By IJEOMA UMEH
Continued from last week
IN a press conference attended by most newspapers on 27 August 1974, at
police headquarters in Lagos, the then Inspector-General of Police Alhaji Kam Selan said, interalia, ‘that the Federal Military Government might be compelled to take drastic and unpleasant measures to curb the excesses of the press and some miscreants who profess to be journalists He referred to what he called ‘misleading and mischievous’ publications by a section of the press and declared that government would no longer ‘tolerate press indiscipline and calculated attempts to undermine the governments authority’. He said, “The government would not allow itself be blackmailed by the press or stampeded into taking any action in any matter of public interest’. The Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army had earlier made a statement saying that a certain section of the Nigerian Press had overstepped its bounds and had deliberately refused to observe the tenets of its profession, in an editorial the following day. The Nigerian Tribune replied inter alia.
“There has been no malicious press attack on the Federal Government and certainly the Nigerian Press has no interest whatsoever in making mischief for this or any other government. We think it is most unfair for the inspector general to declare that some actions of the press are clearly designed to cause unrest in the country. May we remind the IG that all Nigerian Newspapers are owned, managed and edited by full-blooded Nigerians all of whom have a stake in this country? What will any or all of them gain from or by causing unrest? For whose benefit?
The truth we must face is that the Nigerian Press has a clear and inescapable duty to reflect public opinion and to seek to influence the government of the day, and to deter them from that sacred duty is harmful to the government itself. A servile, docile and fawning press is the greatest danger to the government and the country it pretends to serve, but a responsible press-and the Nigerian Press is most certainly a very responsible press – is an indispensable part of any civilized society”.
GOVERNMENT v. THE PRESS
MINERE Amakiri was a Port-Harcourt correspondent of the Nigerian Observer, based here in Benin City. He attended the NUT, Rivers State branch press conference on 27 July 1973, where the union listed a number of grievances against the state government and ended with an ultimatum to stage industrial action if their demands were not met by a certain date. The Nigerian Observer published Amakiri’s report on 30th July 1973. The publication coincided with the celebration of the 3lst birthday of the then Military government of Rivers State, Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff. This annoyed the governor and his allies. They saw it as an embarrassment of the highest order. Amakiri was collected from his house, taken to the governor’s office in Rivers State and tortured. His head was shaved with ‘an old rusty razor blade’; he was stripped naked and given 24 strokes of the cane on his bare back. The Nigerian Observer reported the incident on 2 August 1973, and subsequently published fuller details of the incident. The Newspapers Proprietors Association, the Nigeria Guild of Editors and the NUJ demanded a public apology from the governor, which after much pressure from international communities was got. ‘What did Amakiri do?’ was the question, which put people on edge for only a few weeks. There were several other such confrontations, including the shutting down of media houses, especially in the military era. In our democratic era, the confrontations are loud, yet subtle in nature because free press is better enjoyed in a democracy. Yet the press thrives on the use of vital theories of mass-communication, which are:
1. Filter (more investigative work)
2. Minimum effect (get the story streamlined, organized to reduce litigations)
3. Bullet (shoot, don’t care whose ox is gored)
Nigerian journalists work in context, process and then make feedback. Their roles go beyond ‘the watch-dog and transmission belt’ levels. They work as a checkmate on the excesses of government and others.
CAMPAIGN FOR PRESS FREEDOM
Thomas Jefferson was the American President who did more than the others on the ‘freedom of the press’. In his inaugural address delivered in Washington on March 4, 1801, he reiterated his position on liberty. He told the American people that there should be equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion. He supported freedom of religion, press and person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. In Nigeria the press is antagonized more than co-operated with, ostracized more than encouraged.
In our present democratic dispensation however, journalists have suffered less in the hands of leaders. Dele Giwa died in a military regime via a letter bomb, after him, editors and reporters were taken away and incarcerated, but that is no longer the lot of the media proponents of today.
Press Freedom is now being enjoyed in various quarters, the only thing is that an organ of the press could receive various sanctions for its inability to make adequate representation or its ability to make too much or enough of it. For government owned press across the country, the matter is more complex. Some are denied certain developmental allocations or monetary supports yet they are allowed to be independent, to publish it as it should be. It’s a cold war, sometimes subtly spoken, sometimes unspoken at all. Yet the press continues to wax stronger.
THE YOUTH, DEMOCRACY AND THE PRESS
So how has the average Nigerian youth taken all this? How have they been influenced by the onslaught on the pages of newspapers and the words being daily transmitted on the electronic media?
From findings, the youth in Nigeria have immense confidence in the power of the mass media. They love free press, many of them are clamouring for the independence or freedom of the press in no little words. The youth interviewed pointed out that “. . .the Nigerian media do not only enlighten, educate and inform us, we live by their versatility”.
