Nigerian Press stands firm in adversity more than other times – Dr Ogunyemi

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By Chibuike Nwabuko

Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Head, Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr Tunji Ogunyemi has said that the Nigerian Press has always remained firm in adversity than other times.

This is also as he has stated that during adversity, Nigerians revert to press as the only organ that upholds the truth and pro-masses.

Ogunyemi stated this on Sunday in Abuja at the beginning of a 3-day capacity building workshop with the theme: Freedom of The Press and The Codes of Conduct For Nigerian Journalists And Media Houses organised by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German foundation sponsored by the German government promoting democracy and rule of law.

He recalled how after every mlitaty coup in the past, the first attack would be on the press and the suspension of all aspects of the constitution that deals with the fundamental human rights. Adding that, despite the repressive of the press, the press still found a way to survive if not flourish during such periods.

According to him, some of the repressive measures taken by the military against the press notwithstanding, the press has been able to whether the storm.

Dr Ogunyemi who stated this while chronicling the historical development of the Press in Nigeria, noted that but for the synergy between the press, civil society organisation an the judiciary, the executive and legislatures would have ruined democracy.

Dr Ogunyemi recalled that press is older than Nigeria as it has started in 1846 by early christian missionaries before the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914. He said that Revd Hope Waddell of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Mission built the first printing press in Calabar in 1846 while Revd Henry Townsend of the CMS established the first newspaper in Nigeria called Owe Origin fun Aeon Ara Egba ati Yoruba in 1859 at Abeokuta.

“Iwe Origin was originally publishing issues with the church and local politics as they advocated for abolition of slavery and slave-trade. It was publishing in Yoruba and was confrontational and the local political content was part of what led to the women riots in Nigeria. Due to the riots, the press and their properties were burnt in the process, he said.

Ogunyemi said that press in colonial Nigeria up to the second world war (1863 to 1939) had common features namely, (a) they were all privately owned, (b) passion for self rule rather than the desire for profit drove the founders of the Newspaper (c) the common refrain of the newspapers was the dignity of man for the African persona and (d) most of the newspapers went out of circulation due to lack of capital.

“The debut of Anglo-American Newspaper founded in 1863 by Mr Robert Campbell. (am American immigrant activist resident in Lagos was not confrontational to the British colonial masters and it enjoyed huge patronage from the government through advert placement as a result of that. However it lasted for only six months (June – December 1863).”

He added that all the newspapers in colonial Nigeria were concentrated on western Nigeria for the sole purpose of attacking Iwe Origin.

He however said that the good news is that some of the laws which hamper the freedom of the press has been taken care of in new laws enacted in the 4th republic such as sections 22 of the CFRN 1999; section 39(1&2) of same section 36 and the freedom of Information Act.

“In recent times, the press has become more emboldened in demanding for information in the light of two other legislations which have persuasive authority in Nigeria – (1) Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and (2) article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights.

Sundiata Post recalls that Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, is a German foundation sponsored by the German government promoting democracy, rule of law and a socially and environmentally responsible market economy in more than 120 countries.