By NBF News

LAGOS -LEADING media icons, Tuesday, dissected the role of the media in Nigeria's development and stated that the Fourth Estate of the Realm had the onerous duty of driving the country's development and must take up the responsibility, in spite of daunting challenges.

According to the Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka; former Director-General of Nigerian Televison Authority,NTA, Dr. Tonnie Iredia; and co-founder of Pan African University, Professor Pat Utomi, the media can accelerate the nation's growth and development by discharging their duties effectively.

They spoke at the 2011 convocation lecture of Nigerian Institute of Journalism,NIJ, at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.

The guest lecturer, Dr. Iredia, in a lecture, entitled; 'Media Practice in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and Prospect s,' set the tone for the discourse. He said there was need for the media to transform Nigeria; mirror the society as a watchdog, reduce political dominance, set the national agenda, make national development the issue and serve as force-multiplier.

He over-viewed the Nigerian media from the days of Iwe Irohin (1859) to the present and stated that the media had faced issues such as the struggle for independence, stance against the country's first indigenous rulers, opposition to military rule and current stance on presidential democracy, and noted that the media wield enormous powers that could be utilised to develop the country.

Giving its handling of issues, Iredia noted that the media had been accused of sycophancy (giving too much air time to the government and ruling party), being partisan in favour of government, insensitivity in reportage of ethno-religious crises, sensationalism, weak operational disposition, lack of follow on running stories, elitism and urban bias to the disadvantage of people in rural areas.

In spite of the complaints, the guest lecturer acknowledged that the Nigerian media, in their day-to-day operations, face daunting challenges such as high illiteracy rate, high level of cynicism, preference of readers for rumour, poor legal framework, ownership control, inadequate man and material resources, poor salaries, self-censorship, timidity and corruption among others.

The media guru, nevertheless, said the media have prospects if they could evolve new strategies, halt exogenous influence (foreign influence), embrace ethical values, adopt comprehensive societal campaigns, focus on social contract, institute robust investigative journalism and take full advantage of the Freedom of Information Act.

Stressing the need to shun negative foreign influence, Iredia said foreign media houses including CNN and BBC, which encourage the Nigerian media to smash the government hardly attack their home governments. He cited CNN's non-attack of the United States Government, when it invaded Iraq.

Instead of dwelling only on the wrong-doings of the government, he urged the media to adopt the style of criticising and praising the government where necessary.

Aside the government, he said the media should also attack other segments of the society when they err, saying, 'we are always abusing people in government; we don't attack traditional rulers who give titles to bad characters, judges who sell judgments and teachers who abuse their office, etc.'

Speaking in like manner, Amuka, who chaired the event before Utomi took over towards the end of the lecture, said in spite of challenges, the media remained the most potent weapon of change in the 21st century.

Despite the emergence of television, new media, etc, he stated that the print media remained the most potent as 'there is no substitute for the written word.'

To discharge their functions effectively, Amuka challenged media practitioners to read voraciously and become IT-compliant because 'if you are not IT-compliant, you are not going anywhere in journalism.'

On his part, Utomi enjoined journalists to learn self-mastery because 'self-mastery is the key and with it you can make journalism a town hall.'

Noting that challenges of media were one of the greatest areas of research, he said the bottom line was getting the intelligence to function effectively.

'The bane of Nigerian media is providing the intelligence to wade through. The possibilities are limitless, it depends on you; if you can dream it, you can make it happen.'

Also speaking at the event, Malam Ismaila Isa, Chairman, NIJ, Governing Council, stressed the need for investigative journalism and follow-up on stories, to turn things round in the country.

Looking at the state of the nation, rising insecurity, poverty and unemployment, he said things were taking a turn for the worse because 'we don't have governors because they are behaving like emperors.'

He wondered what the governments were doing with statutory allocations, querying: 'If they are using the federal allocation for us, we won't have 20 million unemployed youths. What are they doing with the money? We provide our own water, healthcare, electricity and feeding. Are we not being taking for granted?'

Other personalities at the lecture included Mr James Akpandem, Mrs. Olufunke Fadugba, Dr. Elizabeth Ikem, NIJ Provost, and Mr. Dotun Adenijo,Registrar, among others.