The Disaster called the Nigerian Press

By Taslim Anibaba, FCA
Before I proceed, a little peep into the history of governance in Nigeria is necessary so as to appreciate the ignorance, diversion and outright destruction of Nigeria by the press (both electronic and print media) in Nigeria.

The military ruled for most parts of the 45years of being an independent country .

Under the military, it was a unitary system with command issuing from the Head of state and commander in chief to all other tiers and officers in government.

There was the executive (the supreme military council) with the head of state as the head. The head of state was a maximum ruler; he appointed state governors, ministers, and heads of parastatals and even commissioners in the states were usually cleared with him. He could sack anybody at the shortest notice including members of the executive (the supreme military council).

During the military era, it was right to visit all woes of the country on the ruler (head of state) given the structure of governance mentioned above. And the human rights groups, the press and perpetual opposition candidates never allowed a moment to pass without criticizing the government.

The general public was sensitized, the polity heated up, then a coup. Another set of solders took over and the cycle continued until 1999. The only government that was not ousted by a coup before 1999 was the murtala/obasanjo regime, which voluntarily handed over power to civilians in 1979. General Abubakar handed over power to president Obasanjo in 1999 voluntarily also.

So we have been under a democratic dispensation since 1999.

Unfortunately, the press is yet to realize after six years, that we are in a democracy and their strategies ant tactics have continued - spurious headlines, attacks on the person of Mr. President, while they went to sleep over the activities of the most critical areas of our democracy (in terms of economic and social development) i.e. the states and local governments.

Under democracy, the structure is as follows:

- The federal government
- The state government
- The local government.

These are independent entities in terms of revenue and responsibilities. They may be run either by the same party of different parties. For instance, the PDP run the federal government while AD runs Lagos state government. Despite this difference in the parties at these levels, all the failures in Lagos state are hanged on the neck of Obansanjo and the press will not spare anything to confuse and mislead the masses as to who is responsible for the failures that translate into the poverty and hopelessness of our people.

Only recently, the editor of a national newspaper speaking on Channels televison (Sunrise program Sunday 4th June) averred that the states and local governments were not performing because the federal government has not shown "good leadership" . Can you imagine this coming from the editor of a national newspaper. What has good example got to do with the separation of powers and responsibilities as shown under the 2nd and 4th schedules of the constitution.

Would Papa Awolowo have told his UPN governors not to perform because NPN was not performing. Has a referendum being conducted to support the claim that the federal government is not showing good example. And if it assumed to be true, is that a good excuse for an AD government in Lagos state for instance not to perform? The converse is the reality. This is because it is at the federal level that we are hearing such programmes as NEEDS, REFORMS, FADAMA PROJECT,PORT REFORMS, PRIVATIZATION ETC. ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS WORKING AND THE OTHER TIERS SAFELY USING THE NOISE FROM THE PRESS AS COVER FOR THEIR INACTIVITY DESPITE THE HUGE RESOURCES AT THEIR DISPOSAL AND THE ENORMITY OF THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE MASSES.

Sometimes, it appears that there is a conscious effort on the part of the press to protect the culprits the state governors and their local government counterparts.
How come that in six years nobody has told us the hectares of land used by lagos state for instance to cultivate cassava so as to bring down the price of garri, or the tonnes of fish produced by the state, the number of new schools built, the kilometres of road tarred and the percentage of this to the total road untarred etc. Why would food prices not skyrocket when we dont farm. The list of what the press can inform us as far as state and local governments are concerned is endless.Revenues
The revenue allocation, which is the sharing of Nigeria's money, is presently structured as follows:

Federal government 45%
State government 25%
Local government 19%
Derivation 11%

This includes statutory, crude oil proceeds and VAT (source: min of finance April allocation page 27 of THISDAY of 2/6/2005). And excludes internally generated funds (IGR). Lagos presently boasts of a monthly IGR of N3 billion.(three billion naira)!

From the above it is clear that the states and local governments enjoy 55% of the total amount of money accruing to the people of Nigeria.
Responsibilities/functions of the state/LGAs

Schedules two and four to the 1999 constitution specify clearly the functions of the federal, state and local governments.

Under 4th schedule to the constitution the following are some of the functions of local governments

- Economic development
- Markets, motor parks, public conveniences
- Construction and maintance of roads, streets, drains, street lighting
- Primary school education.

Under the same schedule the following are some of the functions of a state government

- Primary, adult and vocational education
- Development of agriculture and natural resources other than exploitation of minerals

- Provision and maintenance of health services
- Power supply

It is clear that the state and local government are responsible for over 90% of the basic requirements of the masses (health, education, food, shelter, and electricity).

While the press has been busy raining abuses on Mr. President, casting unnecessary aspersions on his person, criticize every government action they have failed to ask the state governors and their local government chairmen what they have done for the people.

Is the money of the state being used to?

- Run media campaign for a fraudulent governor or to sponsor impeachment moves, to organize rallies and to lodge in foreign accounts.
- None of them is asking these questions. It is now clear why military government usually lock media houses. I wonder if there is any code of conduct in the profession and if they are not the worst enemy of the country. I think the government should do something about this.

I urge the press boys to read the constitution, educate themselves on democratic practice, educate the public about the truth (not sensation) engage in investigative journalism and above all be responsible for once. We are no more under military.

I also want to ask them to produce people from their families who can match the credentials of Obasanjo because the way they present Obasanjo to the public most of the young people in Nigeria will not know that this man was once a member of the Eminent Persons Group and a former candidate for a United Nations position at a point when he was not even in government

These press boys should also realize that they are causing damage to the country's linage aboard and creating a state of anarchy locally.

It is a pity that they have chosen to be irresponsible. For six years they were ranting and raving on issues for which they had little knowledge and of little consequence to the masses whose politics , to quote Mahatma Ghandi is reduced to bread and salt.

Enough is enough.

TASLIM ANIBABA(FCA)
4TH JUNE, 2005


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