By Bridget Alaba
A drop by drop tracing of the history of print media in Nigeria would leave any detailed researcher standing at the point where he’s gathered enough facts to believe that the print media made its first appearance on the scenes of Nigeria as far back as the 1840s when the European missionaries established newspapers as a strategy to preach the gospel and spread the news of Christianity which indeed flew wide and wild across Nigeria, seated banally on the wings of newspapers and bulletins.
This strategy of spreading the news about the only Known God to have died for love, did more magic than its initiators had probably envisaged, as the new of Christianity had spread wide in so many parts of Nigeria, with scores of native people, cradling gods-in-arms, only to dump them in flames of burning fire, and running into the full embrace of the God of the white missionaries.
But as the missionaries rejoiced and basked in the amazing results that this strategy has brought, there weren’t to know that somewhere in the south eastern part of Nigeria, someone else was foot by foot walking in their steps and trailing their shadows, learning the nitty-gritties of this magic, because to this someone, it was about time.
It is time for Nigeria to be completely weaned from the shackles of white colonialism, time to arise an ignite a revolution, his name was Nnamdi Azikiwe. In 1937, he as a support to the already initiated movement of nationalism by Herbert Macaulay, launched his newspaper titled, “The West African Pilot” . This paper alongside several others pioneered a general protest against the British colonial rule, which gave rise to the eventual attainment of independence in October of 1960. Those were the days when the media was both loved and hated for what it represents; the raw truth. Days when media personalities would choose to either live or die trying to promote sanity in the society through wielding the pen, when the truth was served without any form of sugar coats, and indeed, the truth they told tested like nothing else but the truth; raw, acrid and bitter. The bitter truth.
And by my judgment, this recorded the first ever massive triumph of the use of the media, as a tool for promoting societal good. Since then, Nigeria had witnessed years upon years of admirable metamorphosis in the field of the media,as the media kept on with its reputation of speaking loudly to promote positive societal change, using its major objective of information and education as guide to providing valuable contents.
And as the tentacles of the print media continued to spread widely abroad, so came the years of broadcast media and subsequently the current digitalization of the media which has further improved the frontiers of the media to reach a larger audience. However, given the recent digitalization of the media ,one would have thought that this would have been an avenue to strengthen the fort and further amplify her voice in speaking towards moral correctness, Alas! What this new media seem to bring us, is the picture of a giant warrior, fully dressed for war and armed to teeth, but carrying blunt weapons. Indeed this is the state of the Nigerian media today, fully decorated like a priced gift parcel waiting to be opened, with the content completely empty!
The ease with which crime thrives in Nigeria is a clear indication that the media has completely forgotten the foundation upon which it was built. That Umoren Iniobong voice still cries out from the ground like that of biblical Abel , yet her supposed killer Uduak Akpan is yet to be convicted after about over a year of her gruesome murder, and yet no Media columnist has cared to ask the daring question “Where Is Uduak Frank Akpan?” like Ray Ekpu of Newswatch Magazine would have asked, some many years ago. Dan Agbese would have written a chilling column on the pages of Newswatch and ended it with a rhetorical question, and the paranoid government would swing into action, scared that their guilt is about to be uncovered. Those were days when we could indeed said, “The Pen Mightier Than The Sword”.
Today, not only has the media lost its credibility, it has lost its voice, so badly that the once mighty pen cannot do as much as leave a lasting impression, the handwriting on the wall so always easily disappears that the failing political class would have nothing to read, that warns them of the looming danger for their misdeeds, because among the media practitioners are scavenging Nicodemuses, who query politicians during the day and at night sneak to them to collect parcels. Such hypocrisy is never in the true character of the media, and if it exists today, then we shouldn’t be surprised why the use of media as a tool to instill moral correctness is becoming less and less effective.
It is on this note that I call on the attention of the media stakeholders. Look! the future of the media is standing on the precipice, a little slip and it falls down the drain of venality. Before its too late, dear media stakeholders, save the dying future of the media.