It is often said that no category of professionals have a better understanding of the workings, challenges and even secrets of the society than journalists. Not even civil servants, political office holders, members of the civil societies or police has as much interaction with every spectrum of the society as a journalist.
From the regular interaction with the rich, the poor, civil servants and political office holders to the constant friendship with a common man in the streets, police, civil societies, the lawmakers, lawbreakers, executive, judiciary, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, market women and artisans, and journalists has got it all. No wonder the bourgeoisie feared them despite the obvious class difference and the politicians do not joke with a journalist.
Despite the vantage position they occupy, they are, however, seldom considered when policies that affect the societies are formulated. When doing their works, journalists are rarely allowed to report their opinions, but report events as they occur or get the views of those involved in a story. That is why they are called reporters, they report, but do not give an account of an event from their own perspectives. This is the norm. A departure from the norm, however, occurred in Edo State last week when a (formal) journalist and political office holder gathered practicing journalists in Edo State to discuss and give their personal opinions on an important issue.
The event was the maiden media roundtable discussion forum put together by a former Edo State correspondent of the Nation Newspaper and Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, John Mayaki.
The event, which was the first of its kind in the state, was organized under the auspices of the Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa with the theme: “The Media Practitioner’s View of Edo State under Gov. Adams Oshiomhole”. It had in attendance more than 70 journalists from various media organisations working in Edo State.
According to Mayaki, the essence of the convergence was for journalists to review and appraise Governor Oshiomhole’s seven-year-old administration as it prepares to exit this year.
Another goal of the forum was to allow practicing journalists make projections into the future of governance in Edo State. Justice was indeed done to this as a panel of seven discussants, all practicing journalists in Edo State, critically x-rayed, reviewed and appraised Oshiomhole’s seven-year-old government tenure and made projections into the future of governance in the state.
The event was the maiden media roundtable discussion forum put together by a former Edo State correspondent of the Nation Newspaper and Senior Special Assistant on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, John Mayaki. The event, which was the first of its kind in the state, was organized under the auspices of the Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa with the theme: “The Media Practitioner’s View of Edo State under Gov. Adams Oshiomhole”. It had in attendance more than 70 journalists from various media organisations working in Edo State.
“While other professional organizations are holding end of year parties, I felt it is an opportunity to invite these Great Minds to a roundtable, to discuss, brainstorm and review the administration of the Comrade Governor in the past seven years; to assess its successes, challenges and possibilities, especially on how to finish well and stronger, while winding down.
“The journalist, as a versatile social worker in the society, interacts with both the very poor of the poor and the upper class. He has a grasp of most of the issues confronting the society, government and humanity.
“The media practitioner does not just observe, investigate and reports his findings. Possessing the facts of any situation, the practitioner occupies a vantage position to insightfully analyse, and even provide prognoses of developments in their immediate work environment.
“It is in appreciation of these important roles and vantage position of the journalist that motivated us to initiate a feedback mechanism and as such invite a wide spectrum of the Fourth Estate of the Realm to, among other issues, appraise the Government of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in terms of successes, weaknesses and possible areas of improvement and expectations of the people in the twilight of the administration in areas of governance, development, and how to finish stronger.
“Majorly, it is a sort of a feedback mechanism event which I think will further impact positively on the present administration and guide her to finishing well and stronger.
“Like I said earlier, this event is designed to sharpen the mind of the journalist, and demonstrate that beyond the role of a watchdog, without which societal ills and their perpetrators will go unchecked, the journalist is in a very good position to evaluate and give advice on what government policies are appropriate to, and effective in a particular situation.
“There is no doubt that the Adams Oshiomhole administration has opened the democratic space and brought governance to the doorsteps of the common man by demystifying it. It is not by accident that there has been a rise in political activism, and awareness of the processes of governance through protests, Town Hall meetings, Campaign for One Man, One Vote, Let the People Lead and open governance.
