One of the most topical issues in the media in the past few days has been vociferous reactions to alleged stereotype of Nigerians as criminals by a section of the influential foreign media on account of the alleged criminal conducts of some fellow citizens abroad. Time after time, some Nigerians travel abroad and are found guilty of perpetrating objectionable offences that open the flanks of the country to condemnation and dishonour in the international community. Western media have always made a feast of such occurrences. From my own estimation, aside football tournaments, the last time Nigerians rose in support of their nation in the manner recorded in the last few days on social media was when that great patriot – Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. This piece examines why the rag; and offers recipe on how to remove it by Nigeria.
PROPRIETY: The Western media have come under scathing criticisms NOT on account of reporting the sordid occurrence; but for disseminating information thereon in a blanket form that suggests that Nigerians generally are criminals. The elementary doctrine of newsgathering dictates that ‘’bad news is good news’’ On that premise, no one can fault those who fed the information into their channels. It is like faulting the State Security Department for writing negative reports. In the second instance, I was informed when I had an opportunity to question the decency of perceived slanted news during a visit to the studios of the ABC Television in New York in 1986. I was informed that they report what their people want to hear or view; based on the professional judgment of their ‘’gatekeepers’’ – meaning those who filter information and decide what goes into their channels. This stance too cannot be faulted, since they operate as business concerns, in as much as they keep to the ethics of journalism.
HIGH RISKS: Media owners in the United States, for instance, have advanced the argument that they reserve the right to serve their audience the news that they want to hear, and not what is perceived to be right by the developing world, to be able to continue with the business of information dissemination. However, experts in communication studies have argued that it would not do people resident in the advanced world any harm to learn and know more about residents of other parts of the world, particularly the developing world. That could at least correct warped reasoning that some people in other continents live on trees! The resultant effect would be a positive trend of fostering greater peace and international understanding. This is happening at a period when satellite broadcasting of television signals into Third World countries continues to dominate their airwaves, without prior permission; and at a period when most developing countries lacked the capacity to analyze the data sent into their airwaves.
THE PLIGHT OF AFRICA: For a long time, Africa has depended on the West for news, even about local events on the continent. For major events happening in Africa, the local media rely on the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Cable Network News and similar news organizations to feed their audience. This development necessitated the establishment of the Pan-African News Agency, which has, however, been unable to effectively counter the negative news broadcast/published by Western media. Baring his mind on the issue, Floyd J. McKay, a Journalism professor at Western Washington University, notes that ‘It is simply wrong to believe that only Americans can practice honest journalism and that only corporate-owned media can serve the people’’ (McKay’ J. Floyd) Observers have warned that it is preposterous for the global community not to take greater positive steps to address this anomaly.
GAGGING THE PRESS AS DEFENCE BY THE WESTERN MEDIA: Criticisms and oppositions to the new order are mainly from western scholars, academics, and professionals, especially journalists. Mort Rosenblum (1977), for instance, observes that western journalists feel that if the New World Information Order works, it would lead to an end to the freedom of the press, viewing it as an invitation to government control of the mass media. A professor of journalism in Lousiana State University, USA, John C. Meril (1985) says New World Information Order ‘’is mere wishful thinking’’ and, therefore, urges the developing countries to accept the realities. He continues: ‘’Western societies are not interested in reading about bridges, roads, dam construction and other development news from the Third World or anywhere else’’
INTERVENTIONS: Concerned about unequal access to information and communication and imbalance in global information flow, the United Nations & UNESCO proposed a New World Information Order, given its importance to acquisition, peace and understanding. In May 1974, the UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration of the Establishment of a New International Information Order. This served as an encouragement and impetus for the non-aligned nations to press for changes in the areas of news and information. On its part, a UNESCO panel — ‘The MacBride Commission’, in a Report titled “Many Voices, One World” noted that: ‘’Western press give inadequate and superficial attention to the realities of developing countries, often infusing coverage with cultural bias” Among others, the UNESCO commissioned Report asserted that: ‘’News reporting on the developing world reflects the priorities of news agencies in London, Paris and New York; all giving precedent to reporting of natural disasters and military coups; rather than the fundamental realities. ‘’Up till the 1980s, the four major news agencies controlled over 80% of global news flow.’’
