THE MEDIA AND SECURITY REPORTING (Part 1) by TONY ABOLO

 

The Oasis Reporters

August 13, 2018

I must sincerely thank the Nigerian Observer Chapel for choosing a very topical matter and not the usual cosmetic and pedantic like soft issues around politics, democracy and such like. Instead, they have chosen an issue of national concern, a most topical issue, which no doubt not only provides enlightenment but fulfills a media mandate around the social responsibility issues of the media by setting an agenda and creating awareness amongst professionals as well as the general citizenry.

To show my alignment with the Observer Chapel, and to reveal that I do not speak or teach what I do not practice, I have come with six books from my personal library and a file in which I have varied Nigerian newspaper cut outs, all dealing with security issues as well as two papers I have presented on the security threat to Edo State, made to the Edo Forum of patriots on the forthcoming Edo Security Summit and a paper I delivered at Gombe University, three years ago, dealing with a very new genre of Journalism practice- Peace Journalism. To be a journalist and not take a professional interest in security matters in Nigeria today, shows a nihilistic pursuit of the journalistic profession.
This is because, security has come to the front burner in today Nigeria. It has become a hot button issue. We in the media, all along took it for granted that, security of lives, property and State is an issue that is within the purview of governments, the Armed Forces, Para-military, Intelligence and varied Security Agencies of state. We were always content to talk about and report events and who said “what, when, where and how”.
However it was the lawyers, importantly, constitutional lawyers who evidently saw the nexus between security, good governance, nation building, progress and development. And hence in the Nigerian Constitution, in Chapter 2, under the Fundamental Objectives and Directives of State Policy, Section 14, subsection 2b, expressly said that “The Security and Welfare of the people shall be the Primary Purpose of Government.” There are historical reasons for this express provision in the Constitution.
Societies in this present age contrasts distinctly with societies of previous ages, when according to philosopher Hobbes, “life was nasty and brutish”; man was by and large, in a state of nature, where man was “wolf to man”. In the 15th,16th and 17th centuries, and even up till now, legal and political philosophers have all agreed that we can say that we have a society, or a country on the need for citizens to give up some of their natural rights to Government by whatever name, so that the Government will now take up the responsibility for everybody’s wellbeing and the major thing expected from Government was SECURITY.

Political and legal philosophers have gone to say that if a State is not able to give security to its citizens, it automatically loses
legitimacy and the right to govern. The consequences of course, would be anarchy and the famous expression of a “failed State”. You may recall that the American War of Independence and all the conflicts leading up to it were all centered on “the rights of the citizens”. It then must be said that the right to protection IS THE PRINCIPAL ISSUE ABOUT GOVERNANCE AND THE PEOPLE.
We as journalists however, have simply been content with Section 22 of the 1999 Nigeria constitution, and as amended, which states that
The press, Radio, Television and other agencies of the Mass Media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.
That is all well put. But like I said in my forthcoming book on Mass Media and National Development, the Media has much more to do than recording and reporting events. The media is a “watchdog”. The watchdog role of the media makes it a “guardian” of public interest. And in doing this, it can help warn the people of
Destabilizing factors
Warn citizens against those doing them harm or can do them harm.

Can we then not see that providing security is embedded in what makes governments, “responsible and accountable”? How can we not see that the quality of security or the lack of it, is what determines if a government is accountable, besides accounting for monies spent and optimal performance.
Nigeria has always never been so good, but in the last 51 years, the country has become worse and in the last three years, she has gotten to its worst years as far as security is concerned.
Progressively we came to this sorry pass, because we the media failed to point the way just like we are abdicating our duty now, in this season of defections and re-defections and denials and are engulfed in the utter confusion as we approach the break or mar year of 2019!!! All along, we have clapped, cheered on and publicized evil and evil persons and justified evil, under the flimsy argument that, ‘he who pays the piper, dictates the tune’. And now, the chicken has come home to roost, with killings in Odeghi, Odiguetue, Ewu, Ubiaja, and Agenegbode. And so the danger is here. And fine, the security report I gathered a week or two back, I hear the herdsmen have encamped around Odighi and no one is speaking out loud or challenging the persons.
On my part, I intimated some Civil Society persons to conduct some reconnaissance espionage and provide a security threat assessment. I approached the Edo Forum of Patriots to intimate them. They did corroborate my information.
An important thing to be said here and in very clear terms is that safety and security is primordial. It is the first law of life. Not food, not stomach infrastructure, not Nigerian Air, not railway line from Itakpe mines to Warri, all those are valuable. But right now, there are two concerns on everyone’s lips; will there be Nigeria after February 2019 and two, will I be alive before or after that date, based on the culpable neglect on security issues at all levels of governance in Nigeria today?

