Nasarawa: When Sule chose to celebrate the media

The functionality and efficiency of the media vary from one place to the other.  For some individuals, the media is an integral part of the society and has its role well cut out. The common cliché of media being the fourth estate of the realm says it all. Even as things stand today, some top functionaries and powerful individuals greatly love to loathe the media and would not see the worth of this globally recognised profession and the professionals.

The media is arguably one of the most powerful weapons known to mankind, cutting through without spilling the blood. It has the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, and therein lies the potency of the weapon, because they control the minds of the masses. These were the words of Malcom X.

Malcom X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist and a popular figure during the civil rights movement.

For me, this is a moral burden placed on media practitioners by this notable rights activist. His position will be better appreciated when one delves into his history and struggles in that age and time.

At a time the Nigerian populace is about being hit with all manner of legislations  in the name of fighting hate speech, Abdullahi A. Sule, the 60-year-old engineer who has the mandate of his people to lead Nasarawa through the pathway of development in the next four years, chose to celebrate the media his own way. It’s ironic that power celebrates the media, a contrast to what is usually the norm of the media celebrating those in power.  This is a positive oddity from the solid mineral state.

The night, well spiced with brilliant coordination by Yakubu Lamai, head of Sule’s media arsenal, witnessed awards to various media organisations, with the state-based dominating the space and receiving encomiums from the royalty as well as the generality of the people in attendance.

The list includes Malona FM Keffi, Options FM Akwanga, Yarwatvonline, Leadership bi-weekly, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Channels TV and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), among several others. Similarly, state correspondents of some media organisations were also singled out for awards. Among those celebrated was a regular columnist with Blueprint, Victoria Ngozi Ekeano.   

The novel idea, a brainchild of Lamai, was tagged media dinner. With royal trappings and cultural conviviality, the event was loaded, colourful and truly spoke to how leaders should relate to and with every segment of the society.

For Lamai, the exhibition of integrity, balancing and transparency by the various media in the state was a major thing the Sule-led administration can never lose sight of.

  Setting the ball rolling, he said the administration was determined “to exemplify and provide a compelling and positive vision with clear goals and operating standards for workplace excellence in Nasarawa state.”

 “It is in pursuit of this noble ideal that Engineer Sule has made it a matter of state policy to annually recognise and reward high calibre media practitioners in Nasarawa state who have consistently produced extraordinary reportage on TV, Radio, Newspaper and Online platforms during the 1st Annual Media Dinner,” the governor’s image maker further explained.

Mounting the podium for his remarks, the lanky governor left no one in doubt as to his seriousness to make the media  a friend of the state when he said: “We in Nasarawa state recognise the virtuosity of bloggers and social media aficionados, the prowess and acute ability of newspaper journalists and the outstanding quality and visionary brilliance of broadcasters on TV and Radio who continue to educate and enlighten our people, and shape/mould public opinions about the relationship between government and her citizens.”

For Sule whose state had gone through some challenging security moments, nothing would have been wiser than recognising the worth of the media. And as Malcom X puts it, the media has the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent. Perhaps, this can give us some insight into why the governor chose to celebrate the media Monday last week.

The recognition of the vibrant local media (no derision is intended) by the governor is one fact of utmost significance every leader should take strong notice of. The community-based media organisations are not only closer to the people, but also create larger space and louder voice for voiceless at the grassroots.  This is one fact any leader can ignore at its peril. As a product of the so-called local media myself, I know the damage as well as the good this category of information purveyors can cause to happen in their operating space.

And this much was recognised when the governor said, he approved of the event “to discourage fake news and the peddling of rumours plus merchandising of ethnic and religious sentiments; and instead promote decent, constructive and balanced journalism that the government of Nasarawa state will say thank you to broadcasters and social media influencers and applaud their love for the country, professional competence, worth, skill, talent and genius.”

Yes, it’s heart-warming to hear the state chief executive define the kind of marriage he seeks to go into with the media.  Quoting him, the governor said: “We don’t want you to report what we want you to report, but exactly what’s on ground.” He has made it clear that what he wants his fairness and nothing more. 

In my candid view, the governor appears to have lost something vital out of this quote.  Much as there is a licence to report what’s on ground, responsible journalism dictates that one should report responsibly putting in mind the public or the people’s interest.  Forget about the abuse of such word by our leaders, who, more often than not, hide under the public interest to perpetrate their own personal interests.

This was also captured by an ace broadcaster, Cyril Stober of NTA, who urged journalists to dwell on professionalism, integrity, balancing and upholding of standard ethical values in the discharge of their calling. In breaking news, the versatile journalist, who was the guest speaker, pleaded that this should be done with caution and balancing in order to guard against spreading of fake news.      

But what Sule did should be an eye opener to all those leaders who are contemptuous and would not see any good in the media.

While the governor reeled out his many feats in the agriculture, health, education and mining sectors among several others within so short a time of coming on board, his private sector background places on him added responsibility of truly matching his promise of Exceeding All Expectations with the right actions.  Even with his awards to the media, I think the governor has surpassed, or using his word, exceeded  all expectations in this regard because this is not too common a trend.

With the proverbial nuptial knot tied between the media and the Sule administration via the first media dinner, the world will certainly fix its gaze on these two partners and see how the relationship pans out. None of the partners should take each other for granted.

But, over and above all, like Stober said, those holding power should endeavour to avail the media the opportunity of knowing what they are doing and how  they are doing it. In my view, any seemingly impossible task well beyond the leader, will equally receive the attention of the media which will sincerely report to the people why it so remains.

Let me end the piece with the very short quote of Eric Reed Boucher, better known by his professional name -Jello Biafra- the American singer, musician and spoken word artist.

He says: “Don’t hate the media, become the media.”  Certainly, Governor Sule must have heeded this advice of a sort. Will other leaders embrace same? I hope my brother, friend and secondary schoolmate, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi Sabi of the infamous hate speech bill is listening!