20th May, 2013
By Felix Femi Ajakaye
On Sunday, 12 May, 2013, the Catholic Church celebrated the 47th World Communications Day, with the theme of the Pope’s message, Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization. Pope Paul VI introduced the World Communications Day in 1966 to celebrate the media practitioners and artistes all over the world. Usually, annually, the Vatican releases the message to the public on 24 January, the Memorial of St Francis De Sales, regarded as the Patron of Journalists.
Here is my reflection to the congregation, including the media people and government officials at St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. As you read this, please, let me remark here that on Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, the President declared emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Yes, the President who had always been saying that he was on top of the situation, opted to be on top of the situation so that the insurgents would not overrun our cherished country, Nigeria.
In his message this year, the Pope considers the development or emergence of ‘digital social networks as helping to create an ‘agora’ (‘marketplace’ in ancient Greece, an open space in a town where people gathered, especially a marketplace), an open public place in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being’. The Pope urges people to make use of ‘these spaces in a wise and balanced way’ in fostering forms of dialogue and healthy and critical debate as we share both ideas and our very selves. The Pope states that ‘in social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus’.
Believers are to be consistent witnesses in communicating and sharing the Gospel – the Truth. We are to touch hearts sincerely in our journey of faith with hope and love. ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal’ (1 Cor. 13:1).
In our celebration too, this year, I would like us to reflect on our beloved country, Nigeria. In the words of Edmund Burke, ‘Evil triumphs where good people keep silent in the midst of moral crises’. Without mincing words, Nigeria is indeed in crises. They are really a legion, and generally, man-made. Unfortunately, we tend not to be addressing these crises practically. We continue to chase the shadows, instead of facing realities. Our security agencies are being over-stretched. Both the armed security agents and harmless civilians are being killed and attacked by the sophisticatedly armed assailants. These assailants seem to be having their way, ruling with their networks, while Nigeria tends to be in ruins. Unfortunately, what we normally hear from the Jonathan-led government is: ‘We are on top of the situation’. Realistically, they are below the action. Must we continue in this madness? To put a stop to the continued bloodlettings and other crises such as corruption, kidnapping, indiscipline, nepotism, abuse of power and deceit in our country, President Goodluck Jonathan, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, and his lieutenants must learn to be on top of the action rather than the situation. Action speaks louder than words.
“Power without control is nothing” (Pirelli tyre advertisement). In this light, I also state here that press freedom without responsibility is meaningless and dangerous. The role of the media is of great importance in the society. This is why the Press is regarded as the Fourth Estate of the Realm. Though coming after the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the Press is the hinge. It is the bastion. Once the Press derails in its role, it then becomes a subject of derision. Journalism is described as ‘reporting news for the media’. It is ‘the profession of gathering, editing, and publishing news reports and related articles for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio’. Responsible journalism is being accountable and reliable in news-gathering. Therefore, I affirm that, social networks too should be used responsibly for the good of all.
I appreciate the media practitioners for their efforts in committing themselves to the struggle in the sanitization of our society. However, I challenge them to focus more on developmental journalism and uphold press freedom with responsibility so that they can be a force to reckon with. Enough of sensational journalism! Strive to make research and operate objectively. In this way, with your integrity intact, you will also be portals of truth and faith to the people. Indeed, information is power. A well-informed mind is a living and healthy person. He/she is an asset to the society.
I expect the media practitioners to start working together and have a formidable team to save this country from those who do not mean well for Nigeria. For instance, it is sad and criminal that while our country is faced with serious security challenges, certain people are still over-stretching the security agents with limited number to fight their personal and selfish wars of attrition in the name of political power. With this, there is more tension in the land. For instance, the ugly political drama in Rivers State purposely orchestrated against Sir Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Rivers State governor, whether being masterminded by the combination of both the ‘oga and the madam at the top’, their cohorts, or other people, portends a great danger to our society. This is politics of rascality, politics of recklessness, politics of deceit, politics of intimidation, politics of terrorism. This is not acceptable and we must not allow these political rascals and terrorists and their clannish supporters to have their way. I remind these people that nothing lasts forever and no condition is permanent. Today’s president, president’s wife, or governor, or bishop may be nobody tomorrow. This is food for thought. I assure these political opportunists and their agents of do-or-die and turn-by-turn politics that, with or without them, Nigeria, our beloved country, will continue to exist.
Recently, there had been alleged inflammatory statements by Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, and a former self-acclaimed militant leader, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, that there would be a crisis in Nigeria if President Goodluck Jonathan was denied re-election in 2015. What a lazy and illogical statement! In a country faced with many crises such as Nigeria, even the uninformed will want to be relevant and recognised. Basically those who threaten others are deficient. By God’s grace, our cherished country will not fail. Nigeria will not fall. With unity and faith and our individual and collective willpower as a people, we shall overcome. Agents of the light will always overcome agents of the dark. We must learn to do things right so that things will be right with us and for us. May I state here too that politics of turn-by-turn is politics of mediocrity. It is politics of a lazy person’s idea and it is negative, destructive and retrogressive.
In these trying times in our country, the media practitioners must never join the crowd. They must never lose their heads, even when other people are losing theirs. In fact, those who join the crowd lose their focus and identity. Such people are daydreamers. Daydreamers believe in fantasy or hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled. On the other hand, focused people are visionaries. Visionaries have foresight and they are never afraid to take decision. We need to keep identifying visionaries to serve at the local, state and federal government levels. We do not need gatecrashers, thugs, gangsters, looters, riff-raffs and pretenders anymore. We must wage a total war against this group of people, using all the legitimate available means, including the social networks.
May we not be found wanting in promoting justice, peace and development through our God-given talents. Amen. Happy and blessed 47th World Communications Day. With confidence in God, Christ is our strength.
•Most Rev. Ajakaye wrote from Ekiti state.