Presidential Appreciation Dinner For The Media
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE PRESIDENTIAL APPRECIATION DINNER FOR THE MEDIA, ON THE 12TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2019
It is a very special pleasure for me to welcome you as your host at this special appreciation dinner for the media. Sometime before, I had always been fascinated by the media and one of my early works as a law lecturer was a book, I co-authored titled “Media Law in Nigeria.”
The book has been out of print for a few years now and I am pleased to announce that it will be back on sale before the end of the year. Please there shall be no free copies as I intend to reap the fruits of my labors.
I am a believer in the freedom of the Press, whether it is the responsible press or irresponsible press. Every morning, I receive a summary of news from most of the newspapers. I also receive trending news on social media from my media assistants. Added to that, is a special pack that contains the latest memes, cartoons or insults from print or social media.
I thought I should share some of them with you this evening. Some are funny, most of them are extremely rude. So, let us start with the debate between Peter Obi and I, (and others) on the “where were controversy”. Just for the record, “why we are where we are.”
It appears that every photograph of me talking with the President must be characterized as though I am saying something mischievous.
So here I am trying to get Peter Obi in trouble, (photo shown on screen)
Me: Boss, we have checked Peter Obi’s record, he is clean
President: Then let us tell the people he was the same Peter that denied Jesus three times!
And here the President and I are trying to deny our promises to the people, (photo shown on screen).
Me: Sir, this is the list of promises we made to Nigerians during the campaign.
President: But this is not my handwriting.
And hear what the President has to say on complaints about power. (photo shown on screen)
Me: Sir, Nigerians are complaining about lack of power. What should I tell them?
President: Go and tell them all power belongs to Jesus. I am just a man, I can’t kill myself!
Finally, just look at me there, (photo shown on screen). That is supposed to be me, dancing right next to the popular musician, Rihanna.
There is the other one, (photo shown on screen), this picture is supposed to be me and my father. Caption says, “Osinbajo denies family ties with man in the photo.” The man there is supposed to be my father, his cap looks like mine, except it is white.
I will not bother you with tweets about RUGA, being a pastor, or Minister in charge of condolence visits!
Media is powerful, social media is perhaps, even more so. My elderly aunt called me in February just before the elections, asking me. “Yemi why did you resign?” I said I did not resign. She said “yes you did, I read it on WhatsApp.” I said, “aunty I didn’t resign”, and she said, “why is it on WhatsApp?” But that just tells you how powerful what people read is.
So, we have a completely wild and unruly social media, but most frustrating I must say, is print and broadcast media sometimes, especially, the deliberate or advertent lack of curiosity about the facts.
I am not sure who said these wise words, but I recommend it to all my friends in the media, “if someone says “it’s raining” and another person says “it’s dry”, it’s not your job to quote them both, your job is to look out of the window and find out which is true.”
So, take the allegation that the President does not have school certificate. Now President says, “I sat for and obtained my WASC in 1961 at the Katsina College.” The examination body then was none other than the Cambridge University, not some unknown obscure university.
I would have thought what any newspaper or TV station would do is the simple investigation required to establish the truth or falsehood of this matter. Some of our TV stations even have their correspondents in England, America, and everywhere. They could have found out if it is true or not, but they did not do that.
So, the matter goes to court. The first time I saw the matter reported on TV, guess wat the TV station carried? In court, the WAEC man was asked if he could identify the signature on the Cambridge University Certificate, he said no. The TV station reported, “WAEC official denies Buhari’s Certificate.” False, completely false.
WAEC official only knows about WAEC certificate, this is a West African School Certificate by Cambridge University. But because nobody bothered to find out or didn’t want to find out, the public believed a lie for so long, even after the President had brought his certificate from Cambridge.
With the ubiquity and anonymity of social media, every day the problems of a free press are becoming more complex and even dangerous.
So, there was a video recently, of an occurrence in India showing some people jumping out of a burning high-rise building. This happened in May in India, but it was represented on social media as Nigerians jumping out of building in South Africa on account of the xenophobic attacks.
I don’t know how many people saw or heard the woman on social media who starting cursing the President and myself, cursing our generations. She said, “I watched one thing on social media, where Nigerians were jumping out of a burning building, if you don’t do something…” This tells us just how fake news or provocative information can cause chaos and civil strife, war or even death.
Again, I thought perhaps someone in the media, maybe radio or TV, would seize the initiative to correct the fake news. It was the BBC that came to the rescue. I think that we as media people, because we are all in the media, on social media, print, TV, must begin to do something serious about fake news before it consumes us all.
On a lighter note, let me note that I will be looking forward to seeing how my remarks this evening will be reported. I intend to compare the number of headlines, some proclaiming “OSINBAJO BLASTS MEDIA PRACTITIONERS”, or perhaps some will say, “OSINBAJO VOWS IMPROVED ENGAGEMENT WITH THE MEDIA” or “OSINBAJO SOLICITS GREATER SUPPORT FROM THE MEDIA”, or on social media, some might say “Osinbajo says no xenophobic attack in South Africa.” Anything is possible!
I will leave you to decide which one is a more accurate rendering of our engagement this evening.
I want to say how thankful I am, for all the help and support we get every day from the press, and to say for good or for ill, at all times, whether you report nicely or not so nicely, we will always be friends and partners.