A former Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, has advocated a framework he called “Participatory Media Accountability System” to make the mass media in the country accountable to the people.
He asserted that it is this public-driven mechanism for the regulation of media operations that can ensure the indivisibility and corporate existence of Nigeria.
Mallam Abdullahi declared this position while presenting a paper at the 12th anniversary celebration of UNILORIN 89.3 FM, the official radio station of the University of Ilorin.
The former minister, whose paper was entitled “Covering Diversity: Mass Media and National Unity”, observed that the media is too pervasive, powerful, influential and important to be left to operate in accordance with its whim and caprices without any form of effective regulation, which would make it and its operators more accountable for what they push out for consumption.
Mallam Abdullahi said that the issue of press freedom, as being canvassed by the media and the insistence of the government that the freedom should not be absolute, is a debate with a very long history across climes.
He explained that the contestation is a struggle for power and that the two contending institutions would continue to show contradictions in order to control the perceptions and actions of the consumers of the media products but for different reasons.
The Guest Speaker, who was also a former Commissioner for Education in Kwara State, criticised the media for disregarding what he called “the reality of wanton abuse of media power, which equally constitutes real danger to the nation’s corporate existence in their cry against the attempt of the government to regulate media practice”.
While alluding to the fact that “democracy thrives only when the people have access to correct information about matters that affect them and are able to use this knowledge to make informed choices and take decisions about their lives”, the renowned media technocrat shared the sentiments of policy makers that “the men and women that operate the media do not always serve the public interest”.
Although he noted that “government’s involvement in exercising some measure of control have always met with virulent resistance by the media” because of the conviction that the attempts were targeted at muzzling the press, Mallam Abdullahi explained that “the most conservative libertarians have come to agree that the press can do with some restraining”.
He described such tendencies as presumptuous, if not downright hypocritical on the side of the media as he expressed the conviction that the call for media regulation is not akin to an attack on democracy and Nigeria’s democratic survival as viewed by media operators.
Mallam Abdullahi said that the worry of the government over the quality of contents being circulated on both the conventional and social media is justifiable going by the persistent spread of fake news capable of throwing the country into unimaginable crises.
On the best way of regulating the media, Mallam Abdullahi said that the media has not shown anything to indicate that it can self regulate, saying that the way and manner members of the press ignored the code of ethics of their profession does not give room for that assurance.
Welcoming participants to the programme, the Chairman, UNILORIN FM Board, Prof. Jeleel Ojuade, described the station as a pride to the University and its increasing listeners.
Prof. Ojuade said that, while contributing to national development in several ways, the station has significantly contributed to the reduction of tension on the University campus through its peace-building programming and jingles, which also has great effects on its listeners beyond the shores of the University.
The Chairman, who said that the anniversary celebration was to assess the contributions of the station and draw attention to its challenges, called for more support for the station by the University administration and members of the public for it to continue to excel.
In his goodwill message, the Governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, commended the station for its generous contributions to the development of the state.
Governor AbdulRazaq, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Communication, Alhaji Bashir Adigun, assured the University and the station of the support of the government and people of Kwara State.