THE YOUTHS IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS
According to Social Psychologists, development follows an orderly and sequential pattern, with one state leading to the next. It also involves both quantitative and qualitative changes in the individual. The youth are members of the Generation Next – young adults between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one.
The general principles that govern their development is the same with any other
human being, and they are:
1. A characteristic growth rate
2. A characteristic directionality
3. A characteristic pattern of differentiation and integration
4. A characteristic sequence
Freud (1923) taught that there are three basic structures of the personality:
2. The ego and
3. The superego
He pointed out that these are not physical entities, which influence people, but however represent the major aspects of the human personality. Each of these has its own function but they interact in the control of behaviour. The Id acts by “primary process”. It is the original source of personality, and from it the other two entities, ego and superego later develop. The sole purpose is to seek for and obtain pleasure. It is the source of all human drives operating on the “pleasure principle level”.
THE EGO: develops from the Id for the purpose of facing reality.
THE SUPEREGO: represents the internalized ideals, values and morals of society as taught to the child by both parents and other adults. It can be taken as the conscience or arm of personality. By it we are enabled to decide for ourselves whether something is right or wrong and then choose what is right in order to be socially conformable.
LAWS OF YOUTH BEHAVIOUR
1. Reactionary Tendencies
2. Discriminative Stimulus
3. Exposure to the target
4. Transience to behaviour change
5. Home tutelage
6. Interdependent and Mixed contingencies
7. Vicarious reinforcements
8. Open manners of delivery
9. Direct consequences
10. Informative/Emulative functions/Additional variables
EFFECT OF MEDIA REPORTS ON YOUTH
1. Newspapers and Magazines
2. Televisions and Radio
MEDIA AS A CHECK
1. The media provides the youth with diverse and developmentally progressive input.
2. Helps accelerate positive social interaction in withdrawn, socially unresponsive youths.
3. Decreases negative interaction in socially negative and abusive youths.
4. Accelerates co-operative interactions in social play and activity settings.
5. Acts as social/moral reinforcers.
BARRIERS IN SENDING MESSAGES
Type of mass media, the messages sent, the nature of recipients, receiver’s attitudes, opinions, habits, flexibility, selective content, youths manipulated by adults on social situations.
YOUTHS RESTIVENESS IN A DEMOCRATIC SETTING, MEDIA INVOKED OR WHAT?
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defined the word ‘restive’ as ‘unable to stay still, or unwilling to be controlled, especially because of boredom or dissatisfaction’. Restiveness has usually been understood as a form of generalized discontent that has the ever-present potential of overt expression. Thus the significance is the potential to act in response to some dissatisfaction or discontent. Sometimes what the youths read in the papers, hear or see on radios and television could be a predisposing catalyst to how they respond on the deficiencies of successive governments. However, the main issue is that there is always an integral disorientation, disgruntlement, dissatisfaction and destabilization.
REASON FOR RESTIVENESS, FRUSTRATION
When goal directed activity is barricaded, the form of aggression may be externally driven situations and causes which may not be in individual psychology but in the social context in which behaviour occurs.
Youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, clashes between youth organizations in Benue, religious riots in Kano, cultism in citadels of learning are all instances of youth restiveness, but in a democratic setting a misplaced government policy could trigger off restiveness, death of a member of youth organization in unnatural circumstances, death as a result of government’s insensitiveness (like on a high voltage electric wire fallen and left on an inhabited quarters or area unnecessarily), a collapsed building left totally undemolished by the authorities, outbreak of cholera because of lack of potable drinking water, lack of power supply in areas where youths mostly reside (as in academic setting) lack of employment and other social amenities.
HOW THE YOUTHS LEARN
1. By imitation
6. Digression and by
The importance of imitation in the social development of young people has been so widcly emphasized as to become axiomatic in the literature of psychology and education. Recently, increased attention has been directed toward investigating the role of imitation during early adulthood. Much of the answers being culled from youths themselves is motivated by a conceptualization of imitation as a potentially powerful resource in the development of the youth.
YOUTH RESTIVENESS IN THE NIGER DELTA
According to Dr Festus Iyayi, the restiveness of youths in the Niger Delta not only differs from the restiveness that expresses itself in cult wars in tertiary institutions, but also from that which occurs between community groups as a result of some territorial disputes. It is also different from the type of youth demonstrations that occurred in 1960 over the Anglo-Nigeria Defense pact, and then in the 80’s and 90’s in opposition to SAP and to military rule. Youth restiveness can take the forms of advocacy, demonstrations, protests, war, crime, religious or ethnic cleansing mass movements, etc.
The empirical forms of youth restiveness need to be separated from the characteristics that differentiate one form of restiveness from the other.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1. The critical conditions that produce restiveness.
