state assemblies are not left behind. It is one spectacle of corruption trailing another. These wicked antics of our despicable leaders are routinely suppressed by the Azubuikes of the media in a law of omerta only achievable with the greasing of palms.
I fully share in the sorrows of a dear friend when he lamented bitterly about corruption in a letter he wrote to me some years back. Borrowing some of his words, I dare say that corruption, “Riba” “Kickback”, “Egunje”, “Kickfront”, “Settlement” or whatever you want to call it, is an underground (in fact, open-ground) flourishing and captivating business in Nigeria. Amongst others, men of the Nigeria Police Force subscribes to this immoral code of existence. It is only a stranger to Nigeria who would at his peril not realise, for example, that bail in Nigeria is not free as advertised. Local government chairmen and councillors see both allocated and generated revenue as goodies meant to be shared. State governors are accountable to no one and dispense of state wealth as they deemed fit. There was an era in this country when a state governor was notorious for throwing huge sums of money at the people wherever he went. This is in a country lacking basic industries and crying seriously for the provision of basic amenities to the people. This same ex-governor is still a force to be reckoned with today having miraculously escaped the microscopic lenses of the almighty EFCC. In fact, he is actively planning to undermine the regime of a successor.
However, the time had come for these unscrupulous Nigerians to become mere footnotes of history. The momentum is to build a new Nigeria, one based on trust and respect for moral and social codes. Different nations have different approaches to tackling corruption. What perhaps cuts across decent countries is the zero-tolerance approach to corruption. This is essential for any meaningful development to occur. It is imperative that our efforts at curbing this social menace are renewed with vigour and sincerity. Our approach should hold no barriers. The pity is that no government has demonstrated such a sincere spirit since our turbulent journey started from Independence. Considering the complicity of Acting President Jonathan, it remains to be seen how he could act decisively on this burning national issue.
I can only end this write-up with the immortal words of Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu:
"Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least. The tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds."
May God save the country!