...Redifining Journalism for Development

The Sweep with Hassan A Hassan Journalism: Courage on Corruption


The world observed the International Day against Corruption last Saturday. The year’s theme is collective efforts against the fight on corruption, which makes the observation that is even more significant to Nigeria. There are few of us who stopped for a minute in silence that day.
But sure the Day did not get the deserved remark, like, say, we celebrate national Day or even Valentine, perhaps, because the fight against corruption is not popular here, and the intention to join the war-front is limited in both number and will – personal, official or collective will.
There were few media reports about the Date/Day and its significance, perhaps, for the truth that the audience of the local media are not much inclined to such serious observation, may be, because the issue of corruption is an issue that takes-on directly on their personal lifestyles, which maintain their socioeconomic status in the gullible society. And before now, no government, at any level, pronounced the war on graft accompanied by example and will.
Until these years it was not a Date so mentioned or a Day so recognised in Nigeria because corruption takes roots here and talking about it as something bad was a direct insult on the self-acclaimed important persons in Nigeria or the clique of VIPs of the State from the State by the State and against the State. Thanks to the cow’s milk that hitherto poured much and rich.
I had a piece of a question from a young journalist who thought of what must be the most important news of the Saturday. It takes a great courage to define the newsworthy issues in the Nigerian media, even a greater courage to do so when you work for a public media. This is because media values as defined by western scholarship are working badly for Nigeria.
Thanks to previous governments’ construction of a political economy of our type that works with only the negative. Those news values have abhorrents of critical thinking and news values of the west are good for it that their set example is undermining our system instead. And that is to their economic advantage. One of the values is that the prominent – issue, person, place or date/date – makes news.
So what is news worthy about a Date that is not prominent, at least by the vices of the society where the news is consumed? Nothing. Or not much. Yes. That was what last Saturday told us. But the inconspicuous can also make news if the news person can make it newsworthy. That ability is a remarkable journalistic trait by which the journalist recommends the insignificant to the public as significant by reason.
And it is here that I open my pride of that young aspiring journalist who came to ask for my thoughts. See what he ended up doing to the Day. He influenced the subject of discussion today. I was thinking about the Trump the Donald’s brandish over Jerusalem. The swift is good. Home first. There is still time for it next week if I live.
The boy is one example of the few determined persons on the job who are trying to do the exceptional in practice, and to tell the rest of – the old tired veterans and the new novice hands – that change is easy and possible. Change in the perception and definition of news is even easier and damn possible. It is just that we have not resolved and willed to do it, for, largely, immediate personal reasons, which makes it more dangerous to life. The long term effects are most invaluable.
The boy is an exercise in change taking effects with determination and personal sacrifice to public good and interest, reminding us all that anything is possible that we believe in and that we have a responsibility to the public that we abandoned for long and it is an opportunity now to come up and fulfill it, even if it is just for the blessing of our lives – we know the gratifications are too numerous to think – and if we hold the believe that we get ten folds of whatever we do or give to others. Those who do not find this practicable did not try it a number of ways. Believe.
I am proud of Muslim Lawal, not only because he is my product but because each time I look into his eyes, I see a long superhighway of potentials full of belief, will and passion for the job. All he needs is a tap on the back like this mention and I cannot but give it, because we need to do something for such aspiring minds. And they are many all over the media. They need nothing more.
I give him immense thanks and the Management of the BRC – the Bauchi State Radio Corporation – for the open, liberal environment that allows young talents to explore their potentials. Muslim was able to do so only because he knows there is an MD and editor who will not kill his story on corruption or about something bad in government’s action or inaction. It is rampant practice that such stories often squeeze into the dustbin simply because it does not fall within the frame of old self-censored minds.
