A resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and former media chieftain, Mallam Mohammed Haruna, has called on the Nigerian media to extend its focus on accountability beyond politicians and hold responsible every person or group whose decisions and actions affect society.
He disclosed this during a Media Roundtable on “The Accountability Imperative: Why and How to Hold Politicians’ Feet to Fire”, organised by FrontFoot Media Initiative, Lagos, at Bon Hotel, Ikeja GRA, at the weekend.
Haruna said: “We must go beyond Constitutional enunciations for the media to hold government accountable to the public and hold every institution, whose decisions and actions impact people and society, to account for their decisions and actions.”
The event featured many distinguished personalities in media and politics, including a former two-term governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke; Dr Patrick Dele Cole; Mr. Lade Bonuola, a former editor and Managing Director of The Guardian; Mr. Dan Agbese, one of the founders of Newswatch magazine, and Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Others included Dr. (Mrs.) Nwadiuto Iheakanwa, Managing Director of Champion Newspapers, who also represented the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, Vice President (South West) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).
FrontFoot directors, Sully Abu, Emeka Izeze, and Sonala Olumhense hosted the event. Haruna is a Fellow of NPAN, NGE, and African Centre for Democratic Governance. A former managing director of the New Nigerian Newspaper and renowned columnist, he charged journalists to equip themselves with knowledge of three critical rules for reporting political developments in the country.
He submitted: “As the leader in holding not just politicians but all other groups accountable to the people, the media must be guided by knowledge, ethics (integrity, courage, professionalism, impartiality and civility.
“The first step the media must take in holding politicians accountable to the public is to be knowledgeable about politics and everything else it reports. This should start with knowing the rules that guide our politics.”
He listed the three rules that “constitute the most critical elements of the country’s Electoral Legal Framework” as the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the Electoral Act 2022, and the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) Election Regulations and Guidelines 2022.
Other documents to enable proper reporting of the Nigerian electoral race include Manuals for Election Officials, political party constitutions, and case laws, Haruna added.
He disagreed with the widespread view that the Constitution is flawed because the military wrote it and that it is only federal in name but unitary in reality.
He said: “Both claims are false. The military has never written any of our Constitutions, certainly, neither the current 1999 Constitution nor that of 1979; both were written by civilians, mostly elected, with a few nominated. Both drafts were subjected to public hearings in all the nooks and crannies of this country before they were promulgated into law. Yes, the military held a veto over both, but in promulgating each into the country’s supreme law, they hardly changed their substance.
“As for the claim that the Constitution is unitary, in fact, if not in theory, nothing could be further from the truth. This claim has led to the popular fallacy that what Nigeria needs is ‘true federalism’.
“A federation is simply a system of government in which a written constitution distributes power and responsibility between a national government and a number of state or regional governments. No two federations distribute power and responsibility the same way and, because the historical context of each country is different, the distribution that is appropriate for one country may not be appropriate for another.”