Yawning Credibility Gap in Media

President Muhammadu Buhari spoke frankly to Nigeria without frills and embellishment. It took one back memory lane and invoked the images of men like Obalemi Awolowo, Nwafor Orizu, Humphrey Omo-Osagie, Adegoke Adelabu, Aminu Kano, Michael Okpara and Murtala Muhammed in public life. Like personages just mentioned, Buhari did not make empty promises. He was down-to-earth in his answers, shorn of unnecessary diplomacy and padding.

He appeared there like an Israelite in which there is no guile, speaking figuratively. How one would have wished the interviewers were up to the task. Some of them reduced the conference to petty bickering over mundane issues their banks should thrash for them. They could not pursue matters of great magnitude that affect every day life.

We did not trouble about foreign exchange parity in the 1960s to early 1980s in Nigeria because we bought all we desired locally, made by our industries. The Nigeria-Biafra war was fierce and demanding. It led to restrictions broadly in our trading relations with other countries. Nigeria provided for all we wanted from our farms and factories.

Nigeria, between 1960 and 1967, had reached the apex in medium-sized industrialisation in food canning, textile manufacturing and automotive accessory parts production. These are things that should bother us, not foreign exchange to buy pants, toffee and what have you. What happened to those industries? The anchorman was pedestrian and the lady who fired the opening shot was addressing the conference instead of asking questions. It took her four minutes to end a supposed question which Buhari answered satisfactorily in shorter than a minute.

There is a difference between a press conference and interviewing. The one with Buhari was a press conference and it ought to be better done with State House correspondents. There should not be more than a person while interviewing a subject.

When the Daily Times editorial board, which was a strange name to us, started inviting public officers to address senior journalists, Tony Momoh, Tunji Oseni and I hardly attended because such should be left for individual journalists to procure. Besides, I thought it a waste of man hours and also lazy. It is now the vogue to summon a team to interview one personality. My late colleague, the unbeatable Olu Idowu (alias Olu Akaraogun), the moving encyclopaedia, regarded it then as the product of avant-garde journalism that drew its steam from ego.

As a reporter, feature writer and leader writer after Government College, lbadan and University College, Ibadan, he made no pretences because he also learnt, as we would say on Fleet Street, from Nelly. He never was part of that crowd though he got interviews from Commonwealth secretaries, OAU secretary generals, Africans of the highest class and government functionaries of note.

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