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Quest For Enduring Democracy in Nigeria

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Quest For Enduring Democracy in Nigeria
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By Ehidiamen Isibor

The term “Democracy” is derived from two Greek words “demo” (people) and “kratos” (rule). Meaning, democracy is a form of Government where everybody has the right to take up representative role in positions of authority in a society. This form of government is preferable globally because of the advantages that are inherent in it which includes: decent standard of living, housing, healthcare, education, equality of persons, freedom of expression and other fundamental rights associated with the concept.

The beginning of democracy in Nigeria can be traced to the early years of independent Nigeria, particularly, the first republic. Even though Nigeria acquired Republican status in 1963, the first republic in Nigeria began on the 1st of October, 1960 and came to an end on the 15th of January, 1966.

Before the commencement of the first republic, structures had been put in place in the course of the late 1950s which ensured that Nigeria adopted the “Westminster” model of parliamentary democracy. Elections were held in December 1959 which ushered in the first republic in which the NPC and NCNC formed a coalition which led to the emergence of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as governor general and later on, as President. From the second year of Nigeria’s independence, there was massive instability and unrest that lasted till the 13th of January 1966 when a military coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu toppled and overthrew the democratically elected government and thus, ending the first republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria was sitting on thin ice, characterized by religious divisions and polarized by governing coalitions that drew their power either from the Christian south of the Muslim north; it was a matter of time that a civil war ripped the country apart from 1967 until 1970. Then, in the ensuing years, civil war turned into failed government after failed government. A few privileged took advantage of the situation, Nigeria was country rich for exploit, with oil profits to pad many pockets. However, such corruption fueled many coups and led to even more unrest. As a result, Nigeria was far from democratic for the first four decades of its existence. Not many thought that the vicious cycle could ever end until October 1979 when Democracy was, once again, restored, thus, announcing the second republic.

The general elections held in August 1979 were won by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) consequent upon which Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the president. Soon enough, corruption allegations were in constant increase against the government and thus producing tension and unrest in the country until finally the democratically elected government was again overthrown by a military coup which ensured that Major General Muhammadu Buhari became the military leader in on the 31st of December, 1983.

The third republic which was fraught with some bit of drama, was aborted prematurely. The elections which held on the 12th of June, 1993 was won by Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, known as MKO Abiola. However, Democracy was not allowed to have its way as Ibrahim Babangida, the then incumbent military leader annulled the elections, hence aborting the Third Republic.

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Democracy took a completely different turn in Nigeria from 1999 till date. After the death of the military dictator, General Sani Abacha in 1998, General Abdusalami Abubakar who took over governance from him is known to have worked out Nigeria’s return to Democracy or Democratic rule. The election that was conducted in April 1999 ensured that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won as a result of which former military leader, Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May 1999. Obasanjo also won the April 13th, 2003 elections and ruled for another term as provided by the constitution. In the 21st, April 2007 elections, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the People’s Democratic Party was elected and sworn in. However, things took a little bit of a different turn when Yar’Adua died on the 5th of May 2010 and Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in, in his place. Jonathan completed Yar’Adua’s term and also won the 16th of April 2011 elections with 22,495187 votes. Powers, however, changed hands in Nigeria’s Democratic rule in the 28, March 2015 elections which when the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the elections and thus, former military leader, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in.

In the annals of democratic evolution in Nigeria, June 12 has been a recurring decimal in the debate on how best to remember the struggle which led to the return of democracy on May 29, 1999 and the roles played by the democracy icons and activists, the most prominent being the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)

June 12 1993 is believed to be a watershed in Nigeria’s history. Some leaders, which came to power after the botched June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, popularly known as MKO, had tried to wish away that date, but the date has survived political suppression over the years. The June 12 presidential poll was adjudged the freest and the fairest in the history of elections in the country.

However, 25 years later, precisely June 8, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari took a bold step by proposing to recognise June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day as against the May 29 date that had been celebrated since 1999.

