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THE BURDEN OF LEADERSHIP & THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PRESS IN NATION BUILDING …. By: Femi Adelegan

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The press is regarded as the Fourth Estate of the Realm that places on it the very heavy responsibility of acting as the watchdogs of the society, or the unofficial fourth arm of government. In exercising this role, the media’s universal responsibilities include: informing, educating and entertaining within the spheres of extant laws and ethics guiding their activities. The press has the responsibility for promoting discourse and setting the agenda in motion. Its role, in modern times also includes functioning as creative counsellors of change in an increasingly interdependent world, enriching the minds of its audience, and inviting the attention of the general public to issues and events, chiefly those that are of common interest. The media also engage in advertising, marketing, public relations, information dissemination and political communication.

These are very important responsibilities. Of paramount importance is the need to protect the rights of the society while also making sure that the government and the governed are guided to exercise their obligations responsibly. Without any doubt, these are very tasking roles that explain why Herman Ziock once submitted that: “Anyone who wishes to devote himself to the press must be able to forgo much. ‘’His life consists of exhausting, grueling work; the comforts of everyday existence are denied him. ‘’It requires a strong dose of idealism to devote oneself completely and wholeheartedly to the journalistic profession. ‘’Only one who is in a position to identify man and deed will be able to make his own way.” The press is a very powerful institution whose actions make or mar any society. Practitioners are conscious of the enormous responsibility bestowed on them by both the constitution and professional ethics. Like all other professionals, media practitioners love power – particularly the power of shaping the image of other people about events, issues, and personalities.

The above is supported by the submission of Obafemi Awolowo that: “Let us make no pretense about it, every human being loves power; power over his fellow men in the state, or in business enterprises; or failing that; power over his wife and children, and over his brothers, sisters, and friends, or, in the case of children, power over his playmates. Of these categories of power, the desire for power over one’s fellow men is the strongest.” Voice of Wisdom (1981)  This is why it is posited every so often that failure of the elite and political classes to lead the society in accordance with global established practices appears to be one of the prominent causes of underdevelopment of Africa. The elite and political classes have been accused of failing to correct the anomaly of the wrong approach in the struggle for state power in the developing world.  The press constitutes part of the elites, and cannot, therefore, reasonably excuse itself from blames arising from perceived failures. The press promotes the public good and argues for the entrenchment of common interest in the administration of the state.

WHAT CONSTITUTES PUBLIC GOOD?: In all societies, the objective of people functioning in representative democracies is the promotion of the public or common good. The media is reckoned with as the ‘’watchdogs’’ of the society that serve as moral checks for the three arms of Government, on behalf of the citizenry. The citizens of any democratic nation are at the core of democracy. The common or public good, therefore, refers to that which serves the interests of the entire populace in a defined territory. Public service goes beyond the welfare of the people – which is the primary purpose of the government – to the provision of important issues such as security and an enabling environment that allows for the realization of the objectives of the government and the governed. The turf of public administration is one that would be extraneous without public service leaders. Over the years, exemplary leaders have contributed immensely to the field of public administration and most importantly, to the society that enjoyed their services.  Public service is the hub upon which the government revolves. It facilitates the implementation of programmes, policies, plans, and actions of the government. More importantly, the public service is the vehicle for service delivery and governance.

INFORMATION MANAGEMENT & FAKE NEWS:  New dimensions have been added to the importance of proactive information management and dissemination in the past few years. With the advancement of technology come negative incidents that must be checked for the common good. For instance, it sounds almost incredible that some criminals would be attempting to manipulate the communication facilities of the World Health Organisation at this critical juncture of world history. The implication of feeding the wrong information into the channels of that organization could be devastating. What about the issue of fake drugs that producers know could easily terminate human lives? Information management is too important to be taken for granted. Has anybody bothered to imagine how a home, society, places of work, and even nations would look like without rulers, regulators of systems, or those who exercise authority making explanations and clarifications? Without any doubt, the resultant chaos is better imagined than felt. It is evident that only irresponsible practitioners manufacture fake drugs and fake news given their volatility. Production of anything fake or sub-standard for human use should ideally attract heinous penalties given the fact that the act is intentionally committed to injure human beings. But because it is today a global malaise, the society needs to look beyond the practitioner to ascertain some other causes like hoarding of information, and inability of sources of news to anticipate and react on time professionally. No matter the reason, feeding wrong information deliberately into channels of communication is morally and professionally indefensible.  There are command structures for information management in all societies, starting with as small as they are, family units.

