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Media and socio-economic development in northern Nigeria (II)

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By Umaru A. Pate

It may be difficult to experience new realities without addressing the essential ingredients that will create the enabling environment for the implementation of the agendas and also harnessing the unbounded creative potentials of the communities which are necessary for creation and sustenance of the new realities. We have to address the psychological, social as well as environmental needs of the communities in ways that appear satisfactory to them. Some of these issues which are important to the individual as well as his community are the sustenance of a democratic climate that ensures good governance, peaceful coexistence, transparency, freedom and an enabling environment for personal and societal growth at minimal cost.
Democracy: Globally, democracy has been acknowledged as the most acceptable form of governance that promotes the welfare, respect and dignity of man. Democracy provides for, and promotes the active participation of the people in the economic, social, cultural and political processes of the nation, thereby guaranteeing sustainable development. Without doubt, people of the North need genuine democracy in their states and country. They want their individual and collective votes to count. They want their voices to be heard; and they want their expectations fulfilled. In such a scenario, our media professionals are expected to fully imbibe their roles within the context of a transitional society where the burden is to proof that we as a people can successfully and democratically govern ourselves.
For this to happen, the media and their internal environments must be democratized in addition to their full understanding of the meaning, essence, principles, institutions, values and challenges of the democratic system in a diverse federal structure. In this regard, the media and particularly radio and television organizations have the duty and responsibility of strengthening the citizens, not seeking to control them; by working with the people, not working over them; by giving people the material, psychic and intellectual means and abilities to improve their lives and above all, helping to strengthen existing institutions (Dardene, The Guardian, June 12, 2005). Equally, such efforts should gear towards strengthening internal democracy in political parties, respect for the rule of law and due process, promote service delivery and condemn subversive acts like election rigging, thuggery, mandate betrayal and political intolerance. In fact, our media should be seen to be setting the agenda for politicians and the general public instead of the present trend of operating in line with the agenda set outside the media environment by politicians, business interests, etc (Oso, 2007). The question is: how prepared are the newspapers, radio and television stations in the North to set the agenda? How prepared are they to help the common man on the streets of our towns and the crannies of our villages to ensure that his vote counts, and counts effectively, too?
Good Governance and Accountability: We cannot talk about democracy, good governance and sustainable development without addressing the issue of corruption, mismanagement and accountability in governance at all levels of our national life. For each corrupt activity or money stolen, particular need of the people will remain unfulfilled. Arguably, in Nigeria today, the military may not be regarded as immediate serious threats to the democratic process in the country. Rather, the weaknesses of public institutions, abuse of procedures and regulations, undemocratic tendencies, massive stealing of public resources, insensitive, non-principled and desperate conduct of politicians, and the personalization of state power coupled with the rising level of public frustration and unemployment are the poisonous elements injuring our young democracy.
The level of corruption in the country is enormous; likewise the consequences. For instance, the World Bank had reported that before the return of the country to democratic rule in 1999, about $400 Billion was stolen by various leaders in Nigeria (The Guardian, March 23, 2008). Four Years ago, the EFFC Chairman had revealed that (NTA ‘One—on—One” Programme, Feb.23, 2007) the Commission had in just two years confiscated over N90 Billion (USD 700 Million) of stolen monies from government functionaries who are mostly elected officials. Equally, the Commission had reported the misuse or diversion of over N1.6 Trillion meant for the local governments in six states during the period 1999-2007. We are yet to know the quantum of resources stolen from 2007 to date but if revelations by the EFFC, ICPC and the National Assembly will serve as notices, then, we should be prepared for bigger surprises as reported in the 2011 Transparency International Bribe Payers Index. According to the Report: “Corrupt civil servants in oil-rich Nigeria pocketed some $3.2 Billion (N500Billion) in bribes in the 2010/2011 financial year alone”  (The Polity Weekly, Dec 28, 2011).
Communities in the North eagerly expect the media, to, in the spirit of investigative journalism, tell them who among the elected and bureaucratic leaders are corruptly mismanaging or stealing their resources; resources that should have been used to provide them with infrastructure, improve their conditions and transit them into the twenty first century.
