The press is like a nagging wife that should be tolerated, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has said.
Speaking at a French Embassy launch of a French translation of “Making Africa Work”, a book he co-authored, Obasanjo defended media freedom after the Zambian high commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba, accused journalists of creating crises by putting the spotlight on problems.
“With all due respect to my mothers and sisters, you know the press is like a nagging wife who has children for him. You have to tolerate it, or like a nagging husband for who you had children, you have to tolerate her or him, or a drunken husband, so that you will not think I’m being sexist today,” Obasanjo said to giggles and whispers from the audience.
“I am not a friend of the media but I have to live with them, because the truth is that, in this day and age, whatever is not carried by media, has not happened. You need them and then they also need you. If that is the case, what do you do with them? If you shut your door against them, they will be nastier, so don’t shut your door against them, tolerate them,” he urged.
‘Baptism of fire’
Mwamba, who was in the audience, said when he reported for duty to South Africa in 2015 he had a “baptism of fire”.
He said when he read in the newspapers about the vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma in Parliament, “I thought South Africa was imploding or collapsing on itself”.
He said since then there were many similar circumstances. “I have since learnt South Africa is one of the best countries in Africa,” he said, adding that it had the most Nobel Prize laureates on the continent, ran the largest economy only Nigeria could rival, and that it has hosted world cups in soccer and rugby.
“Like the media is internationally against Africa, so it is internally. They tell you a story they want to hear, and they make it a reality. The media can create a crisis that doesn’t exist. The media even has a habit of prescribing solutions,” he said.
Mwamba said: “I thought democracy is for the people by the people,” and that the media was supposed to be the vanguard of democracy, but the image he got of the country in the international and South African media was skewed.
Mwamba made the remark after News24 asked Obasanjo and co-writer Greg Mills how they thought South Africa could make the most of the current crisis in South Africa around state capture.