In defence of fatherland

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By Ibraheem Abdullateef

There are so many things people take for granted, which may end up destroying them, and even society. One of them is information and communication, and how it is being disseminated.

The society leaves the job of dissemination of news to journalists, the respected men of the fourth estate of the realm. They are primarily the information managers who determine what goes out and when for donkey’s years.

While such power is waning due to the advent of social and digital media, the traditional media such as radio, television and newspapers are still more credible and professional no matter the time and their little inadequacies.

Sahara Reporters and eventually the Premium Times deserve credits for championing the introduction of citizen journalism and digital media in Nigeria. It is such a noble step that has inspired several others especially the young persons to come up with many other platforms to promote the free press, bridge the information gap between the leaders and the led, and further hold them to account with a bid to strengthen democracy and build a functional system.

So, journalists, the good ones, are invaluable assets to every nation. They are partners in nation-building and peaceful co-existence. When they mention the likes of Ray Ekpu, Dele Giwa, Dele Olojede, Olusegun Osoba, you take them in awe and respect. From Kwara, we have Raheem Adedoyin, Isiaka Aliagan, Lanre-Issa Onilu, Moddibo Kawu, Kayode Omotoshe, Bolaji Abdullah, Segun Adeniyi on the long list of accomplished professionals.

But when journalism goes wrong, and no one is talking, they will all soon assemble to count the loss. Media is a powerful tool of information, persuasion, education, promotion of culture and peace. It could also be the other way if misused. It could spread hate and misinformation to incite chaos, anarchy and unrest.

This is not new. We have had a bad taste of it in Nigeria. According to legendary journalist and columnist with Daily Trust, Dan Agbese in his article, ‘The Dangers Of Fake News’ in 2017, “Fake news flourished in this country post the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.” The struggle was fought using pages of newspapers and magazines. What that means is that the media was used to fight the political war.

It is playing out even today. The orgy of fake news and misinformation keep getting a mention as a reason ethno-religious crises reign in the nation. The most recent of all is the hindrance misinformation poses to the fights against COVID-19 across the globe. It is that bad. Largely due to the rising number of blogs, information distortionists are on the prowl and Kwara is becoming the headquarters.

The irrepressible Dan Agbese warned further that, “Fake news is not just bad journalism, if journalism it is, it is also the worst weapon in the hands of those who think less of the good of the society but more of their political, social interests.”

Isn’t that the situation we have on our hands today?

For several times now, the citizens have been brazenly misinformed by fake news spread by the distortionists in the guise of journalists.

This must have informed why a budding writer Oluwatosin Ishowo carpeted some of them a fortnight ago in his article ‘Kwara: Blessed is a state without media?’, wondering how the state-based media which are supposed to be driving policies and critiquing agendas fight to outclass one another in the ranking of fake news and sentimentality. It means that some people are also watching and taking careful note of their activities.

To Ishowo’s chagrin, some of these mediums are not showing signs of turning a new leaf. This time it is odious more than ever. At the centre of this oddity is Fresh Insight, a self-styled investigative medium, having more records of spreading propaganda and rumours than news reportage.

According to them, Kwara has a new chief of staff in person of Prince AbdulKadri Mahe. After their first report which they said he was assuming office “immediately”, they came up with another alleging a controversy on the appointment they could “authoritatively report.” Four days after their report, His Highness is in fine fettle but not on the CoS seat in the Government House. Liar detected.

Prince AbdulKadri Mahe

This kind of unprofessionalism becoming the hallmark of Fresh Insight has no place in journalism. It was the same medium which reported erroneously that Kwara was spending 17.3m naira every day in the management of COVID-19 pandemic, and also alleged that the contract sum for the Tractorisation project was inflated by the Governor in a supposed 5-part report. Ask Fresh Insight, where are the last two parts and the evidence? It is like a pin in the haystack. They are still looking for it!

The furore that greeted the purported appointment of the CoS is unhealthy for our polity. No thanks to their junk reportage. As of today, they still have on their Facebook platform the pictures of the supposed Prince who is the latest victim of their quackery with a caption “Pictures of Kwara Governor’s new Chief of Staff, Alhaji Muhammed Mahe AbdulKadri.” Ask yourself, is that true? Has the government announced anyone? Will they appoint His Highness without informing the state? AbdulRasheed Akogun, a politician and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is the mastermind of such propaganda for private reasons.

I’d keep my definition of such antics and use that of Newton Lee, “Journalists should be watchdogs, not lapdogs.” Well, journalists who worth their salt. The style of journalism Akogun practices is nothing to write home about.

The spree of misinformation from them is a threat to our existence as a state. What it portends is evil and anarchy in the near future.

Elections are over. It was a tough and long struggle of transitioning from the leadership of the Sarakis to the O’to ge’s change. Yes, everyone did their bits, so it is a victory for all. A government has been put in place. Another will be due in the next three years. Whoever wishes to throw his hat into the ring should be getting ready. It is a free contest.

Kwarans shouldn’t allow anyone to use our peace to play the game under any guise. Governments will always come and go. But Kwara will remain. Only the seed of the discord these bloggers sow through misinformation may not die but grow disturbingly. Imagine as reported, Prince AbdulKadri Mahe does not emerge again, how do we move on as nothing happened? They would have successfully caused hatred in the minds of some people against the other persons in the state. That is what we are talking about, the kind of hazards irresponsible journalism is capable of causing.

What Akogun and other concerned bloggers are doing is pure irresponsibility. Media has a binding responsibility to promote peace and decency in the society. The advent of digital media in the wrong hands threatens more than ever the sanctity of the profession and the fabrics holding the society. Because we do not have another state, it is about time we started talking before they use their selfish agenda to spread hate and falsehood capable of causing anarchy in Kwara state. People should know who they read and follow to save themselves from consuming every time some exclusive nonsense.

This is my bit in defence of the fatherland. We should start asking questions now before it is too late to cry.

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