By Constaincia Uruakpa
Mr. and Mrs. Parents will thereafter pray for more of God’s blessings for the dropout and also thank God for putting their enemies, who thought the boy/girl was a never-do-well to shame.” Hakeem also said that the agency of government that should take the lead in effecting social change and cohesion to engender development is the National Orientation Agency, and to do this, it must partner meaningfully with the media beyond sending invitation to assignments and the issuance of press statements. “The agency needs to involve the media from the scratch in policy formulation and execution and jointly develop messages, build media content, particularly for the broadcast media for penetrating dissemination to all parts of Nigeria. The Agency currently collaborates with many other government and non-governmental agencies, but its partnership with the media still leaves much to be desired.
“It is collaborating with other organisations and agencies to end open defecation; to promote polio vaccination and sundry other issues, for instance, and it has achieved some form of success in this regard, but the collaboration with the media in making the messages to percolate deeper is what needs to be addressed. The media on its part, needs to also look beyond what can be described as stenographic or clerical journalism to dig deep and make strong attempts at changing perceptions and mindsets. “In most media houses today, what reporters write is: “he said’’; “she explained’’ or “he added’’ without critical examination of what has been said or added. Today, line editors as gatekeepers are facing Herculean tasks of making sense of what foot soldiers write. The desire for nation building through media practice must, therefore, begin with the copy written by the reporter, the columnist and the public affairs commentator’, he admonished.
He urged media practitioners not to lose sight of what the Good News Bible said in Romans 14:19-20, as he quoted “So then, we must always aim at those things that bring peace and that help to strengthen one another. Do not because of food destroy what God has done. “Let us also look at Leviticus 19:16 also in the Good News Bible where Jesus Christ admonished thus: ‘Do not spread lies about anyone, and when someone is on trial for his life, speak out if your testimony can help him. I am the Lord.’ Q49: AL-Hujuraat says in Verse 6, “Yaaa ayyuhal lazeena aamonoo, in jaaa akum faasqum binaba in fatabaiyanoo an tuseeboo alaa maa fa altum naadimeen ‘O you who believe, if a dissolute person brings some news, verify it first lest you attack a people ignorantly and later regret what you have done.’ The task of the Editor is manifold. The most ridiculous these days is that he has to think for his or her reporters. Today’s reporter sees the News Editor as the think-tank for his or her beat, that is for media houses that run the beat system.
The News Editor checks grammar, sequence, flow, balance, fairness and other things in a copy before going to press, but oftentimes, we forget the need to protect nationhood or ensure that sensibilities of others are not offended in published copies.” He said weeks ago, he stumbled on a copy where the reporter listed names of people killed in a community clash in a part of the country and had to advise a rewrite because if the Editor had published those names, even a fleeting reader would realize that it was a community feud that took on a religious pitch. Hakeem said that it was equally evident in that copy that one of the groups had the upper hand in what was obviously a reprisal attack. Worse still, the reporter’s name was evidently a name common in one of the religious groups that lost more people, so one could readily sense bias. “My admonition here is that when we write stories about conflict situations in particular, we should not lose sight of the need for fairness and balance, which are essential for nation-building.
Why report that 10 churches and eight mosques were razed when we should have said 18 worship centers were razed, so as to stave further reprisals? He querried. He said as a matter of fact, as much as possible journalists should have the Rotary Club’s Four-Way Test at the back of our minds in all our reportage, namely; Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendship? Will it be beneficial to all? He said: “We must constantly be on our guard against the antics of cynics and naysayers. In its reportage of the #EndSARS protest, the CNN which dubbed itself as the leading cable news network in the world came up with an ‘investigation’ on the protest and said 38 persons were ‘massacred’ by the Nigerian Military at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos. After the claim was subjected to criticism, it failed a simple litmus test as it used unverified social media footages to arrive at its conclusion in spite of the inherent dangers posed by the misuse of social media. Days after, the same global network recanted and said only one person was killed at the tollgate.
The killing of one person, though unfortunate, cannot be described as massacre. Pressed further, CNN said its figure was not just for the Tollgate incident, but the number of people killed nationwide. It is on record, however, that the figure given initially, did not take cognizance of security operatives killed during the protest. “Another example is that of the killing of rice farmers in Zabarmari, Borno, in November. While the figure was put at 47, the UN claimed that 110 persons were killed only to recant less than 24 hours thereafter. These two examples are enough to teach us that there are many interest groups that do not wish Nigeria well and cannot wait to see the country burn. As media practitioners, operating within Nigeria, we must realize that there are forces who couldn’t be bothered about the fate that befalls us once they are set to tear our country apart. It is a matter of ‘they and we, the distant others.’ “Recall that when the United States set out to deal with Saddam Hussein for insulting Bush Senior, it claimed that late Iraqi leader was massing Weapons of Mass Destruction and together with its allies, the UK, in particular, went ahead to destroy Iraq.
When the same United States set out to destroy Libya, it described Mohammar Ghadaffi as a despot who must be removed to pave way for democracy. Ghadaffi and Saddam Hussein are long dead, but millions of Iraqis and Libyans were either killed or displaced in the process and their countries have not known peace ever since. I dare say that Iraqis and Libyans are in worse situations today than when their ‘despots’ were in charge. Should we allow external forces to throw the spanner into the works of Nigeria? I say No.’’ Hakeem said media practitioners must always be one step ahead of the reading, listening and viewing public, adding that while not trying to re-invent the wheel, some advanced climes are adding another factor to the traditional five Ws and H of news writing by adding an S, which stands for Solution, particularly in conflict reporting.
He said: “It is common knowledge that having satisfied the five Ws and H, the newsman believes he has done his job. In conflict situations, the S becomes necessary as it could help to douse tension or do damage control. The newsman needs not insert his opinion as solution, but should talk to stakeholders to get their views on what solutions could be applied to end a conflict. Since this workshop, organised by media practitioners of the two major faith in the country seeks cohesion and national development, I would quickly remind us of what our faiths say about unity. “Quran 3- AL-Imraan, says in Verse 103 that ‘Wa ‘tasimoo bi Hablil laahi jamee ‘anw wa laa tafarraqoo: wazkuroo ni ‘matal laahi alaikum iz kuntum a ‘daa an fa allafa baina quloobikum fa asbah tum bini ‘matihee ikhwaananw wakuntum ‘alaa shafaa hufratini minan Naari faanqazakum minhaa; kazaalika yubaiyinul laahu lakum aayaatihee la ‘allakum tahtadoon. It says ‘hold firmly to the rope of God, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember the favours God bestowed on you when you were enemies and He reconciled you and you turned into brethren through His grace. You had stood on the edge of a pit of fire and He saved you from it, thus revealing to you His clear signs that you may find the right way perchance.
A corollary in the Good News Bible also states in Colossians 3:13-14 “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another. Whenever any of you has a complaint against anyone else, you must forgive one another just as God has forgiven you. 14. And to all these qualities, add love which binds all things together in perfect unity.’’ He said the search for unity is a divine injunction, which does not begin and end with worship, adding that it is not about saying your five daily prayers as a Muslim or going to church throughout the week and all-year round as a Christian. It should be a way of life. Hakeem said: “Quran 2 Al-Baqara, (read from Quran) says in Verse 177 – Piety does not lie in turning your face to East or West; piety lives in believing in God, the Last day and the angels, the scriptures and the prophets, and disbursing your wealth out of love for God among your kin and the orphan, the wayfarers and mendicants, freeing the slaves observing your devotional obligations and in paying Zakat and fulfilling a pledge you have given and being patient in hardship, adversity and times of peril.