Management and filtering of information are processes conducted even within a family unit. For instance, not all issues are discussed openly for diverse reasons. Parents exercise gatekeeping functions to be able to bring up their children properly. A lot of activities go on in the background, which must be properly managed in the interest of the society or organization. There are operatives charged with the responsibility of coordinating human activities in practically all spheres of human endeavour. They also exist in business organizations.  The beauty of the arrangement is that these coordinators, leaders, governors, and chief executives are in office to carry out the wishes of the greater majority of people who periodically choose them to represent their interests. These are the people the press stand for to protect their interests. In representative democracies, these coordinators hold offices at the pleasure of the citizenry. And in business organizations, they are appointed or elected by the shareholders/stakeholders to manage the establishment in accordance with laid down regulations to which all stakeholders have agreed to uphold.  Freedom of speech and association are also part of the ingredients of democracy.

For those on the ‘’other side’’ (government) that is always believed to be cooler, image management must not be only glamour. The professional should always be aware that the processing and management of information is a very sensitive and delicate task that commands and demands proper focus, management and handling. A lot of anticipatory steps. A minor slip on the part of an information manager could prove too costly for an organization or even a nation. Think about the possible effect of a slip or minor mistake on the part of the Spokesman to the United Nations Secretary-General, or the Commonwealth Secretary-General or even the United States president. . In a jiffy, the whole world, or at least a part of the world could be impacted negatively by such a terrible development. A World War could even be provoked by such costly error of misinformation fed into communication channels for global consumption. It would be most illuminating to observe the importance of information management to the success of a microscopic or infinitesimal human unit.

THE USE OF POWER – THE MEDIA AS A POTENT FORCE: There is no better example of a democratic society than the United States where citizens are always protecting their rights by appealing to the courts for remedy and the enforcement of their fundamental human rights. Donald John Trump, the 45th and current President of the United States appears to be the most vilified head of government in the world today in spite of the enormous powers he wields as the most powerful personality in the world, as conferred on him by the influence of the United States in global politics. Trump has complained innumerable times about false reports and fake news; like is being witnessed in the developing world. It is reasonable to assume that Dolad Trump occupies the  White House and so reserves to right to determine who is invited or received into the residence of the president. But as powerful as Donald Trump is, he bows to superior forces as exemplified by the Constitution of the United States. Late 2018, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta approached a United States District Court in Washington, where Judge Timothy Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate Acosta’s press credentials that were revoked following an altercation with President Trump at a media briefing. Trump and the CNN reporter briefly argued over the president’s contention that a group of Latin American migrants headed to the southern U.S. border represented an invasion. It is a running battle that will most probably remain so for as long as Trump remains President.

THE WHITE HOUSE; CNN CORRESPONDENT & THE AMERICAN COURT The contention of Trump’s legal team was that: ‘’The president is generally free to open the White House doors to political allies, in the hopes of furthering a particular agenda, and he is equally free to invite in only political foes, in the hopes of convincing them of his position” The president has never hidden his disdain for reporters, arguing that: “No journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House’’. In visible anger, Trump has repeatedly disparaged reporters questioning his actions, and has asserted that reputable ‘’CNN is the purveyor of “fake news.” But CNN reacted and accused Trump of: “unabashed attempt to censor the press” by banning Acosta, who has gained notoriety for his aggressive questioning of the president’’ Trumps uses his Twitter handle in an unrestricted manner to put his own sides of issues across or to contest accusations in the media. The Trump administration abruptly dropped its effort to bar CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House, but warned he could have his credentials pulled again if he doesn’t follow guidelines governing journalists’ behavior.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE RESCUE: — I AM NOT YOUR ENEMY – WE ARE ALL AMERICANS –ACOSTA —  Washington, D.C. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly had cited the due process argument in granting Acosta a two-week injunction to get back to work. The White House initially fought back.  In a letter to Acosta, White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they will be forced to reconsider the decision “if unprofessional behaviour occurs”  But Acosta who was vindicated tweeted that: ‘’We are not the enemy of the people.  “I am not your enemy. ‘’You are not my enemy. ‘’It is wrong to call your fellow Americans the enemy. ”We are all on the same team. ‘’We are all Americans.” The right Acosta exercised is protected by the U.S Constitution on rights to freedom of receiving and imparting information is also protected by the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution.

