By Godson Ikiebey
Nigeria media has consistently retrogressed into mediocrity, though this is not a generalization, it is an indictment of the dominant media paradigm in Nigeria today. I have hoped before now of an improvement, however such optimism has successfully been vanquished with pessimism almost made domicile, though it can be repaired.
I do not intend to denigrate the Nigeria media but as a concerned Nigeria I am worried that the media institution, which is important in the socialization process, as a champion of reforms, promotion of values, advancing the education and enlightenment of citizens, the development of social values and assisting in the formation of a national identity for the purpose of engineering a social agenda for socio-economic transformation has bizarrely lost its consciousness. In the past couple of weeks, we have been inundated with the Boko Haram sponsors conversation. I do not intend to bore you with the narrative of Stephen Davis, but to address the paradox of the narrative and also reflect on the communication so far in the media.
The Australian claimed that he was made aware by Boko Haram commanders that a former Chief of Army Staff who retired in January is a sponsor of the group. He also named the former governor of Borno State Modu Sheriff as a sponsor. He went further to narrate how a supposed current CBN employee and former employee were connected to the terrorist group. He tried to justify his insults by holding to the premise of the CBN being the financial gate-keeper and therefore were able to move money around for that purpose. According to him it was easy for the so called CBN official and ex-official to fund terrorism legitimately and hence create a proper cover. This means that the CBN governors – immediate past and present, and probably the entire CBN management sponsors terrorism in Nigeria.
However he did not stop at his irresponsible and irrational concoction of a façade, he attempted to elicit sympathy and empathy for the President’s ineptitude at handling terrorism challenges so far. In delivering a well-orchestrated script he received a willing boost from three media houses associated with Nigeria, two national and an international media house.
I am convinced that Stephen Davis is an intellectual who has successfully taken advantage of the idiosyncrasy associated with Nigerian Institutions and political environment. However his inability to establish any logical and rational connection in his argument gave him away.
My questions for the Nigeria media, especially the media houses that interviewed Stephen Davis are: why would Boko Haram reveal the sponsors of their terrorism financing to Stephen Davis? What are the consequences of such revelation to Boko Haram operations? Have they been dislodged to warrant them to make such confessions? Is Stephen Davis a member of Boko Haram? Then who is he? Who does he work for? It is obvious that Nigeria is his cash cow. It is also obvious that Stephen Davis views Nigeria political elites as a group of irrationals. Why would he not when he has feasted with great pleasure on the resources of Nigeria through two former Nigerian Presidents and currently feasting again through the Nigerian President with great satisfaction! Why would he not when the political parties in Nigeria cast aspersions on themselves regularly in regards to being sponsors of Boko Haram! If Boko Haram indeed revealed to him that Ihejirika is not only a financial sponsor but also provides tactical support as he selects targets for elimination, what does that mean for the Boko Haram terrorist organization? These are the questions I expected to be thrown at the Australian but they never came.
Stephen Davis as a hostage negotiator knows that a terrorist organization such as Boko Haram never makes available its financial backers to a negotiator. This is because doing that compromises the organizations entire operations and bargaining chip. That Ihejirika is a Boko Haram sponsor is one of the absurdities of year 2014. As a Nigeria I was completely disappointed in the media for permitting Davis irrational communication and allowing it to permeate the society.
There is no denying the fact that Modu Sheriff knows about the origin of Boko Haram. This is because he planted the seed, nurtured it to develop and used it to attain political mileage. Though Sheriff’s brutal political philosophy is no different from the philosophy of other political leaders in the country in nurturing brutal and inhumane militias to achieve political capital, his however boomeranged and he was unable to rein them in and eventually they turned into a vicious socio-cannibalistic organization causing so much pain to the young, old and the economy of the North East. In as much as I am convinced that Sheriff should not go unpunished for birthing Boko Haram, it is obvious that the Boko Haram of today has no sponsorship relationship with Sheriff, but for creating this social, economic and human cannibals he deserves retribution.
The conversation around Sheriff and Boko Haram is not new, and we did not need Davis to inform us of that. One thing I am sure of is that if Sheriff sponsors them, they will portray the opposite to Davis. It is a known fact that the present Boko Haram considers Sheriff as an enemy because of Sheriff’s perceived collaborative role in the killing of Mohammed Yusuf their former leader. In as much as I consider Sheriff and politicians like him enemies of Nigeria due to his transgression, it does not inhibit me from being objective, truthful and sincere. This is the standard I expect of the media and those who pride themselves as critics and activist for social change.
In his most recent interview and prompted probably after he had gone through the transcripts of his earlier interviews and to enable him continue the justification of his wild allegations, Davis asserted that the present Boko Haram is different from the Yusufiya group. Davis also noted that Boko Haram commanders told him if one of such of their sponsors is arrested they would lay down their arms, release our beloved daughters and expose their sponsors. Is this not a contradiction? If Boko Haram commanders are tired of their sponsors and the war against Nigeria would they not renounce violence and surrender? Why do they need the sponsors to be arrested first before they drop their arms?
In the same interview he declared that the present Boko Haram is a partner of IS and Al Shabaab. Is this not also a contradiction when you carefully examine the narrative of Davis? It is obvious that Boko Haram understands the effective use of communication and what they have successfully done with this is to create a diversion by setting the media agenda. Therefore the Nigerian media having failed to apply logic and rationality in addressing this conversation and has allowed them to define the media agenda. Boko Haram has successfully occupied territories in the North East of Nigeria, villages and towns are falling freely. Our military is depleted in resources due to unwholesome impunity and as a result our military personnel are refusing to engage the terrorist. Stories of mutiny are being told, deserters are increasingly noticed and leadership has relapsed. Instead of focusing on building national consciousness on the grave and alarming situation at hand, Stephen Davis and Boko Haram are inadvertently encouraged to fester division, impose a culture of panic and fear in our society, what a shame!
Though the conceptualization of the media as the fourth estate of the realm is more of an academic exercise rather than as a practical possibility in today’s world, nevertheless it must be noted that the media as an institution has a great responsibility in our drive towards socio-economic development. As a socialization agent, the media uses the functions of informing, educating, entertaining and mobilization to create social consciousness. Guided by the principles of truth-telling, objectivity, sincerity and rationality the media helps to create an informed society with a defined value system. As it is, Nigerians are seeking for leadership, can the media be the institution to provide that leadership our political elites have failed to provide? During the military dictatorship it seemed so, but today’s media is a total deviation of that era. The media owe it as a responsibility to mobilize Nigerians for a new social order and they can do this by first purging themselves.
The United States of America have had a fair share of media mediocrity and abuse, and to address this, the “Commission on Freedom of the Press” also known as the Hutchins commission was established. The private commission headed by Robert Hutchins then President of the University of Chicago came out with a report in 1947 after four years of sitting. That report metamorphosed into the social responsibility theory in media studies and in media practice. In 2011 due to the News of the World phone hacking scandal, a judicial public inquiry known as the “Leveson Inquiry” was established to examine the culture, practices and ethics of the British media and they have come up with far reaching recommendations. Therefore what is the role of the media in Nigeria? It is time for the Nigerian media to define its role in the context of citizens, culture, practices, ethical virtues of prudence, justice, wisdom and temperance and media freedom by going the way of the Hutchins commission, this is because an inquiry by the public sector on this would only exacerbate the mediocrity, for those we have entrusted with public responsibilities have demonstrated little or no integrity and competence.