The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Thursday in Abuja challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to halt perceived politics of exclusion and embrace politics of inclusion by observing federal character principle in his appointments next term.
The group which threw the challenge to the president when its leadership paid a courtesy visit to him in the State House, advised Buhari to observe federal character principle as provided in the constitution by carrying every part of the country along when he takes the oath of office for a second term in May.
Answering questions from journalists after the meeting, National President of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, said they urged the president to correct some perceived flaws in his first term, emphasising that his reelection offers him another opportunity to right the wrongs of his first term.
According to Isiguzo, the group also tasked the president to stem the tide of insecurity in both the North-east and North-west where insurgency and banditry have continued to threaten security of lives and property.
The NUJ president also said the group enjoined the president to ensure that during his second term, terrorism is not only technically degraded but completely knocked out.
He also disclosed that the delegation demanded from the president freedom of the press for journalists to freely practise their profession without any fear of harassment or molestation in conformity with the principles of democracy.
“Basically, we have come to congratulate the president on his re-election as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and of course, to also make it clear to him that to whom so much is given, much more is also expected from him.
“He’s gone through the first-four years; by May 29, he will be through with that and he’s been given yet another mandate to lead Nigeria for another four years and we also made it clear to him that some of the major challenges that we have had in the past four years, this is an opportunity for him to correct them especially when it comes to the area of inclusiveness, carrying everybody along.
“That is the spirit of federal character principle that is enshrined in our constitution; that he’s got to carry people along, and of course, we talked about the security problem that we have, not just in the North-east, but even the banditry in the North-west – in Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto.
“We raised that issue and of course, we challenged him to ensure that the security architecture is overhauled to be able to effectively tackle these challenges that we have. We commended him for the fact that as we speak now, there is no part of the country that is under the control of insurgents which is good, unlike when he came on board. But we also told him that it is very very important that terrorism is completely stamped out – effectively tackled and not technically degraded.
“We want it to be out of our national life. That was what we told him, and coming to us, we drew his attention to the fact that journalism profession has become more like a challenge to all of us. The problem that we are having every now and then, and of course, freedom of expression, it does appear that it is taking flight and we said if we are indeed a democratic nation, journalists must be given free hands to ply their trade.
“A situation where there is clampdown and harassment doesn’t speak well for Nigeria as a democracy and we told the president that, and when he was responding, he told us that he’s going to improve on what he’s done in the last four years, that there will be a change, a positive change.
“He also appreciated the role that journalists play in a democracy and he said Nigerian journalists are a unique set of professionals which of course, is a good one and that is basically why we are here and it has been a good meeting with Mr. President,” Isiguzo submitted.
In his speech at the meeting, Buhari who described journalists as important pillars of every society, said their professional role does not only shape the opinions of the society but also fosters decision making.
The president who also remarked that he was aware of the hazards journalists face in the discharge of their responsibilities, pledged that security agencies will continue to provide protection for them.
He solicited the support of journalists in curbing the menace of social media, which he said had constituted threats to both the society and journalism profession in view of its unregulated nature.
The president also said he remained committed in the next four years to a safe and secure Nigeria, promising to promote an inclusive and diversified economy and therefore sought the support of journalists in achieving these goals by reporting only the truth.
He said: “I agree that journalists face significant threats in executing their mandates. Please be assured that the security agencies and all instruments will continue to do their very best to protect journalists especially those operating in hostile environments.
“Your profession today is undergoing a fundamental shift. For better or worse, the digital space is now becoming the major outlet for ‘news.’ This space is difficult to regulate and police. In many instances, the participants in this medium are not trained or professional journalists.
“The stories they present are neither factual nor true. However, through the digital platform, they are able to reach millions and create an alternate reality in their minds.
“I am sure you will all agree that the biggest threat to the sustainability and credibility of your profession is the uncontrolled and unregulated news platforms operating in the cyber space.
“This is not only in Nigeria, but across the entire globe. Innocent lives have been lost or destroyed due to this ‘fake news’ phenomenon. Many of the perpetrators of these acts do not even live within our shores. However, they have been able to damage the reputation of hard working Nigerian journalists while at the same time promoting conflict and divisions within our society.
“I therefore seek your cooperation to bring a sustainable end to this menace. As a Government, we are already cooperating with our international friends and allies on this matter. But we cannot do it alone. You also have to do your bit.
“As I look to the next four years, I will remain committed to a safe and secure nation; creating an inclusive and diversified economy; and a governance system that is free of corrupt practices. In all these areas, we will remain transparent in implementing our policies. In return, I seek your support in ensuring that you report the truth. You must not allow yourselves to be influenced by individuals with divisive motives.”