GOVERNANCE – WHEN BARACK OBAMA WAS PARTIALLY WRONG – Ibrahim Gambari
‘’In one of his visits to the African continent while in office, former US President Barrack Obama, said what Africa needs is not strong men (leaders) but strong institutions. This is half-truth, for Africans need both and they need good governance. Among the many characteristics of democracy is good governance. Good governance is about inclusiveness and the rule of law amongst others. These two speak to our topic and worry about the dangers of divide along fault lines’’ — Ibrahim Gambari.
A few days ago, we brought you the first part of a lecture delivered in Abuja by former United Nations Under Secretary-General for political affairs and Special Adviser on Africa, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. In this concluding part of the lecture titled:
BROADCASTING AND NIGERIA’S ETHNO-CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVIDE:BRIDGING THE GAP
These inequalities pose two related challenges. Firstly, high levels of socio-economic inequalities mean that different Nigerians live different lives in different parts of the country. Your chances of surviving child-birth, of surviving childhood, of receiving and skills, all vary across the country. If different parts of Nigeria were separate countries, some parts will be middle income education countries, while others will be poorer than the poorest countries in the world! A common nationhood cannot be achieved while citizens are living such parallel lives. Inequalities are a threat to a common citizenship. Secondly, even in those parts of the country that are relatively better off, the level of social provision and protection is still low by world standards. The 20% that are poor and unemployed in Bayelsa State are still excluded from common citizenship benefits. We therefore need a Social Contract between the people on the one hand, and the state and nation on the other. The state and nation must put meeting the needs of the disadvantaged as a key objective of public policy. Such an approach can make possible a common experience of life by Nigerians living in different parts of the country and elicit their commitment to the nation. Instead of resorting to the divisive politics of indigene against settler as a means of accessing resources, a generalized commitment to social citizenship will create a civic structure of rights that will unite people around shared rights and goals.
(b) Poor Governance. In one of his visits to the African continent while in office, former US President Barrack Obama, said what Africa needs is not strong men (leaders) but strong institutions. This is half-truth, for Africans need both and they need good governance. Among the many characteristics of democracy is good governance. Good governance is about inclusiveness and the rule of law amongst others. These two speak to our topic and worry about the dangers of divide along fault lines.
V. BROADCASTING IN NIGERIA
18. So, what is the role of broadcasting in the context of socio-economic gap, impact of poor governance on our nation’s diversity? The history of broadcasting in Nigeria is a long one, beginning with the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation and Western Nigeria Television (WNBC/WNTV in 1959. Other regions quickly followed. The foundation of broadcasting in Nigeria was therefore based on regionalism and ethnicity. A multiplicity of broadcasting to cater for various interests is by itself a progressive pursuit. However, there must be a control mechanism to curb the excesses bordering on national cohesion and integrity. It is the application of inclusiveness in governance and the application of the rule of law that would ensure a healthy management of broadcasting in a diverse country like Nigeria. Furthermore, we face a new challenge of the new media. A platform for social media is easily accessible to individuals and can reach wide range of people even in the remotest places unrestrained. These new challenges where millions are reached without control constitute a challenge in broadcasting. Concerted efforts must be made through institutional reforms to curb the excesses of the social mediaespecially with regards to hate speech. I will return to the issue of the tragic consequences of hate speech on our polity.
19. Hate speech is the major worry we need to address. In doing so, strategic civil education must be embarked upon. Federal government agencies like the NBC, NOA and various organs for propagation must beginning to inform and mass movement for the prevention of hate speech. To achieve this therefore, schools, political parties grassroots communities must be reached to enlighten them on dangerous, incisive, and hate war of words that is harmful to our society.
