Without media there won’t be democracy, says Gbajabiamila
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said on Wednesday that the current democracy being enjoyed in Nigerians was the outcome of the sacrifice and struggle by the Nigerian media without which, it would have been impossible to have democracy in the country.
The Speaker spoke just as the Director of the Kenyan Law School, Prof. Patrick Loch Lumumba told Nigerian lawmakers to be honourable members representing their people and not horrible members.
The Speaker who spoke at the unveiling of the of the Green Chamber Magazine and official lapel pin of the House of Representatives paid glowing tributes to the media for their sacrifice in being the current democracy to bear.
The Speaker said “the country has long benefited from the work of dedicated media professionals; men and women possessed of incredible talent and abundant courage, who risked life and limb to tells stories that exposed malfeasance and abuse and held the powerful to account.
“I can say with absolute confidence, that this our democratic settlement could never have been achieved without the noble daring of the press. Those unsung heroes who understood the power of the written word and wielded it in passionate denunciation of the tyranny that sought to consume us all.
“I am now, as I always have been, a passionate believer in the value of a free and unfettered press. I am also, am unrepentant advocate of quality and honest journalism. Today, there are others, who have themselves discovered the power of the word to inform and enlighten, to motivate and inspire, and have continued in that noble tradition of holding the powerful to account.
“They operate within a media environment that too often chooses instead to elevate the voices of charlatans, and digital arsonists who exploit the democracy of the internet to spread fake news for clicks and profit and in service of base agendas.”
He said the Green Magazine is “a platform that is dedicated to the practice of a true and noble journalism, acting always in the best interests of the people, rejecting the temptation to use the power of the word for evil, when there is so much good yet to do.
“We have come here to show that in spite of the economic pressures brought on by the advancements in new media, it is still possible to do journalism with integrity, eschewing the false promise of click bait headlines and fake news editorials.
“The Green Chamber magazine is not a propagandist outlet. Our service to the people who elected us, is not enabled in any way by having at our beck and call, a media outfit that exists to massage our egos and tell us what we want to hear.
“Public service always benefits from being held to impartial account. Any public service conducted in secrecy is suspect. The vision for the Green Chamber Magazine is that through this platform, the 9th House of Representatives may contribute to the enthronement of a journalistic tradition that is grounded in the ideals of honest reporting and focused on making real the old promise of open government.
” Therefore, I want all of reporters, researchers, writers and contributors who will work to produce this magazine, to go out there with the absolute mandate to seek truth without fear, to exercise good judgment always, and to act continuously in the best interests of the Nigerian people. Rest assured of my support and that of my colleagues in the House.”
Prof. Lumumba who was the keynote Speaker at the unveiling said the lawmakers were elected by Nigerians to be honourable members representing their people, but regretted that legislators are now being measured by the number of weddings they attend or the number of people they are able to assist.
He said it was unfortunate that through out the African continent, the role of the legislature has been misunderstood, stressing that those given the privileged to serve must demonstrate service to the people of Nigerian.
While congratulating the legislators for the work they are doing, he said “do you deserve to congratulated because you only reserve my congratulation if you are servants of Nigeria”.
He said it was unfortunate that in Africa, the role of the legislators as been grossly misunderstood, adding that at Independence, Africans were made to believe in representative democracy, with the lawmakers serving as servants of the people.
He said “we live in a continent where many people misunderstand the roles and functions of legislators. We live in a continent where legislators are measured by the number of funerals that they attend; where the efficacy of legislators is measured by the number of weddings they attend; where their significance is measured by the number of men and women that they support on the day of their wedding.
“We live in a continent where the legislator is misunderstood; where legislators are not called and expected to perform their traditional functions. Today, you have decided to tell your own story, that you may not be misunderstood.
“When in 1960 there was an explosion of independence, we were hounded in many ways and many institutions were imposed on us. We were told that African countries, having gained their independence, had to embrace democracy.
“We were told that democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. We were told that we would have representative democracy. We were told then that you honourable members of the House of Representatives represented us.
“We were told then that you were our servants and for a long time we believed that you were our servants. But over the years things changed and we started believing that you are no longer our servants, and that you have become our masters.
“Therefore, even when you claim to represent us in many African countries, and you remind us that you are our servants, we do not believe you because it is the newspapers that are left to say what you say.
“Now that you have been given the honour and privilege of serving Nigeria, now that Nigerians and Africans refer to you as honourable members, the question is: are you honourable members or horrible members? The question as to whether you are honourable members is determined by the service that you render to the people.”
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Rep. Benjamin Kalu said there were several misconceptions about the operations, duties and achievements of the National Assembly, adding that these were being propagated by mischief makers and fuelled by commercialised news reportage as well as acute ignorance of the working of the legislature.
Kalu said many Nigerians expect the legislature to exist in perpetual acrimony with the executive.
He said these same Nigerians conditioned to appraise the National Assembly with the same terms of reference as they would the executive without regard to the distinctive nature of legislative duties under the 1999 constitution thereby engendering a deep seated scepticism about the legislature’s comment to national development.
The event, which is the first of its kind in the National Assembly was attendedd by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who stood in for the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Katsina stte governor, Aminu Bello Masari, Imo state Governor, Senator Hope Nzodinma, Ministr for Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, former Editor of The Nation and now Commissioner for Information in Lagos state, Gbenga Omotosho who represented Lagos state governor, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu, former Imo state governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, representatives of Minsters, Speakers of Niger and Edo state House of Assembly among others.