By: Samuel Olowolayemo.
The duty of the press in today’s society is of utmost importance. Journalism plays a significant role in providing information to the public and shaping our individual and common understanding of the world.
The press not only has the responsibility to report news accurately but also to hold public officers, influential individuals, religion, and thought leaders accountable. One other striking aspect and duty of the press is to be a watchdog, protecting the common interests of the people under its far-reaching influence.
Even though press organizations are permitted to run commercials without prejudice or political undertones, there is still a glaring contrast between its responsibilities and those of a Public Relations Officer.
In Nigeria, government officials frequently prefer to see the press as a platform through which they can publicise their actions, market themselves, and spread their goodwill to the general public. They go as far as intimidating press organizations, denying their freedom when there are investigations or coverage of their misdeeds and corruption. This evil eats so deep into the social order, not even sparing the university environment, where student leaders see, for example any attempt of the press to interrogate them as witch-hunting.
This piece, may I restate, examines the erroneous allegations of witch-hunting and hostility credited to press organizations against student leaders.
On an X space hosted by Fiyin Atinmo on the 16th of July, 2023, some UI student leaders raised certain allegations of hostility and unprofessionalism against the press organizations on campus. These claims aside that it lacks a substance of truth, consequently has revealed a typical perception of Nigerian political leaders about the Press.
For a fact, the role of the Press in reporting developments around governance and in questioning student leaders on failed promises, misappropriation, allegations and rumours against them is sacrosanct for the deepening of democracy.
This should not be misconstrued for hatred or give rise to the thinking that the press are “enemies of progress” when, indeed the yield of progress in every society is alienated when accountability is jettisoned and corruption abounds in the leadership across any level.
In addition to that, there is a need for student leaders to cease seeing their respective press organizations as a Public Relations (PR) arm of the executive where the piper cannot dictate its ethical tune. It should be understood that the press, no matter its affiliation, is not saddled with the responsibility of rubbing egos, managing reputation or controlling damage to political leaders.
Despite intimidations, open and secret threats, and cyberbullying of campus journalists, the Fourth Estate has remained resolute in performing its duty and role to ensure social justice and accountability. A typical example of how good journalism and investigation have promoted accountability could be inferred from the mismanagement case of the UISU TV by the erstwhile PRO, OMA, which reeks of total disregard for the Constitution.
Many of these hostilities against the press stem from the exposure of their corrupt practices, incompetencies and unkept promises.
Following the topic on the X space, the erstwhile PRO of Independence Hall, Praise Isa, described the past Editors-in-Chief of all press bodies as incompetent. It was so demeaning but, at the same time, not surprising coming from a Public Relations Officer who was inconsistent in the performance of even his basic constitutional duties, not to talk of his absentia to the Hall’s L&D during his tenure, among other gross incompetence.
The erstwhile President of the Faculty of Technology Bayode Tegbe alleged that Indy Press’ investigative piece on the activities of the former UI SU Public Relations Officer was a witch hunt by Zik Hall. He then went on to tweet a lousy accusations about the various Halls’ student leaders. However, he deleted it, perhaps after he was advised on the ruckus his allegations would cause.
How can the Press help Student Leaders?
It is important that student leaders make themselves accessible to press organizations so as to make clarification of issues swift and timely. They should understand that the press will always seek balance in reportage and will not hesitate to report what is made available to her irrespective of the indisposition of any office holder to interviews or calls that could probably have brought another view to a story or clarify issues.
Student leaders should not hesitate to make information and necessary documents available to the Press when they are requested. It is also fine for them to make known to the press their activities and strides. Also, student leaders should desist from making promises that will not be fulfilled and see to it that they communicate effectively their efforts in fulfilling their promises. By these, we can indeed become partners in the progress of our community.
Finally, leadership is service and could be demanding. Hence, before you go for any position, especially as a student, you should consider your academics and other aspects of your life if you’re capable of joggling them together. Student leadership is mainly volunteering and might not have monetary rewards- which is rarely the case.
So the onus really lies on student leaders to see to it as a means of showing capability and as training for future feats and recommendations.