Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Oyo State Press Week

It is my immense pleasure to be here at the Oyo State’s 2020 Press Week with the theme ‘Journalists and the Development of Underdevelopment in Nigeria.’ As I have been made to understand, this is a gathering of journalists from the five geopolitical zones of Oyo State, and leaders from the six southwestern states. I welcome you all to Oyo State and extend to you the traditional hospitality of our people.

The theme you have chosen for this year’s engagement is quite timely. Global events in the year 2020 have further exposed the need for development in the underdeveloped world. When the COVID-19 pandemic was first identified as a worldwide threat, public commentators were worried about the impact the pandemic would have on African nations. Our poor healthcare and sanitation systems seemed to point to higher levels of devastation than in the developed world.

So far, a combination of factors has minimised the overall medical impact of the pandemic on our continent. We have had fewer reported deaths than in other parts of the world. However, we could not dodge the economic consequences, which is partly why Nigeria is facing another recession in the third quarter of 2020.

The economic effects of the pandemic can also be partially blamed for the level of looting and banditry that followed the End SARS protests about a month ago. People everywhere were hungry and angry.

I believe some of you journalists here covered those events and can tell the stories first hand. If there is one thing you took away from that event, it is that no one is really safe if Nigeria continues to travel the current path. Therefore, everyone has a role to play in bringing about development in our country.

Of course, no one expects journalists to build roads, hospitals or provide other infrastructure that is the primary responsibility of government. But that does not mean you do not have a role to play.

We all know that information is a weapon. The meaning of the saying, the pen is mightier than the sword is not lost on us. So, you journalists, can use your pen – or keypads as is more applicable these days – to either develop the nation or destroy it. One wrongly worded headline can spark a burn down the entire nation.

You may feel that you can retract a story, but news stories are like oil. You can attempt to wipe the spill but you may never get it all back.

So, yes, you owe the population a duty to inform them of happenings around them. And you certainly have your role to play as the fourth estate of the realm. The press is the watchdog of society, and so when you see something, you are expected to say something. However, you must discharge your duties with every sense of responsibility. 

As a learned Apostle in the holy book puts it: “All things are lawful, but not all things are advantageous.”

So, as you go about your deliberations this week, I am sure you will be examining how to achieve the needed balance for national development. You will also look into how best to communicate development goals to a widely illiterate population.  You must also talk to yourselves about fake news and how you can guard against yellow journalism.

Once again, I welcome you all to Oyo State. And I hereby declare the Oyo State 2020 Press Week Open.

~Governor Seyi Makinde, November 30, 2020

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