Following Buhari’s pronouncement, the Senate, on May 16, 2019, passed the Public Holiday Act Amendment Bill to recognise June 12 as the new Democracy Day. This enactment is symbolic and instructive.

The June 12 struggle started in 1993 immediately after the presidential poll won by MKO was annulled by the Gen Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta. The annulment of the election immediately precipitated political crisis, which was driven by mass protests organised and coordinated by the pro-democracy activists whose goals were to end military dictatorship and to ensure a thorough democratisation of the polity and all aspects of the national life.

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MKO Abiola, who was the flag bearer for Social Democratic Party, had defeated Bashir Tofar, who was the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention, to the chagrin of some vested interest in and out of government. The result of the election was annulled by the military junta and the battle to actualise the mandate kicked off but not without its attendant human carnage and wanton destruction of property.

Tried as they could, democrats and political activists, who led mass revolt struggles to reverse the annulment during the brief Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan between August and November 1993, did not succeed. The late dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, who eased out Shonekan and inherited the June 12 campaign sustained the junta’s resolve not to reverse the annulment.

The Abacha five-year junta, was the high point of the struggle as some activists, including the symbol of the June 12 struggle, MKO Abiola, ended up being imprisoned , while others were either assassinated or forced to go on exile through what was then known as the ‘NADECO Route’.

Abacha’s regime ended abruptly in 1998 due to the dictator’s controversial and sudden death which paved the way for AbdulSalam Abubakar who handed over power to Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.

After 20 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, Muhammadu Buhari takes oath of office for a second four-year term as president of Nigeria following his victory as flag bearer of the All Peoples Congress (APC) over Atiku Abubarka of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February, 23rd 2919 presidential election. 

However, beyond the celebration, we need to reflect on some factors bedeviling the evolution of true and enduring democracy in Nigeria. Some of these factors include but not limited to high level of corruption, poverty, decay infrastructure, unemployment, insecurity and other irregularities.

ELECTORAL UNPIRES AND ELECTIONS:

Elections allow the participation of citizens to choose among contestants in various political parties for political offices. Nigeria elections are conducted by the Electoral Commission that lacks institutional and administrative autonomy as fund is being released by the Federal Government. This led to the power Ibrahim Babangida had to annul June 12 presidential election in 1993. However, since 1999, the Independent National Electoral Commission cannot be said to be independent due to weak institutionalisation, and political interference.

Since 1999, INEC is composed by/with the Federal Government appointment. This makes manipulation very easy by the Presidency and makes their removal possible base on flimsy excuses which was what happened to Humphrey Nwosu in 1993 following the Babangida’s decision to annul June 12 election but was contrary to the commission’s position.  This makes the capability of the electoral body so constrain. Since the Federal Government appoints those persons at their will, it further makes the commission filled with people without professional competence to lead the body. Maurice Iwu, the former Chairman of INEC who was removed by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in April 2010 after irregularities in 2007 election had no professional experience in electoral management.

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Also, most ad hoc staff use by INEC yearly are often trained a day about what conducting election entails and after failed electoral processes, the body blames the temporary workers instead of accepting their irregularities. Over the years, INEC has failed to organise an election that every Nigerians will applaud its credibility. The INEC has been able to hold five consecutive elections without military intervention in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The results of 1999 presidential election which brought Olusegun Obasanjo over Olu Falae where the former had 62.78% over the later who had 37.22% were challenged and even local and international observers including the Transition Monitoring Group, the International Republican Institute and the EU attested to the incredibility. Notwithstanding, Abubakar handed over to Obasanjo.

 POLITICS AND CORRUPTION:

Since 1998/1999, there had been men who always want to have their personal interests met through briefcases and they disappear from their constituents and constituency after elections. True, democracy has been buried in the last 20 years of democratic governance as there was/is no difference between the PDP, APC and every other political parties. The players of the game prioritise their survival and aim of remaining relevant when things are not going fine. A typical example is Olusegun Obasanjo; an emergency activist whose recent love is open letters to government in power. Meanwhile, the statesman had forgotten that he had all he could to perfect change as a military ruler and again, as a civilian president. Despite, countless number of political parties in the country, only two or three of the parties are dominating the political atmosphere. In fact, with several parties merging together every year and it is becoming clearer to the people that Nigeria is heading towards a two-party system; the rulling party and a strong opposition.

