Re: Okonjo-Iweala’s TedxEuston Blunder on Waivers

By IndepthAfrica
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Jan 30th, 2014
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By Temisan Jackson

I remember in those days at the Unibadan campus when we were doing out bits in campus journalism and we used to be thrilled by the breed of investigative journalists at Tell, Newswatch, and Punch who then risked their lives and defied the fangs of military dictatorship to provide the nation with news substantiated by hard facts.

Some of us used to dream and fantasise about working in some of these media after our graduation, so we could join the fray of change agents in our society who correct social malaise through the power of the pen.

Needless to say that the landscape of journalism in the country has changed since the entrenchment of democracy, and has even worsened with the recent power tussle between the ruling party and its opposition. It is no more the fair model we were once motivated to join. Excellence and balance seem to have given way to partisanship and unashamed pursuits of hidden agenda.

Judging by recent developments in the country, it is obvious that opposition parties are hell bent on wrestling power away from the ruling party; hence, the stories of defection that greet our eyes by the minute every day. This is further compounded by the disturbing partisanship of a segment of the press that have taken on the role of trumpeting everything evil about the Goodluck Jonathan government, singling out key members of the cabinet for scathing criticism, particularly finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and turning the other way when the government flashes any achievement to the Nigerian public.

Particularly irritating was Punch’s recent spotlight on madam minister for all the wrong reasons, of which the waiver policy of the federal government is still very fresh in mind. Waiver policy is not a strange phenomenon in the Nigerian, or global economy. It is on record that countries like Malaysia and Singapore have used targeted incentives to boost export and improve their economy.

When the waiver report palaver started, the finance ministry published a list of beneficiaries of import waivers in recent years and took great pain to explain why it had to tweak the waiver policy from benefitting few individuals to benefitting whole sectors in the economy. I think that is commendable a policy enough.

But Punch only took to town again with a strong-worded piece that is short of calling Okonjo-Iweala a daft and a corrupt government official. The recent release from Punch, an editorial for that matter, only makes one question the ethos of journalism practice in Nigeria. If a frontline medium like Punch can be so frontal with abandon and could put the weight of its entire editorial board behind a piece which, to the discerning, is only meant to settle scores more than pursue common good, then the Nigerian people should be prepared for a horrible spell even as the 2015 general elections draw nigh. With the number of mudslinging news reports disguised as balanced journalism in our public space, things can only get worse.

Expectedly, whenever any medium publishes a negative report about Mrs Iweala, Saharereporters will go live with it before the clock of the hour. It took some of us some time to realise that Saharareporters and Premium Times have a damaging mission on Okonjo-Iweala with their slant of reportage about her. Thank God for a piece published last year which opened our eyes to the nefarious intent of these compromised media.

Back to the contentious twin editorial of Punch on the waiver issue, I read sometime last week a statement from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) where it expresses appreciation to the federal government and states how the sectoral tweak of the waiver policy has helped the local industries. Not long afterward, the Nigeria Custom Service also issued a statement to deny the reports of Punch, Saharareporters and their ilk on this waiver palaver. Who else can talk authoritatively about the immediate benefits of import waiver than local producers as represented by MAN? Or which body can talk with certainty about the thrust of the waiver policy than the Custom Service?

Yet, Saharareporters, Punch and Premium Times would have us think in the direction of their paymasters. They want to turn us to pawns who feed only on their brand of ill-motivated news reports.

With all these darts coming her way from a segment of the media and their sponsor politicians, madam Ngozi can be said to be living out the horror of her own popular quip that “When you fight corruption, corruption fights you back.”

Our finance minister has not had a day without corruption fighting her back in negative press from the likes of Saharareporters, Premium Times, Punch and other such media. Corruption is fighting back in spurious allegations “from unsubstantiated sources”; corruption is fighting back in the kidnap of her aged mother; corruption is fighting back in uninformed legislators who were eager to dish out 50 questions and then started clamouring for a public hearing when they got more than they bargained for in her response. Indeed, we will still many dirty fights of corruption as we move closer to 2015 election; because, this Okonjo-Iweala who gives so much credibility to the Goodluck Jonathan administration and is a standout performer in the present government, must be blackened and defamed for the opposition to look good to win.

So much for Naija.

Temisan Jackson, a current affair analyst, writes from Warri, Delta State.

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