Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, on Tuesday, challenged media practitioners in Nigeria to work towards the unity and cohesion of the country.
The duo spoke at the opening ceremony of the maiden edition of the annual National Summit of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
While declaring the event opened, Governor Amosun said, “It is imperative that journalists as professionals should always be on their guard against forces that seek to take advantage of the formidable power of the profession for their selfish ends.
“It has even become more important that the profession divests itself of partisanship, ensure objectivity in its reportage and inculcate investigative journalism if it desires to continue to remain relevant.”
The Ogun State Governor said this was necessary because, “Journalism, as a profession, is seen all over the world as the fourth estate of the realm after the executive, legislature and the judiciary which occupy the first, second and third place respectively. It serves as the watchdog of the government.
“Based on this position therefore, the people often look forward to the profession for information dissemination and unraveling of the hidden truth without fear or favour.
“The profession is seen as the best of all because it has a ready-made audience in the citizens who expect journalists to tell, inform and clarify to them those grey areas, especially as it relates to governance and happenings in their environment.”
Governor Amosun tasked media practitioners to “also strive for continued professional development so as to keep abreast of the best global practices in the industry.”
President Obasanjo in his address expressed reservations about the way the Nigerian media sometimes allow ethnicity to cloud its sense of professionalism.
Represented by the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, the former President complained that the media often rush to town with false and unverified reports.
He cited an example of a recent media report where he was erroneously reported to have attended a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP event whereas he was only within the same premises to attend an entirely different meeting.
As far as the former President was concerned, the media, being the watchdog, must always exercise restraint in its activities.
“The media played a key role in the Rwandan genocide. We should learn from that. The media should not act as a wedge to separate us but a tool to weld us together as a nation,” Obasanjo said.
Also speaking at the same event, Minister for Interior, retired Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau who was represented by Major General Sales Isah, also enjoined the media to emphasize reports that tends to unite the nation.
The opening session of the three-day Summit also witnessed goodwill messages from the Governors of Lagos and Kwara States among several other dignitaries.