The President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Mr Femi Adesina on Monday said that the Nigerian media could not afford to abandon activism.
Adesina spoke at a symposium on “The Role of Journalists in Nation Building,” where he was a panelist.
The symposium was held as part of activities to mark the 60th birthday celebration of the Senior Pastor, Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
Adesina, also the Managing Director of the Sun Publishing House, said that the media had always played critical roles in the life of the country.
“It will be disastrous if the media turns a blind eye to the ills in the nation,” Adesina said.
According to him, what governments want is for the media to pretend that all is well.
He noted that the media was born into activism and the day it stopped being activist would sound its death knell.
The NGE President said that anyone who thought that the media in Nigeria was weak, intrepid or would be in the pocket of the powers that be was making a mistake.
“What will the Nigerian populace become if we don’t have a free media?” he queried.
Also speaking, Mr Simon Kolawole, the publisher of The Cable, an online Newspaper, who was also a panelist, said part of the challenges confronting the media in nation building was ownership.
Kolawale noted that since the First Republic, politicians had always set up media houses to advance their personal agenda.
“Independence of the media is part of problem of the media. Media, right from the First Republic, are set up by politicians to advance their interest.
“The lack of independence of the media is hampering the role of the media in nation building,” Kolawale said.
The Managing Director, Tribune Newspapers, Mr Edward Dickson, in his contribution, said it was very difficult to play the watchdog role in Nigeria.
Dickson, who was also a panelist, said whereas in other societies the media is well catered for by both the people and the system, same cannot be said of Nigeria.
Other panelists who spoke at the event were Ms Funke Aboyade, Law Editor, Thisday Newspapers; Mr Azubuike Ishiekwene, Group Managing Director, Leadership Newspapers and Mr Dele Momodu, Publisher Ovation Magazine.
In his keynote address, the Chairman, Editorial Board, Thisday Newspapers, Mr Segun Adeniyi, said that the nation building role of the Nigerian press was critical as the country prepares for the 2015 general elections.
He said that it was the duty of the media to report realities in the society.
“The media, for many years, has demonstrated courage even in the face of inept and corrupt leadership in Nigeria,” Adeniyi said.
Earlier in his opening remarks, a former Chairman, Punch Newspapers, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, said the topic of the symposium was timely, particularly as it related to Nigeria.
Ogunshola, lamented that Nigerian journalists were not making use of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
He said that in the few cases that were in court seeking to enforce the FoI Act, the judiciary had not helped matters.
Ogunshola expressed hope that the symposium would come up with ways of enhancing ethical journalism practice in the country and the safety and welfare of journalists.
Delivering a vote of thanks, Bakare said that Nigerian journalists had played very crucial roles in the country.
Bakare, however, said that the media could still do better.
“For me, people who hazard their lives for us, what they need from us is appreciation and not castigation,” he said.
Also at the event were the spokesman of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, Lagos state PDP governorship aspirant, Mr Jimi Agbaje, and representatives of civil society groups in Nigeria among others.