“However, we cannot be judges in our own cause and as such I have decided to revert to my immediate constituency to undertake the task of soul-searching and reassessment which, I think, if properly harnessed could add value to governance, refocus and put her on a more solid foundation in order to achieve the best for the generality of the people.
“One of the core and most important expected takeaways from this Roundtable is the sense of belonging both the organizer and the participants will feel in contributing their expertise to the process of governance in the state, since the Roundtable is an avenue to speak to issues affecting the people whom government has responsibility to protect, secure and deliver good governance. It is also expected that this event will gauge the pulse and feelings of the citizens through the journalists on government policies, level of infrastructure development and future possibilities.
“On a personal note, for me, it is a way of reporting back to my constituency on my voyage with government and to demonstrate my unity with them. In addition, it is my intention that this idea will be sustained as a channel of interaction and communication between the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the People and Government for the purpose of good governance and economic justice in Edo State, and Nigeria at large.
Their verdicts was an admixture of satisfaction and less satisfaction for the Adams Oshiomhole’s administration. The panelists, after expressing their viewpoints observed that Edo state, prior to Adams Oshiomhole’s assumption of office on November 12, 2008, was characterized by general despair and despondency; and near-total decay of public infrastructure. They also observed that ‘god-fatherism’ phenomenon had virtually held the state hostage and so negatively impacted on governance, thus hindering socio-economic growth in the pre-Oshiomhole years.
That was not all. Members of the panel noted that the Adams Oshiomhole’s administration has succeeded in upgrading the benchmark for infrastructural development in the state with particular references to road construction/rehabilitation, drainage and erosion control via the Benin Water Storm Project, as well as the multi-million naira Queen Ede, Auchi and Ekewan gully erosion projects. Also remarkable to the panelists was the provision of modern classrooms, otherwise called “Red Roof” in primary and secondary schools across the state.
They also talked about electioneering process, noting that the Adams Oshiomhole’s “one-man one-vote” mantra has changed and improved the face of electioneering process in the state.
They applauded the government for its efforts at keying into the Federal Government’s UBE counter-part funding scheme that has improved the standard of education in the state with particular reference to the improved facilities and increased performance rating of Edo State in national examinations. The panelists said Gov Oshiomhole has reasonably restored the people’s confidence in government through people-oriented and purposeful policies and programmes.
There were some knocks for the Adam Oshiomhole’s administration anyway. Some members of the panel noted that the Oshiomhole administration has not done much to improve on workers’ welfare through payment of approved salaries and allowances, especially for pensioners as evidenced by the series of protests in the state over the years. The healthcare policies of the incumbent Edo State governor was also described as not far-reaching enough as they seem to pay more attention to tertiary health institutions to the detriment of the primary healthcare institutions which are closer to the people.
The panelists said that the Oshiomhole’s government did not devote much resource to human capacity development in commensurate terms with infrastructural development in the state since capacity development is the basis to any government’s desire for speedy socio-economic development.
The forum will, however, not conclude with a resolution as the panelists resolved that political parties should re-align their manifestoes and policy plans and programs ahead of the state governorship election to be in tune with people’s desires, aspirations and expectations. They also demanded that leaders of political should make credibility, personal integrity and unquestionable pedigree of candidates as a crucial factor to be considered during party primaries.
They warned political parties in Edo State to do away with the old tradition of imposition of candidates to avoid unnecessarily over-heating of the polity as the electorate has become wiser. They also said that governorship aspirants must be prepared to diversify the state’s economy and move it away from the current over-reliance on statutory allocations and excessive taxation as sources of its revenue.
Another resolution of the panel was that the next government in the state must aspire to foster agricultural revolution, taking good advantage of the fertile and arable environment of the state. The panelists would not conclude without talking to themselves as they demanded from journalists to live up to their constitutional role of making governments accountable to the people through unbiased and objective reportage dedicated to the interests of the people.