Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State on Thursday recalled how he started his journalism career as a cub Reporter, saying media experience helped shaped his political life.
The governor was formerly News Editor of Mirage Newspaper in Jos (1982-1984; News Reporter, News Agency of Nigeria; Benue State Editor of Kaduna-based Democrat Newspaper.
He also admitted that politicians can sometimes be excessive in trying to constrain the media, especially in the age of new and social media, be extreme, intolerant and abusive in defence of its space or territory.
Mohammed, represented by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Mukhtar Gidado, stated these during the public presentation of a book titled, “Media and Nigeria’s Constitutional Democracy: Threats, Constraints and Resilience”, co-authored by a former Political Correspondent of THISDAY Newspapers, Paul Obi; Associate Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Jos, Taye Obateru and Convener of ASSPT, Dr. Sam Amadi.
The book was reviewed by a communication consultant and Deputy Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies, Baze University, Abuja, Prof. Abiodun Adeniyi while Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed was chief launcher.
The Governor said, “I believe that my invitation to chair this occasion and present this book on the media, stems less from my pedigree as a Senator, a Minister, and a Governor and more on an account of my having been a media practitioner for several years, and who indeed started his career as a cub reporter.
“Yet the intersection of my career as a journalist and a politician reflects the essential concern and thrust of this book: how the media aided the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria; how the media supports the sustenance of our current democratic enterprise; how politicians relate to the media while in office; and the problematic relationship between politics, politicians and the media when their core interests diverge.
“The content of this book, which is reflected in its title, lies at the centre of the current debate in Nigeria regarding the place of the media in Nigeria’s democratic transformation and consolidation. The key elements of this debate relate to the role of the media in empowering civic spaces and strengthening democratic governance and, of course, the challenges the media face in engaging in such undertakings.
“My own experience as a journalist and as politician who has operated at the national and sub national levels and from the legislative and executive prisms is clear enough: democracy needs the media as fish needs water and the media in turn needs democracy as humans need air.
“Politicians can sometimes be excessive in trying to constrain the media and the media, especially in this age of new and social media, can be excessive, extreme, intolerant and abusive in defence of its space or territory.”
The Founding National Secretary of Alliance for Democracy and Distinguished Fellow, Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, Prof. Udenta Udenta, warned security agencies against stopping any form of protest during the presidential inauguration ceremony.
While condemning certain comments made by heads of the security outfits, he said that preventing aggrieved Nigerians to protest on May 29, was against the spirit of the constitution and an infringement on the fundamental human rights of citizens.
Udenta, a scholar in African Literature, lamented that remarks being made by security chiefs over the inauguration ceremony were attempts to shut down democratic conversation.
The PUNCH reported that the Federal Government had said security would be reinforced at Eagle Square, the designated venue for the May 29 presidential inauguration, as well as in its surrounding areas.
Udenta said, “In two or three days times, there will be inauguration. The Inspector-General of Police is already speaking, the Director General, Department of State Service is speaking, the military are also speaking. However, my sense of it is that they are shutting down democratic conversation and we should not allow that. While you’re going to swear people in, you should equally allow those that want to protest do that peacefully, legitimately constitutionally.
“If you have your security perimeter, within which you don’t expect anybody except invited guests and those with clearance, outside the perimeter, thousands, if possible millions of Nigerians, are permitted to gather with their placards and protest. That is part of democracy. The media is a fundamental cadre for protecting democratic infrastructure and governance. The moment you tear it down, democracy vanishes, and authoritarianism becomes the order of the day.
“The behavior of National Broadcasting Commission, and even behaviour of the President-elect’s media team is abhorrent at this stage, that’s why I want to repeat. As people will be sworn in on May 29, millions of Nigerians have right to protests wherever they are as long as they don’t have arms and are doing it peacefully, as the law provides.”
The don, therefore, suggested that “the media should cover any protest robustly with intensity, like the way they will cover the swearing-in. So whoever want to protest or have counter-protest can do that within their rights.”
He added, “I feel hurt when I hear people who handle the security talk with so much anger as if people are going to topple the democratic system which is not going to happen. The right to protest is provided for in law.”
The IGP, Usman Baba Alkali, represented by the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, cautioned journalists against circulating fake news and hate speeches, declared the police readiness for the inauguration ceremony.
The IGP also emphasized the need for journalists to fact check their stories before publishing, while adhering to journalism ethics in their reportage.
“We should be mindful of the excessiveness of our reportage and engage in constructive criticism”, he stated.
Obi stressed the need for the press to be allowed to operate with the constitutional provisions.
“What we need to do is to ensure that those rights are not breached or limited and it should work within our constitutional framework. Any aspect that prevents media from performing constitutional rights, we should raised alarm,” Obi stated.
On his part, Amadi who also doubled as the chief host applauded Governor Mohammed for his media friendly disposition..
He said despite the constitutional role of the media, recognized as the fourth estate of the realm, it has an history of confronting daunting challenges head on.