One of the strongest pillars of democracy is the freedom of the press. A free and impartial press ensures citizens can make informed decisions and hold elected representatives accountable for their actions. But the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of the past seven and a half years has shown the Nigerian press enough shege to last a lifetime.
For example, soldiers invaded the offices of the Daily Trust Newspaper in Abuja and Maiduguri in January 2019. The solders arrested a regional editor and destroyed many devices because the organisation allegedly published sensitive military information. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has also been trigger-happy and fined many media organisations that poked the government.
With the 2023 general elections fast closing in, APC has again put forward a presidential candidate who’s cultivating a cold relationship with the media. Given our wealth of experience regarding the APC’s engagement with the media, we can already predict some things that may happen if Bola Ahmed Tinubu wins in 2023.
Tough times are ahead for the news media
On December 12, 2022, ThisDay newspaper and Arise News TV released a joint statement to call out the actions of two high-ranking APC campaign officials. These officials had repeatedly accused them of bias and called for the dismissal of two employees. They accused the APC of issuing a veiled threat to grant the request and get “reprieve in a future Tinubu presidency”.
It’s almost like they already have plans to oppress and bully media organisations that fail to share the same views as them if they emerge victorious.
Another social media ban
During his campaigns, Buhari put a lot of efforts into convincing Nigerians that he had rebranded himself from a military dictator to a democrat. But all that went inside the dustbin when the federal government banned Twitter operations in Nigeria in June 2021.
Although the APC administration said Buhari ordered the ban to control the spread of hate speech and misinformation, everyone knows this was only partly true. And seeing how Tinubu has been the target of millions of social media jokes, the possibility of another social media ban isn’t far-fetched.
Local media will be further ignored
One thing we’ve learnt about President Buhari is he doesn’t like talking as much as he loves travelling. Tinubu is already following that blueprint and failed to show up for many campaign events not organised by his own team. If he gets away with it and becomes president, you can expect him to not feel accountable to the local media.
Unfortunately, we can’t glimpse into the future to see how the 2023 elections end, so we can only hope and pray the next administration respects the role of the media in enabling a functioning democracy.