Former DG of National Broadcasting Commission Enjoins Traditional Media to raise their Game
Mallam Danladi Bako, former Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and former Commissioner of Information in Sokoto State, was guest of AIT’s ”Focus Nigeria” programme yesterday. I listened to him as he spoke with Gbenga Aruleba, the programme’s anchor. He made erudite and thought-provoking statements on the Mass Media and National Development.
Please, join me as I share excerpts of what he said:
The Growth of the Mass Media in Nigeria
”The media has come of age. The statistics and the developmental parameters you can use show that the media has grown astronomically. The print media, the electronic media and now the social media. Once upon a time, 1857, we were talking about the first newspaper, Iwe Irohin in Abeokuta, owned by a British explorer.”
“Up to the Re-diffusion boxes in 1932 which needed the procurement of a box connected to NITEL line or P&T line to get the signs of BBC… then up to when all of us would wake up suddenly as early as 4.00 am, waiting for television. Keeping vigil to see colour bars.
The children of today have no idea what used to happen at that time. We wake up as early as 4 o clock, waiting for the colour bar. Then an announcer, female or male announcer pops up and says, ‘This is NTA…’ After that the national anthem and the opening prayer and all that stuff. All that has moved to a point where government deregulated broadcasting in 1992; one of the few things that General Babangida did well.
“DAAR Communication was one of the first recipients of a licence to own a private radio. Ray Power started and for about five (5) years dominated and set a pace. Today by 1999 when I was Director General of NBC, we had multiplied radio stations in literally every corner of the country. In fact, former President Obasanjo approved that there must be radio or TV stations in every 100 kilometers. That was how it manifested in the NTA having three (3) stations per state. There was a policy to try to reach the populace.”
Benefits of Deregulation of Broadcasting
”Those days a radio would come on, you couldn’t talk to the radio. Today there is a huge level of democratization of the air space. Liberalization of the airspace has allowed the participatory capacity of the electorate, the populace, the citizenry to give a feedback.”
“That is the major contribution that broadcasting has brought in the last ten (10) years. The phone calls and the ideas and the inputs from the audience has improved democracy. It has put people on their toes. It has made sure that the voice of the people are heard.”
Obligations of Journalists in Democratic Settings
”It is that cross fertilization of ideas that makes the job of a journalist very delicate now. Even when you opinionate, remember that the viewers are there to listen and criticize you…. The journalist can have an opinion but he must state that it is an opinion…, as long as you are saying the truth and you believe that everything must be substantiated. Your conclusions must be based on facts. The moment you can prove that you are clear-minded with facts, half of the job is done.”
Journalism’s Gate Keeping Role in the Social Media
”The challenge today is the dearth or the bypassing of the gate keeper by the social media. You and I know what journalism and gate keeping mean. All the laws have been broken because of social media. They don’t have gates, talk less of the keepers of the gates. That’s the challenge.”
“Gbenga can say something now and somebody can reproduce what you said in a way that you didn’t mean or infer and put it in the social media and say you said so. To what level do our laws of slander, libel, etcetera, effectively handle those kind of things? Those are the challenges. Regulating the social media has become a challenge.”
Perils of Live Broadcasts
”It puts Nigeria under a lot of scrutiny. Pre-2015 elections, most of the media were guilty. The full transmission of live rallies, APC and PDP were all guilty of outrageous comments in rallies. Outrageous comments, outrageous claims during rallies and political campaigns. A lot of hate stuff. But to a large extent, one of the good things that happened, a little later, sometime earlier this year and last year, DAAR Communications actually did a retraction and an apology which is the ideal thing to do. We all make mistakes.
I was very proud that you had the humility to accept that when things are done wrongly, you set a pace, you set a standard that things can be done wrongly. But also, you can also repair. But it tells you that in news and the media and the transmission of live materials, the decision making, the decision to carry live program, a live rally… you cannot predict what a candidate would say. You should always try to delay broadcast or record and keep. But because they would make more money, fifteen (15) million to do a live, if you delay, it would vanish. So, the media has put itself at a firing range.’’
Challenge of Traditional Media against the Social Media
”If the conventional media retains its sanity level, then its credibility will rise. Then every time you read something in the social media, you will ask ‘what did the NUJ say about this? What did the NGE say about it? What are the traditional media saying about this?’ The traditional media should raise their game to the level that the credibility gap between us and the social media would be so wide that every time people hear something from the social media, they would love to read or hear what the conventional media are saying.”
Relationship between Journalists and Political Leaders
”Government must make itself proactive and accountable. If you don’t hoard information, then rumour becomes rife…. We need to be more liberal with information so that those who spread the rumours don’t. The gap between the media as the fourth estate of the realm and the other three (3) realms must be closer. The moment you sit down there, you think that you are the executive, ‘oh I am the Chief Justice of Nigeria or I am the Senate President, or I am the President of Nigeria, oh these are just media people’.”
