From verifiable historical records of Nigeria’s chequered socio-political history, the mass media can justifiably and evidently pride itself, more than any profession, as occupying the frontline in nation building.
For example, in the struggle for independence from the colonialists, Nigerian journalists were in the frontline. Among them nationalists were Herbert Macaulay, Kitoye Ajasa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ernest Sesei Ikoli, Mbonu Ojike (aka, “Boycott the boycottables”), Kolawole Balogun, M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, Mokwugo Okoye, Babatunde Jose, Abiodun Aloba (aka, Ebenezer Williams), Peter Enahoro (aka Peter Pan), Sa’ad Zungur, Abubakar Zukogi, Raji Abdallah, Osita Agwuna, Lateef Jakande, Olabisi Onabanjo (Aiyekooto), Fred Anyiam, Smart Ebbi, and others.
Among the outlets used for the agitations for self-independence were, West African Pilot (founded in 1937 by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe), Daily Times, (founded in 1926 by Sir Adeyemo Alakija), Nigerian Tribune (founded in 1949 by Obafemi Awolowo), Daily Service (founded 1952 by Amalgamated Press), Daily Express, The Comet, South Defender, Lagos Daily News (1922, by Herbert Macaulay), and Lagos Weekly Record (1890-1930, published by John Jackson – father, and & Horatio Jackson – son).
Furthermore, when Nigeria became confronted with unmitigated military brigandage that almost erased completely, post independent gains, and for which we are yet to fully recover from; it was again the media that struck the draconian bull of the military in the eyes. I stand to be corrected that the media, its practitioners and their families, bore the harshest brunt during the prodemocracy struggle against military dictatorship. All other non-journalist activists and professionals actively involved in the prodemocracy struggle of 1983 to 1999 still relied on, and used the mass media.
Among the media practitioners who bore the vicissitudes of the prodemocracy struggle were Remi Oyo, Bayo Onanuga, Bagauda kalto, Babafemi Ojudu, Dapo Olorunyomi, Ray Ekpu, Seye Kehinde, Kunle Ajibade, Nosa Igiebor, Soji Omotunde, Osa Director, Niran Malaolu, Richard Akinola, Tunde Akanni, Dare Babarinsa, Muyiwa Adekeye, Muka Popoola, Ladi Lawal, Lanre Arogundade, Gbolahan Gbadamosi, Edetan Ojo, Funke Fadugba, Felix Eriakhi, Tunde Oladepo, Bamidele Johnson, Yemi Olowolabi, and many others. Of course, other non-journalists like drivers, printers, administrative officers, security men, and so on, who were working in the media organizations also suffered.
The Punch, The Concord Group, AgroBusiness Times, Daily Sketch, The Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Times, The Guardian, The News, Newswatch, Tell, Tempo, Dateline, AM News, PM News, Razor, Vanguard, BCOS, OGBC 2 FM, and other media organisations were harassed, hunted and repressed.
On agriculture and food security, the Nigerian media has again proven its mettle in placing agriculture in the front burner of public discourse. From the era of the “oil boom” to “oil doom”, it is the media that has not only been sounding the bells on the need to abandon the prodigal path of mono-economy based on oil, but also the unavoidable, expedient and irreversible return to agriculture. From “Operation Feed the Nation” through “Green Revolution” and to the present Green Alternative policy of President Muhammadu Buhari, the media has espoused, enunciated, and keep projecting the agricultural policies of successive governments.
Nigeria is a country most blessed with agricultural resources that, if well harnessed, can conveniently feed the whole Africa, provided much need jobs and earn direly needed foreign exchange for much infrastructural and overall development. The agricultural sector is the largest employer of labour.
With major food and cash crops like rice, beans, cassava, cocoa, yam, cashew nuts, groundnuts, kola nut, sorghum, millet, tomato, soya beans, palm oil, millet, rubber, and so on; not excluding aquaculture; agriculture in Nigeria according to 2011 estimates, provides employment for about 30% of the population.
Over the years, the media has been documenting and projecting Nigeria’s economic potentials, opportunities and attainments vis-à-vis agriculture; locally and internationally.
Regulators, operators and participants across the value chains in agriculture have placed emphasis on information and communication over the decades, from the agriculture information desk at the local government level, is information unit at the state’s ministry of agriculture and directorate of press at the federal ministry of agriculture, the information and communication component is very key in various agricultural initiatives, policy formulation and execution.
Other related agencies of government are not left out. Same for international and multilateral organizations like the World Bank, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and further on.
For example, the World Bank in its popular agricultural programme, FADAMA, recognized and actually identified information and communication component as number one in the five components contained in its operational document.
That the FADAMA project itself has become a very popular household name in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria today, is due to effective and efficient media projection. This bus not lost on the World Bank, going by its project document where it is categorically stated that: “The contribution from both local and International Media generated lot of awareness creation for Fadama III AF Project all over the country and abroad”
The World Bank insists that: “The use of Mass media in the project’s communication strategy is a well-informed decision because they (the media) have monopoly of the airwaves, (airtime and print space), professional competence, clear means of creating window of opportunity for Fadama III project to reach out to more people, and allows people to know how CDD strategy supports communities in the area of agriculture.
To this end, the World Bank through the National FADAMA Coordinating Office, gave approval to State Fadama Coordinating Offices across the country to employ Communication Officers with the aim of meeting project objectives. The activities of communication officers are coordinated by the Communication Unit of the NFCO, and a collaborating Media Consultant.
From the traditional to social media, Fadama has undoubtedly taken agriculture journalism to exalted and enviable level. As at today, agriculture has become a key component of campaigns by all political parties at different levels, especially gubernatorial and presidential aspirants and candidates.
The International Monetary Fund, IMF, in its latest report, World Economic Output, cited “continued growth in agriculture “ as one of the key indicators that “Nigeria’s economic growth would rise by 0.8 per cent in 2017.”
The mass media can actually pride itself as agent of development in Nigeria’s agricultural growth.