Hajiya Jummai Liman Bello has liberalised the house for the determined but also to public access and opinion to access the waves, something that is key to democracy. Those who understand this know how tight, trivial and poorly authoritative most of the public media in Nigeria are, particularly state-owned media. But I have long called the BRC the peoples’ station because of their open editorialisation and the conduct of many phone-in programmes that are public oriented. With Hajiya on board, that tradition has flourished to make a huge difference between professional leadership and courageous professional determination in the public media leadership in Nigeria.
Persons like Muslim can exercise their ingenuity to full potential without any hard-seated editor who grew to the top from the bar and claims knowledge about the job based on only experience. Yes. Experience counts but even the longest experience in doing wrong will not last matter and not with honour and dignity. It does not just happen in a better society. Learning on the job and update of knowledge of the job are two sides of the same coin. We need both. Every conscious mind that lacks one can see the deficiency in their in and out-put.
But few colleagues on the job appreciate that. We seldom quarrel. Many of them were not privileged to sit within the four walls of any journalism classroom. They have worked for years and become seniors on experience. That is ok, great, and with updates of knowledge, they go excellent. But few go for such updates.
I must pay tribute to senior colleagues by age and experience for their bold decision to go to school, and for their dedication and commitment to the programmes. Those who did not for whatever reason will find another reason to do so. But while they do so, they should not quarrel with products of the classroom. There is just no reason for that. It should be an opportunity to share ideas from the bench and the bar about the job.
Of course, there is always the other who are naturally allergic to the fresh graduates with modern ideas on the job. At the end, it is intimidation, harassment and blockages of the young and the new on industrial training and on the job with self-glories: “we have been doing this job since you were not born.” What I tell the youngsters to abide and with patience reason has a way of prevailing some day.
This is reason most young journalists are frustrated off and out of the job. Their vibrant, charged minds that are allergic to clichés and redundancies in the scripts of news and programmes die eventually because they are told by the old guards that they must write in the old language of the news overused by the past and the incumbent. Okay. But what is wrong with assessing that fashion with current standards? Nothing.
Truth is we have enjoined and sustained bad practice and corruption to an extent that we are allergic even to the necessary and the indispensable. In the end, both the profession and members are exposed to public ridicule. Of course the active audience have always looked down on us and without us knowing so. We have build castles of fear of criticism and failed to do the easy, the near if it does not fetch us something material.
Many years have passed on without our stamp on the records of corruption Day because we are involved, we said, did nothing and we are not perturbed. The former is not as shameful as the second. It was okay when we lacked the political will and cover to protect our jobs and selves. But we have no excuse today. There is along queue for doing the right. We must join and fit in to take part. We cannot stand aside.
The danger is the public in Nigeria has grown conscious about the ills corruption has spelt on society. Thanks to the will and example of Mr. President and few of his like minds in government. Thanks to the social media. And that means that we cannot continue to lie, to hide and to kill ideas in stories or stories themselves. We have already exposed ourselves.
The private media landscape is spatially increasing. In coming into the market, they bank on the inadequacies of the public media even when they are not much different – modern tools for the job cannot do any magic with low, delayed or denied pay and stark corruption of the spirit on the job. We all have a challenge to confront our fears and apprehensions to redirect the course of practice. We must not just resolve and will. We should be seen to be changed on the job.
I congratulate Malam Ladan Salihu for adding a new form to our count of radio stations in the country in Bauchi. It is a timely opportunity if the objective is in tandem with the need for public reorientation to be good, honest and citizens. I am sure there is something in the mind of the veteran about the idea of Albarka Radio that goes along the popular and the needful. And sure the difference will be remarkable. If you join the house of blessing – dear journalist – please take an active part to write your name in history that is in make.
Thank God for the time of change. In both last Saturday and in the surge of Albarka that I was graced to visit same Day along with the cream of NIPR Bauchi State membership, we can see what the future holds for the media in Nigeria and to our people. Say Aameen.
Hassan is the Head of Mass Communication Department and Dean, School of General Studies, Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi and can be reached at: 08032829772/08050551220 (text only with full names and address). E-Mail: abuna2406@gmail.com

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