Nigerian journalism & newspaper publishing industry: 1 of 2

October 24, 2011 

Newspapers must assist journalists to broaden their investigative reporting skills

By Tola Adenle

[Two more of my views on the state of journalism & the newspaper industry in Nigeria will be used this week.  Below is the first one.]

Why are Nigerian newspapers so unreadable? My answers are not in tandem with Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello’s who reportedly recommended the venerable New York Times to Nigerian journalists as a newspaper that parades high-quality writers unlike their Nigerian counterparts.  What Ms. Bello ironically failed to mention to reporters who had sought her opinion on whatever it was they were after was that she, one of the most educated legislators in Nigeria, cannot hold a candle to her counterparts in the United States.  Nor can the Speaker of the Nigeria House of Reps – or any of the motley crowd that has held the position since 1999 – be compared with Nancy Pelosi who became Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives barely two years ago.  Ms. Bello would not be a Senator – like MOST in the Senate, anyway – if not for the electoral shenanigans perpetrated by her father, retd. General Obasanjo and his election riggers.

I’m from the part of Nigeria where single households could have more Ph.Ds than a whole local government area in other parts of the country. Ms. Bello’s achievements naturally impress me but the doctorate she’s forever rubbing in journalists’ faces, however, would not earn her a ticket to the United States Senate.  Why is it, therefore, that Nigeria’s former “princess royal” and her brother, Gbenga, have to continually shove their doctorates of animal care – not of the “animal called man” – in Nigerian journalists’ faces?

Comparing the New York Times (NYT) to any newspaper in Nigeria is preposterous.  I personally believe that The Times of London (LT) is superior to the former in editorial as well as commentary writers while the Review of Books in NYT in my opinion is superior to the LT book review but nobody sits down to compare these papers because they serve their purposes and meet the high standards of their different readerships.  Even in the stifling illiterate times the country has fallen into, there are columnists and opinion writers that compare with the best in other lands.

Two major problems with Nigerian newspapers lie in the utter devotion to politics and politicians and lack of good investigative reporting.  When journalists run after the likes of Senator Bello for newsgathering, she can make her effete proclamation of journalistic infantilism in Nigeria; ditto her brother who once told the world that Nigerian journalists are a hungry bunch and gorge themselves on victuals at social outings in spite of never having contributed to Nigeria.

I know that most journalists would not only disagree with the opinion I’m about to give but would repudiate my saying that journalists tend to seek the easy way out of what, if truth be told, one of the easiest of professions.  I do not mean “easy” as in “not exacting” but as in something that can be mastered by anybody with a good basic education, and a willingness to read.  Now, rocket science, the proverbial difficult subject, is not easy because no matter my willingness to read wide and without the college education, I cannot perform in that subject.  While I do not know what goes on in newspaper offices these days, there were also columnists in my days as a “real” journalist who wrote their essays on due days!  This is therefore no mass canonization of past journalists.  Even in this age of computers, evidences of inadequate preparation abound in ALL Nigerian newspapers EVERY DAY. While political stories may predominate, the quality and types show that most of these are NOT news nor newsworthy.

Coverage of the victory of Senator Obama in the recent U.S. elections shows much going overboard by journalists a lot of which were inanities by politicians while newspapers all over the world looked to various angles to entertain and educate their readers. Here are some: “Great-grandmother, 92, casts first vote”; “Style, intellect – a new kind of First Lady; “Winner will choose a cast of thousands, but first decision is the Oval Office rug”; “First ever My Space campaign left rival trailing”; “World shifted forever by son of a goatherd”, etcetera. Nigerian newspapers, however, regaled us with what politicians of every stripe – rigged in or not – had to say about the victory.  It was embarrassing reading rtd. General Obasanjo’s comments which, left to me, newspapers should have asked the man to publish as advertorial.

For instance, I caught a report in a paper after the Obama historic victory.  Obasanjo-Bello, baffled at the orgy of Obamamania in Nigeria’s supposed upper legislative house, tried to call for restraint but not unexpectedly, ignorance won; the deep was calling to the lagoon.

Now, we have Jos Riots and whose grating opinions are journalists serving Nigerians? The same politicians.  Rtd. General Babangida ruled Nigeria long enough to have set the country on a course where rigging elections would be a thing of the past.  What did he do?  His regime conducted an election that was the freest in this country’s history but either he likes it or not, the robbing of MKO of his mandate to rule is his through his government.  Babangida was not a “fake president”, to put a spin on Tunji Dare’s spot-on take on Nigeria and fakery.  His two hundred words press release or thereabout that include:  “…The violence and wanton destruction of lives and property are indicators that we have not got it right on matters of elections …” was from a “fake” democrat.

Why must reporters go to these same people for their opinions on problems that were around during their leadership but which they failed to tackle?  Where are reporter interviews with various people in the streets of Jos?  Where are investigative reports of what led – beyond the elections – to the mayhem?  Did age-old animosities between indigenes and the Fulani-Hausas come to boil as common in areas where the former, though in the minority, want to dominate the majority?  Must columnists and commentators write on every topical issue even when they apparently do not understand the situation?

And there are news beyond politics.  The day after urban warfare ravaged Ibadan, the newspapers I checked gave inadequate coverage in spite of most newspapers having state offices here, and even the coverage given contained a lot of confused reporting or half facts that hung.  This was armed attack that saw a sizeable portion of Northern Ibadan thrown into chaos as guns boomed even close to the Government House.

Journalists must spare Nigerians the opinions of these politicians on subjects they are least qualified to pontificate on.  There are myriads subjects out there calling for reporting and there are always subjects for the investigative journalist to sink his/her teeth into.

It will soon be Christmas and if the past is any indication, we will soon read papers with screaming headlines and subheads:  “Emulate Christ”, says Senator X, “Be prepared to lay your lives down for Nigeria”, Governor Y advises …, men whose middle names are “Thieves, Leeches, Anti-people”, etcetera, far from the teachings of the King of Kings whose birth remembrance inexplicably gives room for these looters to pour salt on the masses’ wounds.

The Nation on Sunday

December 2008



Nigerian newspapers and online news sources
  • 234 Next News site
  • Bella Naija Magazine
  • Business Day Newspaper
  • Daily Champion Newspaper
  • Daily Independent Newspaper
  • Daily Trust Newspaper
  • Elendu Reports News site
  • Emotan Blog
  • Huhu online News site
  • jhova blog Blog
  • Leadership News site
  • Linda Ikeji Blog
  • National Daily Newspaper
  • Nigeria Plus News site
  • Nigeria Village Square News site
  • Nigerian Observer News site
  • Osun Defender News site
  • PM News Newspaper
  • Punch Newspaper
  • Sahara Reporters News site
  • Sun Newspaper
  • The Guardian Newspaper
  • This Day Newspaper
  • Tribune Newspaper
  • Vanguard Newspaper

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