What informed the recent decision of the south-east zone of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to give the candidate of one of the political parties in the November 16 Anambra State gubernatorial election the award of "Politician of the Year"? What criteria did it use in picking him as the star politician in the zone? Or did the south-east NUJ take the decision because of financial gains? Those are the questions many concerned Nigerians, including members of the NUJ across the country, have been asking in the last few days. Under the supervision of the vice-president of the NUJ, south-east, the professional body of Nigerian journalists decorated the businessman-politician recently. And, expectedly, the man has been using the award to promote his political stature in the Anambra State governorship election.
Even though the union had given similar questionable awards to some politicians and businessmen in the past, the current one is the most despicable, fraudulent, shameful and wicked in recent times. While it is good and reassuring to hear from the national president of the NUJ, Mallam Mohammed Garuba, that the national secretariat of the union was not part of it and that the zonal vice-president who masterminded the contemptible act had been queried, we urge him to do everything within his authority to make sure that those involved do not get away with their action. As a matter of urgency, they should be suspended from the NUJ in order to save the union's credibility from their hands.
In spite of the shameful activities of some fake and morally bankrupt journalists, the NUJ still remains a professional body with a noble cause. Therefore, everything must be done to protect it from a few discredited members who have self-seeking interests to protect. As an umbrella of the mass media in the country, the NUJ ought to be professional, dependable and accountable, just like news media organisations. Indeed, media organisations earn and maintain a strong reputation, in part, through a deliberate and steady implementation of ethical values that influence their position in the eye of the public and within the industry. Regional, state and local branches of the NUJ should be reminded that society has an unspoken contract with their profession -- the people grant members of the profession some privileges because they trust them to self-regulate. In line with our constitutional mandate and social responsibility, we have a duty to continue to hold public officeholders accountable to the people and closely monitor players in our politics to ensure that they do not depart from the path of righteousness. But we cannot effectively do all these if we form an unholy alliance with political actors, especially those who do not deserve praise.
Owing to greed, poverty or other weaknesses, some leaders of the NUJ are already walking on the wrong path. They should make a U-turn immediately. For their part, genuine journalists are advised to be vigilant, especially during elections. Watchdogs should always be awake in times of crisis.