Announcements cannot be enough to confer legitimacy on political actors. What that leads to is confusion and anarchy, and the result can distort the media’s responsibility to the public.
The job of politicians is to play politics, but the job of the media is to accurately interpret the politics in the most factual manner – sidestepping spin, uncovering untruths and then applying logic to aspire to the highest possible standards of fairness, objectivity and balance.
It is not always easy. But sometimes it is. One example was when five legislators in the Rivers House of Assembly made the obviously ludicrous move to impeach and then remove the popular and elected governor of that state, Rotimi Amaechi. A move that predictably led to chaos and the eventual shutdown of that Assembly.
While those series of events were on, and even when it appeared that Governor Amaechi, at least based the history of state versus federal fights, was going to lose the politics of the day, it should have been easy for editors to arrive at a guiding compass in the midst of the confusion: according to the country’s operative constitution, it takes two-thirds of the members of a legislature to remove an elected official. That had not been done in Rivers.
Therefore, it was simple for us to ignore any temptation to refer to the impostor as ‘factional Speaker’ of the Rivers Assembly. Still many went ahead to legitimize the illegal group as a ‘faction’.
According to the law, and according to the facts there has always been and still is only one Speaker of the Rivers Assembly.
This guiding principle – some have called it simple math – should direct media reporting and characterization of the present crisis in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
On Saturday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, along with seven sitting governors, walked away from the party’s national convention, made remarks to the press, and declared both a faction of the party and a new chairman named Kawu Baraje.
Fair enough, except for the statement of a ‘faction’ – more to the point, the description of Bamanga Tukur as a ‘factional chairman’. The idea of factions lend themselves to subjectivity – as neither the internal PDP constitution nor any known Nigerian laws recognises them.
Factions become a fact by their very nature, and by their significance. Legitimacy largely come from the media, and then from popular opinion. Taking the measure of this particular smart political move, 7 governors in a party of several hundred thousand automatically de-legitimise the recognised party and chairman,
There is neither enough in terms of numbers, in terms of geographical spread or combined strength of its principal players to suggest any such.. Finally, a party is only so when recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission, which states in Section 78 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended that “Any political association that complies with the provisions of theConstitution and this Act for the purposes of registration shall be registered as a political party. Provided however, that such application for registration as a political party shall be duly submitted to the Commission not later than 6 months before a general election.”
Announcements cannot be enough to confer legitimacy on political actors. What that leads to is confusion and anarchy, and the result can distort the media’s responsibility to the public. There have to be objective parameters, even if those parameters are applied on case by case basis.
It is the job of politicians to play politics – but it is the job of the media to save the public from mis-information. The irascible Tukur is not my favourite politician, but just as with Rivers, so it is with the PDP. Informed reporting cannot justifiably refer to a random splinter as a legitimate faction of a party which is guided by both internal and external laws.
The Atiku group is a – perhaps justifiably – legitimate group of popular and democratically inclined personalities who constitute a power bloc that may or may not become a legal entity in the coming days. But there is only one party, and there is only one chairman.
The decision by a group of discontent party members to declare a division should not make it. The strength and influence of this group moving forward would give us an opportunity for differentiation. But not yet. If the populace is confused, that is understandable. But should expect more from self-respecting media.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.