PHONE PRESSING GENERATION vs NEWSPAPER GENERATION
Before the emergence of the internet, newspapers were the major platforms for mass information dissemination and consequently for political revolution.
When John Payne Jackson founded the first Nigerian newspaper called Lagos Weekly Record in 1890, his fiery editorials greatly irritated the colonial establishment. Consequently, in 1903, the colonial administration introduced legislation aimed at controlling the press. The Publishers’ obligations as it was called, made it mandatory for a copy of every issue of a newspaper to be submitted to the authorities. In 1909, an anti-sedition decree was promulgated which threatened two years imprisonment for those who through speech or writing encouraged anti-government sentiments. This was widely criticized by Nigerian leading barristers like Sapara Williams.
The colonial authorities, however, soon came up with a more subtle tactic by taking financial control of a leading newspaper, the Nigerian Daily Times. The Daily Times, launched in 1926, is the oldest surviving Nigerian newspaper.
Fast forward to the post-Independence era, the repression of the freedom of speech got much worse under General Buhari, who in 1984 promulgated the infamous ‘decrees 2 and 4’ making it possible to imprison without trial any journalist who published information ‘threatening national security’ or simply made fun of a civil servant. Two Guardian journalists who had written a story about diplomatic postings were the decrees’ first victims.
The Dele Giwa drama under General Babangida was another example of repression of press freedom. On 17 October 1986, editor Dele Giwa was invited for a ‘little chat’ by the deputy head of the State Security Service (SSS). Two days later a parcel bomb with an official stamp was delivered to his home. The bomb exploded as he tried to open the envelope and he died a few hours later.
In its battle against the opposition press, the government employed a range of techniques, from brutal repression to seizures and arrests. In 1993 alone, some 300,000 publications were seized, 54 journalists were arrested, more than 20 of them were summoned to appear in court, six reporters or photographers were assaulted or injured, four publications and one radio station were suspended or put under pressure by the authorities, 17 titles were banned by decree and 17 journalists were dismissed or disciplined for political reasons; ten of them resigning in protest. Between March and late August 1993, SSS agents raided the Lagos offices of The News several times, seizing tens of thousands of issues of the weekly. The imprisonment of Senator Christiana Anyanwu (she was not a senator then) in May 1995 is another example of brutal repression. In 1994 Bola Ahmed Tinubu went into exile and returned to the country in 1998.
The above narratives show how protest and agitation against political oppression and bad governance were carried out by current politicians who wanted political power under the guise of democracy. They capitalized on the mass media of their day, i.e, newspaper. But is ironic that the same people, after achieving their aim have fundamentally failed the younger generation whom they today term as “the phone pressing generation”. Yes, we are the phone pressing generation just like you were the newspaper generation. Stop oppressing us.