A former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has raised the alarm that the nation is sliding towards imperial presidency under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
He urged the media to save the nation from drifting from democracy.
He also asked the Nigerian press to avoid partisanship as the countdown to the 2015 elections approaches.
He said the hijacking and distortion of news reports by powerful interests have turned the media into a commodity with a price tag.
He said the media, as a monument or symbol of Nigerian democracy, is at risk because of a weakening foundation at this critical period in the nation’s life.
Tinubu bared his mind on the state of the nation in some remarks presented during the N850millon fund-raising dinner for Editors’ Plaza at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja on Thursday.
The remarks were presented by the Chief of Staff to the former Governor, Mr.Sunday Dare.
He said: “The character flaws and the political footworks of our present leaders are similar to the jackbooted-back steps past leaders took when we suffered dictatorial leadership.
“The approaching sounds of the drum of ethnic tension are now heard, religion has become a tool of hate-thy-neighbour politics.
“An imperial yet parochial presidency arrogates to itself the powers of national assembly and the courts. Meanwhile, it withholds funds from state and local governments in order to bring them under heel and to quash political dissent and opposition.
“As long as it persists in this effort to use the enormous resources and powers of the federal government to intimidate or impoverish those who are not in their camp, the federal government has wedded to the path of arbitrary rule and an over-concentration of power. These bear the marks of dictatorship and they imperil the sanctity of the Nigerian national project.
“The people need to understand that a great change is underway, but not the change they want. Instead, of wobbling slowly forward, the government is taking us steadily backward.
“We move not towards the future, but towards the past. The people are being feted on a false feast of true lies.”
He urged the Guild of Editors to save the nation by being in the vanguard of building a new Nigeria.
He added: “To save Nigeria, we need a whistle blower or a courageous town crier to alert and wake us. In this vein, the media remains the one vital institution upon which we depend to play the role of watchdog.
“You, as an institution, must hold the political system under your gaze and hold those who operate it accountable to the people. The Guild of Editors should be in the vanguard to build a new Nigeria.
“As an organization for journalists who have achieved the exalted position of Editor at their various publications or media organizations, the Guild possesses the calibre of people that can lead other journalists in the right direction towards crisp investigative and reporting and political analysis.
“If you maintain your integrity and that of your publication, if you show the way by example, if you remain objective, open and uncompromising, you will show the path for the media, the political class and others to follow.”
Tinubu questioned the purported non-partisan role of the Federal Government.
He said: “ However, recent events bring into question the purported non-partisan stance of the organization when one considers how many editors have turned their publications over to select interest groups.
“Servicing interests at variance with the sacred oath made to the public to disseminate factual and comprehensive news and information is not the way of professionalism. The hijacking and distortion of news reports by powerful interests have turned the media into a commodity with a price tag. It has made a mockery of the very notion of non- partisanship to which the media subscribes.
“Editors and newspapers that willingly turn over their pages or wittingly publish misleading and false stories that serve narrow interests or spike the more accurate reports dealing with an alternative viewpoint have lost their way.
“They may be making money, but they choke democracy just to curry favour and gain a few pieces of silver. The only partisanship allowed of the media is neutral partisanship that stands on the side of truth”.
The APC leader set agenda for the media on 2015 elections by asking them to be objective and balanced.
He said: “Today, that monument is at risk because of a weakening foundation. We approach a sober moment in the nation’s history. Next year, elections will be held and they will pit the incumbent conservative elite against a band of reformers.
“If things go as they are, many of you will meekly report what the government suggests. Or you will report at the superficial level regarding the various personalities and interest groups that comprise both camps.
“However, a few of you will get to the core issue: That the two sides have vastly different visions for the nation. We are engaged in a ideological battle for the soul and future of the nation. Yet, you report as if such a struggle does not exist.
“Those of you who say this battle does not exist are simply being disingenuous, lazy or cynical. The contrast is there, but you must have the intellectual courage to report it. That is your job.
“Once you have done so, the people will be amply informed and they will make the choice according to their collective wisdom. Let us try to rescue this democracy by giving the people a chance to exercise that collective wisdom by giving them your best journalistic product at this time.
“If you do less than this, you fail your national mission. If Nigeria fails, if democracy falters, your profession is again endangered. Why risk a return to a time when being principled journalists made you an enemy of the state and placed your life and limb at risk?
“As editors, you hold the key to change our society. The media has a role in upholding the rule of law, justice and fairness for all. Let us build this democracy together. Then, the edifice you launch today will stand the test of time.
“The storm of change is blowing. There is change in the air. I urge you to be part of that change.”