One of the predicaments in democratic dispensations are the inherent inadequacies of institutions created as pillars of public accountability, rule of law, transparency and such other binding principles and policies. As a human creation, democracy comes along with the spots of imperfection in its conception and practice even as humanity tends to assume that “civilization” is a certificate of expertise and excellence in thought and practice. Today we are witless witnesses to the many pitfalls, booby traps and even banana peels that expose the veiled vices of democracy in virtually all the important focal factors of relevance.
While enough has been said and written about the concerns and crises associated with flawed outputs of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary especially in the Press, not much highlight and critical analysis has been applied to the defective excesses of the Press as an adopted “honorary” arm of government tasked with oversight and evaluation functions to keep others on their toes. Not even the most exuberant editor can write off the extravagant excesses of the pen profession which has turned from totem pole to tool in the evolution, or rather devolution of its assigned role.
Some of the notorious viruses that have hacked into the press DNA with debilitating impact on integrity and performance include the paid piper, the hungry reporter and the money bag politician. I make bold to state without fear of editorial “analysis” that there is no corporate or individual member of the Press Community that is not ailing in one way or the other from the symptoms of the pen plague, which has consequently compromised the profession comprehensively. There is however no discounting the press promotion of the enabling factors for a vibrant ‘chatter” environment to give vent to popular expression and political advocacy of which the practitioners are greatest beneficiaries in perks, privileges and pecuniary “packages”.
One does not have to look far for evidence of professional “mischief” especially with the advent of so-called social media, the latest aberration with despicable anti-social excesses. When “news” reports are published with heavy dose of opinionated opium of propaganda choking the professional and ethical specifications with licentious impunity, journalism’s despised “yellow” hue pollutes the perception of the random reader who cannot “read between the lines”. Masked with the deceptive façade of news, yellow reports fail the test of credibility by leaving more questions unanswered in crude concoctions of sweeping statements, unsubstantiated allegations, unwarranted insinuations and contrived deductions.
A typical example of such press pranks is playing out in the publication of purported “scandal” in the simple cancellation of an NNPC dinner arranged to host members of the National Assembly. The cancellation of a dinner is the remotest activity of public interest in the exclusively high end crude oil based, foreign exchange income generating and petroleum powered strategic national economic resource sufficiency agenda of NNPC. Even the cancellation of a dinner for federal legislators cannot be sensibly accorded serious consideration in NNPC affairs to warrant the scale of imaginative misrepresentation and manipulation of issues deployed by some “news” outlets, especially Sahara Reporters , to propagate hideous motives and corrupt implications against the NNPC management with unavoidable collateral damage to the honour of legislators.
The ordinary unblemished account of events given by the NNPC is that a long outstanding proposal to host members of the National Assembly to a dinner that had been twice postponed by unforeseen circumstances, suffered another force majeure( to use oil company lingo)necessitating postponement yet again. No more no less! But the malicious motives of the Sahara Reporters-led press hackers churned out press-dinner of disinformation and defamation against the NNPC and its management by mischievously fabricating “ethical questions”, “moral implications” and “unsavoury controversies” around the administrative routine issue.
Deliberately shutting out the factual incidental history of two unrelated postponements of the NNPC dinner earlier in April and August this year, the plagued pressmen involved succumbed to the combined afflictions of pied piper, hungry reporter and moneybag politicians viruses to instead dish out “press club peppersoup” –inspired paragraphs of propaganda projecting a failed bid by NNPC to bribe the National Assembly honourable members to obtain a favourable outcome to “an impending probe” of NNPC GMD Maikanti Baru by the Senate, over allegations against him by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, ‘some weeks back’(sic)!
This provided the excuse to rehash the allegations which were promptly debunked by NNPC also “some six weeks back” just to repeat the misleading assault on MrBaru’s reputation notwithstanding the published public record of NNPC corrective rejoinder that was also deliberately downplayed or totally ignored by the yellow journalists. From the review of the propaganda weaving a web of unrelated events linking previous postponements of the dinner to the so-called allegations against Baru, the “impending” Senate probe and the latest postponement of the dinner categorically attributed to a coinciding dinner with the President, the ulterior motives of the plagued press are disgustingly defined.
The scurrilous suggestion that the NNPC management would use a dinner at Hilton to lobby members of the National Assembly is more a reflection of the crass corruptibility of the journalists as it is preposterous, if not insane, to associate such an outrageous misadventure with a world standard national institution or honourable legislators for that matter. Even worse is the inevitable realization of the gullibility and proclivity of the Press to prostitute its honorary adoption as “fourth estate of the realm” and watchdog of public interest for the unscrupulous utility of paid piper with purportedly professional pens prancing to the pecuniary prodding of predatory politicians.
Sadly, this just one typical example of the hidden agenda that informs many news reports, editorials, commentaries, analysis and investigative reports dressed in the deceptive profile of the courageous, objective, ethical, fair, candid and above all, patriotic and people –oriented independent Press embedded into democracy. Read between the lines, comrades, read between the lines and don’t fail to recognize the paid piper, the hungry reporter and the moneybag politicians pushing the pens!
HAMID HENDRIX wrote from Ilorin