The reality is that we cannot have good governance, democracy and sustainable development without accountability and transparency. Equally, we cannot enjoy the full confidence and respect of the global community if our image as a zone or nation is that of crockery, dubiousness and dishonesty. In a situation where resources meant for development are pilfered or literally stolen, the society will simply stagnate or deteriorate into decay, hopelessness and instability. In return, the roads will remain dangerously non motorable; taps will remain dry and darkness will envelop the society because monies for them are diverted elsewhere. There will be no capital investments. And, most worrying too, is that our system appears weak in checkmating the corrupt activities that are glaringly exhibited. Can the media be extricated from this repulsive corruption by not being able to effectively engage in investigative journalism? In the present times, the media are, as usual, expected to increase their focus in exposing the bad, highlighting the good and working with the citizens to diminish that which  harms them and nurture that which empowers and serves them best (Dardene, The Guardian, June 12, 2005).
Human Rights: The people of the North are highly desirous and protective of their human rights. They cherish their individual and collective rights. Their various histories and conducts are revealing on that. Therefore, the communities look up to the media to help them defend and advance their individual and collective freedoms. Indeed, development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom like poverty, tyranny, poor economic opportunities, systematic social deprivations, and neglect of public facilities and intolerance of repressive regimes (Sen, 1999). Without freedom, the human mind can hardly bring out its best. It is only when the citizens are able to creatively participate and contribute their best with little violations or blockages to their rights and freedoms that their potentials can be optimally realized. But when they are threatened by political thugs, oppressed by local leaderships and devastated by environmental and circumstantial poverty, they simply resign in life and consign their fate to the Almighty with little hope of immediate earthly solutions. According to the UNDP Report (2010), the level of social inequity in the country is dangerously increasing with just about 20% of the population controlling all the assets of the Nation leaving the remaining 80% wallowing in misery and poverty. Again, the figures for the North is even worse and far below the National average, meaning that even by Nigerian standard, fewer people control the assets to the detriment of a largely poorer and depressed population. This is indeed dangerous for the human spirit and specifically subversive for our Nation.
In the contemporary world, it is no longer fashionable, acceptable or tolerable for States or their agencies to violate or abuse the rights of their citizens. Little wonder that where such violations occur, the international system rises up through diverse means to arrest the situation. Here in Nigeria, too, our media should be seen to be functioning not simply to guard liberty and freedom, but to encourage more liberty, equity, freedom, democracy, human rights and sustainable development. They must be in the forefront of exposing human rights abuses, condemning perpetrators and remaining vanguards for the defence of the citizen’s rights. The question is: how have the media and their staff in the North been performing in this respect? How prepared and courageous are the various radio and TV stations in protecting, defending and advancing individual and community human rights especially given the sensitivity of the subject of human rights in our country?
The MDGs:  At the beginning of the Millennium, the global community through the United Nations set targets for addressing the general concerns or challenges that threaten the basis for sustainable development in member countries. These are christened the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Undoubtedly, the goals appropriately captured the needs of the communities of the zone.
One hundred and eighty nine member countries of the United Nations, including Nigeria, pledged to address problems relating to poverty, education, gender equality, infant and maternal health, HIV/AIDS and other diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, the environment and global partnerships for development by Year 2015. For the purposes of tracking the MDGs, the UN set 18 targets and 48 indicators to evaluate the progress in the implementation of the goals by individual countries. For all the challenges identified in the eight goals, the communities of the North are hugely disadvantaged. For instance, on the National poverty index, North East Nigeria takes the lead with 72.1 percent of its population surviving in abject poverty, followed by the North West with 72.1 percent and the North Central with 67.2 percent (CBN Report, 2006). Equally, rural areas and states in North East and North West Nigeria have the worst child mortality rate in the country and indeed the world. Most of the causes of the high morbidity and mortality among the children can be avoided through immunization, increased access to health facilities, use of mosquito nets, better household practices, access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.


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