Perhaps I'm exagerrating slightly, but the figures jumped out at me. More than anything, it illustrates the mistrust with which the Nigerian government is viewed. One only has to look at the Bellview 210 plane crash in late October when the government said the plane had crashed in Kishi in Oyo state. It transpired that the crash site was actually in Lissa in Ogun state, more than 200km off the mark. The government then shut down AIT (which found the crash site), claiming a breach of broadcasting codes of conduct.
I blogged about my experiences in Egypt, where some of the journalistic practices were somewhat iffy. A fair bit of the news in Nigeria is still government propaganda: today the minister of health opened a clinic (should he be opening grenade factories?), the governor's wife visited a motherless babies home (at least she isn't selling drugs á la Maryam Babangida), or get this, today was the commissioner's sister's granddaughter's christening. This is the claptrap that passes for news.
At university we had a Chevening Scholar from Nigeria who was researching the role of the media in ethnic conflict. He gave an example of a typical domestic dispute in a place like Ajegunle. A man takes the chicken of his neighbour, they fight, and as sometimes happens, someone dies. The next day, the headline will apparently read: MUSLIM KILLS CHRISTIAN IN CHICKEN FIGHT, or vice versa. Quite how the story goes from a simple chicken acquisition to the return of the Crusades, we will never know.
However there is some good journalism happening in Nigeria right now, but not on a grand enough scale. Many of the EFCC investigations have been aided by investigative reporters trawling through the political underworld for potential dirt. In some unexplainable way, I've also been fascinated by some of the tabloid journalism. The Sun does a wonderful job of mimicking Rupert Murdoch's red top scandal sheets, the Sun and the Screws of the World. My mother's neighbours even featured once, after some man-leaves-wife-for-other-woman-then-goes-back-to-wife-then-other-woman-pours-acid-on-man, or was it wife? I'm no defender of tabloids, but I have to admit that they do their human interest stories well. Nothing riles a man like some injustice amplified by a tabloid.
The Nigerian government should be ashamed at the figures, and should take steps to rebuild public trust. The Nigerian media should also realise the amount of power it has, and wield the pen with brutal abandon (you could argue that given the rubbish writing, they already do that, although more reckless than brutal). They should lop off the heads of the kleptocracy, instigate mass but constructive hysteria, offer no succour to citizens involved in any dodgy dealing. Attack, attack, attack. Yeah, and also, act responsibly-ish.