The Chairman of Board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, has expressed the determination of the Commission to ensure decency and professionalism in the broadcast media coverage of Nigeria’s 2019 elections saying: “As a Commission we are committed to make the broadcast media in Nigeria effective and impactful to the people of Nigeria.”
Speaking at the annual lecture of the Commission which held in Abuja on August 30, 2018, Mr Bilbis said the Commission is “determined to ensure that the 2019 elections are covered and reported decently and professionally.” He expressed his attraction to the democratic advantages offered by the deregulation of the industry. “Everyday in this country, citizens are expressing themselves and marketing their ideas on our radio and television stations. A plural media is a vital element for democratic advancement particularly in a multi-party terrain like ours,” he noted.
Titled: Broadcasting and Nigeria’s Ethno-Cultural and Religious Divide: Bridging the Gap, this year’s lecture of the Commission, being the fourth of its kind, was delivered by Professor (Ambassador) Ibrahim Gambari, founder of the Savannah Centre For Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD), Abuja.
In his welcome address, the Director General of the Commission, Mr. Is’haq Madibbo Kawu, noted that “Over the years of Nigeria’s nationhood, the secondary contradictions, at the ethno-cultural and religious levels have appeared to be the most intractable and most fought over. And because broadcasting is a platform which reflects the social space, it can often be a conveyor of the deep emotions associated with ethno-cultural and religious divide.”
“That is why it is imperative for broadcasting to be a bridge-building industry,” he submitted.
Introducing the subject of discussion, Professor Gambari added what he described as “elements of two other and perhaps more dangerous divide,” namely, violent extremism and terrorism as well as growing poverty and economic inequality.
According to him, just as the perpetrators of violent extremism and terrorism do not respect or recognize national boundaries, they also do not respect religious, ethnic or cultural affinities. Hence, he said, “we have to unite against and defeat them by adopting and implementing national, regional, continental and global strategies.
“Growing poverty and economic inequality; figures show that in 1980, those living beneath poverty line constitute 6.2% of our population. The estimate now is that they are up to 44.2% of our total population. Of recent, the UK Prime Minister said their number is 87 million, making Nigeria ‘home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world. In recognition of this ugly situation our VP Prof. Osinbajo said that his Administration has committed N500 billion to poverty alleviation. We can do more of course and adopt comprehensive strategies like India and China where millions of their peoples have been lifted out of poverty.”
Addressing the question on the role of broadcasting in the context of socio-economic gap, impact of poor governance on our nation’s diversity, Professor Gambari traced the history of broadcasting in Nigeria to the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation and Western Nigeria Television (WNBC/WNTV) in 1959, adding that other regions quickly followed.
“The foundation of broadcasting in Nigeria was therefore based on regionalism and ethnicity,” he concluded.
To address this historically rooted problem, he noted that “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, he professed, “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 media especially with regards to hate speech.”
He charged the NBC and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) among others, to embark on strategic civic education and begin to inform and create 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,” he noted.
He urged broadcasters to be guided by the Broadcasting Code, asserting that “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.”
On Nigeria’s forthcoming general election, the Professor submitted that: “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 along ethnic, 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!’”