Most of those actions may not be ‘’acceptable’’ in the developing world. The nearest to this in Nigeria was Tony Momoh’s challenge of the right of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to invite him to disclose his sources of information. Prince Tony Momoh had gone to court under the provision of Order 2 rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 1979, seeking an order to quash the Resolution of the Senate inviting him to disclose the source of a news item contained in the Daily Times edition of Monday the 4th of February, 1980. The article in question had ignited a feeling of outrage among the Senators because it alleged that they were in the habit of parading offices of Permanent Secretaries and Company Directors to look for contracts. In the suit number, E/27/80 filed before a Lagos High Court, Prince Tony Momoh had sought the protection of the Court on the grounds that “the Resolution is an infringement on the Fundamental Rights of the applicant under SECTION 36 SUBSECTION 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, which provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. Erudite scholar, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa was then the Legal Adviser, Daily Times Newspapers. Momoh triumphed and got an Order of the Lagos High Court, restraining the Senate from compelling him to disclose his source of information; as pronounced by Ademola Candido-Johnson ag CJ, Lagos State.  The investigative report wasn’t treated as FAKE NEWS. In the developing world, there are too many ‘’interpretative reporters’’ or ‘’busy bodies’’ outside government who through phone calls as early as 6.00 am make telephone calls to report issues published in good faith. Such ”journalists” crave the attention of rulers and go behind image managers to complain to the authorities about bad press.  They create friction between government and media practitioners. Not all criticisms are done in bad faith. Consider the information directly below that occurred in the United States in 1918.

IT COULD BE TREASONABLE TO SUPPORT A UNITED STATES PRESIDENT! – A CITIZEN’S OPINION — I read with utter consternation a report contained in the Kansas City Star newspaper edition of May 7, 1918, which states expressly a view that it could be treasonable to support a President of the United States! I probed further to know the grounds: “The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore,  it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. ‘’To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.” —Teddy Roosevelt, Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

IMPORTANCE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE: The major objective of seeking power is to govern or control a society or organization   in accordance with established principles, norms and values. Similarly media practitioners must respect the rules of the nation and the profession. President Bill Clinton (2011) of the United States has described the role of government as ‘’giving people the tools and create the conditions to make the most of our lives. ‘’Government should empower us to do things we need or want to do, that we can only do together by pooling our resources and spending them in large, enough amounts to achieve the desired objectives.’’ The positive effects of good governance largely account for why the global community has come to accept this principle as the formula for advancement in all settings where governance (political or corporate) is practiced and adopted as the mode of conducting affairs and businesses. For instance, The World and Asian Banks have recognized “Governance as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. Good governance is synonymous with sound development management.”  To the International Monetary Fund:  “The term governance, as generally used, encompasses all aspects of the way a country is governed, including its economic policies and regulatory framework.  ‘’Those who hold positions of trust are bound by regulations and statutes (written or unwritten) agreed to be owners or stakeholders for the management of an organization or society. It is to be noted that elected and appointed functionaries are accountable to the electorate, and in the case of companies, the regulation must dictate that they are directly responsible or answerable to the stakeholders. (International Monetary Fund)

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP: It is always easier said than done which is one of the reasons why a good critic may fail as a good administrator. But critics are not in power to serve the people.. Good leaders must first become good servants. ‘’The concept servant leadership centres on the word: ‘’servant’’, largely because leaders are entrusted with the task of serving others and should not focus on being served. (Greenleaf, Robert)  President Ronald Reagan once submitted that: “A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets rough.” Therefore, as a leader, you are called to action!  Your job is to get things done’’. According to Martin Luther King, Jr “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve . . .You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. As Rosalyn Carter observed, ‘’A leader takes people where they want to go, but a great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”   Elsewhere, Bill Clinton (2011) described the role of government as ‘’giving people the tools and create the conditions to make the most of our lives. ‘’Government should empower us to do things we need or want to do, that we can only do together by pooling our resources and spending them in large, enough amounts to achieve the desired objectives.’’

