The press is referred to as the Fourth Estate of the Realm because of the critical roles it plays in the society. I think these roles include being the traditional watchdog and beyond being a watchdog, setting agenda to give direction to the people on matters, which may be of personal and communal importance and of benefit to the people.
By the press here I refer to the entire gamut of the print, electronic and new media. If it is true that information is power, then the entity that disseminates information must be the engine room of power. It therefore goes without saying that when a nation lacks a vibrant press, it lacks information, it lacks power. It has also been found that at the foundation of any meaningful re-orientation is the consistent dissemination of information in the direction of the values the re-orientation seeks to establish.
The truth is that, without the press, what we call public opinion remains private opinion that does not exist beyond the roof of its owner. Thus no cause succeeds except the press actively supports it. The cold reality is, when the press is compromised, the collective mind of the society is compromised. And when the collective mind of the society is compromised, social, economic and political stagnation becomes the sole beneficiary of the situation.
Writing about the Nigerian press during the trying period of military misadventure in governance, renowned essayist, Adebayo Williams expressed the superiority of the pen over the gun thus “A properly educated mind will refuse to accept crude tyranny, for to accept tyranny is an act of intellectual self-dispossession, long after the guns have been silenced, the supersonic boom of ideas, the thunderous artillery of thinking will continue to echo.”
The foregoing becomes necessary to express the invaluable relevance of a vibrant press to any noble cause. It is also a historical fact that one enemy which any ignoble cause cannot survive is an upright press built on the unshaken wall of unimpeachable integrity.
Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives a clue to the role of the press in a civil society thus: “The Press, Radio, Television and agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.” The chapter referred to in the above provision is the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy (Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution).
Now, I will like to reproduce below some of the provisions of the Chapter of the 1999 Constitution in focus:
I. “Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.” (Section 15(2))
II. “Children, young persons and the aged are protected against any exploitation whatsoever, and against moral and material neglect.” (Section 17(3) (f)).
III. “There are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons.” (Sections 17(3) (d).
IV. “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
Government shall promote science and technology
Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide
(a) Free, compulsory and universal primary education;
(b) Free secondary education;
(c) Free university education; and
(d) Free adult literacy programme.” (Section 18(1) (2) (3) (a) (b) (c) & (d)).
Have you noticed that most of the provisions of the chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria focus on children? The fact that the above provisions focus more on the child than any other member of the society means that the media has a major role to play in creating awareness on child protection. The media must also be ready to go beyond creating awareness for the provisions of chapter 2 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Majority of our people are not aware of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 and the Child Right Laws of the 24 states, where the Child’s Rights Act has been domesticated.
Do have an INSPIRED day…I charge you today to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…