The MacArthur Foundation led other Nigerian Civil Society Organizations to acknowledge the impact of an anti-corruption radio program,“Public Conscience” on the government and citizens, as well as called for radio to be prioritized in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
The Deputy Director MacArthur Foundation, Africa office, Dayo Olaide led the commendations on Wednesday during the program produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG in Abuja.
According to Olaide, funding of the program by the MacArthur Foundation has added significant value to the fight against corruption in Nigeria, adding that PUBLIC CONSCIENCE afforded citizens the opportunity to be informed and also get feedback that can inform communication with the different agencies responsible for driving anti-corruption fight in Nigeria.
He noted that the use of media in the fight against corruption was key because more Nigerians can be reached through the radio at the same time.
“The radio is able to reach millions of people; it enables the fight against corruption. Nothing can be more empowering than the type of work PRIMORG is doing and I think it is really rewarding to say that a lot of Nigerians whether they are professionals or not are able to call into radio town hall meetings, talk during Vox pop.”
He said the Foundation placed so much trust on investigative journalism in the fight against corruption because of the critical role of the media and their responsibility to act as a watchdog.
“Corruption takes place in the darkness and in the middle of the night, so you need a strong, enabled, investigative journalism practice to be able to expose and remove the veil of corruption.
“That is what is motivating our involvement, that we are trying to get media organizations to begin to focus more on investigative journalism in order to provide information that the public out there needs to get involved,” Olaide said.
Earlier, the Executive Director, PRIMORG, Okhiria Agbonsuremi disclosed that PUBLIC CONSCIENCE was created to prick the conscience of citizens and make the government take necessary democratic actions against corruption and also to reawaken citizens’ consciences through radio across many states of the country.
“We have been able to get at least fifteen states cutting across the five geo-political zones in Nigeria with the exemption of the Northeast and we have created content that reaches over 10 million listeners weekly through the syndication of Public Conscience in many radio stations across Nigeria.”
Agbonsuremi while thanking MacArthur Foundation for funding the program, however, noted that despite PRIMORG’s success story so far, the organization is not satisfied due to the government’s lackluster attitude to the issues of corruption.
“We have been successful, but we have not been satisfied because corruption resides in top government circles and it is a big challenge and it boils down to the root of the problem; that is, government continuous neglect to take action when corruption cases are reported,” He lamented.
On his part, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Abuja Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche said PRIMORG has been incredible for the past two years and drawn the needed government attention.
He noted that “I remember the yellow Fever and Lassa Fever cases, government agencies made frantic efforts to tackle those two diseases and I think the action was taken to remedy that effort. So, I am fully persuaded that radio has added value to the issue of transparency and accountability in public affairs,” Ogbeche said.
While, the Chairman, Pegi Residents Association, Taiwo Aderibigbe revealed that PUBLIC CONSCIENCE has been impactful to the dwellers of the community, stressing that the program helped to educate the residents of Pegi community and other dwellers of the Federal Capital Territory against sharp practices and extortion of unmetered customers by some staff of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
“I must confess that in the last two years, the service provided by AEDC improved after PRIMORG’s radio town hall meeting and follow up. The town hall was adjudged as the most successful because the feedback from residents is that over 80% of Pegi community are now metered. And the sharp practices by the unscrupulous staff of AEDC all have now been taken care of,” Aderibigbe averred.
Asked how much a radio program like PUBLIC CONSCIENCE can go in pushing anti-corruption campaign and advocacy forward, the Deputy Director at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “People should know enough to hold the government to account, but unfortunately it looks like the war against corruption is not being owned because of perception and people think that such as what you are doing at PRIMORG is not important but it is because it is one of those programs that people can easily get to hear and get information.”
Similarly, the Lead Director, Center for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, while laying his mind bare on how much Nigeria needs programs like PUBLIC CONSCIENCE said: “There are quite a number of programs but whatever success that must be made must be a product of some form of people coming together, attacking the challenges from all sides, and after some time people and definitely the program has made some progress in terms of bringing this disputes to the front line of national discourse but change does not happen in a day.”
Other stakeholders who also spoke on the impact of PUBLIC CONSCIENCE and media general in the fight against corruption poured out encomium and eulogies on PRIMORG on their efforts in bringing the program to Nigerians on the radio in the last two years; they had these to say:
Olugbenga Adanikin, the Senior Investigative Reporter at International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), said: “The partnership with PRIMORG in the last two years has been impactful. I remember the story on birth registration under the National Population Commission and long before now, some Nigerian women because of poverty are not used to requesting a birth certificate even when they are told to pay a certain amount of money meanwhile birth registration should be free.
“After the story, we even visited National Hospital to do post-investigation and found out birth registration is now free of charge. So, this type of partnership should be sustained,” Adanikin said.
The Convener, Say No campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu stated that PRIMORG started a new vista for the anti-corruption program in the media with PUBLIC CONSCIENCE.
“What we have before PRIMORG was one drags people around but this one is shifting the needle and that’s the value addition that we’ve gotten from the program, any form of activism, programming, content that does not shift the needle from one point to another is noise, so I want to congratulate PRIMORG, you have brought a new vista in terms of bringing to public consciousness to the issues on how to navigate around the bottlenecks the public servant has put in the way of citizens to access service delivery.
“So, it’s exciting to have a radio program that is touch lighting, pointing out, correcting, and educating, so for me, PRIMORG has actually exceeded my expectation within these two years.”
Senior Program Officer, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AfricMIL), Godwin Onyeacholem had these to say: “I’m seriously encouraged by your radio advocacy and it has helped a lot, we would really like that you continue in the line that you have taken, radioactivity is important, the programs are important, you need to keep talking about corruption because there is no way we can totally eradicate corruption.
“The only way we can do that is to continue doing what people like PRIMORG are doing, you know it is by pushing the matter out on the radio, advocating that people key into corruption strategies like whistleblowing and things like that.”
While, the Country Director, Accountability Lab Nigeria, Friday Odeh, said: “I must really commend PRIMORG’s effort, it’s been an exciting journey, and look forward to continuing this journey.
“I think we share the same goal for building accountability in the Nigeria system with and one of the things we’ve seen in this process is amplifying the discussion with integrity through our Integrity Icon projects and through your projects as well, with this being said, we are very appreciative that amplifying this work we have been able to cover more grounds.
“We are very happy to see this happen, we have covered most particularly the six geo-political zones with the program PRIMORG has been running through the nation and that’s one impact,” Odeh said.