Take up a Nehemiah Project for Nigeria, Utomi charges journalists

By Chido Nwakanma

Noted political economist and professor of entrepreneurship Prof Pat Utomi hasurged the Nigerian media and individual journalists to take up the challenge of assisting Nigeria out of the current economic and social crises as a Nehemiah project.

Nehemiahwas a Jewish leader of the fifth-century b.c. who supervised the rebuilding of the Jerusalem city walls and instituted reforms in the city.

Utomi said the media could do so by deploying its influence towards progressive causes using the agenda-setting theory and other theories underpinning media practice. He asserted that the media have enoughinfluence “to affect the choices we make as a country through our institutions and through individual action to advance the course of nation-building and economic development”.

Prof Utomi spoke as he delivered the 11th Jackson Annual Lecture of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, his alma mater. He addressed the topic“The media and the development challenge in Nigeria at a time of crisis”.

Agenda setting tasks for the media include helping to enhance rigour in policy choice, encouraging a culture of reasoned public conversation on policy matters and playing up the activities of civil society that results in stronger institutions with more effective investment in human capital, Utomi stated. He said these would lead to “more virile entrepreneurship and economic growth resulting therefrom”.

The boardroom guru and educator also emphasised the role of culture and leadership in driving the development of nations. “My experience is that dominant media ultimately influence culture”, Utomi stated, while “I am persuaded that culture or values shape human progress.”

Utomi said political leadership is critical to driving development, with the media providing support. “Leaders are important because they set the tone of culture and that determines economic performance. If culture shapes human progress and media can help engineer culture the media influence can be a catalyst for development, economic growth and social advance”, he added.

Utomi is a director in the Africa Practice of leading global professional services firm McKinsey and was scholar-in-residence at American University, Washington and John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

He charged media leaders to develop better strategies to strengthen media institutions given the critical role they must play to enable Nigeria to achieve economic recovery, growth and development. He added, “In my view, the economics of media in Nigeria which leaves us with newspapers and electronic media that pay poor salaries and many times fail to pay for months diminishes the capacity for performance. Many media practitioners are caught in a crisis of existential nature and so lack the sobriety for the issues in nation-building.”