That Vanguard Story On ICPC: An Appeal To Reason And Objective Journalism

By Adenekan Shogunle, fsi

I read with stupefied horror, the VANGUARD Newspaper diatribe on ICPC dated 13th April, 2024. Indeed, it was an un-missable, bold print, front page headlining stuff.

The authors and editor were calculative and deliberate. They wanted to grab public attention. Alas, for the very wrong reasons. How are the mighty fallen!!!

I have heard it said that certain media outfits often float sensational stories to attract and boost sales. I never reckoned that VANGUARD Newspaper would be counted amongst the lowest of the low.

At its founding in 1984 by Mr. Sam Amuka Pemu (a renowned, veteran journalist and columnist of the “Sad Sam Fame” who also co-founded PUNCH Newspaper), to drive it’s vision and mission, the VANGUARD adopted the motto “TOWARDS A BETTER LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE”.

In what was assumed to be a subtle dig at the monocled vision of the then First Lady, Dr Maryam Babangida’s BETTER LIFE FOR RURAL WOMEN program, Nigerians received The VANGUARD with open arms.

Unfortunately, it now seems that The VANGUARD is slowly departing from the vision of its founders by joining the ranks of media trolls who see journalism as a meal ticket only. 

In the days of Sam Amuka Pemu and other giants of the profession in Nigeria, investigative journalism was a service and served to entertain, enlighten and educate the populace. Journalism also served to mould public opinion,  mobilise and enlist public support of higher social values and goals. In this way, the practice and practitioners of journalism earned respect and renown as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. The grossly inaccurate and misleading VANGUARD Newspaper story on ICPC is a great disservice to the legacy of VANGUARD and the treasured memory of its founders.

By every standard, ‘truth”, “accuracy” and “objectivity” are cornerstones of the ethics of journalism. Journalists are always encouraged to maintain a degree of detachment from the regions, political or socio -cultural groups or  ideologies they are associated with, in order to minimize potential biases in their reporting. 

Phrases deployed in the story line and jaded labels showed this was a hatchet job designed to undermine the ICPC, belittle its leadership and write off its principled efforts at unearthing corruption from its roots.

For a balanced report, VANGUARD could and should have availed itself the benefit of well documented records on the ICPC website and other public records on the philosophy, objectives,  modus operandi and expected outcomes of the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group Program, (CEPTG). It is clear that this was neither designed nor designated as a criminal investigation. If it had been, it would not have achieved the declared objectives. But for prudent and tactical management of human and material resources at the disposal of the ICPC, the sheer logistics of such an enterprise across 774 LGAs could have overwhelmed any other organization. 

The CEPTG has more than met and surpassed its expected outcomes. Public attention has been drawn to the rot in the budget process. Masses have been mobilized to demand for value for money and insist on accountability from their elected and other public office representatives. Contractors have been forced to return to sites and services delivered. Warehoused goods, food stuff, hospital equipment, medical supplies, agricultural implements and other goods purchased with public funds and kept as souvenirs for vainglorious birthdays and other inanities have been released to benefiting communities. Billions of Naira have been recovered and returned to government coffers. Recommendations for reforms have been made to relevant authorities. In appropriate cases, recommendations for criminal investigation and prosecution have been made and several cases are already being investigated and prosecuted in various courts across the federation. The ICPC publishes regular updates on pending criminal cases on its website and social media handles. All of these are very accessible to anyone interested in objective journalism. The ICPC Media personnel and Spokesperson are always available to answer queries. All of these are in keeping to the norms of democracy, rule of law and statutory mandate and powers of the Commission as provided under S. 6 (a-f) of the ICPC Act, 2000. 

ICPC may be slow but very methodical in it’s approach to fighting corruption. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. We can be better and we are striving to be. ICPC and its leadership will continue to serve with integrity and purpose. This is who we are. Misguided newspaper headlines are just another bump on the road to success.

This is an appeal to reason. The VANGUARD can and hopefully will retract and redirect its poisoned arrow to more beneficial purposes in the near future.

Adenekan Shogunle fsi is a legal practitioner based in Abuja

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