But while those concerns subsist, do not be carried away because security concerns go beyond the herdsmen and killing that is mainly occurring in the North East and Central Nigeria. The security concerns in Nigeria is a longer list; secession as we see in Biafra, the unruly, un-political and anti- democratic behavior of the federal APC Military Government in its reaction to the Kanu and his seeming mob action, the militarization of Nigeria under the present Buhari Administration, manifested in Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Cat dance, the military posture of President Buhari, which brooks no political solution in a supposed democracy and which in turn runs out in impunity, flagrant and constant disobedience to Court Orders, the behavior of the new Emperor, the “new Assistant President”, the Chairman of the APC, the pogrom in the Middle Belt and North East, the so called bandits in Zamfara and Sokoto States, the ever expanding and unaddressed Boko-Haram conflict, which has thrown the Nigeria Economy into a ‘war economy’ with sufficient impact on inflation and government unending deficit spending, the ever present Niger Delta Militancy, the centrifugal forces in our polity, kidnapping, armed robberies, cultism, rising unemployment of youths, estimated today at 75% of youths, from the statistics provided by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, the conspicuous life style of our politicians, made up of many failed professionals and jobless individuals, over pampered public government officials, whose salaries and allowances creates deepening poverty in Nigeria, the mindless lack of governance and poor leadership at all levels and in nearly all the states of Nigeria and to be added in our long list as causes for insecurity, a leadership in Nigeria which has very limited intelligence and has little thought to doing what they claim they are in government to do.

The media has to take a more than cursory and reportorial interest in all of these and seek root causes and make them public issues in order to affect public behaviour and public policy. The capacity of Nigerian governments to govern is abysmally low and hence the outcome is nothing but shameful after 58 years. To think that China started modernization only in 1976 under Deng Xiaoping and we kind of began in 1860. Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil were just roughly EXACTLY where we were, back in 1960. Today, they have all moved to being rich and prosperous while Nigeria remains a wobbly, decrepit no man’s land. This tells you so much about the quality of leadership in Nigeria.

We are getting ready for “2019”, and the essential question that ought to consume us all is not yet the central focus of the media, who out of all the motley names and candidates CAN BEST secure the country through national cohesion, provide the needed lift to get us into the 21st century, and put us on the path to the 22nd century?

President of the 8th Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, in his resignation statement on 31st July 2018, put it all very succinctly when he wrote, inter alia, “What the experience of the last three years has taught us is that the most important task that we face as a country is how to REUNITE OUR PEOPLE. NEVER BEFORE HAD SO MANY PEOPLE, IN SO MANY PARTS OF THE COUNTRY FELT SO ALIENATED FROM THEIR NIGERIANNESS. THEREFORE WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE GREATEST TASK BEFORE US IS TO REUNITE THE COUNTRY AND GIVE EVERYONE A SENSE OF BELONGING REGARDLESS OF RELIGION OR ETHNICITY”.

In the 17th century, European Political Theorist, Montesquieu, an enlightenment age theorist, argued that publicity and by extension, the media provides the best protection against tyranny, corruption and the excesses of arbitrary rule. Poor governance and poor minds in governance is at the root of the massive security threats in Nigeria. And unless we overcome our existential threat against stability and co-existence, progress and development will be nigh impossible.

While the media seeks high impact stories, it must address its lack of knowledge of our national security architecture. This is to not only comprehend it, but interrogate it and seek to co-join it in the task of Nation building, national cohesion and security policies. Had we been alert and responsive, we may not have been foisted with Kanuris and Fulanis and one religion dominating the thoughts, knowledge and leadership of Nigeria’s security architectural domination.

The media must also pay heed to a sermon preached by a former National Security Adviser, rtd Colonel Sambo Dasuki who on May 19th 2015, admonished as reported in the Daily Trust newspaper that:
“The continent’s security and humanitarian challenges demanded a coordinated and comprehensive approach to tackling the underlying structural and economic problems”
The approach, must necessarily be anchored on continued political and economic growth and improvements including good governance, strengthening institutions, especially the criminal justice system and increasing access to jobs and education opportunities for a bulging youth population.
To take back ungoverned spaces across the Sahel and prevent radicalization, governments must consistently invest in their populations, build strong democratic and inclusive governments on which economic growth and stability can be achieved over time.”

The voices and perspectives of other security experts shall be examined in Part 2 of this paper.

Written by Tony Abolo

Media Consultant, university lecturer in Mass Communication, broadcaster and Public Speaker.
He was one time BBC Correspondent in Brussels.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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