By Ayinde Ijadunola
THE third president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, said if he was asked to choose between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to pick the latter.
His was an extreme libertarian expression of the view that the media was indispensable if democracy was to have its full course and benefit the people maximally. But we must understand where Jefferson was coming from.
He was one of the founding fathers of the United States. And in his days, emancipation, freedom, liberty, rights of the people more than the rights of government were what dominated the conversation in the society.
Given the experience of the colonies at the hand of imperial England in the 18th century, the Americans believed that less oppressive government and more media which would champion the rights and voice of the people was needed. But as I said earlier, it was a farfetched view.
Now, if Jefferson would take such a position in a contest between the media and government, where would he stand if the equation featured the media and the Police? Would he prefer a nation which would exist without this law and order agency? Or the Police without a nation? Or a nation running at full throttle with the backing of the media and the Police?
Last week, the Police chief in Lagos, Hakeem Odumosu, offered a better version of the Jefferson puzzle along with a much improved arrangement of how society should operate for the greatest good of the greatest number of citizens.
Police Commissioner Odumosu presented the picture of journalists and the Police coming together to render priceless service to Nigerians. He has given the nation a strategic synergy that can assist the society defeat the scourge of insecurity threatening to swallow us and reverse all the advances our nascent democracy has made over the years, even as we prepare for the diamond jubilee of our Independence.
Odumosu’s contribution to the discourse was captured in a statement released to the press by the Public Relations Officer, Lagos Command of the Police, PPRO, Muyiwa Adejobi. The CP was quoted as calling for “partnership between the Police and media professionals to strengthen security in Lagos”.
Adejobi said:” CP Hakeem Odumosu…charged the fourth estate of the realm to partner in strengthening the security architecture of Lagos State and Nigeria at large…
He urged the media to always project the country, Nigeria and the police in a positive light as their views count on the rating of the Nigerian polity.” Odumosu spoke when the General Manager of the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Channel 10, Adegbirin Kamarudeen, visited him.
So, whereas about three centuries ago a concerned public officer sought the exclusion of a state institution and the sole employment of the press to preserve society and its people, another public office holder several generations after is asking for collaboration between two critical institutions.
It’s impossible to challenge CP Odumosu’s thesis that the society needs the gentlemen of the press in the two-fold business of securing the nation and restoring its severely battered image.
The point is that what is generally given to the people as the achievements of government and its agencies or institutions starts with what sociologists and analysts describe as perceptions, interpretations and ‘coloured’ reportage in the media.
True, this reportage is a reflection of the productive forces in a given setting. However, in the long run, in the course of processing the reports a lot can take place. For instance, there can be a ‘tendentious’ headline that buries the ‘virtues’ of an event credited to government deep in the belly of the story which an impatient reader would not arrive at before forming an opinion.
Editors don’t mean mischief when this happens. All what they may doing is to satisfy core professional demands. But, as Odumosu observes, a pact can be struck between the media and strategic bodies of the state to let newsmen key into a larger vision of combining their professional ethics with nation-building goals.
The reporter must be allowed to go about his duties, but it is within the bigger context of serving the nation with his skills. But how does this relate with the security of the nation? What’s the connection between the Police and the journalist? What’s the nexus that Odumosu thinks should be strengthened?
There is only one answer to these posers. The media represents the Fourth Estate of the Realm, after the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. These three are all arms of government that are responsible for the upkeep and security of the state.
But although these media personnel are ‘independent’ of the state, they are needed to produce what emerges as the perceptions and realities in the country through reporting the activities of those other official arms.
These realities and perceptions are the tools that make or mar and influence the image and security situation in any nation. Nigeria can dwell heavily on what Hakeem Odumosu is proposing as the panacea for the insecurity in the land.
The country’s greatest challenge is insecurity and all arms of the state, notably those who report our activities for today and posterity, must be respectably brought into the loop of protecting Nigeria and its people. Surely, it will be a death knell for Nigeria’s insecurity if the country’s journalists and the Police would come together in a coordinated onslaught on the criminals in our midst.