Media serves as a bridge between the government and the people. The government’s policies and actions are conveyed to the people, and the latter’s views are forcefully expressed to make the authorities aware of the public feelings. It makes the policy makers aware of the wrongs that may otherwise escape attention.
In any democratic country, the media plays a vital role in setting, shaping and reflecting public opinion. It was in the course of this, over the years, that the media acquired the status of ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm. While nation building is guided and directed by the political leadership, various actors contribute significantly to the process of nation building.
Nigeria is currently bedeviled by myriad of challenges, especially insecurity and ethnic agitations. And there is no better time than now for stakeholders to come together and find solutions to these issues.
This is why we consider the recent intervention by the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) comprising of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in finding solutions to the nation’s challenges apt and timely.
The media stakeholders observed that Nigeria has been embroiled lately in profound socio-economic, political and security challenges that threaten its very existence as reflected in ethnic divisions and separatist agitations in the country, with growing fears that an implosion is imminent. Today, criminality – kidnapping for ransom, banditry, arson, killings – defines the everyday reality for a good number of our citizens.
Relying on Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the media leaders reiterated commitment to the unity and oneness of Nigeria. And this should not be sacrificed on the altar of ethnic or tribal chauvinism.
One of the triggers for the current socio-political, economic, and security challenges in the country, they also observed, is high cost of governance, reflected in the outrageous allowances and flamboyant lifestyles of our political leaders. The riling class, rather erroneously, misconstrues public service for primitive accumulation of wealth, instead of being a platform for galvanising development and satisfying the collective aspiration of our people for quality life in a safe and secure environment. One of the consequences of this ostentatious lifestyle is the new craze among a growing number of youths that the end justifies the means in their quest for easy wealth.
The NPO believes that in a federal system of government, particularly in a country like Nigeria which is diverse in ethnicity, culture, and religion, an overbearing centre is counter-productive to development. Leaving the federal government with 68 items under the Exclusive Legislative List, including policing, is a recipe for unending destructive tension in the struggle for advantage among the federating units. It explains why our country is seemingly overwhelmed by non-state actors engaged in criminality and separatist agitations.
The government should immediately take steps at devolving powers to the component units by implementing the el-Rufai Committee Report, which among others, recommends State Policing, in addition to other far- reaching adjustments to the structure of governance. The continued delay to implement the report after its recommendations have been approved by all the organs of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC), in line with the manifesto for which the party sold itself to win the 2015 election, is self-defeating. We hold that its implementation will curb the galloping rate of criminality, reduce tension across the country, and reset the button of development.
In our considered opinion the onus is now on the government to implement the Orosanye Report, which provides a veritable roadmap for arresting the unsustainable high cost of governance. A reduced cost of governance will free substantial funds to fight insecurity, provide social safety nets for the generality of the people, fund developmental projects, and stem the current penchant for external and local borrowing by government.
We suggest that the National Assembly, on its part, do the needful by passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is arguably the longest bill to ever go through legislative processes. It is a common knowledge that the petroleum industry is long overdue for an overhaul and the passage of the bill will be a major boost. The delay in the passage of the bill is militating against improved corporate governance in the oil sector.
There is a need to also avoid the debt overhang inherent in excessive borrowing. In the opinion of this newspaper, borrowing is good so long as such loans are deployed to funding enduring development projects, within the GDP ratio. However, the current borrowing in the face of the slide in the value of the country’s number one revenue earner-oil remains worrisome.