By Isaac Asabor
Status Conferral Function in Mass Communication is the significance or importance that the mass media deservedly or undeservedly confers on a person, group of people, or event. Simply put, when a Journalist or rather the press consistently gives anyone positive media mention on regular basis, there is no denying the fact that such person will in no time become popular. This is the advantage which Nigerians, particularly the politicians, have since the emergence of journalism in Nigeria been leveraging on, especially when they have the ambition to contest for a political position or get political appointment at any given political dispensation.
“Status conferral” is the notion that press coverage singles out and confers importance upon the person or group covered. If status conferral occurs, it has serious implications for traditional conceptions of how the press should function in a democracy. For the sake of clarity, the function is a term created by Lazarsfeld and Merton when explaining the functions and the power that mass media has in our society.
The status-conferral function of the media is the idea that being reported on by the mass media gives a movement, situation, or person a certain status. Getting mass media attention, especially from highly respected news outlets, gives the public the impression that this person or event is important and deserving of consideration. This function, Lazarsfeld and Merton argue, elicits organized social action because mass media has legitimized the person or event by giving it its support.
If not for the conferral status which Femi Fani-Kayode has over the years been enjoying, even when he does not deserve it, how many Nigerians, except those that are close to him, would have known that he was born in Lagos on 16th October 1960, and to Chief Remilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode and Chief (Mrs) Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode in Lagos state?
If not for the conferral status that has for the umpteenth time being bestowed on him, how many Nigerians would have known that he is an Ife of Yoruba ethnic stock, and that his great-grandfather, The Reverend Emmanuel Adedapo Kayode, attended the famous Anglican Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone and got his Master of Arts Degree (Durham) in the 1880s’ after which he went into Christian ministry and was ordained as a minister of the Anglican Church?
If not for Nigerian Journalists, how many Nigerians would have known that the Reverend Kayode is credited with bringing Christianity to Ile-Ife and together with colleagues, helped the spread to other parts of south-western Nigeria where he served as a pastor?
If not for the conferral status opportunity given to FFK, as he is popularly called, how many Nigerians would have known that he is a lawyer, evangelical Christian, essayist and poet? To my view, the media mention and exposure given to him by the media no doubt opened the doors for him to be appointed as Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to former President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. Thereafter, FFK was appointed Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006, and thereafter he was deployed to the Aviation ministry. He was appointed director of media and publicity at the Jonathan/Sambo presidential campaign organization. Does he think if Nigerian Journalists do not blow his trumpet that he would have being visible enough to be seen and given appointment?
Personally, if other Journalists in Nigeria share my mindset, all that is over from today, after the show of shame where he unashamedly acted as the protagonist in Calabar. After all, there is a figurative expression that says, “People who use other people as stepping stones will one day lose their balance”. To my personal view, he has lost the balance except in situations where he would be negatively mentioned in the press.
Trust commentators on social media platforms. Some of them are already blaming the Journalist for asking the wrong question. For God sake, does the question he asked warrant the former minister to fly off the handle?
For the benefit of those who don’t know the dynamics of journalism, asking questions is a way of life for journalists. To spark interesting story ideas, question need to be asked. To get a good story, question need to be asked. There is no rule of the thumb about asking question. He did not ask the former minister whether he is stupid. He simply asked a question. The minister could have said “No comment” to the question, and it is not a crime to respond in that manner. It would have being more respectful for his person than the way he did. Journalists ask questions; explore the world around them in search of answers. Journalists are ‘idea generators’ and therefore, asking questions helps boost creative and critical thinking.
At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “What was the question asked by Eyo Charles, the Daily Post Correspondent in Calabar who the former minister was angry with?”
Thank God the Journalist has spoken. He said, “The question was sir, you said you have gone round six or seven states to inspect projects undertaken by those governors, and now you are here in Cross River state, rounding off your one-week visit to Governor Ayade. Who is bankrolling you?”
The foregoing question was what Charles asked that the former minister instantly became angry, and flared up as the now trending video about the ugly incident depicted.
He was reported to have responded to the question: “What type of stupid question is that? What type of stupid question is that? Bankrolling who? Do you know who you are talking to?” Mr. Fani-Kayode said angrily to the reporter.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, in the video, turned and looked at Governor Ayade’s spokesperson, Mr Ita, who sat close to him. He said he was not going to take any more questions from Mr. Charles.
“What type of insulting question is that? Which bankroll? To do what? Who can give me money for anything? Who do you think you are talking to? Bankroll what? Go and report yourself to your publisher.”
The governor’s spokesperson, Mr Ita, stood up and tried to pacify the former minister. “Sorry sir,” Mr Ita said to him. But it appeared he was too angry to listen.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that,” Mr. Fani-Kayode kept yelling at the reporter who was still standing and apologizing — “I am sorry, sir.”
“Don’t judge me by your own standards,” the former minister kept saying.
“I have been in politics since 1990. I am not one of those politicians that you think will just come…. I was taken; I have been locked up how many times by the government. I have been prosecuted, unlike most of these politicians you follow for brown envelopes!
“Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend, I don’t take and I am not a poor man, I have never being and will never be.”