Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
Corruption permeates all levels of government in Nigeria—from the legislative and judicial branches to the police and civil service. This has led to a widespread loss of faith in the public sector which, if left unaddressed, will undermine confidence in democracy as a viable system of government. As the fourth estate of political life, the Nigerian media should be responsible for holding state institutions and government accountable to the people. However, the Nigerian press has itself become a corrupt institution and is thus incapable of playing its traditional watchdog role. Low salaries, the practice of influencing reporters with “brown envelopes” stuffed with cash, and pressure from a highly corrupt political class have conspired to compromise many media houses and journalists. Commercial interests and considerations increasingly influence editorial judgments to such a degree that big advertisers are protected from critical reporting or are actually able to influence news content.
How can journalists redeem their profession and take steps to strengthen independent reporting and government accountability in Nigeria? In his presentation, Mr. Dayo Aiyetan, an accomplished Nigerian investigative journalist, examined the threat posed by corruption to Nigerian democracy and explored the role that new models of watchdog journalism, particularly non-profit centers and other research organizations, can play in reversing this troubling trend.
Mr. Aiyetan is founding director of the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, Abuja. Prior to that, he served as senior associate editor and Abuja bureau chief for TELL, one of Nigeria’s preeminent independent political magazines. An accomplished investigative journalist, he has worked tirelessly to expose and combat corruption within Nigeria’s political system, his efforts having led to the prosecution and conviction of several former state governors. He has twice been nominated for a Nigerian Media Merit Award—once for Best Political Reporter of the Year (2005), and once for Best Investigative Reporter of the Year (2006). In 2009, he participated in a three-week investigative journalism fellowship program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.