The foregoing gave rise to Resolution 4/19 Adopted by the Twenty-first Session of the UNESCO General Conference, held in Belgrade, 1980. Among others, UNESCO canvassed for ‘’plurality of sources and channels of information; freedom of the press and information; respect for the right of the public, of ethnic and social groups and of individuals to have access to information sources, and to participate actively in the communication process. UNESCO asserted that ‘’this new world information and communication order should be based on the fundamental principles of International Law, as laid down in the Charter of the United Nations’’
REPORTING AFRICA POSITIVELY: Expectedly, nations and people detest negative news, particularly those who are cast in bad light. For this reason, the developing world is constantly complaining about the allure of conflicts and catastrophe news as reported by Western media. The Nigerian media should be the vehicle for the mobilization, motivation, sensitization, harmonization, unification, integration, and socialization of the citizenry. This is crucial to Nigeria in view of its unique and very often volatile heterogeneous ethnic, religious, military, cultural and political outlook with insatiable fears and. quests of the minorities. (Aliede, 1991:24) Arguing in line with the reasoning above, Prof Alfred Opubor was emphatic on an urgent need for the reconfiguration of the world information and communication order as ‘’This trans-national information monopoly in developing countries manipulate hundreds of millions of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and in the Caribbean.’’
As at Year 2006, Opubor, a frontline communications specialist continued: ‘’The United Press, the Associated Press, the Agence France Press, and Reuters between them monopolize (2006) the information flow to and from the developing countries’’ These different information agencies send out 33.9 million words everyday and they employ over 2,100 foreign correspondents in 304 offices in almost every country in the world. ‘’The 20 largest Latin American daily newspapers are completely controlled by these four agencies with 79% of all their news coming only from these sources. Naturally, to this situation, one of major struggles that countries like ours (Nigeria) have to join in fighting is the struggle to establish a New International Information Order. We have to see this struggle for the New International Information Order as being very much linked up with the other struggle – the struggle or our New International Economic Order which our country has been involved in fighting.’’
ON ISSUES THAT CAUSE BAD PRESS: Easily the most prominent of these vices is drug peddling, fraudulent and financial crimes, as well as illegal migration. Last week, a 252-count federal grand jury indictment was filed last Thursday charging 77 Nigerian nationals with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network as uncovered by the United State’s’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Beyond that sad development, the Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has revealed that hundreds of Nigerians are on death row, while others are serving various jail terms in several countries abroad. Several Nigerians have paid the supreme price as a result of their stupidity. For instance, 73 Nigerians are reported by Thisday Newspaper as presently on death row in Malaysia, having been convicted on drug trafficking related offences. 650 other Nigerians are serving different Jail terms in Thailand, while 144 others are also in São Paulo Prison, Brazil. In Saudi Arabia, 23 Nigerians remained on death row for drug-related offences. In a particular case, all the convicts, according to the NDLEA, were from Nnewi, Anambra State.
LIVING ABROAD: Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing from hunger, crises and conflicts in Africa, to attempt to enter foreign countries, particularly Europe, the United States and some Asian countries illegally. These nations have also tightened their entry/visa regulations and are more vigilant at the border posts to prevent illegal migrants from coming into their territories. Every so often, accounts reveal huge discrimination against black people. Many people who plan to travel illegally have wrong opinions that those residing abroad are living in luxury. If anything, residents of foreign countries would always disclose that there is no cheap money or reward in that society. You must work, and work very hard too, to be able to sustain yourself.
The advanced nations are societies that don’t tolerate laziness and do not reward mediocrity, as there is no free lunch. You must work to support yourself. Additionally, the advanced nations have zero tolerance for violations of the laws of these countries. Several measures are in place to ensure that nobody who flouts the law is left off the hook. The Rule of Law is deeply cherished and everybody, therefore, is equal before the law. That was the reason the wife of then Prime Minister of Britain, Cherry Blair would earn a ticket/fine for forgetting to pay for a ride on a public train. The ticket collector had the audacity to book the wife of a Prime Minister! That is also the reason why Barack Obama, a former president of the United States, would personally pay for his meals in a restaurant near the United Nations in New-York, shortly after addressing a United Nations Session.
PASTURES NO LONGER GREEN: It is very regrettable that youths that are engaged in the illegal act of migration appear undeterred, even considering the high risks to which they expose themselves, including losing their lives during attempts to seek greener pastures abroad by migrating illegally.. But the pastures are no longer green. How can any sane person attempt to trek thousands of kilometres in the arid zone comprising the Sahara, desert, before finally going on boats that often capsize before getting into territories of European nations. They engage in ill-fated journeys through Niger Republic and Libya, from where they attempt to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea. They fail to consider the repression policies of European nations put in place to stop people from migrating into their countries illegally.
