Nigeria Won’t Have Democracy Without The Press — Fayemi


Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has praised the press for its role in the struggle that ended military rule.

Fayemi was the keynote speaker at the presentation on Monday of the book, ‘Testimony to Courage: Essays in Honour of Dapo Olorunyomi.’ He noted that radical and progressive journalism in the face of dictatorship had paid off after many tribulations.

The special guests of honour were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, represented by the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, represented by the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Management), Nigerian Communications Commission, Mr Sunday Dare; and founder, Spectrum Broadcasting Company, Senator Chris Anyanwu.

The publisher/Chief Executive Officer of the Daily Trust Newspapers, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, was the chairman on the occasion, while the book was reviewed by a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu.

Fayemi said, “Many will recall that starting from that cover story in the African Concord magazine, anchored by Dapo Olorunyomi himself, entitled, ‘Has Babangida given up?’ radical journalism entered a new speed of direct confrontation with military autocracy that could only have ended in defeat on one side.

“Armed with the pen — and I must add, aided by the restructuring of associational connections, commitments and loyalties and across social and cultural divides — which included labour, local and international civil society organisations, media intellectuals of the 1990s also became democratic activists, using the press to end military rule in order to push Nigeria into democratic rule.

“Those who thought the popular axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword was a mere metaphor knew better when Abacha’s autocracy collapsed in 1998 and the succeeding military regime hurriedly handed over power to a democratically-elected government.”

Fayemi stated that Nigerians still had a country to call theirs, which he said was in no small measure due to the efforts of the hard-working and self-sacrificing men and women of the Nigerian press, including Olorunyomi.

He added, “We cannot account for the assets and liabilities of the Nigerian media in relation to elections and democracy in the current era without accounting for how the independent press played a central role in ensuring we have democratic rule and competitive elections in the first instance.

“We can say, in the Nigerian context, ‘No press, no democracy.’ We will mean this not only in the globally-acknowledged fact that there can be no true democracy without an independent press, but also in the specific reality of Nigeria that without the important work and sacrifices by the pro-democracy press, Nigeria could not have had democratic rule today.

Others present were the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu; a former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; a former governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola; lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana; literary icon, Odia Ofeimun; Senator representing Ondo-North, Prof. Ajayi Borrofice; and Senator representing Anambra-South, Ifeanyi Ubah.