Traditionally, the roles of the media in shaping the society are numerous as it ranges from providing information, entertainment for, and educating the populace. These, couple with the agenda- setting function of the media with its surveillance duties has no doubt given it the popular appellation: the watchdog of the society.
From the backdrop of the foregoing, it could be deduced that surely, the media in its entirety is indeed the fourth estate of the realm in view of its importance to all facets of human existence and endeavors.
Examining the roles of the media in exposing corrupt politicians clearly falls under it`s surveillance function, and it may not go without saying that it is a herculean task as the world`s political settings is shrouded in secrecy due to its complex and complicated nature.
The 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria clearly highlighted the role of media which says the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives and directives of state policies and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Nigeria.
But, it has been observed that media can only fulfill these social and constitutional responsibilities in both tangible and intangible ways if given a level playing ground, because the effectiveness of media in acting as forces against corruption in Nigeria is being threatened by factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to the media such as official immunity and secrecy, lack of access to official information, rural obligations to the ethnic community, professional integrity and responsibility, editorial independence, physical threats, harsh economic realities and more.
Unless these challenges are surmounted, media may largely remain stymied in their anti corruption roles and functions and hardly be useful in any efforts to curb anti corruption in the country.
Political corruption usually involves senior public officials and politicians with social and economic, political and bureaucratic powers. Because of the caliber of these people, corruption has become elitist and the seat of government the fulcrum of corruption, which has permeated all aspects of public affairs in Nigerian society.
Reducing corruption in Nigeria, certainly requires intensive and protracted efforts, but one way to make public servants more accountable is through an aggressive and unfettered press, which is empowered to engage in an efficient and proactive journalism that is well rooted in investigation and reporting of incidences of corruption in a professional and ethical manner, since in democracy, citizens hold politicians accountable for their performances and the only avenue where this can be achieved is through the media.
Investigation into corruption in public life in Nigeria began in 1950’s when the first panel of enquiry was set up to look into African Continental Bank (ACB), the charges were that an highly renowned politician abused his office by allowing public funds to be invested in the Bank in which he had an interest. The allegation proved to be a big scandal a Tour De Force “meaning a performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill.” that led to the institution of Justice Strafford Forster Sulton commission of enquiry on July 24, 1956 to investigate the above allegation, the subsequent indictment of the politician in the commission’s report led him to transfer all his rights and interest in the bank to the eastern Nigeria government (Nwankwo, 1999).
Corruption in the country is also rooted in the over 29 years of military rule out of 45 years of her state hood since 1960, and it has also been revealed that corruption has been and continues to be a destructive element in global governance.
The fact remains poverty, threat to live, and undue interference by government, permanent injury and lack of laws to protect media owners and practitioners worldwide are the major obstacles in the fight against corruption.
It has therefore been recommended that training of reporters in investigative journalism, good remuneration are necessities for media to be effective in their fight against corruption, because journalism as at present, serves as the only impediment to corruption if only it can be strengthened to enhance its performance as information a times are often politically manipulated when it is not based on independent and reliable sources.
Barau is a 200 Level, Department of Mass Communication, Taraba State University, Jalingo