Part of the role of the media is to report any issue affecting the society to the masses. At the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, campaign on the potential effect of the diseases was carried out by the Nigeria government at the three different tiers, with many spirited Nigerians carrying out public enlightenment and distributing palliatives to cushion the effect of the Lockdown that was later imposed to check the spread of the virus. This efforts were well reported by various media houses in the country.
The importance of the media in the coverage of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria and its implications among Nigerian populace cannot be overestimated. The media, as the main channel of inform flow to the public from the government and agencies concerned is an issue that everyone should at any point in time hold with higher responsibility, this also applies with the information managers of the government, and world organisations involved in health management.
In Nigeria, the story of the spread of the deadly virus was held with a pinch of salt, especially as many media operators, platforms, and executives tried to play politics, ethnic biase, mangled with religious interest that marred the campaign to quickly check the spread of this virus, as was collectively done in the case of Ebola in 2014.
The fight against the Ebola disease was like military operations, which were highly coordinated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Minister of Health, under the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration. Again, like most good and bad things that enter Nigeria from outside the shores of the country, come from Lagos, as it’s the main hub of commercial activity in Nigeria, and always the main entry point to the country.
During the Ebola era, Nigeria, still with different political interest then, did no show political, religious or ethnic biased from any of the authourities, as all worked and collectively channeled the available resources to curtail the rampaging Ebola, and this was achieved in record time, and the country was envied, and applauded by countries like United States of America, who came to study how Nigeria was able to defeat the virus.
The story of Ebola was a different one, but fast forward to 2020, when the index case of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, hit the shore of Nigeria, the story changed, especially when it was announced that one of the ways to curtail its spread was to cut down public gathering. Different policies were introduced following what the World Health Organisation, WHO, and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, CDC, recommendations. But all these did not go well with the people.
As the virus continued in its spread, fear, empathy, set in. Many saw the disease as a death sentence. It was considered a taboo to be affected by the virus. Thus many cashed on the politics of the diseases, using the media, especially those gullible ones in the states.
The case of such media war, as a result COVID-19 cases was in Delta State, where one of the female cases, Miss Mamus, in the Oil City of Warri, used the media to fight the state government of wrongly labeling her as a positive case, threatening to go to court just to clear her name, and make the state pay for deceiving the public. She became a media delight, as many newsrooms hunted for her opinion at that time.
To worsen the fight against the pandemic, the Chief Executive Officer, of the DAAR Communication, owners of African Independent Television, AIT, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Jnr, after being discharged from one of the treatment centres in Abuja, told the World that he don’t think there is anything like COVID-19, as he was treated with common malarial drugs.
However, one of the biggest undoing’s of the media houses in Nigeria, especially the electronic Medias, is lack of visuals during that early time of the virus in Nigeria, to the late part of 2020. While Nigerians were watching happenings, in the hospitals overseas through cable televisions, the Nigeria case was different, as the newsrooms in Nigeria did not term it right to get the visuals. This heightened the fear of the populace, accusing the government of using the spread of the virus in other parts of the world, to carryout looting of the countries treasury.
Till this moment, Nigerians still find it difficult to believe while there were no visuals as it is shown in other countries. Here in Nigeria, if there is attempt to show victims, their faces will be blurred. To avoid public discriminations.
Someone will say, this had changed, or changing, but will had not seen much change, as the government media departments are not doing enough. Or cases where the Chief Executive Officers of some states are also denying the facts that the virus do exist.
As a friend, and a media executive asked recently, is it possible to have pneumonia during dry conditions in Nigeria? The media need to up their game, help to do more enlightenment, informing Nigerians that the virus is with us. That it’s no false alarm. It has to do more to get those visuals out.
Also, new media owners, have to do more, check what they publish as news. Their actions contributed greatly to the misinformation, and its still contributing. If we continue to deny the fact of the COVID-19 existence, we will continue to undo ourselves, most especially with our poor health care system. Its only good and true situation reports that we can save ourselves and our nation Nigeria.
Already, the war is not over, as there is another new angle, with the coming of the vaccine. Some media outlets, especially the new media had gone out again, with false information backed up by some religious leaders in the country.