“That derogatory attitude, condescending attitude and your high flatulent posture, makes them say they would ambush you. Next time they see you, they would ambush you. It is a primordial thing. It doesn’t come consciously. And you hear a lot of press men saying ‘this one is arrogant’. They have already formed an opinion how they would treat your story.
Gbenga, you interviewed Jacob Zuma of South Africa, forty eight (48) hours after he was sworn into office. You interviewed Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, literally 48 hours after he was sworn into office. But in Nigeria, it may take you one week to interview a state Governor. The moment you try to do it, somebody would fence you off and keep you for weeks without an interview.”
“The next time you get that interview, you are going to be a little nasty in a nice way…. These are things that come out with reports and the public do not realize that being open to the media help their cause…. All those prejudices on the part of the government appointee, we must break that down. On the part of the prejudice from the media, we must break that down. Unless we break down all those barriers, the job won’t flow.”
Role of the Media in the Face of Agitations for Secession in Nigeria
”The media has a role to be more integrative than they are now. All the media we have, both print, electronic and everything, should dedicate space for the minorities that live within those areas. If you are living in Ijebu-Remo and there are radio stations there and you are a lover of radio or lover of television and you have a television set and you are lost and shut out because all the information is about that locality.”
“So we need to begin to be able to integrate more of the rest of Nigeria. We must make conscious efforts to make sure that other Nigerians that live within our territories have space to ventilate. The media must make that effort to integrate. Especially electronic media. They must try to provide space for people to integrate so that they can have their opinion. Even if it is a simple request programme.”
Agitation for Restructuring, against the Backdrop of Constitution Amendment by the National Assembly
”For me, the poverty levels and the poor quality of leadership is a major problem. Whatever we restructure, if people have a tendency, a penchant or propensity to bypass the constitution, to disrespect court orders and to break the law with impunity, we are going to go back to square one. Whatever it is, just take it that we have no discipline to be able to do the things that are right. We have no discipline to follow the laws of the land…. That is why even the administration of criminal justice law, even the lawyers are sabotaging all of that. Senior lawyers are still creating problems…. Is it a function of the laws? We have no desire on our own part to obey laws.
For us, I don’t think there is any problem with restructuring as long as we know what we want to do….What those who want states want to do. If you give them states, maybe the fundamental issues about whether the population and revenue allocation formula is based on population, landmass and all those things, it will be discussed. But quite clearly, I am one of those who feel that Lagos with twenty two (22) million people cannot have twenty (20) Local Governments and my Kano has four (4). To that extent, I understand and agree that certain things need to be fine tuned. But again, you will ask yourself, ‘at what level and where do we stop?’
How far can we go with breaking up of all of these things and restructuring these things? Because as we speak, some of those things will not pass because those who are in charge will not allow them pass. All of what we are now saying will still go to the States. The Governors control those states. Some of those people that are in charge of those House of Assembly members will ensure that some of those things get stuck.”
How States should Restructure
”You know, as I said severally, the basic issue of things like restructuring can only happen if after, as it happened with the issues of creating Midwest, creating twelve (12) states, creating nineteen (19) states, creating thirty six (36) states, eh, the other day Middle Belt said we should have fifty four (54) states. Of course, some of these things are not practicable. There are not. I don’t think that you can have fifty four (54) states. Gbenga, every state needs to begin to look at its resources and develop them and not rely on the Federal Government. We need to work. We need to eradicate poverty first…. Go back and try to see what we can do.
Fortunately, they are now taking up farming. Kebbi State has shown that they can grow rice. Kano has started…. Every state needs to do that. For me, that is the key…. I am for reducing what the Federal Government has at fifty one (51) percent. Federal Government should reduce allocation to itself and increase revenue allocation to states. That is restructuring. But, if you talk about general restructuring, you are talking about maybe six hundred (600) items from the national confab.”
“You are talking about thirty two (32) bills from the National Assembly. Each one of them is contentious. Some of them will create continuous arguments. We need a better country. And for us to get a better country, we must have a desire to build a better country. Right now, people are looking at their tribal, little cleavages and fiefdoms and trying to build their own little empires. Those empires are the ones where they would be Fiefs.”
Mallam Bako is undergoing a Ph.D programme in Development Communication at Ahmadou Bello University (ABU) Zaria. He has this view on Journalism as a school.
“Even when the stress of the programme is so much, I sit back and I watch ”Focus Nigeria”. The level of the guests and your interaction with the guests. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you think you are. You learn from a lot of guests. You are going through a school too. Sitting down to do ”Morning Ride” for all the years I did it in NTA, I learnt a lot.”
“When you are talking to Idika Kalu this morning, Olikoye Ransome Kuti the next morning, Tai Solarin the next morning, Wole Soyinka the next day, Governor of Borno State another day, Raji Rasaki the next day, it is a learning curve. I congratulate you for a job well done. Irrespective of what anybody says, Gbenga you have moved from that slightly active, you know, activist of those days to a more refined, constructive critic that is adding a lot to national development through this programme.”
- Cornelius Ellah