The media, rural dwellers and the change mantra
About 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population of more than 170 million people live in poverty-stricken conditions, while many appear to have resigned to fate, a World Bank report stated recently.
The same report also noted that democracy and good governance present opportunities that could be explored by such segment of the population to improve their lot.
According to the report, democracy and good governance can boost economic activities that create employments, possible loans avenues, adequate agriculture inputs and good markets for farm produce.
Nonetheless, the rural poor are not usually benefitting from such developments because they are neither carried along in the planning nor execution of development programmes.
Although analysts consent to the World Bank’s opinion, they observe that the rural segment of the population is hardly aware of any available opportunity and does not know of any national discourse on programmes.
In the light of this, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, recently met with the managements of some media outfits where he spoke of the urgent need to bring the rural populace on board.
He said it was important to involve the rural population in every policy so as to ensure that enlightened opinion is brought to bear on all national discourse, programmes and all activities.
“We must take the change message to the rural man and make him a key participant in the change mantra using the feedback mechanism that will enable those in authority to gauge the impact of their policies.
“Once we can reach the rural dwellers, we would have covered much ground because his ability to understand what we want and key into it will strongly determine to what extent we would have succeeded,’’ he said.
He challenged the media, especially government-owned outfits, to pay special attention to the rural areas in their coverage.
He also advised editors to post their best hands to the rural areas where he opined that reportage was usually more difficult, requiring the expertise of such experienced hands to pull out the rural dwellers.
In the same vein, Mr Monday Goshit, a senior lecturer in the Mass Communication Department of the University of Jos, suggested that the media should continue to reach out to the grassroots.
“The media should endeavour to educate the rural populace on key government focuses and ensure that they contribute their quota towards the success of programmes aimed at a better Nigeria.
“The only time we get a glimpse of the rural areas is when an important person is visiting or during an emergency such as epidemic or violence in the areas.
“No one reports the acute shortage of water or toilet facilities or the pangs of the helpless woman during child birth,’’ he observed.
In her view, Miss Henrietta Ibrahim, the General Manager, Highland FM radio station in Jos, also expressed concern about what she described as neglect of the rural areas by reporters and management of media houses.
“A lot is going on in the rural areas, but no one reports; teachers misuse pupils and would even prefer to drink when they should be teaching.
“The change mantra should capture such attitudes and the only way achieve this is when they are highlighted in media reports to attract the attention of those concerned.
“News has generally been commercialised, but we shall be failing in our duties if we leave out a large segment of the people we should serve,’’ she said.
In his opinion, Alhaji Ibrahim Mammaga, Managing Editor, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said he was not satisfied with the little attention the media gives to rural areas in the country.
“We concentrate on political and sensational issues instead of development issues that will improve the lot of the rural dwellers and the poor.
“Government is looking into steps to diversify the economy; we need to focus on the rural areas where the farming population is concentrated.
“The solid minerals sector is being considered as an option, but how can government be well directed if we ignore the rural areas and the massive opportunities locked in there,’’ he said.
He said NAN was working towards creating more offices in the rural areas with qualified hands to work in such places.
Corroborating Mammaga, Malam Sule Sumbellem, a retired editor of Plateau Radio Television Corporation, said sustaining the reportage of rural areas was imperative if government really wanted to change the general orientation of Nigerians.
“There is massive hopelessness with dangerous apathy where the led, especially those in the rural areas, no longer trust in government.
“To help the change mantra to take root in the rural areas, government must do something quick to address the deteriorating confidence in governance,’’ Sumbellem said.
As government plans and executes development programmes therefore, analysts agree with Mohammed that all segments of the population, especially those in the grassroots should be involved in the scheme of things in governance.