By Eze Jude. O
I am positive, you are at home with the time-tested advisory of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the US, that "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country.
It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise, he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else."
I wish to begin this conversation on that premise. The public trauma caused by the sanction you imposed on independent media outfits that covered the alleged extra-judicial killings of #EndSARS peaceful protesters, has unfortunately validated President Buhari's disavowal of the #Lekkimassacre in his seemly unsympathetic address to the nation.
While Nigerians both at home and in diaspora were disproving and deriding the arid and sterile speech, you allowed the same government use your office to issue what appears as the most anti-democratic sanctions ever in our civilian rule experience.
You slammed a three million naira charge each against the African Independent Television (AIT), Channels TV, and Arise TV.
They relayed the livestreams of the #Lekkimassacre from DJ Switch. This was a fallout of the alleged brute force used on the #EndSARS peaceful protesters. The assailants (believed to be state-sponsored) shot the protesters, killed scores and injured several.
Your pronouncement seem an affront to the common sensibility of Nigerian Youths. A new low from NBC. A punch below the belt. And it will continue to attract widespread condemnation across all spheres of our national concourse, until it is redressed. This open memo comes on the heels of the NUJ and SERAP's refutal of the same verdict.
It was a broad daylight attempt to gag the fourth estate of the realm, and it sent chilled bumps down the spines of all who still believe that Nigeria is practicing democracy. It brought back memories of the apartheid regime of South Africa. It reminds us of the dark days of military era when Army Generals held sway as Head of State or Military President in the country.
We began to understand more clearly why government-owned media houses, like NTA was busy showing an old video of cooking program all day, when Nigeria was in turmoil.
In the press conference where you handed out the penalties, you indicted and denigrated DJ Switch, a perceived hard-working and patriotic Nigerian, who is believed to have risked her life to alert the world outside of Lekki enclaves, on the alleged horror which was being visited upon her fellow citizens.
Sir, in the opinion of many, she (DJ Switch) deserves a medal of honour for her bravery and an apology for what appears a defamation she had suffered from your utterances during your news conference. Or are you surprised that she didn't belong to the brand of those described as "Lazy Nigerian Youths?"
What seemed like the effort of the current administration to obfuscate such glaring truth from public domain is a strong indication that our country is run by anachronistic geriatrics who seem to belong to the stone age. Well versed, educated and sophisticated men like you should not be associated with such class of people.
Truth is that the social media has come to stay. It is receiving unreserved welcome across all orbits of human endeavour. In case you are unaware of the reality on ground, the conventional mainstream media outlets are configuring themselves to grab spaces in this new media.
Few people now sits in front of their TV, many stream news on-the-go from their mobile devices. Tabloids are now read online more than offline. Newspaper stands are becoming empty by the day, while their social media handles are getting crowded increasingly. Hard copies are rapidly being replaced by soft copies.
Man has switched off analogue era to switch on digital age. It is called evolution, which was midwifed by innovation. The world is going molecularly microcosmic. There is need to wake up and start the plan to catch up!
The new media, though uncensored as you rightly pointed out in your statement, is helping the world in combating the evil of maladministration. It therefore follows that Government dreads it to the extent that its cupboard hides a skeleton.
And no journalist in his right senses will ignore a live streaming event from the news feeds of a reputable celebrity in the rank of the popular DJ Switch, as long as they are verifiably true or factual.
The twist in the whole story is that your fine against these television stations came few weeks after most Nigerians condemned their apathy on covering the peaceful march. The youths verbally attacked them for ignoring their procession and shifting attention of Nigerians to Ondo election, while they were on a patriotic march for our fatherland.
The directors of these stations showed signs of remorse, changed their minds and focused their cameras on the street to pay their own dues in the struggle for nation building; and bang! you struck with your letter of interdiction!
By now they may be in dilemma, as to whom do they owe their allegiance? To Nigeria masses or to government. You have literally nailed journalism on the cross, making journalists endangered specie in Nigeria.
Curiously, does it truly mean you wanted all Niger media organisations to keep mum after scores of harmless youths were shot at, while singing the National anthem and honouring our national flag?
According to your statement, you fined them for "unprofessional coverage."
Does this mean that in your own understanding, professionalism in Mass communication is when reporters look the other way while citizens die unjustly in their numbers? Or when pressmen does what pleases those in corridors of power irrespective of public outcry? You want the news men to play accomplice to the genocidal murder of their brothers and sisters in the streets of Lagos?
No Sir! They have to do their job as watchdog of the nation.
Prof. let us get this correct, Nigeria is a democratic nation in the 21st century. She has signed freedom of information bill into law. Kindly tell the government that the year 1984 was 36 years ago, and it belongs to historical archive. For no reason should its policies be exhumed and brought forward to year 2020.
I am very much sure you have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Yes I know it. Even the presidency has. Were you aware that Buhari had tried without success to bring up anti-social media law in the Senate? Do you remember several attempts to confiscate the social media in Nigeria over the last five years?
I am pleading that you execute your tenure as the DG, without fear or favour bearing in mind that posterity will one day beckon and reckon, and you would not want your name penciled on the wrong side of history.
Keep this in mind always.
...Eze Jude .O, is a Laboratory scientist and public affairs analyst.
- (DISCLAIMER: All Views Expressed On Our Opinion Column Are Entirely Those of The Writer And Not That of Nigerian Newsleader Newspapers). NNL.