4. Categories of actors involved
6. Levels of observable and expressed restiveness
S. Mode of expression and
9. Degree of its pervasiveness.
Restiveness may be localized or globalized, latent or manifest, blind or focused, youths versus adults, male versus female, youths versus government and with social, political, economic or religious origins, or it could be chronic, manifest, progressive, constructive and politicalised.
YOUTH RESTIVENESS AS AN AGENT OF SOCIAL/ECONOMIC
CHANGE IN A DEMOCRACY
I. Several youths organizations were involved in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence when shortly after independence Nigerian youths rose up against the Nigeria – Anglo Defense Pact in 1960.
2. Nigerian students took active part in the struggle against military and civilian dictatorship in Nigeria.
3. Anti-SAP, anti-imperialist and anti-world Bank/IMF coalitions.
IN THE NIGER DELTA
Massive demonstrations against the ills in the Nigerian state, legal action against the global oil companies that are seen as infiltrating the fabrics of the Niger Delta, resistance to the Nigerian state, mobilization of their local communities and drawing international attention to the situation in that region. NANS also participated in the struggle against systematic and systemic increases in the prices of petroleum products.
THE GENERAL ANALYSIS
a. Psychological factors (it is in the nature of youths to be restive)
b. Contextual factors (it is triggered off by the background of prevailing social, economic and political conditions. Deprivation and poverty as well as injustices, whether real or imagined, or in expected revolutions.
c. Organizational factors (occurs when individuals create organizations or form groups to give expression to felt dissatisfaction)
In Nigeria youth restiveness is a result of the nature, character and under performance of the Nigerian economy and polity. The ruling class has been anti- Nigerian in character, and has preferred to adopt policies that favour the interests of the ruling elite within the domestic ruling class and those of international capital. The arbitrary increase in fuel pomp price and the inflationary negative impact of this on the lives of the people between 1999 and 2004 have been explained away by the rulers via the arguments provided by the World Bank and the IMF (Dr P. Iyayi, 2004) Prof. Iwayemi (2002) similarly noted that:
“A second characteristic of failed development in Nigeria is the dramatic upsurge in poverty in the last decade in Nigeria. This is evident in the fact that two out of every 3 Nigerians are now classified as poor, compared to I in every 3 in the 90 ‘s “.
Summarily, there are several competing theories on the freedom of the press, and some say it will be gradual and may not be distributed evenly among media. Others say editorial forums will gain prominence in a democratic setting as ours.
OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL
I. Free market will continue to exist. No government will wake up and say only government media should hold sway.
2. The government will be cynical about political power of private media and may attempt to compete.
3. As the media continue to grow, more constraints will be placed on its paths and power.
Internal constraints, economic problems, ethics and conventions of journalism practices, lack of skilled manpower, conflict in hierarchical arrangements, external constraints, government regulatory agencies, private individuals or groups, the public is not sure what is news, pressure from competition, cost of litigation, organizations, more investigative work, more specialization, more personnel to handle case load.
CLARION CALLS ON THE PRESS
1. Not to throw caution to the wind
2. To investigate properly
3. To write more humanely
4. To be more gentle in their reporting
5. To have balanced reports
6. To base their reports on good conscience
7. To avoid propaganda, sensations and hurried reports
8. To avoid testimony destroyed by hypocrisy
In recognition of 4 things
3. Optimal conditions and
Meanwhile, Abraham Maslow, a professor of Philosophy, said “if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”, but the media works with two tools, Intellect and The Pen. The problem of a corrupt society is the nail. What do you do when you have a hammer and there’s a nail? You hit the nail on the head!
However, Lady Dorothy Nevil observed, “the art of conversations is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment”. And that may be an advice for members of the 4th Estate in the area of propaganda and sensational reporting.
Finally, democracy is a learning process, it is always evolving, never static. It takes understanding and patience to gradually guide an illiberal, post-military, democracy like ours towards real and full democratic practices. We cannot expect those who had learnt the art and practice of politics under the most undemocratic and anti-democratic conditions to divest themselves of the authoritarian habits that had taken them three decades to cultivate. Patience is required from all of us. And I must emphasize at this point that it is not only politicians, but all of us as Nigerians, that must undergo a positive attitudinal overhaul to divest ourselves of imbibed wrong notions of democracy and governance. Our expectations of our leaders must be modest, honest and realistic.
And like the youths in Nigeria, we should join hands with the press to nudge our leaders towards good governance by mass mobilization to demand accountability from them. It is not important to vote under rain or shine in an election only to thereafter fold our arms, watching governments misrule us and then turn around to grumble under our breath. Eternal vigilance is the price to pay for liberty, so we must be ready to defend democracy and make it the line of equity, justice and good conscience.