In a thousand and one ways, Nigeria is a peculiarly-atomistic society. She shoots herself in the foot every other day, and enjoys it. Many things that hurt this country are local, not extraneous. If you crack the Nigerian DNA, you understand firsthand that our 250-plus ethnic groups being at each other’s throat is not down to any external force, that the horrible rot in infrastructure nationwide is volitional, and that the abysmal failure of anything government as we see all over this country is facilitated by Nigerians working in concert with, wait for it, other Nigerians, not other nationals!
For instance, using as case study our Niger Republic boundary through which we hear marauder herdsmen come in to cause havoc, there can be no gainsaying the fact that the porosity of our borders is a self-invoked anathema. Nigeria doesn’t have the capacity to protect herself from herself. Look at her non-existent education architecture, her failed political engineering, her broken mental reorientation machinery. Look also at citizens’ apathy towards everything development.
Today, though, my mind is trained on media outlets of government, a sector I have been engaged in man and boy (for over a quarter of a century, to be exact). All that successive administrations at federal and state levels offer to government-owned media establishments is conspiracy of criminal neglect. In fact, these institutions are the perfect examples of used-and-dumped. They churn out what many people regard as propaganda but remain worse off year after year.
I do not know of one state-owned media organ, from Abuja to Damaturu to Sokoto to Illorin to Ado-Ekiti to Abakiliki to Yenagoa, that boasts of a healthy personnel, infrastructure and output. The all-round monumental rot will shame neanderthal equivalents. To be sure, this sad commentary is not a recent development. Since the wee nineties, government-run radio, television and newspaper houses have remained largely beggarly, orphaned and poorly-equipped.
There may be one or two exceptions but not Radio Nigeria, not Nigerian Television Authority, and not the alarming majority of media houses owned by state governments, which run on the blood and sweat (literally speaking) of very poorly-paid-and-motivated staffers. Two years back, alarmed by the horrendous state of studio and office facilities in one of those far-flung states, I had taken it upon myself to take photographs and email them along with an SOS to the governor. Until last month, there had been no other opportunity for me to visit the premises. Alas, what did I find?
And Jesus wept. Sorry, I meant to say that when I was driven into the studio centre at 8.30pm, I didn’t know that another internecine buffoonery was developing, 2,000 years after mankind murdered Christ for nothing. The whole place was in utter darkness. I was totally confused because the car stereo showed that the radio station was on air.
The security used a flashlight to flag us down and scan the boot. Inside, I couldn’t stop wondering how dangerous and energy-sapping working here could be. Everything on air was governor this, government that. The radio station’s waiting room had a television set tuned to its partner station, located on the same premises, which also chorused government all the way. For minutes on end, the striking irony consumed me: how on earth could anyone work so hard for government but be so awfully deprived, so wickedly overlooked!
After introducing myself, I engaged the personnel on duty. Recognising me and knowing that they could talk to me freely, their lamentations generated balls of tears. They told me snakes often wander into the studio, and that, sometimes, they relied on light from their handsets to read the news or see their way around. Yet, government pays private stations fabulous sums in retainership!
It was a profoundly-sobering experience, which reminded me of my days at the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC), Uyo (1992 to 2002 and later after I founded Bush House Nigeria from 2004 to 2012) as well as at Radio House, Abuja (2009 to 2016). It is difficult for a journalist who worked or works at a state-owned media outfit to love government. That is the truth; most journalists-turned-activists, who started out in government set-ups, may have been incensed and subsequently transmogrified by the Stone Age maltreatment that their colleagues and they suffered in the hands of abuser-owners.
See, most media workers curse under their breath while voicing or writing those fine lines, especially about people who refuse to use their position to better media conditions. Is it not witchcraft to allow those working for you to wallow in so much poverty? How many national and state chief executives pay surprise visits to their media houses to see things for themselves? Could this be why our media-loving God has yet blessed federal and state governments of Nigeria?
Of deceitful empowerment, constituency briefings
Who’ll help Nigerians from ourselves? Hypocrisy is killing us slowly. Lawmakers are helped by hundreds to get elected by thousands but all they do once it nears re-election is a public show of gratitude to a few tens.
Why buy a car for a constituent who can neither fuel nor maintain it? Why spend more money on ceremony and publicity than on empowerment proper? Why can’t you get these people employed or to learn a trade?
And, where do these monies come from? I hope the man who told me on live radio that these are crumbs from governmental contracts done by fronts and cronies didn’t get his facts well. Above all, why do the masses always celebrate this massive foolery?
Stop, legislators, stop. Stop weaponising nonsense. You can’t fool everyone every time!