15th July, 2010
The abduction last Sunday of four Nigerian journalists and a driver and the demand of N250 million ransom by the kidnappers left many Nigerians flabbergasted. It was, to say the least, the climax of absurdity and the height of stupidity to kidnap journalists with the false expectation of getting millions from them. The misguided act must be rejected and the journalists must be released immediately and unconditionally.
The members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) had gone to Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, for a national executive council meeting and were kidnapped in Aba, Abia State, as they were returning to Lagos by road. The leadership of the Union had visited and given an award to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
Those kidnapped include the Chairman of Lagos NUJ, Wahab Oba, the Assistant Secretary, Silver Okereke, Sola Oyeyipo, and the NUJ Zone G Secretary, Okonkwo Adolphus. To demand hundreds of millions of naira from journalists was really shocking to most media organisations which are struggling to stay afloat in the face ofÂ their dwindling fortunes.
Some activists have described the miscalculated act as a new dimension to the criminal enterprise prevalent in Nigeria, especially in the South-South and South-East geo-political zones where kidnapping has become a very lucrative crime.
Journalists in Nigeria are going through tough times. They practise under very poor conditions. In many media organisations, journalists have not been paid for months. Some journalists have not even received any salary this year. Where then in the world will they get hundreds of millions of naira to pay as ransom?
The truth is that journalists are professionals who stand on the side of the masses to entrench of democracy, justice and equity. The same injuctice, poverty and unemployment that drove the youths into kidnapping and other heinous crimes, are the things journalists fight against in the society. When politicians try to highjack the country for their selfish interest,Â journalists are the ones who fight on the side of the people. Everybody looks up to the journalists to hold the leaders accountable to the people.
Imagine a society without newspapers, radio, television or the new media. Injustice and dictatorship will reign supreme in that society. There will not be a medium for the oppressed and the poor to voice their opinion. It will be a world for only the influential and the rich. The society will be doomed and the poor including the kidnappers of today will be worse off.
Nigerians can recall that it was because of reports by journalists such as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, among others that foughtÂ the colonialists who eventually granted Nigeria independence in 1960. It was because of reports by journalists and other activists that the military were forced to leave.
It is therefore misguided to kidnap journalists for money. We call on the kidnappers to immediately release the journalists as they will not get what they want. We also call on politicians to make life better for all those who engage in kidnapping so that they could desist from their nefarious act.
There are allegations that security agents collude with these kidnappers that is why they are having a field day across the country. We tend to believe this, considering the ease and impunity with which they are now operating.
There should be a complete overhaul of the security apparatus in the country which is fast slipping into a state of anarchy. From all indications, the nationâ€™s security agencies have failed woefully.A country with responsible and responsive leaders cannot allow this unacceptable state of insecurity persist for so long.