Ibrahim Gambari, former Minister for External Affairs and erstwhile United Nations Under-Secretary General, has called for an end to what he calls, “the audacity of hypocrisy” of the Nigerian ruling class. The Nigerian scholar and diplomat, made this call at the tenth anniversary of the Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series held in Lagos on Friday 13 July, in commemoration of the 84th birthday of Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature.
According to Ibrahim Gambari, the country’s leaders are audacious hypocrites because they talk about the importance of the values of truth, accountability, transparency, anti-corruption and the like but refuse to show respect for such ethos in their actions. He emphasised that to tackle conflicts, the attributes of good governance, which are inclusivity and participatory governance, supremacy of rule of law, transparency and accountability, responsive government, strong institutions and leaders, freedom of faith, consensus, discipline, and unity in diversity, must be present.
Speaking on the theme, “Sheathing the drawn daggers: Conversations on investigative reporting and accountability in times of conflict”, other speakers including, Joe Abah, Nigeria Country Director, DAI Global; Eugenia Abu, former Executive Director of Programmes, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA); Umaru Pate, Pioneer Dean, Faculty of Communication, Bayero University, Kano; and Mnguember Sylvester, Professor of Literature and Gender Studies, University of Abuja, were also on hand to contribute to the lecture.
On her part, Mnguember Sylvester, the author of “Long Shadows”, a book on the Tiv uprising of the 1960s, said the media fails to capture the reality of the herdsmen-farmer crisis in Benue and mostly reports the conflict ignorantly. She therefore urged the media to investigate and come out with objective details that can inform solution rather than publish false reports.
Umaru Pate, while contributing to the discussion, explained that the collapse of the Local Government system, coupled with poor media coverage of hinterlands, unemployment and poverty must be handled decisively to address the conflicts that plague the country. The Professor of Media and Society, further called on the government to reactivate the national radio broadcast, which once covered the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Ace broadcaster, Eugenia Abu, in her remark, decried the situation where publishers splash controversial headlines driven by commercial interest without caring if the country burns afterwards. While asking for more responsible coverage of conflict issues, she pointed to the fact that many media organisations choreograph rather than balance the news.“People are looking for headlines and it doesn’t matter whether Nigeria burns”, she said. Eugenia Abu advised the media to improve its knowledge of conflict issues in order to better play its critical role of demanding accountability and engendering peace.
Lending his voice to the discussion, Joe Abah, the former Director of the Bureau for Public Reforms, highlighted the correlation between conflict and grievance. He urged the government to step in and deal with issues of perceived injustice, adding that investigative reporting is a conflict resolution mechanism.
In his opening remark, Ropo Sekoni, the Board Chair of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), organisers of the programme, mentioned that the lecture was timely given that the nation is faced with unprecedented number of conflicts at this time of its history.
Motunrayo Alaka, the organisation’s Coordinator, chronicled the nexus between the trends of themes covered at the nine previous editions of the lecture, happenings in the country and the state of the media. According to her, the issues discussed in time past remain with the country till date. She challenged the media to rise up to its agenda-setting capabilities rather than allow politicians to continue to decide what becomes news.
A critical part of the event was lending a voice to condemning the continuous detention of Jones Abiri, the Publisher of Source Magazine, a weekly publication based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, who was arrested by men of the Department of State Services (DSS) on July 21, 2016 and have since been held in detention without trial. Lanre Arogundade, Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), representing the Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom, called on the government to comply with the law regarding illegal detention.
The lecture, which was moderated by Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, Co-Founder of Whole WoMan Network, was attended by journalists, policy makers, representatives of pressure groups and non-governmental organisations, members of the diplomatic corps, students, lawyers and other members of the public.