Any meeting of the Guild is always an important national event because of the role which the Press, our very vibrant press has played and continues to play in the overall development of our nation’s democracy. As Editors, members of the Guild play the role of gate-keepers, deciding for good or ill what goes into the media, and what is kept out. Though no Editor is dictatorial or meant to be, but to ensure that there is order and responsibility, those who developed the press over the centuries in their wisdom, invested the Editor with these powers.
There is little need to start rehashing the importance of the media or press in modern democracies. However, it is important to mention that the press in Nigeria, and indeed in many countries influence millions of people daily as most people make it a habit to read a newspaper or listen to newspaper reviews every morning before setting out for the days’ business. And for many people including government officials, the reports contained in newspapers or the editorial opinion of some of the influential newspapers remain at the back of their minds and influence the basis of discussion and debate among government officials.
There is no modern society or government that can neglect the press or can function without a vibrant media. It is for this reason that most government agencies, ministries and departments as well as the Presidency or Office of the Prime Minister have press offices manned by media specialists and communication officers. Also in democracies, we are yet to see a political party that does not employ the services of journalists and media experts nor can any political party or individual seek power or mandate from the people without utilizing the services of media experts and journalists. In fact, it has become the norm, judging from our own 2015 national elections, that committed and knowledgeable media team comprising a seasoned and well-informed journalist under a good leader influences the difference between victory and defeat. This is so because for much of the election period, it is the press that the electorate listens to, and seek out to know the difference between the political parties and form their opinion about which party to vote for.
Thus, the press plays a very important role in all modern states and especially in democracies. And as more and more states strive towards improving popular participation in government, the role of the press can only but expand thereby conferring more influence and responsibility on the Editors and their Guilds or association.
It is instructive and delightful to note that this year’s meeting of the Guild is coming so soon after a major political event in our country and in which the press including the radio and television played a critical role. This was the 2015 elections for which reason all sorts of predictions and doomsday scenarios were bandied about. Thankfully the election has come and gone relatively peacefully and Nigeria for pulling it through is now hailed by the comity of nations as a modern democracy . All Nigerians including politicians are aware of the moderating role played by the press at all levels. I want on behalf of our people to say THANK YOU, for a job well done. Nigerians now have the change of government they desire and for the first time, it was possible for a party in opposition to defeat a party in power following the people’s will!
I would like to state that having played a role in bringing the present change about, the work of the press is not over. The incoming administration would like the press to continue its role of watchmen and women, aggregating the views and positions of the people on national issues and presenting these as lucidly as possible through publication and other channels to the government to guide it in the onerous task of providing good governance for our people.
Nigeria is a huge country and no government can be able to know all that is happening across the length and breadth of the country without assistance of the media which has an impressive national reach.
Welcome once again. I wish you, on behalf of all Nigerians, fruitful deliberations and safe journey as you return to your destinations after what I pray will be a successful Convention.
*Being goodwill message from President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari to the 2015 Biennial Convention of meeting of the Nigerian Guild of Editors on April 25th 2015 in Lagos