LEADERSHIP AS A TRUST: For decades, religion has played huge roles in governance in global politics. A Daily Trust publication of 3rd April, 2015, asserts that: Leadership in Islam is considered as an amanah (a trust) and a responsibility. A leader is required to meet his obligations to God, the Supreme Power as well as to discharge his duties towards the people (Makhluq) or his followers to the best of his abilities.  It says to the rulers that the authority vested in them is not their private property but is a trust and that they should discharge the obligations of that trust to the utmost, like upright and honest people, and should carry on government in consultation with the people. It says to the ruled, ‘’the power to choose your rulers has been bestowed upon you as a gift from God and you should, therefore, be careful to invest only such persons with governing authority as fully deserve it, and after vesting this authority in them, you should give them your fullest cooperation and should not rebel against them, for if you do so, you are merely seeking to demolish that which your own hands have built.’’

Muslims must, therefore, choose their leader according to the guidelines provided in the Qur’an and sunnah. We, therefore, need to ask what the requirements for leadership in Islam are; who qualifies to be leader; how and by whom he is chosen; and what his duties and responsibilities are. Alexander the Great attempted to situate strength within leadership, arguing that no matter the amount or volume of resources available to an institution, society, or nation, they would fail if the leadership is not right. Professor Warren Benise, a notable thinker in the subject matter tried to differentiate leaders from managers thus: “leaders are people who do the right things, while managers are people who do things right. Literature is replete with postulations about leadership.’’  Alex Otti (Thisday Newspaper 2016) submits that leadership is about having a clear and sharp vision and mission, setting a clear direction, and establishing a clear road map that will guide a team, an organisation, a company, or a nation to win and achieve set goals and targets within a defined time frame.”  One of the causes of failure of leaders is pride.’’

CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE: Writing on ‘’The Church & Good Governance’ Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso stated that: ‘’The Bible clearly recognizes the need for authority in the social order. It speaks freely of the authority of priests, kings, parents, and masters. “Give the King thy justice, O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son. “May he defend the cause of the poor people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppression!” (Psalm 72) In other words as Abraham Kuyper has noted, one never meets the authority of God Himself, but this authority appears in the office of human persons who do not desire this authority as power exercised by one group over other persons but exercise it only as representatives. This authority can be found in many areas and in many forms. When Paul talks of “governing authorities” in Romans 13, he is recognizing that all human authority is derived from God and has the nature of “office”, “assignment,” “task”. It has an implicitly limited character. “There is no authority except from God”. Paul further illustrates that this authority must be exercised for the welfare of those subject to it. . . the person in authority is “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:3) In light of this, the state and its authorities exist for the good of the citizenry. Politicians are office-bearers. They are to execute their executive, legislative, judicial, or administrative offices only for the good of the citizenry. This good is public justice. When they conduct themselves in this manner then the state can be said to be exercising good governance.’’

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE OF LEADERSHIP: Leadership failure, according to Amy Rees Anderson in Forbes, an American business magazine, could be prompted by some very pertinent lapses. These include lack of intelligence, inability to accept responsibility and motivate the people, deficiency of trustworthiness, and decision making. Other factors are lack of self-confidence, inability to be assertive, and inflexibility. True leaders listen without being condescending. They are willing to hear what others have to say without rushing to judgment. They are patient and genuine in their desire to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people they lead. True leaders are forthright with their people. They communicate openly and often. True leaders take the time to communicate often to their team in order to show that their team is valued and important to them. They understand that as the leader they have an obligation to communicate directly with their people so they never allow a void that someone with mal-intent can fill. True leaders take on the responsibility of communicating for themselves. It is to be noted that as much as human beings may abhor crises, the reality is that it is impossible to cohabit without crises. Leaders must lead in the overall interest of society. True leaders reprimand their people from a place of love and a genuine desire to help them improve. They reprimand without anger, and they relay feedback in a direct, yet kind and respectful way. Even when they see a bad behavior needing to be corrected, they don’t view the person doing the behavior as a bad person.

CITIZEN-DRIVEN DEMOCRACY: An erudite Nigerian scholar, Prof. Akin Mabogunje has submitted that: ‘’democracy is not just about how representatives are chosen. It is about how the citizens are regarded in the decision-making process – whether they are believed to be individually the equal of those making decisions and have the freedom to accept or reject any decisions made on their behalf or whether they are inferior beings on whom any decisions can be imposed.’’ He continues:  ‘’Accountability of elected representatives to those who elected them at each level of government and not to any other body however highly placed, is thus central to the operations of a democratic system.’’

On their part, the press must behave responsively by cooperating with the government and the governed; and monitor the performance of government with a view to preventing deviation from agreed objectives, while also providing platforms for the governed to react to government policies and activities as permitted by the constitution.

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