Campus journalists in Nigeria: the faults in their stars (1)
By Isaac Adeonipekun Omole
When the blockbuster American movie, “The Fault in Our Stars”, hit the box office, I fell in love with the trailer version. I just wanted to see the movie.
Eventually, I saw the movie, and of a truth, I loved the movie. I see almost all kinds of movies. At the same time, I watch movies from different climes and entertainment industries- Hollywood, Nollywood, Ghollygold, Bollywood, South African Movies, Kenyan Movies, Mexican Movies and Telenovelas, Brazillian Movies and Telenovelas etc.
The Movie, “The Fault in Our Stars”, is one which has a very relevant theme. The story/movie revolves around two persons, a male that has health issues and a female that has health issues too. The male wants to live life to the fullest, knowing fully well that he has just a little time to spend. The female wants to see a particular author, one she has always admired. In the end, they ensure that even with their impediments, they achieve what they set out to achieve.
The Nigerian Campus Journalism sphere is one which has stood the test of time. Let’s be sincere with each other, Campus journalists are the “Soul of the masses” in their various campuses. What exactly is the fault(s) in their stars? Campus Journalists, in current times, are not given the freedom to operate freely. Choosing to inform, educate, entertain and liberate using information is the fault in their stars.
That they choose not only to be students, but to also be “Campus Journalists” is a fault in their stars, I guess. Meanwhile, let’s be truthful to each other. Campus Journalists in some Nigerian Campuses are seen as “never-do-wells” and “busybodies” by the managements. Little wonder, in the northern Nigerian Campus Journosphere, Campus Journalists cannot operate freely. Their news and reports are being censored. They are mandated to carry certain news (information/reports), and they are barred from carrying some. The strange aspect is, it is a sin for them to even give out information as regards certain sensitive/negative reports to the media. Giving them out is tantamount to the loss of studentship or more like “the giving-out of studentship(s)”.
A friend of mine, Abdulsallam Mahmud, who I fondly call “Baba Mahmud”, at one point in time analysed the situation of things in the north. In his analysis, he talks about how campus journalism in the north is nothing to write home about. It should be noted that it is not all campuses in the north that do not support the activities of Campus Journalists, or a thriving campus journalism body.
Baba Mahmud quips,
“The level of apprehension and paranoia amongst students of mass communication at several tertiary institutions in the North is unimaginable.
Let me share an experience with you. About three or so weeks ago, bandits stormed a students’ off-campus lodge at FUTMINNA, and wrecked havoc: carting away students’ laptops, cash and other valuable personal effects. When I got wind of the bloody incident, I reached out to a student-reporter of a FUTMINNA whatsapp campus news group. With the assistance of the student-reporter, I got the necessary info to enable me file in the story for publication in The Nation newspaper, CAMPUSLIFE.
Eventually, when the story was published with the caption ‘Three injured as robbers invade students’ hostel’ on a CAMPUSLIFE page (precisely on August 2, 2018), I chatted up the Editor-in-Chief of the FUTMINNA whatsapp news outlet, asking him to extend my appreciation to the student who had assisted me with vital information about the robbery attack. But to my utter dismay and chagrin, he worriedly asked me: ‘Hope you didn’t attach his name, together with yours, as a by-line, ba?’
For about 30 minutes thereafter that we chatted, he maintained his firm stance that putting his (the student-reporter who furnished me with vital info) name may spell disaster for his academic pursuit. But what kept on disturbing my mind was why, and how, could an ordinary robbery attack that is factually and objectively reported, fetch an expulsion or suspension for a student?
The sheer fact is that doom is the fate awaiting campus journalism here in the North. And if that happens, Northern universities should just fold up or cancel mass communication as an academic programme they offer, because they will end up churning out every category of persons, but not potential journalists. May God Forbid!”
Baba Mahmud has said it all. Campus Journalism in the north is nothing to write home about. Only some schools in the north central can boldly assert that they allow for campus journalism to thrive.
In the south, we also have university managements that have placed “gags” on Campus journalism and have resorted to the persecution of Campus Journalists. They have ensured that they reduce the provisions of sections 22 and 37 CFRN to nothing; they have failed to allow the law have its way and take proper course.
A recent case of the Persecution of Campus Journalists is the rustication of ICIR’s ‘KunleAdebajo by the management of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s acclaimed premier university. Being premier means that you should be the first in things, positive things I guess. As for Unibadan, she has chosen to be known for “negatives”.
I sincerely do hope that our Dear ‘KunleAdebajo is reinstated soon. Law school resumes in November, and it wouldn’t make any real sense if he is delayed from going to Law school, delayed for writing a wonderful piece. I only know that the deepest/hottest part of hell will be reserved for the wicked. It is sheer evil, and maybe wickedness, for a university to rusticate a student-reporter, for two semesters, for writing a feature story; hence, causing a delay to his Law school resumption/procession.
In certain private universities in the south-west, students cannot write objectively. The managements/authorities of these universities control all activities. They are like “Big Brother”. I remember the book, “1984”, by George Orwell. The situations illustrated in the book can be likened to how university’ managements in Nigeria operate. Schools like Crawford University and the likes censor the news churned out by campus journalists. There are certain news that cannot be published.
Even in some South-southern Nigerian universities, campus journalists do not have press freedom. They can’t do their work freely and optimally. The management(s) dictates what they write and publish.
The Nigerian campus journosphere is one which needs encouragement. The authorities of universities should please allow for campus journalists to do their jobs perfectly. I just hope that Nigerian universities can be a veritable training ground for potential journalists.
Isaac Adeonipekun Omole, a Fresh graduate of Law from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, is the outgoing President of the National Association of Nigerian Campus Editors. You can reach him via his email address, email@example.com, or call him on +2348094414533