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Media In Politics: The Tinubu Example

By abiodun KOMOLAFE

“The world is a complex place, and the influence of the media in its representation and its power of communication and interpretation is a remarkable amplifier of emotions, and of illusions.”—Tariq Ramadan. 

The marriage or inclusion of the media in politics is inevitable. The only credible institutional link between the government and the people, other social institutions and the masses is so interwoven with the reality of the society that, when Bola Ahmed Tinubu started his own media outfits, he had already known what he wanted before setting out for it. It’s not just for self but for the sake of legacy. Tinubu never attempted to discourage deferring opinions. Thus, the future 16th president of Nigeria started out with credible and tested personalities in the media business. He harvested a list of the best in the field and was willing to play by the rules, the first of which was ‘there shall be no compromise’, because compromise might end up being the ruination of the entire buildup. Of course, once society recognizes that simple-but-important attribute of compromise, it takes whatever one says with a pinch of salt; and credibility, which is the bone of the entire project, runs out.

Talking about funding, Tinubu realized early in life that media as a project was a long-term investment, not one haphazard approach in structure or texture. In fairness to posterity, he has sufficient money and he was willing to spend it, long-term. Is it any wonder that his media outfits are still out there, ‘gidigba’, like the rock of Gibraltar?

On Research and Development, no matter whose ox is gored, Tinubu’s media outfits are ready to research anything without minding the outcome; and the resources to execute such a project is never in short supply. This explains his media relevance in the scheme of things in the Nigerian society, today, tomorrow and years to come.

As a democrat, Tinubu has never attempted to muscle the opponents out. The facts are out there for all to see. His Editorial Board at The Nation newspaper is perhaps the freest in Nigeria. Whatever sympathy each member of the Board expresses belongs to him or her. In other words, no one can claim that those expressions or desires belong to its promoter.

Tinubu is never afraid of other ideas blossoming; and this is key! As a matter of fact, the ‘Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom’, now our president, enjoys that aspect of human relations. As we know, when one is afraid that other ideas will fly, panic mode sets in. Competitive ideas make Tinubu dig deeper, to look for the best in the industry so as to have the best ideas in a particular area. And, once money can purchase it, and that thing is relevant to his cause, one can rest assured that he will surely have it, unless it’s no longer relevant to him. Irrespective of other sentiments, these attributes are responsible for the solid media establishment that he has. Anyone who wants to emulate him will have to understudy his organizational prowess and management style before venturing into it. Instead of attacking him, or his media team, please understudy the man!

It’s unfortunate that some Nigerians are wasting their time attacking Tinubu, because, even if they succeed at the end of the day – and that’s a big ‘if’- what do they stand to gain? Some people said the Asiwaju of Lagos never went to school. Now, they have changed gear; they are saying his academic records are not straight. If we may ask, whose fault is that? If his records are not straight as they are claiming, why not press charges against the institution that has in any case never said that the president was never one of its students? Anyway, that’s the sad side of a society that is as complex as ours! Obviously, that’s why the opposition’s obsession is on the president.

For a media team to be successful, the outlook must never be parochial, sectional or regional; or show religious inclinations – as in the case of Nigeria. Once these are avoided, the sky’s the limit for such a media team. It is important to note that there’s no Nigerian tribe that has no representation in Tinubu’s media team. If it were to be only a Yoruba project, there would have been serious troubles; and were the Igbos to have dominated it, it would have shown a bend. The Northerners are also represented, but certainly not in a frightening manner. Of course, these are the things to watch out for in a media team so that when the battle kick-starts, it will be on a plain ground.

In the calibration and composition of media content, humanity must never be left out. Granted the media setup must have been directed at a goal, a purpose, yet one cannot rub it off the essence of humanity which is the focus. Even when not in government, Tinubu Media Office was stronger, better funded and more alive to its responsibilities than most of the state governments’ and public-funded media establishments. Have we asked why his media outfits – TVC and others – became targets of attack during #EnSARS?

Over the years, the media has reinvented – and, it’s still reinventing – itself. The backstage era of Babatunde Jose has long taken a detour. Modern times are here. The standard has changed. Professionalism has also increased. But the cost of production has also gone up vis-à-vis poverty and corruption. Likewise, divergence of interests in the Nigerian society has taken its toll on the integrity of the media profile and public space. 

Therefore, understanding the roles of the media in Nigeria must take into recognition the diverse factors earlier mentioned. The fear of the publishers to publish is sometimes regarded as wisdom. In a non-conducive atmosphere, the expected profit margin of the news media is crucial and should weigh-in higher on the decision to publish. If society is no longer appreciative of a publication, why publish?

Expectedly, the media establishment, in whatever form it is, must be ready to come under attacks and criticisms. Of course, that’s why it cannot afford to lose its guard but must remain a veritable warehouse where news is scrutinized. Also, the state and society must never lose confidence in the media; otherwise, society goes to the dogs. Attitudinal disposition of the media operatives must always be in check; and this is not just about money but also the contents and ideas espoused by the individual. Globally, social dynamics is in so much flux that ideology can no longer be easily formulated or tested for validity.

According to Peter Drucker, “leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” The Bola Tinubus of this world have done their best. They have shown that “opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor”.  They have also demonstrated how  “ideas”  could be “great arrows”,  how to get “a bow”; and how  “politics” could be “the bow of idealism.” So, let society collaborate by being active in its civic responsibilities of cross-checking news and validating the same. Absence, inaccurate and/or inadequate dissemination of real facts will surely give room for fake news to blossom, forcing a media team into damage control occupation. That’s what keeps the media on its toes and keeps it from going rogue.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

 •KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ([email protected]; 08098614418 – SMS only)

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