Leadership (Abuja)

30 January 2013

Nigeria: Reviewing Alleged Media Complicity in Adamawa Political Stand-Off

The raging crisis in the Adamawa State Chapter of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), is taking its toll on several institutions. MOHAMMED ISMAIL writes that the media seems to be on trial as the people have begun to question its role in the whole saga.

The function of the media is as complex as the society where it operates but despite the complexities of its functions, the media ought to live above board and is expected to perform three critical roles of educating, informing and entertaining the general public while maintaining its age long professional ethos of fair play and balanced reporting.

However, in Adamawa state, many believe that the media has been compromised by crass political partisanship that relegates its enviable image and place in the society to the background.

The state owned media in most cases, is alleged to be wanton in praise singing of political office holders, engaging in tendentious remarks, telling of half-truths and relaying information that does not concur with the realities on the ground in order to suit the interests of the government of the day.

In most cases, the circumvention of this critical etiquette is said to be perpetrated by anchors of programmes by openly making provocative statements and even instigate their guests to indulge in prejudicial outbursts in the course of running their programmes. There is no doubt that the conduct is contrary to the ethos of journalism and the Nigeria Broadcasting code section 391 and 193 said a legal practitioner in the state who does not want his name in print.

In most cases, the state government owned electronic media is the most wanton in circumventing these regulations through its open refusal to allow opposition political parties and other contending opinion to be heard.

In other instances, averred the legal practitioner, the state government owned electronic media is operated as if it is the personal property of the PDP and the government of the day because in most cases, it is found wanton in 'jettisoning professionalism to the dogs on the altar of primordial and selfish tendencies in order to promote the government at the detriment of the larger populace.

"For instance, it has been an established trend of the state media outfits to praise a sitting governor to high heavens, yet the irony is that the same media, without compunction, would still to around to attack the same governor to no avail after he completes his tenure of office. This is shamefacedly done in order to be on the good side of the current government, not minding the implications of such double standards and its harm on their professional integrity", said the legal practitioner.

A critical dissection of the media in Adamawa state has unravelled the fact that the media has been balkanized into two groups by virtue of ownership and political inclination. While the government-owned media is only sympathetic to the government of the day, other news medium are also striving to fulfil the mission of their proprietors as a result of which the people are caught up in a whirling vortex of confusion, due to divergent information they are always served about goings on in the state.

Many listeners to these media outfits have at one point or another complained about irrational and unprofessional conducts that are exhibited by these news-media organisations in the course of running their programmes, simply to defend a predetermined interest whether it is in sync with the wishes and aspirations of the people or not.

As a result of these tendencies, various media outfits are seen to be only associated with various interests because, for instance, while the Adamawa Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Yola and Adamawa Television (ATV) only relays and defends the view point of the state government, many see Gotel Communications, an outfit owned by the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as an exclusive preserve of the opposition groups in the state. Though, a caveat must be put here because it has been an established fact that unlike ABC, Gotel Communications does allow all points of views to get across to the people but with a slight bias for the opposition, says Mallam Muhammad Tukur, a radio listener in the state.

"Because of their willingness for subservience to the State government, many people in the state believe that the state controlled media have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of primordial political partisanship", Tukur added.

A public affairs commentator in the state, Alhaji Usman Santuraki, said what worries him the most about the activities of some media outfits in the state, is that they allow so much mischief and misinformation to be disseminated to the general public without recourse to the effect such misinformation is bound to have on the generality of the populace.

Another respondent who does not want his name in print, says in Adamawa state, the government owned media has been demoted to platforms of cheap media propaganda, blackmail and threats against the people of the state.

"They only struggle to promote the government of the day and thereby foreclosing any other view contrary to what the government wants the people to hear. For instance, I have heard on a number of occasions from these medium that treatment for children below the age of 5 years and pregnant women is free, but I can assure you that such submissions are cheap lies, because most times, I take my children to these hospitals only for the doctors to tell me that I must either pay for the treatment or purchase the prescribed drugs at vending outlets. So, how do you expect me to have confidence in the government owned media in the state?, the respondent queried.

He added that a situation in which government deliberately shuts out other viewpoints, which is only to the detriment of the larger society, will only breed anger and hatred in the sub consciousness of the people and if not checked, this injustice will one day boomerang on us with catastrophic consequences.

One palpable feature this precarious division has wrought in the society, is that even the populace have been divided on the line of the sympathy or the kind of information they want ,because any listener with a predilection to listening to the opposition, will have no qualms, because Gotel communications is at his beck and call. While someone who wants to know much about the government will only tune to the government-owned media to get more than a dose of what he wanted.

For instance, the government owned media are the most preferred by government officials, mainstream ruling party stalwarts, contractors and any other stakeholder who want to register support for the government of the day, while the private media are tagged mainly by government officials as anti-establishment because of their propensity to unveil the other side of the divide, which in most cases, the government of the day is not disposed to.

A resident of Jimeta, Mallam Sani Lawwal, said he believes that the coming of the private media in Adamawa state has helped to sanitize the information landscape of the state because hitherto, it is only the government's position that is heard but now, the situation has changed following the debut of Gotel Communications which has brought so much sanity because of its valiant strides and courage to reveal the shenanigans being perpetrated in government quarters, without Gotel Communications we would have remained in the Neolithic age, Lawwal said.

"The coming of private media institutions in the state is a good omen to all of us because following the clampdown on information dissemination in the state by the government, which makes the citizens to remain in perpetual darkness about government's activities, but with the coming of Gotel Communications the situation has changed drastically", he said. Gotel Communications have conquered the situation where only lopsided information in favour of the government is being dished out in the polity, which if not checked, can lead to anarchy in the land. Gotel Communications has provided a balance of some sorts in the polity because the people readily come to it to get information which otherwise they may not be privileged to get by going through thick and thin and through all nooks and crannies of the state to report events and incidence that happen with precision, Lawwal said.

But be that as it may, accusations and counter accusations of unprofessional misconduct have continued to fly between supporters of various political leanings across the state.

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