The Media around the world is considered the mouthpiece of the people. A last hope for the common man. It is not just the fourth Estate of the realm but a place, medium where justice is championed and protected. Nigeria Media houses, practitioners since its inception in the 1860s had remained a great platform where oppressions and every form of injustice are called to order.
Nigeria is proud of its Media because in most cases, it exposes the ills in the society and bring to justice alleged inhuman treatment in every corner of the society. Nigeria Media in the pre – independence might not be the industry where heavy pays were guaranteed but the glamour, attention and self fulfilment of practictioners were enough encouragement. More importantly, it was not a common practise to owe their staff the meagre stipends they were promised.
Because of the low pay, it was not uncommon to hear of ‘brown envelope’ syndrome. This was a device to ensure ‘man must not die’. It was a self help strategy to gather enough financial muscle which allowed practitioners to meet up with the challenges at home front and without. This strategy eventually began to show in the quality of news coverage, reportage among other issues. Standards were compromised and objectivity overlooked. Audience who can pay for the news dictated the tune of the write ups, news coverage etc.
1980s and 90s brought a lot of changes to Nigeria journalism. It was a hard time for journalists to do their jobs effectively. No thank to various decrees which limited performance. Yet Media Personnel forged ahead with courage. But one evil that showed up was the issue of salaries and arrears of staff’s prompt payment. Many were owed several months despite the harsh environment in which they practised. Since then things have not changed for better.
According to a recent ‘revelation’ by Peter Adeyemi, Nigeria Labour Congress, Lagos State Council Leader, many Media houses are owing their staff several months of their hard earned wages. According to Peter Adeyemi, THISDAY owes its staff 9 months salary, African Independent Television owes 17 months, Daily Independent -9 months, Tell magazine- 8months, National Mirror and NewsWatch -7 months, The New/PM News -9 months, Daily Champion- 18 months, Hallmarks- 8months and Daily Times- 6months.
While we must sympathise with many of these Media houses because as we all know, the advert fortune of many are going down due to diversion of ads revenue to other sources like online media. It is on record also there are others which are not owing. What is the magic here? We think it is all about priority. We also note strongly Nigeria general election just ended and as casual observers we know that that period was the height of ‘in gathering of funds’.
Besides, one is tempted to ask if the staff of these Media houses have families or responsibilities? If yes what have they being ‘eating and how are they surviving? If they have carried on without complaining or speak out, can we say they have been living on stipends from friends and family members or are they engaging in ‘professional sharp practices?’
Searchlight should be channelled to the Media house owners as well as practitioners in these so called channels. In sane environment, especially where workers collect their salaries after two weeks of service delivery, no employer will dare such. Two days after pay period and no pay, the employers will be in an ‘uncomfortable situation as reports would have been made to appropriate authority. No employer will even try such. Because of the justice system, one notices many people drive themselves around instead of hiring staff they will have issues to pay as at when due.
But here, the reverse seems to be the case. People owes salaries with sense of ‘finesse’ and no shame. Employers will let you know if you go, many will be glad to take up your position as soon as you leave the door. What a society. In a recent write ups in one of the national dailies, a writer equated the dilemma with ‘Mobutu strategy’. What a waste? Now if Media houses are owing their staff without paying for so long and none of the journalists within such media houses said nothing until a labour leader had to speak out, one is quick to ask where is the moral justification of these concerned(journalists) individuals of having a headline about State Governors owing their staff? We do not condone this act in anyway though.
Why is no one talking? What have they been eating when they were not paid for such a long time? Will it be right to say they have all depended on ‘brown envelopes’ and other forms of cutting corners? Yes, we know many will be quick to tell us they do have other sources of income which we can agreed. But will it be right to justify some of the ostentatious lifestyles some of them live on with cars and decent accommodation in some highbrow places. We know that this is generally apply to all. In Nigeria, the only solution, answer to these questions is the common saying ‘we serve a mysterious God who supplies our needs’.
An adage says ‘he that will come to justice must come with a clean hand’. The media cannot be said to be hope of the oporessed when the centre of oppression is domiciled in their abode. The affected Media houses need to first remove the log of woods in their own eyes before they can actually remove the sticks in the others. Justice, equity examples must be set before they pick on government and other entities.