20. The Nigeria Broadcasting Code is very clear about what broadcasting should do or not do. Let me paraphrase what it says in Section 0.2.1: The cardinal responsibility of broadcasting is to inform, educate and entertain, and this shall not be at the expense of national interest, unity and cohesion of Nigeria’s diverse, social, cultural, economic, politicaland religious configuration.Therefore, it says, no broadcast shall encourage or incite to crime, lead to public disorder, be repugnant to public feeling or contain an offensive reference to any person, alive or dead, or generally, be disruptive to human dignity. Whatever broadcasters do, they must be guided by these principles.
21. Radio and Television have the capacity to transform societies, but they could also destroy if they are not used in line with what has been prescribed in the Code, which I cited above. This is because of their far reach. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. In a society like ours, naturally, there will be fault lines. But such fault lines in themselves are not the problem, until they are exploited. Unfortunately, that is what has been happening in Nigeria in recent times. The nation’s fault lines are being exploited for political reasons. Our ethnic and religious plurality is being turned into an albatross. Age-long problems, like farmers-herders clashes and cattle rustling, are being viewed from the prism of ethnicity and religion. This has exacerbated the create problems and, in turn, fuelled senseless killings and counter-killings. For example, clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria predate the country’s independence. Communities across the country had developed their own mechanisms for handling these clashes and preventing them from escalating. Today, however, the situation has changed. When clashes occur, it is framed in ethno-religious narrative. forgetting that in Zamfara, which is the hotbed of cattle rustling, those who rustle cattle are Fulani and Muslim, while those whose cattle are rustled are also Fulani and Muslim. Can we then impute religion or ethnicity into this? This is where broadcasting comes in. Despite the advent of the social media, broadcasting remains the source of information and entertainment for most Nigerians. With majority of our people still residing in the rural areas, and with epileptic electricity supply,radio remains the medium of choice. Your portable transistor radioruns on batteries, hence the lack of electricity is not a problem. Many mobile telephone handsets also come with built-in radio, making it easy for anyone with such handset to listen to the radio and to get the latest information or disinformation. Television is a distant second, but it is very powerful, because it contains audio with visuals. Due to the combined reach of radio and television, one can only imagine how effective they can be in spreading information, real or fake. Combined with the power of the social media, broadcasting is a double-edged sword that can develop or destroy.
22. Let’s look at what happened in Rwanda in 1994. The genocide that left 800,000 people dead was largely catalyzed by the role of the government‐controlled Radio‐Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). The radio station, which was widely listened to, led the racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It was therefore not a surprise when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted three news media executives for genocide. According to the Tribunal, the three media executives used a radio station and a twice-monthly newspaper to inflame ethnic hatred that eventually led to the massacres at churches, schools, hospitals and roadblocks. In particular, the radio station guided killers to victims, broadcasting the names, license plate numbers and vehicle license-plate numbers of Tutsis. In just 100 days, an estimated 10% of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were wiped away. We do not pray for a repeat of such in our dear country, Nigeria but we must not say it cannot happen. That is why those who run broadcast organizations in Nigeria have a huge role to play by not inflaming passion, especially at a critical time like this when hundreds of lives have been lost to many crisis. Broadcasting organizations must adhere strictly to the broadcasting code, show a great deal of responsibility and demonstrate a high level of patriotism in order not to aggravate the challenges facing the country, especially in the area of security. While persuasion is preferable, the certainty of sanctions should be an important element of ensuring compliance.
23. As preparations for the 2019 general elections enter a critical phase,the ethno-cultural and religious fault lines will likely take centre stage during political debates,rallies,radio and television gingles etc.There is no doubt that issues such as re-adjustment of our Federal arrangement both in terms of the number of its constituent units as well as the fiscal regime,poor governance,ensuring that Secularism is practiced as provided in our Constitution,these discussions should however not degenerate to the use of foul language and hate speech.In an article published in the Daily Trust recently,ProfJibo Ibrahim has drawn attention to some disturbing developments during the recent Governorship elections held in Ekiti State.These centre around what appear to be violations of the Broadcasting Code and the need to fairly and transparently handle the investigation of the role of the sitting Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) government and the opposition All Peoples Congress(APC).The article drew attention to the looming danger of hate speech during this 2019 election season.
