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  • Posted by: Imoh Robert


It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this Town Meeting with the theme ” Agenda Setting for Sustainable Development”
This is the third in the series with the first two held in Lagos and Kano under the NGE/US Embassy capacity building programme for editor in the Southwest and Northwest zones

The pertinent question we want to find answers to is: What role should the media play in setting the agenda that would lead to a sustainable democratic culture in Nigeria? How do we encourage the youth and the women to participate more actively in the democratic process?

Section 22 of the 1999 constitution says ” the press, radio, television, and other agencies of the media should at all times be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”. This section gives the media the enormous responsibility to hold the government accountable to the people.
How well has the media in Nigeria played this role?. This Town Meeting is expected to assess our performance and suggest ways for improvement.

Various stakeholders, including youth groups, students , civil society organizations , traditional and religious groups, have been invited to this Town Hall meeting to share ideas on how to sustain our hard -earned democracy. We plead for frank and robust engagement.

All aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media.
How free is the Nigerian media to perform this role? I asked this question because it is only when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize public policies and actions can good governance can take root.
Freedom of the media allows for the creation of a public space in which a wide range of debates and expression of variety of viewpoints can take place.
A free and critical press is essential for the growth and development of any democracy.
The media as a watchdog of society owes it as a duty to monitor governance and hold public office holders accountable to the people who elected them.
Good governance is simply an essential framework which serves as a means of achieving wider goals , including security of life and property ( which is the primary goal of government , according to the 1999 constitution), prosperity and the general well-being of the citizenry.
Journalists are part of the society and stand to also benefit from good governance if provided. So, it won’t be misplaced priority if our profession devotes more time and energy to promoting good governance.

On no account should Nigerians take its democracy for granted. In the last one year , there have been four coups in West Africa alone in which the military truncated democracy. A democratic government was toppled in Chad on April 20, 2021. We’ve had two coups in Mali in less than one year. On September 5, 2021, the military struck in Guinea and on January 24, 2022, Burkina Faso military followed the dangerous trend.
All these happenings in our West African neighbours should serve as a warning to us here to jealously protect our democracy through good governance , openness and citizen participation. Only the people have the ability and force to checkmate power hungry military from truncating democracy anywhere in the world.

The Guild believes that democracy remains the best form of government because it guarantees freedom and it has the ability to correct its own mistakes if the people don’t go to sleep after elections.

Now, let’s talk about the role of the media in setting agenda for sustainable democratic culture and deepening of the democratic space.
One of the major roles of the media is agenda setting. The more stories the media do on a particular subject, the more importance the audience will attach to it.
Maxwell McCombs and Donaki Shaw in their research in 1972 on the US 1968 presidential election concluded that editors played an important role in shaping political reality. According to them, the mass media determine the importance issues for campaign.
Can the media in Nigeria shape the political reality in the country? If the answer is yes; how then can this be achieved?

Another author, Stanley Baran wrote in 2002 and I quote ” the media may not tell us what to think, but the media certainly can tell us what to think about”

What is currently dominating headlines in the media on the 2023 general elections is zoning and power rotation . This is often laced with religious and ethnic sentiments. But we should realize that this is the agenda of the politicians. Must the media allow these politicians to set the agenda for us? I think it should be the opposite.

As the politicians talk about zoning, we , I mean the media, should remind them that we are more interested in the issues of development, education, security, youth employment and poverty eradication, and other issues affecting the common man.. Poverty doesn’t recognize ethnicity and religion. The ordinary Nigerians are faced with the same challenges whether in Potiskum, Jos, Gboko, Gusau, Enugu, Warri , Ibadan, Calabar or Ekpoma. They just want the basic things if life.

We want to hear from you how well we have performed this agenda setting role . We are open to suggestions on how we can improve on our performance.

I won’t end this speech without saying a special thank you to the US government through its Embassy in Nigeria in making this event possible. The Nigerian Guild of Editors is indeed very grateful for your support.
Dear colleagues, special guests and students here present, we are here to hear from you.
I want us to form a strong alliance in the quest to sustain and deepen our democracy in our country.

I thank all of you for coming and I wish all of us fruitful deliberations.

Welcome to Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, the Land Beauty.

Author: Imoh Robert

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