Utomi said the media “must set an agenda for society to travel in the direction of elevating the dignity of citizens by reducing infant mortality, maternal mortality at childbirth, build capacity to adapt to the pace of a changing world and have infrastructure that enables and sustains economic competitiveness”.
Utomi made the call as he delivered the 11th Jackson Annual Lecture of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Utomi is an alumnus of the school. He spoke on “The media and the development challenge in Nigeria at a time of crisis”.
The noted political economist and professor of entrepreneurship asserted that it is imperative for the media to play this role as Nigeria confronts crisis on various fronts. To do so, however, media organisations must strengthen their institutional structures and strategies.
Utomi asserted that for the media to deploy the agenda-setting theory to its duties, “the media has to understand what shapes human progress and speeds up economic growth”. He suggested the application of the Growth Drivers Framework of six interdependent variables. The variables are policy choice, institutions, human capital, entrepreneurship, culture and leadership.
Agenda setting tasks for the media include helping to enhance rigour in policy choice, encouraging a culture of reasoned public conversation on policy matters and playing up the activities of civil society that results in stronger institutions with more effective investment in human capital, Utomi stated. He said these would lead to “more virile entrepreneurship and economic growth resulting therefrom”.
Noting the presence of strong private media in Nigeria, Utomi said the Nigeria media should play a role similar to their counterparts elsewhere. “Private media played an enormous role in the evolution of the American free enterprise system and the shared values that define nation-building there. America’s success comes significantly from how the media helps build the legitimacy of American institutions.”
A noted columnist, Utomi is also a director on the Africa Practice of Deloitte Consulting and served as Director of the Centre for Applied Economics at the Lagos Business School. He believes “the media can make a major contribution to the healing of many wounds that currently define Nigeria, and help construct a melting pot in which recruiting, quality of political actors, prospecting a strong sense of the mission of the generation, powers a new consciousness for progress. But it will take the new vision of the business models of media enterprise and journalists who understand how the media exerts influence and who see the Nehemiah in themselves to make things happen.”