Our memories must not be filled to forget the prominent roles of media in fighting corruption in the past and its present efforts in today’s political spheres. Yes, we can’t separate the press from the dividends of a Democratic Government.
The media has indeed proved to be a necessary tool for developmental growth of our society. Media roles were not fully noticed during the military era. It is very apt to assert that the previous republics were the “darkest era of media freedom‟ because it was during the period that copious stringent Decrees were undemocratically made to gag press freedom and repress dissenting voices which undermined the dividends of democracy.
In History, freedom of expression and press professional liberty were seriously tapered with during the military era. The courageous role of the mass media in the period between the Second Republic and the dawn of the Fourth Republic cannot be over-emphasized. This is the period we have tagged the build-up to the Fourth Republic and it covered the military governments of General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalam Abubakar.
Freedom of Expression particularly for media is a significant right to the flourishing of Democracy, Rule of Law and Good Governance. Free communication of ideas and opinions is a one of the most prominent rights a person can fully enjoyed .A human Beings cherishes his living on earth only and mostly through expression of thoughts and opinions. Thus, it is my submission that the roles of media are very crucial in war against corruption.
It is not a controvertible fact that the media has been in the forefront of exposing some legal, political, economic and social happenings which the government of the day (both at the state and federal levels) would have preferred unreported, unrevealed and by extension unchallenged. This is very advantageous, apart from revealing to the governed certain activities which their government would not have wanted them to know about, such expository journalism also enlightens the citizenry and shapes their choices of candidates in subsequent general elections and reasoning’s in public affairs analysis. On the long run, the government itself is, in most cases, put under check by the possibility that such activities may find their way to the people through the media. There are numerous instances where the media has played watch-dog roles on the government of the day since the birth of the Fourth Republic.
The ongoing war corruption started with DasukiteGates with allegation of breach of public trust and criminal misappropriation, followed by the most controversial allegation of false declaration of assets by the Senate President, Dr. BukolaSaraki which many tag as a political witch hunt. The crusade recently extended to the Judicial Arm of Government which the arrest of seven members of the Bench. The arrests were made public through members of media houses and different electronic media. The freedom given to the media however entertains certain exception as contained in section 39 of the constitution. And mostly regrettably, the non-justifiability of chapter two of the constitution by section 6 sub-section 6 paragraph C of this same constitution.
In the commencement of this fourth Republic, the Media truly proved itself as A BEACON OF HOPE TO ATTAIN AND SUSTAIN A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT. The Media has performed outstandingly well in fight against corruption in the Legislative Chambers. Our hearings were not silent andmalfunctioning on a newspaper report of Salisu Buhari’s certificate and age falsification that led to the constitution of a Committee by the lower House to probe this allegation. During this time, the alleged offender had no choice when the heat of media pressure was too much for the former speaker to bear, he decided to admit his guilt and stepped aside to face prosecution accordingly.
The Executive arm of Government was not left unturned with media pro-active professional task. A committee of enquiry was set up by the government of former President Obasanjo to investigate the alleged rot in the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) headed by Chief Olabode George. After the investigation, neither the government nor the NPA published the report of the Panel of Inquiry. It took the screaming headline of The News magazine to get the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to ask for and act on the report of the Panel. Bode George and his cohorts were later convicted by the High Court and Court of Appeal, on appeal to the apex court, he was discharged and acquitted. Even the way media couched the news headlines suggested that the apex court was morally wrong to have channeled the judgment in that direction.
The Judicial arm also suffered for same with publications of suspension and compulsory retirement of judges upon Professional Misconduct and Judicial Corruption This trend is still going during this administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Conclusively, as good as the media has excellently performed its roles; there are some areas of weaknesses with respect to holistic implementation and understanding of investigative journalism. In some newspapers’ headlines, political affiliations and cultural loyalty are mostly attached and inferred. It is recommended that the media should make use of the` special opportunity that is contained in Freedom of Information Act, 2011. This Act provides that any document that is in custody of public corporation and organization can be requested for in order to exercise its constitutional role of communication between the Government and the masses. On the long run, if necessary documents are requested for under the umbrella of Freedom of Information Act with certain facts and figures, the doctrine of investigative journalism will be lauded.
Olasupo Habeebulah Morakinyo is an Undergraduate of Law, University of Ilorin. He can be reached via: +2348162239050, +2348176851239.