NATIONAL INSECURITY:

The level of insurgence in Nigeria over the years is disheartening despite the huge budgetary amount on security yearly. Nigeria has become a country with kidnapping and terrorism as norms. While the militants continue to burst oil pipes and kidnap in the south east, the Boko Haram have become owners of various territory in the northern part and the herdsmen continue to butcher farmers in every part of the nation. While parents of Chibok Girls are still mourning, Dapchi Girls menace follows.  All these have become disaster and pose major difficulties to democratic governance.

WEAK POLITICAL WILL

Since 1999, hardly we find the government implementing the recommendations of probe panel. It is puzzling that public funds be spent on probe panel whose recommendations will not be put into implementation.  Even with all conditions for enduring democracy are met if the government of the day lacks the much needed political muscle to muzzle evil and bad political practices militating against good governance and democracy, the country will continue to falter and perpetuate in democracy remedial as a relapsing giant. This is not my prayer for Nigeria. 

FEATURES

The World is Burning; We Need  Renewables Revolution

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By António Guterres

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

Nero was famously accused of fiddling while Rome burned. Today, some leaders are doing worse. They are throwing fuel on the fire. Literally. As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels – pouring billions of dollars more into coal, oil and gas that are driving our deepening climate emergency.

Meanwhile, all the climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unlivable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet. Our world faces climate chaos. New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional. Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. We can see the damage that we are doing to the planet and our societies. It is in the news every day, and no one is immune.

Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy is the answer – to limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves, once again, at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. But the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field. Investors are still backing fossil fuels, and governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas – some $11 million every minute.

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There is a word for favouring short-term relief over long-term well-being. Addiction. We are still addicted to fossil fuels. For the health of our societies and planet, we need to quit. Now. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

…we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

To that end, I have called on the G20 governments to dismantle the coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. I have urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy. And I have proposed a five-point plan to boost renewable energy round the world.

First, we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

In 2020, the world installed five gigawatts of battery storage. We need 600 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030. Clearly, we need a global coalition to get there. Shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting the deployment of such technologies and materials, just as we need them most.

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Third, we must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects. We need to fast-track approvals and put in more efforts to modernise electricity grids. In the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, and 10 years in the United States. In the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects need 22 permits from eight different ministries.

Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.

And fifth, we need to triple investments in renewables. This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

We need more urgency from all global leaders. We are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5°C limit that science tells us is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts. To keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century. But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade. That spells catastrophe.

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The answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential. So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency. But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition.

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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OPINION

The Cost of Living Crisis has a Global Toll

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By Garba Shehu

Last week,  thousands marched in the streets of London to protest the soaring cost of living in Britain and demand the government do more. The story was the same in Italy, in Israel, in Australia, in Germany – where workers are on strike, demanding the government ‘Stop the Inflation Monster’.

Nigeria is no exception.

As the horrors of Covid-19 started to recede, our globally connected world has been hit with a new pandemic: the cost-of-living crisis. The price of staples such as cooking oil and maize flour is rising sharply at a time of heightened global demand and increased shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; the effects of drought and flooding; and the sky-high costs of fuel and energy.

Inflation is surging in countries around the world, from the United States, where the US Central Bank is determined to bring prices down but warns that goal ‘depends on factors we don’t control’; to India, where inflation is having a disastrous effect on the tiny budgets of families already on the breadline as they seek to recover from the economic effects of Covid as well as the recent record-breaking heatwave.

India, producer of a third of the world’s wheat supplies, has had to block exports in the face of domestic food shortages.

