Democracy can only thrive with citizens’ engagement -Speaker

By Peter Usman;//

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday declared that democracy can only thrive when the citizens are adequately engaged with the help of the media.

This was even as the number four citizen and the Clerk to the National Assembly, CNA, Arc. Ojo Olatunde Amos expressed sadness over the missing of the Vanguard reporter in the House of Representatives, Mr. Tordue Salem and sought spiritual intervention for his release from captivity.

They spoke at the opening ceremony of a two-day capacity building workshop for National Assembly correspondents, media aides and information officers in the parliament taking place in Abuja.

Declaring open the workshop, Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, affirmed that “for us to have a better democracy, we must fully engage the citizens, and the media play a central role in this regard”, adding: “that is why I believe that the theme of this workshop is very important.”

“The theme for this workshop, ‘Legislative Reporting and Citizen Engagement,’ is apt at this time. You cannot talk about democracy without citizens’ engagement, because democracy as a system of government is all about the people,” the Speaker stressed.

On the need to build capacity for journalists, he said: “The answer is simple: we need to do this, again and again, to strengthen the capacity of our professionals to do their noble job while guarding against misinformation and misrepresentation in their reportage. When we attend programmes such as this, we get reminded of our responsibilities and how we should go about carrying them out as professionals.

“With the way sensationalism, fake news and misinformation travel in this age of social media, I believe there is the need for journalists in the conventional media not to follow the bandwagon.

“We, therefore, need workshops such as this to help us remain on the right path.”

‚ÄčThe Speaker added that media aides to the presiding and principal officers as well as the information officers in the National Assembly also need workshops to improve on their tasks and therefore, urged all the participants to maximize the benefits of the programme.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the CNA, task journalists covering Natiinal Assembly to protect its image by educating  the public on issues always misunderstood.

Specifically, Amos enjoined NASS reporters to change the narrative of disingenuous elites against the federal lawmakers by always putting the facts across to Nigerians as against mischievous comments often made to disparage the Parliament.

“It is unfortunate that those set of disingenuous elites, who were supposed to be abreast of constitutional provisions had attempted to mislead the public.

“Do we say those who vehemently wanted to undermine the powers of the National Assembly Service Commission, NASC, were ignorant of the workings of the Legislature, as it relates to the doctrine of separation of powers, such as it is obtainable in the United States?

“I think such mischief makers must be handled adequately by media stakeholders in the National Assembly, anytime they raise their ugly heads.

“Really, no one section of the country can tell the whole story of our nascent democracy and legislature like the media, who are notably partners in progress; bearing in mind that, whenever there is a coup, the major casualties are both the media and the legislature,” he stressed.

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