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Opinion

Investigative Journalism And Public Relations At A Crossroad In Nigeria

To enable us to understand the concept of public relations in its simplest form, Dr Cosmos Eze during one of his lectures on Public Relations: Copy and Media, opined that: “doing is very important, but there must be a saying after the doing”. I’m sure the members of my class who attended the lecture can reminisce on the impact of “saying” as far as the practice of public relations is concerned. Although, the practice of public relations in Nigeria and to be precise, the Northern part of the country have been very unstable over the years. This is hinged on the activities of people who are either recruited or self-employed as media ambassadors to Politicians, Business tycoons, the Armed Forces and even the current trend of activist behind keyboards parading themselves on social media.

Their activities fall below professionalism. They fail to beam their torchlight to enable them to decipher the distinguishing thin line between professional practice and what we have today; branded in sycophancy and praise-singing. We had recently been perturbed by the display of quackery by  one of our colleagues when he tried to defend his boss  “The Chairman of CCT.”

Indeed, this is what our Northern elites so desired. In the word of my intellectually decorated lecturer, Muhammad Hashim Suleiman, “what Northern Nigerian elites want is Journalism that’s akin to praise-singing. Journalism that’s better than public relations at whitewashing their self-induced ego.”

Unsurprisingly, anything short of praise-singing is considered as a smear on their personality. It has gotten to a crescendo that even when the professional Journalist tries to make clear what the politicians try to hide from the knowledge of the public, they devise every unwholesome means to tackle them. It is a sad reality.

This is where these broad duo branches of Mass Communication intersect on a crossroad. While the masses will prefer the investigative aspect of Journalism, our elites detest it in their desperation to cover their misdeeds. Their preference is another brand of Journalism better than public relations.

To fully understand the nitty-gritty of investigative journalism, permit me to refer you to my revered lecturer, Usman Jimada. During his mentorship at the University, he made us understand that “When you find, report and present news which other people try to hide, you’re an investigative reporter.”

Investigative journalism is a niche where few Journalist venture into in Nigeria. The simple rationale is the associated cons and pros in the waiting for such dare devil’s that chooses to undertake the extraordinary in their line of duty.

Although, investigative journalism devoid of fake news is hard to come by nowadays due to the vested interests of several actors on the bloc. In some rare cases where journalists dedicate their time and resources to uncover the bad energy in our public office holders, such reports have contributed to sanitising our system and fish out the rotten eggs holding public offices (with skeletons in their cupboard).

To fully understand the achievements garnered in the public space through the instrumentality of investigative journalism, reference must be made to the famous Watergate scandal, which ruined the administration of Richard Nixon of America.

Back home in Nigeria, some of the prominent investigate reports which have trended on the media space in recent times include the Salisu Buhari Toronto Certificate Scandal; Adeosun’s NYSC Certificate Scandal; the Ganduje Dollar scandal and the current imbroglio surrounding the past activities of the current Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isah Ali Ibrahim Pantami. Many others still exist.

The only mess with some investigative reports is the lack of accurate data and details, which forces some journalists, freelancers and renowned Media Houses in their desperation to come up with big stories end up drowning and swimming in the peddling of fake news. The penalty is heavy in the courtroom.

To write further, my ink yearns to provide a list of some renowned journalist who had distinguished themselves in the trade of Public Relations and investigative journalism. 

Notwithstanding, I will try to lay a firm grip on my ink so that egungu will not enter the expressway. Jaffar Jaffar is a bright mind in this endeavour, though.

To avoid the fever and hate associated with investigative reporting, our elites (especially; the political class, celebrities who are hyped on screen and the Businessmen) should always gauge their words, actions, in-actions, and associations. The lens of the Press is handy to sanitise the system and make the people know what happens in the other room.

Let keep a watchdog as we keep a mouthpiece.

This opinion story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author. CAMPUS REPORTER does not bear any responsibility for the contents of this story, all views belong to the author.

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