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Australia has seen rising fuel, energy and food prices after recent floods ruined crops and the price of fertilizer rose 120% since 2020. A bleak winter is on the horizon for them as power prices soar and increase inflationary pressure.

In the Philippines, workers can no longer afford the fuel to get to work and steep food prices mean many are going hungry.

In the United States, businesses and consumers tell the same stories – pandemic-related supply shortages, rising gas prices and soaring demand have collided with the impact of the war on Ukraine and weather-related issues to create a real crisis for the ordinary man.

The pain suffered by people here today is not local to Nigeria, it is a pain suffered by all people across the world whether their governments are left or right, democracies like ours or dictatorships, whether they are the world’s richest economy or one of the poorest. Citizens of the world are struggling today to pay for the bare essentials as we rebound from the humanitarian and economic devastation of the pandemic.

This global systems failure is hard for the average man, or woman, in the street to grasp. As they struggle to feed their children, put fuel in their car, keep their businesses solvent and their hopes and dreams on track, it is easy to look to local government leaders as the cause of their pain and anger and seek to blame them for the current situation.

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However, just as no country was immune to the coronavirus, in the 21st century, no country is immune to this new global cost-of-living pandemic.

Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism, as the world came together to defeat Covid, so we will come together to forge a way out of the current crisis, through cooperation with our close neighbours, with the Commonwealth and the newly strengthened allegiances with our traditional western allies and international partners.

But resolution also depends on strong actions at home: Nigeria’s ambitious infrastructure developments will help set the country on strong foundations for sustainable and equitable growth. We have faced international criticism in recent years for our focus on boosting domestic manufacturing and production. Yet today, all countries are thinking again about the importance of their energy and food independence and security.

Nigerian initiatives to protect our farmers against unfair competition from subsidized imports have boosted our rice production to the point where imports are near zero. And more is still to be achieved. We still struggle against the protectionist policies of blocs such as the European Union which undermine Africa’s self-sufficiency – but the EU, as they close the door on Putin’s Russian gas, will need to step up and end their hypocrisy on green energy policy. Africa’s abundant energy resources offer a clear solution: with UK and EU investment, our planned 4,000 km pipeline will bring Nigerian gas to Europe.

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Here at home, we have recently voted through a bill that will allow state governments to generate and transmit their own electricity. We are also decentralizing the national grid through renewable driven mini-grids.

Despite calls from the IMF and World Bank to remove the fuel subsidy, Nigeria has resisted a move that would double the price for citizens overnight with untenable human consequences. Instead, a focus in boosting our refinery capacity will ramp up in the next 24 months as new companies come on board.

These upticks in domestic food and fuel production will both help diminish the threat of inflation, and our transport infrastructure developments in road and rail will alleviate many of the difficulties of food distribution.

The coming months will be hard – for the world not just Nigeria – as the cost-of-living crisis exacts a global toll.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

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OPINION

The Birthplace of Disunity

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By Richard Ikiebe

The genesis of organised politics in Nigeria is steeped in and the direct result of press agitation. At every stage in the evolution of the Nigerian state, the role of the media has been prominent. Very early in organised politics in Nigeria, newspapers took the front row positions of influence. Erudite media historian, Alfred Omu, tells us that the publisher of the Weekly Record, Thomas Jackson and Herbert Macaulay, publisher of Lagos News were the initiators and promoters of the first and most prominent political party – the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP).

The Clifford Constitution of 1922 enabled organised electoral politics; as a result, the NNDP was formed, and two new newspapers, the Nigerian Spectator and the Nigerian Advocate emerged, purposely as what Omu called, “electioneering newspapers”.

Today, after 100 years since the nation’s very first stroppy experiment with elective democracy in 1922, it would not be entirely correct to say nothing much has changed.

We have gone from tolerable experimentation to something far worse: we now have a firmly established pseudo-democratic political culture (the “neither bird nor fish” type), most of it curated through the media by the selfish political elite.

