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POLITICAL REPORTING AND NATIONAL INTEGRITY

By Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe

With the approach of Presidential and gubernatorial elections in 2015, and the current scheming by ambitious politicians to position themselves for specific political offices, we are witnessing a rash of new newspapers and a plethora of hack writers masquerading as journalists and “political analysts.”

Unfortunately the profession of journalism is one that very easily sprouts quacks who brazenly adorn themselves as “editors,” or even “special correspondents.”

Because they are not qualified, having not been grilled in both theory and practical experience in journalism, these pretenders are bereft of the knowledge of the ethics that guide the profession.

And because they are ignorant of the standards of the practice, they flout them blatantly while the professional body that should sieve the grain from the chaff, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, finds itself incapable of applying the available sanctions against offenders.

It is this growing band of impostors and charlatans that is threatening the corporate integrity of our country by the unscreened trash they publish for the public to read.

It is easy to discover the frauds among journalism practitioners or among the academically qualified who have no iota of ideological training.

Let’s take some very recent examples:

When a highly-placed Nigerian citizen like retired army General, Muhammadu Buhari, on a campaign trail, says “if the next elections are rigged, Nigeria will be made ungovernable,” how would a qualified editor of a major newspaper handle the report from his correspondents?

How will the subs cast their headlines?

This piece is not intended to be a tutorial on journalism, but   be it as it may, the rendition of the story, from headlining, opening paragraph to the main body of the story, will determine the quality of the newspaper and its staff.

A responsible newspaper would cast its headline in such a way as to show clearly that Buhari was sounding a warning against the continuation of the national malady of vote-rigging that so often robs a candidate of his genuine votes.

A timely editorial or a features article could follow this warning because it came from a former military head of state who has a mass support of mainly unlettered people in a specific area of the country.

To mischievously editorialize the report to indicate that “Buhari has threatened to cause trouble in the country if he doesn’t win the next election” is no journalism at all.

It is the work of an ignorant reporter or sub-editor with evil design for Nigeria.

A matured and qualified journalist has an obligation to read between the lines any material that comes his way and is intended for publication.

Another example is that of an Ijaw political activist el-Haj Dokubo who reportedly said that Nigeria would cease to exist if by 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan does not get re-elected to do a second term.

This is sheer bravado and bluster which a serious-minded newspaper, that considers the blarney worth reporting, ought to present in perspective.

To begin with, the President has not even indicated his desire to run for a second term.

If he does, he still has to go through his party primaries to be able to become the party’s candidate.

If he scales through, he will now stand for the election proper with officially nominated candidates of other political parties.

Any serious editor would ask himself: “Does this young man know that the election of Jonathan in 2015 will not be realized if Jonathan does not contest? Or if he contests, that he would not return to Aso Villa if he is defeated by the candidate of another party?

Are Nigerians being told now by Dokubo that our country will cease to exist because he would probably return to the creeks with his cohorts to begin puncturing oil pipelines?

A deft reporting and display of the news conference stuff from Dokubo would clearly let the reader appreciate that Dokubo would gladly wish a return of Jonathan to the Presidency in 2015 and applies hyperboles to advance his desire

The headline and report should not be from the angle of threat for the dismemberment of the country because his pet wish is unfulfilled.

It was because of the poor handling of the report that some members of the National Assembly demanded that the Inspector-General of Police should order the arrest of Dokubo for saying what he said.

Our law makers suddenly forgot that we are in a democracy where there is freedom of speech.

It isn’t their business to tell police whom to arrest.

If they felt that Dokubo’s rantings were worth their attention, what stopped them from inviting him to explain what he meant? If he now refuses to answer to their summons, they can then issue a bench warrant to get him arrested and brought before them.

Our worry here is that a lot of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the press to either calm the heat-wave in the polity by writing with wisdom or practically incinerate the country by the irresponsible and unscreened publication of the philippics of attention seekers.

 

 

 

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