The representative of Ebonyi North Senatorial District, Dr. Sam Egwu, has said he will hold journalists responsible if Nigeria’s democracy fails.
Egwu, who urged journalists to rise in defence of the country’s democracy without fear or favour, spoke against the backdrop of the many political challenges facing Nigeria, culminating in flagrant abuse of constitutional processes by the ruling class.
The call was made by Egwu on Thursday while addressing newsmen during the 2018 edition of the Nigeria Union of Journalists Press Week held in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
The senator, represented at the event by a former Commissioner for Information in the State, Dr. John Otu, decried the level of decay and backwardness being witnessed in Nigeria’s democracy since 1999, adding: “The issues that bedevilled the country in 1999 are still the nigging issues today.”
He challenged the ruling All Progressives Congress at the federal level to begin addressing the nagging problems of the economy, health, education, security, technology and the general quality of life in the country rather than spending enormous energy in inordinate politicking and disoriented fight against corruption.
Egwu, who was the Chairman of the event, observed that politics was the game politicians play to enthrone democracy, after which it was expected to give way to statesmanship.
He, however, regretted that Nigerian politicians today think more about the next election rather than being true to their oath of public service.
The senator further lamented that the present democracy in the country under President Muhammadu Buhari has lost its beauty with the growing disrespect to freedom, rule of law and constitutional discipline and called on journalists to save the country’s democracy with their profession.
Egwu said: “What is the beauty of democracy if not freedom?
“What is the beauty of democracy if not rule of law?
“What is the beauty of democracy if not constitutional discipline?
“Today, politics has been substituted for democracy.
“They have not started discussing about the quality of our education.
“They have not started discussing about the state of our economy.
“In this country, technological know-how, we are not there.
“We are not discussing it but politics, corruption! corruption!! corruption!!!
“Violence in high places, these are the issues we have in Nigeria today.”
Appraising the value of the media in general towards nurturing democracy, Egwu extolled the Social Media for its openness and spontaneity and advised journalists to reflect the principles of non-partisanship, neutrality, objectivity and truthfulness in their reportage in spite of whose Ox is gored.
He said: “In reportage, there will always be bias, but what I am saying is that let that bias be tempered with some sense of moderation and justice.
“That is my advocacy today.
“Let our sense of partisanship be neutralized or balanced out with some sense of justice, to know that what is sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander.”
According to him, the Social media has facilitated spontaneous reporting even in the face of obstructions often imposed on conventional media by the political class.
Senator Egwu noted further that the country has truly moved far in technological innovation and ideals, but regretted that the players of the game have not moved from where they were in i998 to where technology has met us today in 2018, describing the development as a pity, a shame and “the open sore of a country.”
He said: “I thank God for Social Media because without it we would have been in the dark.
“In fact the current President would have bulldozed his way, the way he did in 1983.
“I can tell you that because he doesn’t understand the decorous language of politics and democracy.
“What they understand is the language of force and brute force through and through.
“I challenge us journalists in this ongoing process that you have a lot of job to do in our country, in our State, etc.
“So as journalists, you are the ombudsman, even more important than the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) man because you blow the whistle.
“As a journalist, yours is corrective, to report news as they happen.
“Your responsibility is to guide leaders.
“If this democracy fails, I will hold journalists responsible.
“I know what I am talking about.
“You are called the conscience of the society, the watchdog of society.
“You speak truth to power.
“That is your responsibility.”
While he congratulated Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State for his excellent performance, especially his “flowing along the tides of democratic principles” by allowing the freedom of all parties, he advised political leaders not to gag journalists but offer them the environment for balanced reportage.
“The essence of being a journalist is that you uplift the society,” he said, adding paradoxically that the role of a journalist is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
In his address earlier, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ebonyi State Council, Veronica Osim explained that the essence of the event was to beckon responsibility and need to reflect on some salient issues concerning the noble media profession and the Nigeria nation.
Speaking on the year’s theme: “2019: the way out for the fledgling Nigeria democracy,” Osim emphasized that Nigerian journalism has had to cope with the vagaries of the society, thus attracting demand for a redefinition of the profession
Given the sacred role journalism play in society, the State NUJ chairman admonished her colleagues to endeavour at all times to exercise restraint and fairness in their reportage of issues and events, especially as the 2019 elections draw closer.
She said: “This is important because when we feed the people a diet of inflammable news, we unwittingly and unfairly expose ourselves to the charge of collaborating with anti-democratic forces
“We ought to advocate dialogue, civility, temperance and accommodation.
“If we must ensure the survival and vibrancy of democracy, then we must practice with clarity of purpose and active consensus on critical national issues.”
Highlight of the event was the Award for Excellence in Good Governance given to Umahi, represented by the State Commissioner for Information and State orientation, Senator Emmanuel Onwe.
Others individuals who have distinguished themselves in various endeavours, including the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Kelechi Igwe; Commissioner for Health, Daniel Umezurike; and his local Government and Rural Development counterpart, Samuel Okoronkwo.