No doubt, the press led in the fight against the British Colonial Government for independence. But as Omu tells us, quite early in the political history of Nigeria, newspapers became “outlets for electoral policies and propaganda”. The Lagos Daily News, for example, became Macaulay’s “stormy mouthpiece”, and for the better part of 25 years, the NNDP and its leader, Macaulay, almost singularly dominated the Nigerian press and political scenes.

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Politicians succeeded in stealthily dragging the media with them into ethno-partisan politics to fight real or imagined political opponents became apparent in the mid-1940s. Later, after the nation’s long romance with militarism, a shadowy political elite also prodded the media to revolt against the military rule; they did it as if with one voice for the return of the country to democracy.

In 1906, Lagos (which became a Colony of Britain in 1861), and Oil River Protectorate with headquarters in Calabar, were joined to become the Southern Protectorate. Eight years later in 1914, the patched work merged the contiguous British colonial Northern and Southern Protectorates – on paper. Thus, Nigeria is a geopolitical construct of the British by fiat through amalgamation in name only.

Professor James Coleman, in his 1958 book on the background to Nigeria’s nationalism stated that the nation was birthed from “Three separate, independent, and uncoordinated forces”. Ever since, the nation has behaved more like cobbled patches of ethnic nationalities, and barely the image of one united nation. As such, forces that fostered geo-political cleavages that would define Nigeria’s political structural contentions should not have surprised anyone; the surprise is that the entities have remained somewhat together, a perpetually unresolved problem.

The press in politics:

The decade between the 1920s and 1940s marked a significant era in the history of the media in Nigeria. Several momentous political occurrences in the period defined the character of the Nigerian media and the nature of her politics, in the period leading to independence. A decade and a half earlier, media power had gradually begun to shift from the old and established elite – descendants of freed slaves – to the emerging young, indigenous, educated elite. What the new leaders lacked by way of experience, said Omu, they made up for in their unbridled zeal and adept use of the press to insistently demand for self-rule. The media of this period began to have a stronger influence on public discourse. Its influence and confidence grew beyond a small circle of the urban elite to include a growing number of ordinary literate Nigerians; it was the beginning of what could have been a populist press.

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It was during this period that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his newspaper, the West African Pilot, arrived from the United States of America by the way of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) to set a new tone for the press and politics, redefining both. Chief Bola Ige in his political masterpiece said that Azikiwe and the West African Pilot infused the Nigerian press with an American brand of journalism, with vibrancy and colour in style, urgency in tone and assertive language, along with new production techniques.

In Prof. Alfred Omu’s impressive industry study of the early Nigerian press, which spans the first six decades, he called Nigeria’s early press a political press that played a crucial role in “cultural nationalism and in resistance to imperialism”. According to him, this early press “Attracted many people of intellectual competence and quality”, and it “Provided the most distinguished intellectual forum in Nigerian history”. They “Laid a good foundation for the new epoch of nationalism”. Sadly, their brand of promoted nationalism quickly derailed; it benefited the emerging Nigerian nation-state. Their specialty was the promotion of ethnic or regional nationalism, for which the press was a veritable tool.

In the immediate post-independent Nigeria (leading to 1966), true professionalism seemed to have vanished from most newsrooms of press organisations. The few that remained steadfast were torn between serving their ethnic groups or regions and serving the larger nascent nation-state. They were also torn between intersectional conflicts of allegiance: loyalty to the profession or to ethnic politicians who owned and used the press as stepping-stones to national political relevance and prominence.

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According to Dayo Sobowale, the majority “promoted inter-ethnic hatred as well as inter-ethnic distrust and acrimony that eventually led to the collapse of the first republic” And Dare concurs, noting that through crude and overzealous partisanship, journalists transformed opponents of ruling parties into dissidents. Outside the commonly acknowledged but limiting role of the press in agitating for independence, the problem that the press may have contributed in the more fundamental manner to the forging of a dysfunctional post-colonial identity and character that modern Nigerian state currently has.

Dr. Ikiebe, who is the Chairman of the Board of Businessday, is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Pan-Atlantic University, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos.

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