IMAGE PROBLEMS: Sadly, the image of Nigeria is being soiled as a result of massive attempts to enter other nations illegally through routs considered to be very dangerous. Records reveal that the British government considers Nigeria to be the fourth largest source of human trafficking to the UK, and the International Organization for Migration estimates that approximately 80% of girls arriving to Europe from Nigeria through irregular migration are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
MODERN DAY SLAVERY: Human trafficking and slavery are regarded as modern-day slavery in Europe that is facing the greatest challenge of illegal human migration. The British Department for International Development in its Report on Nigeria quotes its International Development Secretary, Priti Patel as announcing increased support ‘’to provide alternative jobs and livelihoods for potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery, including support for those who become victims to help them reintegrate into society and to protect them from re-trafficking – reducing a crime that directly affects the United Kingdom. Pritti noted that: ‘’It is shameful that in the 21st Century, the evil crime of modern slavery lurks in every corner of the globe, including on the UK’s streets, destroying the lives of young men, women, and children. We will not stand aside and ignore this barbaric and often invisible crime, which all too often reaches our shores, and is damaging for everyone except the perpetrators.’’
SOLUTIONS: PARENTS & ORGANIZATIONS WITH PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES: One is constrained to ask: Where are the parents? And where are the organizations with parental responsibilities? Some advanced countries are also reported by NAPTIP to be culpable; as they collaborate with unscrupulous Nigerians to ship people to foreign countries by criminal rings, who take youths away from Nigeria. The demand for this illegal and criminal business is very high from the destination countries. The profit is extremely high. But if the destination countries can help to make sure that the business does not thrive, it will be better for us. “They have to look into pornography, prostitution, organ harvesting and others because there is a lot of demand for these services.’’ It is a development that warrants collaboration by government, parents and the larger society to draw up measures that could halt the dangerous trend. Every day, the media report horrendous narrations of callousness and deaths in the Sahara Desert and across the Mediterranean Sea. It is a matter of concern because there are options that the citizenry could employ rather than risk and lose their lives to a misadventure. Perhaps our socio-cultural organizations could also come on the campaign to make our young ones reason rightly.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – COLLABORATION TO COMBAT SOCIAL & CRIMINAL VICES: If the truth must be told, all segments of the society share the blame for these ugly developments. Those born after the oil boom came into a society that commenced witnessing gradual erosion the rich values and virtues handed down by progenitors. Radical lifestyles emerged with affluence and socials accorded undue prominence. Young ones learn fast and copy their parents and what others in their environments do. In the past few decades, those whose responsibility it is to ensure that the young ones grow up properly with sound morals have shirked their responsibilities. For over one year, we at TERRIFIC HEADLINES have taken it as part of our social responsibility the task of public enlightenment on proactive measures that could be embraced to reform the Nigerian society through family values. We have worked conscientiously, knowing that there is an urgent and huge need to reform our society through the utilization of family units. Our fundamental assignment has been to contribute to ongoing efforts at construction a greater Nigeria, and in due course the whole of Africa. This concept of FAMILY VALUES & VALUES is very rational and its likely positive effects very obvious. The following constitute the target audience:
- Governments; that must provide the enabling environment.
- Organizations with parental responsibilities;
- Civil Society Organizations and the entire society
- Equally affected are institutions charged with mentoring and parental responsibilities that serve to inculcate in our youths the right values, ethics, and morals in every facet of the society.
- The civil society itself
- A broad spectrum of the global community with emphasis on Nigeria, Africa, and African Diaspora
- THE GLOBAL DIMENSION Our campaign aligns with the United Nations agenda of promoting family values and women emancipation. It also keys into the UN Agenda that designates Years 2015-2024 as the International Decade of People of African Descent; and the African Union Agenda 2063. Women have a huge role to play as pivots of family units. Let us strengthen our family units and do everything possible to ensure that the growing ones are properly brought up with the fear of the Lord.
- THE 15 YEAR OLD INVENTOR: Last line: I read Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji’s piece on LinkedIn yesterday and was hugely fascinated by her discovery. I felt someone in Abuja or Lagos or both will take this matter up. Read Toyosi in part: 15-year Old, Todimu Obidipe, CEO of Modern Green Homes, an Architectural Business leveraging renewable energy models to design Houses that address pollution across Nigeria bust into tears & ran away when he heard the announcement that he & his team had won the grand prize for 1st position. I went after him, walked him into his Star Moment & hugged him warmly. That’s how stars do, init? (Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji)
For start, Hakeem Bello – Please read Toyosi’s piece if you are still the Special Adviser (Media) to the Hon. Minister of Power. Certainly, the Hon. Minister of Science and Technology – Your attention is respectfully invited to the feat of this young inventor. Further details on the link below.