Dr Yemi Oginni is the Head of Department, Mass Communication at the Lead City University, Ibadan. He speaks with BIYI ADEGOROYE in this interview on the impact of journalism on national development, and other issues
What role do you think mass media play in national development?
The mass media play a major role in national and indeed global development. When you talk about mass media, you are talking about a situation where people can receive information at the same time, and that means that people get informed as the news breaks.
I see Mass media as the engine that can put people on the same page at the same time. It performs such fundamental roles as educating, informing and entertaining the people.
It serves as agents of mass mobilisation for social, economic and political purposes. Let us look at the run up to the 2023 polls; the mass media educate the electorate on the activities of the 18 registered political parties and their manifestoes ahead of the elections.
They provide publicity to the debates and the campaign promises of the candidates and their parties. Even after elections, they hold the elected people accountable to the electorate to respect their electoral promises.
In the area of the economy, the mass media looks at the global economic trends, national budget and the policies contained there and their relevance to the needs of the people, be it education, health and infrastructural development.
Remember as well that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the media provided the platform for information to the people on the various live-saving protocols, vaccines, treatment, isolation centres and others that assisted people to stay safe. To that extent and many more, there is no gainsaying that the media play a huge role in national development.
How do you appraise Mass Communication and Journalism Education in Nigeria?
Generally, let me first say that I see Mass Communication as the best course in the world especially when we are talking about getting and disseminating information in its purest form and convincing people. It also means that you as a journalist can represent the government, even though you must put them on their toes. When you give the government’s information to the majority of the people what exactly are you doing?
You are contributing to the growth of the nation and indeed the entire world. This is especially so in this era we are today, when the world has become a global village. Mass Communication, whether Mass Communication or narrow casting, or whatever it is called, it is communication.
So, I think basically in Nigeria, what we need to do concerning Mass Communication is to make it more practical, make Mass Communication something that everybody can do.
Therefore, I see Mass Communication as the way forward globally. It is so rich, because Mass Communication students either in the universities or polytechnics study or are exposed to Media Law, Sociology, Culture and several others like Critical Writing which enable them to perform their duties effectively after graduations.
What would you say about the unbundling of Mass Communication into various courses?
Honestly, I will tell you that it is not going to work. This is not going against the directives of the National Universities Commission (NUC) policy. A number of Schools have tried to unbundle but when they saw that it would not work the way they were envisaging.
There was one meeting of stakeholders where it was resolved that even if it is going to work, it is going to be gradual. Not only that, we need to be sensitive to the needs of those universities as well. I have seen a situation where people tried to unbundle. For instance, if you are looking at Public Relations, Advertising; they were looking at a lot of things but at the end of the day, Mass Communication cannot be categorised anywhere.
So, what are you trying to unbundle? Is it not Mass Communication? It is something that we need to be careful about, something that the NUC itself has come out to say if we cannot do this now, maybe you go on with what you are studying.
Now, how would you describe the Mass Communication Department of Lead City University?
I will say as I always say it, and I am going to give reasons for always saying that. I started with the department in 2005 and since then up till date, I am saying that it is one of the best Mass Communication Departments in Nigeria.
I don’t want to exaggerate, but where am I coming from, I have a child who is a student of Mass Communication at the university and I can tell you sincerely speaking, and in his 300-Level when he was going for his Industrial Training, I called him and asked how many areas of Mass Communication has he been exposed to and what are the core of those areas?
And, again I asked him what exactly he wanted to do? He looked at me and answered that I know that we have eight professional courses and I want to become a Cinematographer.
What I am saying in essence is that every student of Lead City University is exposed to practicals; we have a whole radio station, audio visual studio, we have audio studio and even a printing press for the Department. We have everything that you need in the Department of Mass Communication. It is not only represented, they are the things that we do on a daily basis in that department.
So, at the end of the day, our students go for industrial training, and instead of being taught during their IT, they would end up teaching their colleagues from other universities.