By; Jerome-Mario Utomi,
Like every new invention which comes with opportunities and challenges, there was a veiled agreement among participants at a recent gathering(annual lecture) in Asaba, the Delta state capital, that with strict adherence to the tripod of ethics, professionalism and quality service in the delivery of journalistic mandate as publishers and purveyors of authentic, credible and verifiable information, media professionals will continue to provide the needed sustainable partnership and collaboration in nation-building as well as support the fundamental needs of the country, and, the positive purpose of the elected government if it will not in any way dent/obstruct the media’s primary responsibility to the masses in a democratic society.
The annual lecture which had as a theme; Niger Delta Economy; Building a New Face for the Region, was put together by the Delta Online Publishers Forum (DOPF), and held on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at the Banquet Hall of Orchid Hotels, Asaba Delta state.
On that day, at that time and in that place, aside from listening to various speakers underline with enthusiasm the urgent need to build productive collaboration among public and private sectors (governments at all levels/private organization) as well as civil society, geared towards finding lasting/sustainable development and solution to the Niger Delta region challenge, I paid rapt attention to the welcome address by the Group’s President, Emmanuel Ochonogor Enebeli. As he was not only apt and emphatic in his speech but used carefully selected words, properly framed arguments, vivid evidence and emotional match with the audience, to demonstrate the Online News platforms have great power to educate, create new ideas and promote human relations. But just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so, uncontrolled use of the online platforms serves but to destroy. From his submissions, it became clear to me just like the generality of the participants that what made the gathering crucial was not its focus on the need to develop a new face of Niger Delta but how well Enebeli’s new awareness could serve the society particularly the media professionals.
As empiricists believe that all our knowledge and understanding of facts must be based upon or derived ultimately from experience, I have likewise given some serious/ critical thoughts to issues raised by Enebeli in his address and I have come to an objective conclusion that things had started to change.
More intrinsically, separate from hammering on the imperatives of media excellence/undiluted professionalism by the member and the group’s mission and vision which he says simply centres on the tripod of ethics, professionalism and quality service in the delivery of journalistic mandate as publishers and purveyors of authentic, credible and verifiable information, the DOPF Boss noted that since inception, the group has brought some professional sanity, especially among their membership where self-censorship has over time been carried out, in the often chaotic, unrestrained offerings of citizens-journalism obtainable in the social media space. He also divulged the information about the Group’s willingness, to, as the nation races towards 2023 general elections provide ‘signature practices’ to public office seekers-practice that are memorable, difficult for others to replicate and particularly well suited to their ‘business and political environment’.
The second is closely related to the first but concentrates more on the need for relevant authorities to partner with the media in developing effective, workable and achievable programs/policies that will usher in the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
To achieve this objective, Enebeli who is also the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly, added that one of the Group core values is knowing that members have a mission to better the society, and this has placed great scrutiny on their public and private conducts thus ensuring that they (the Group) are constantly conscious of the responsibility that whatever they do, go a long way towards impacting positively or negatively on the state and country.
To further demonstrate that as media Professional and watchdogs of the society, they are competent to carry out their duties as the fourth estate of the realm, that they are not the kinds of dogs with ropes tied round their necks, and so have no freedom of speech and expression, that the fact that they are watchdogs means they know what to do, where they are going, and how to discharge their duties as when due, that their decision and direction should not be dictated by any force or power whatsoever, Enebeli recalled with satisfaction that in their previous annual lectures, the group looked at how the social media and fake news has affected both the development of media practice in Nigeria and the nation as a whole. He told the bewildered gathering that experts were brought from within and outside the state, as resource persons and discussants to examine the theme and sub-topics which had been tailored on how the society has been affected by such practices and proffer the way forward.
This, according to him explains why the Group today, looked for a more domestic and localized issue and ongoing debate on the Niger Delta and its development, which is a subject that ignites the nerves of everyone from the region. He added that the Group felt is time to employ a different approach in addressing the attendant issues which have been identified with reliance on the black substance beneath our region and to look beyond the rhetoric of this substance and chart a new course of economic development for the region.
As to the way forward, he captures it this way; we are very conscious of the fact that oil is a finite and diminishing resource and we are desirous of a region which departs from what presently obtains where everything is centred on oil to one where the wealth is created and developed through other channels. A region, where the waterfront will be turned into a clean environment and a source of income and job opportunities. A region where its arable land and other minerals are exploited, and processed into an exchangeable wealth.
Utomi, Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy, SEJA, wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via: [email protected] or 08032725374.