24. Another issue in the Ethno-cultural divide is the indigene versus settler question that should be comprehensively addressed as soon as possible.As long as ethnic groups are able to integrate with their host communities living peacefully and contributing to the socio-economic development of such communities,they should be considered as citizens and not suffer discrimination when it comes to seeking political offices once they fulfill the necessary requirements,seeking admission for their children in educational institutions,ownership of property etc.The migration of people from one community is not going to end any time soon not only in Nigeria but other parts of the World.
25. The use of religion has been subtle but very disturbing in the sense that it appears to influence the attitude of many public officials in decisions taken on National issues.It is fairly common to hear allegations of marginalization based on religion or ethnicity in recruitment into Ministries,Departments and Agencies(MDA’s) by individuals or groups on radio and television despite the fact that the Federal Character Commission(FCC) should statutorily have an input in recruitment exercises in the Public Service.
26. It is important to add peacebuilding efforts, especially in the context of the ethno-cultural and religious divide in Nigeria. This would enable parties promote public policy that must respond to and apply effective peace-building strategies to existing and emerging areas of crises in the country especially at the political level. An effective peace-building strategy is one that is not only holistic but carefully targeted in addressing structural causes of conflicts and fragility.
Examples onPersonal Responsibility, Recognizing Heroic Act by an Individual
27. The story of the 83year old AbdullahiAbubakar,the Imam that saved close to 300 Christians from being massacred during the recent widespread killings in Plateau state in his mosque by the invading Fulani Herdsmen is a heroic example that must be encouraged and rewarded.AlhajiAbubakar, should be offered a national honour, on account of exemplary and sacrificial heroism. Too often, honour has been dashed out incestuously to members of the political class who have little or no record of accomplishments.
2019 Elections and Democracy in Nigeria
28. Ladies and gentlemen, this lecture would not be complete without making reference to the 2019 Elections and, in essence, the “rebirth” of democracy in our nation. When Nigeria would have a new opportunity to address the country’s challenges and to deepen its democracy and deliver its dividends such as quality social services, including especially education and health, prosperity and security of life and property. And to achieve these overriding objectives, we must put a permanent end to impunity and zero-tolerance for official corruption. Furthermore, political parties in Nigeria must abandon “the current political normadism where the sole purpose is for acquisition of power in order to satisfy parochial interest of the political class (and not of the people). Hence, it is important that parties are based on issues, group interests and ideology”. Whilst it is important to have successful elections, periodic elections in themselves, do not ensure good governance. Elections are not an end in themselves rather a process leading to the real business of governance. Elections 2019 in Nigeria must represent a watershed with the potential to cross a threshold into a new era in global governance and human experience.
29. Our political parties must meet the expectations of the kind of leaders that Nigerians want. In this regard, we must demand for leadership that is inclusive and knowledgeable about socio-economic development issues. We must demand leaders who respect and uphold the constitution and obey the rule of law. The political parties must throw up candidates who have a clear vision for the future of our country and who are pro-active in addressing the obstacles to the realization of that vision. In this regard, the political parties need to ensure that their flag bearers must reflect the 3C’s: Competence, Capacity and Character.
30. When our political parties succeed in meeting these expectations of Nigerians in a fair and competitive process and produce leader who by words and deeds, is able to convince a large enough section of the Nigerian elites and the wider public about a vision for a greater tomorrow, then Nigeria will truly be on the way to national greatness. While our experiences especially in the recent past have been disappointing; today, we have every reason to believe that the future is likely to be better. Like never before, Nigerians have recognised the power of PVC’s to bring about change.
31. The government on their part must empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free and fair election in 2019 and beyond. We must give our support while insisting on a permanent end to impunity and zero-tolerance for thuggery and manipulation of elections. Elections 2019 in Nigeria must be the game-changer. We all must pledge for peace conduct and credible outcome of the 2019 Elections. It is my strong belief that by saving democracy, we would be saving Nigeria and by saving Nigeria we would be saving Africa because of the demonstration effect of enthroning good democratic principles in Nigeria and for the continent as a whole. It is often said with slight exaggeration that wherever Africa is going, Nigeria will get there first. Hence, it is important that Nigeria leads in the right direction.
