The opening session of the Nigerian Media Merit Awards (NMMA) 2021, kicks off at the Government House, Lokoja, on Friday, 29th October, 2021.
In his welcome address, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello, the Executive
Governor of Kogi State, expressed his appreciation for the Media saying that modern society cannot do without journalists. In fact the world would be a scary and dark place without the mavens who collect, curate and communicate information in a timely and responsible manner. In so doing they dispel falsehood, eliminate dangerous assumptions and provide societies with the basic premises upon which governance and other decisions can be made. This helps to bring order to society and engender human cooperation.
According to him, “The term, ‘fourth estate of the realm’ with reference to the media and her practitioners is attributed to Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian of the 18th century. He is said to have acknowledged the 3 Arms of Government during a Legislative session, but noted that a ‘fourth estate’ was seated in the Reporters’ Gallery which he considered to be of equal power. If I have learnt anything during my 6 years in Office as a Governor, it is that the Honourable Edmund Burke was wrong to an extent. The fact is that a truly free and vibrant press is more powerful than the 3 traditional Arms of Government combined!”
“On the flip side, lives and whole societies have been ruined by the irresponsible practice of journalism by media practitioners, or quacks who impersonate them. The use of the tools of the journalist’s trade to deal in hate speech has set off many a fire which ultimately consumed whole politics and their people. Fake news is ubiquitous nowadays, whether it is rumour-mongering, dangerous innuendo, character assassination of inaccurate reportage. The problem is so endemic that in Q3 2020 alone, statistics show there were 1.8 billion engagements with fake news on Facebook alone! Nigeria, like many countries, has fallen victim to it many times, sometimes with devastating loss of lives or properties.”
In his words:
“The Press is therefore one of the inescapable hallmarks of modern society and in particular, the custodian of public perception. What a divine responsibility! However, the Press is useful only to the extent that it functions within the ambits of verity and veracity and in line with demands of propriety. It must regulate itself with the help of the Law to avoid malfunction. Practitioners must recognise that due to the incredible powers which society has entrusted to them, there is a corresponding demand for responsibility, ethics and professionalism in the exercise of those powers by journalists.”
“Necessity is therefore laid on the real journalists to stand up and be counted when it comes to taking back their profession from the quacks and the hacks, specifically the myriad of unregulated persons armed with Internet-enabled devices who haunt the media space, especially on social media. These malicious persons wreck lives and reputations by the millions simply because someone paid them, or because they have real or imagined grouse against an individual or institution. Worse, they proceed without a care in the world because no one regulates them.”
“This is why the Nigerian Media Merit Awards (NMMA) Trust is perhaps one of the most important institutions which could exist right now. By rewarding merit in the way individuals and media houses practice journalism, the NMMAs provide critical motivation for the real journalists to do their work professionally. In this way the NMMAs help to promote sanity in the industry and simultaneously function as an accountability partner for most professional journalists.
“When I received the Board members of the Trust and other pertinent stakeholders in a courtesy visit yesterday, I was not in the least surprised to see that it is comprised of the doyens of the profession and people of impeccable personal character, whose love for journalism as a profession and the media as an industry can never be doubted. Interacting with them, I came to understand their passion to enshrine merit into the core of media work in Nigeria. We are indeed proud to partner with you to deliver the NMMAs in this 31st year of the NMMA Trust. Even after now, we will commit to help move forward this laudable objective of recognising and rewarding merit-based media practice.
“Tonight is not for long speeches. My duty here is to welcome you all to this 2021 edition of this prestigious event. Any other thing I have to say we can leave for the Award Ceremony tomorrow. Our visitors from out of town will discover that our City is hospitality personified and you are welcome to visit our historical places and project sites while you are here. Perhaps, while seeing our heritage sights, marvelling at the natural wonders of our riverscapes and landscapes or sampling the culinary delights of any of our many tribes, you will catch a fresh glimpse of the Great Possibilities upon which this nation was founded in the first place, right in these premises.
“I assure you that since we came to Office and as we match towards 2023 we have given ourselves the task of rediscovering and reawakening that promise of a Great, functional and egalitarian Nigeria, literally from the very spot where Lord Frederick Lugard and Dame Flora Shaw first saw it. I promise you that we will do our very best, by the grace of Almighty God, to restore to Nigeria a Vision and a Pathway, call it a New Direction, to reach her full potential which was kickstarted here so many years ago.”