32. The Construction of Positive Narratives: Support should be provided for creative writers in Nollywood, Kannywood, radio and television to create new narratives showing how the interaction between the two groups could be peaceful and mutually beneficial. Above all, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), as an institution with presence across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the country, should provide these critical services.
33. Good governance in political, economic and corporate spheres; Now is the time to build strong governance structures and institutions and for the Government to articulate national strategies for bridging the gap in the socio-economic development in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were unanimously adopted by the United Nations at its last General Assembly especially goal 16 which emphasizes peace, inclusion and building of national institutions. And now is the time for those in power to embark on strategic communication with the elite and people of Nigeria as a whole in this regard.
34. Inclusivity: Where citizens feel included and come to understand that their voices count on an everyday basis, standards of governance are improved and the political culture benefits through improvements that ensue in the conduct of politicians. Inclusivity also contributes to the processes of nation and state-building which remain unfinished parts of the national agenda. It is within our grasp as a nation and a people to turn the corner. We must find the will to call a stop to all the factors that have hampered our progress to date.
35. Peacebuilding; It is difficult to exaggerate the fact that Nigeria needs intensified efforts at peacebuilding in various parts of the country. Hence, public policy must respond to and apply effective peacebuilding strategies to existing and emerging areas of crises in the country. An effective peacebuildingstrategy is one that is not only holistic but carefully targeted in addressing structural causes of conflict and fragility as well as non-military threats. There is still an unfinished peacebuilding agenda in the Niger Delta that ranges from repair of environmental degradation to economic revitalization of many of the communities in order to provide assured means of livelihood for the people. Meanwhile, in the North-East, as military victory over Boko Haram accelerates, it is not too early to start contemplating the nature and scope of the peacebuilding efforts that might be required. Consensus is evolving that peacebuilding efforts in the North-East must entail three components; de-radicalization of the youth through training and employment creation; supporting the re-integration of internally displaced persons; and undertaking the reconstruction and development of the conflict-affected areas. There was a consensus in the National Conference, at least in principle, on the need to make appropriate budgetary provision available for the 3Rs in that region of Nigeria.
36. Addressing youth’s unemployment: Furthermore, youth unemployment has to be tackled head-on so that extremist groups would not be able to recruit from a pool of unemployed youths for violent extremist actions. In a country with over 10 million unemployed (graduate) youths, it is not out of place to observe youths getting involved in several social vices, taking up arms and being restive in different parts of the country.
37. Promoting issues based politics not the easy recourse to ethnic/religious sentiments.
38. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, perhaps more than at any other time in Nigeria, this is a defining moment in our journey for national unity, national integration and national development. In the past, against all odds, we have been able to overcome similar challenges we faced as a country. As the 2019 elections draw near, we must commit to making it peaceful, freer and fairer. The broadcasting corporation and indeed all of us have a big role to play in bringing this about so that the forthcoming 2019 elections in Nigeria must be the game-changer. It is in our individual and collective interest to do so. We cannot, and must not let our expressed differences alongethnic, religious or cultural lines define us. Instead, our diversity should and must form the basis for our vibrancy, rejuvenation and unity as a nation so that we can achieve the goal enshrined in the famous motto E Pluribus Unum – ‘From Many, One’!
Thank you for listening.
BEING A TEXT OF NBC ANNUAL LECTURE BY PROFESSOR (AMB) IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI, CFR, OCRT
FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF NIGERIA, FORMER AMBASSADOR OF NIGERIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS AND FORMER UN UNDER-SECRETARY GENERAL, AND FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN
SAVANNAH CENTRE FOR DIPLOMACY, DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT (SCDDD), ABUJA, NIGERIA