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Task Before Rivers Information Commissioner

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It was the third President of
United States of America Thomas Jefferson who once said: If I am asked to choose between a society with a government and another society with newspaper I would prefer a society with newspaper to the one with Government”.
This remark underscores the important role of the media to the overall benefit of society. It is also necessary to accentuate the fact that newspapers in President Jefferson’s statement is indicative of the totality of press system covering radio, television, magazine, newspaper itself and On line media.
The benefit of the press is the same and applicable to nations across the globe including Nigeria.
In Nigeria, for instance, the Iwe Irohin remains the first known newspaper in the country, the BBC Empire Service brought the radio experience to Nigeria in 1933 while the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced television broadcasting in 1959.
Be it print, broadcast or online journalism, the cardinal functions of the press are to inform, educate and entertain.
In fact, in performing its duties, the media help to serve as watch dog of society, providing surveillance and holding leaders accountable to their actions as well as galvanize the citizens towards mass participation in governance. On the other hand, undertaking publishing and broadcasting in indigenous languages provide some forms of cultural identity to a people or society from where the contents originate.
No doubt, the Nigerian media have performed creditably in history and in present day Nigeria. It is worthy of note that the Iwe Irohim established by Reverend Henry Townsend of  Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1859, was largely a religious newspaper published in Yoruba language particularly among the Egba people in the present day Abeokuta in Ogun State to promote evangelism among other ancillary services.
Better still, when the BBC Empire Service which later transformed to the BBC World Service was commissioned at half past nine in the morning of Saturday 19th December 1932, the general manager at the time, Lord Reith, stated thus: “The World Service would become a connecting and coordinating link between the scattered parts of the British Empire”.
The radio experiment in Nigeria which began in 1933, therefore, helped to link Nigeria as a British territory to the parent Government in the United Kingdom.
The story is the same in the case of television in Nigeria. In the words of the Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “Television will serve as a teacher and entertainer and as a stimulus to us all to transform Nigeria into a modern and prosperous nation”.
Chief Awolowo also known as the Asiwaju of Remo added; “Western Nigeria was convinced that television could promote both the pace and standard of education regarded as key to progress in other fields.
This is not to undermine the landmark contributions of Voice of Nigeria which became autonomous and independent of Radio Nigeria on January 5,1990 and News Agency of Nigeria which launched its editorial operations on October 2, 1978 about two years after inception in 1976.
Besides, there is a plethora of independent newspapers, radio and television stations as well as those owned by tertiary institutions offering one service or the other.
Be that as it may, from colonialism, the dark days of military rule to the birth of democracy, Nigerian Journalists have rendered invaluable contributions to the survival of the Nigerian State to the extent that some Nigerian journalists have either paid the supreme sacrifice or suffered terrible humiliation in the discharge of their legitimate duties.
The death of Dele Giwa and humiliation of late Minere Amikiri are worthy examples of the challenges of journalists in the country to say the least. In Rivers State, the Nigerian Tide presently called Tide Newspaper was the first news medium established by the State government in 1971 with the legendary Gabriel Okara as the pioneer General while late W. T Wakama was the pioneer Commissioner of Information and Home Affairs as it was called then.
It is on record that the Rivers Sate Broadcasting Corporation RSBC became the second news medium governed by Edict Number Eight of 1973 while Garden City Radio was established much later.
One thing is clear: the Rivers Sate Broadcasting Corporation was to serve as the umbrella body for Radio Rivers and Rivers State Television (RSTV) but the television arm RSBC- TV commenced operation before the radio.
Today, Radio Rivers Fm, Garden City Radio and RSTV are three separate institutions managed by different managements but, supervised by the State Ministry of information and communication.
The task before the new Commissioner of Information and Communication, Doctor Austin Tam George, remains to reposition the State owned media comprising The Tide, RSBC,  RSTV and Garden City Radio.
To reposition would be to re-visit the corporate objectives for which the founding fathers established the State media which primarily was to provide favorable identity to the multi – ethnic society such as Rivers State as well as mobilize the people towards participation in governance.
Records show that out of seventeen orthographies of seventeen Rivers languages approved by the federal authority non is in official use in broadcasting to Rivers people. Worse still, while the BBC that brought radio experience to Nigeria broadcast in languages some state broadcast outfits do not.
Similarly, it is expedient to take advantage of the media     platform to carry out instructional education especially by using the media to teach core subjects such as English Language and Mathematics largely considered  necessary for employment and in the pursuit of higher education.
Above all, one major challenge in media content generation is that leaders in positions of trust attach premium to propagating government messages to the masses but do not see the need for a feed back and as a result there is no resonance.
Rivers State must restructure all its media organs particularly the state radio stations to adequately cover its diversity, reach the grassroots in indigenous languages and take a step further to retrieve the premises of Radio Rivers at Ozuoba occupied by Daar Communication PLC.
After about 40 years of public broadcasting, Rivers State Government should emulate the pioneers, BBC and Radio Nigeria alike, by establishing many other stations on its stable.
The Nigerian citizens expect the tune of public communication in the State and national discourse to be one devoid of character assassination, falsehood, acrimony and mere political interest capable of overheating the polity and causing disaffection.
To this end, the media must remain medicated place and public sphere to serve as nexus between the leadership and the governed.
Both government official and information managers such as journalists must see the need to migrate from transmissional and linear model of information dissemination to transactional methodology. This migration would require a total restructuring and transformation of the public sphere as the media represent the public sphere in modern society. act is now.
Government and independent media owners, therefore, should sponsor journalists for specialized training in journalism to equip them undertake reportage on various sectors of the economy and to better understand the media milieu as the town hall of our time.
Consequently, the media must resist the temptation to connive and conspire with the leadership and bourgeois against the citizens and common good of society.
Sika  is a public affairs analyst.

 

Baridorn  Sika

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the quest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power bloc boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphasis on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Citizen And Government Reciprocity

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Simply speaking, reciprocity refers to rewarding kind actions and punishing unkind actions. It is the practice of exchanging values with others for mutual benefits.
There is Government-citizen reciprocity. Mutual exchange of privileges between the people or the governed and the government is predicated on the principle of social contract. First the people vote for a government to assume the mantle of leadership while the government is expected to reciprocate this gesture of mandate by fulfilling their electioneering promises.
In a second perspective social psychologists see reciprocity as a “Social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind action”.
How can the citizens and residents of Rivers State demonstrate reciprocity with the Government of the State over the dividends of democracy delivered to them in the last six years?
Surely Rivers State Government through its New Rivers Vision blue print has delivered the needed development and general good.
It is interesting to recall that when Rivers State Government began its Urban Renewal Programme and building of road infrastructure, it called on Rivers people to make the necessary sacrifice to enable government complete the projects on record time.
The projects indeed are expected to add great values to the people and the city of Port Harcourt in terms of aesthetics and improved urban logistics.
Only those with village mentality can wish away the beauty, glamour and convenience which the modern fly over in Port Harcourt has provided.
It is also important to observe that Rivers State Government took the right steps when it contracted the services of the Civil Engineering giants Julius Berger. The German firm has reputation of delivering solid and functional projects in Nigeria.
It was on the bases of this reputation that Rivers State Government pleaded with host communities of the ongoing construction of fly overs to observe restraint in their expectations and demands.
Government has also encouraged Julius Berger to exercise full corporate Social responsibility to the benefits of host communities.
These communities were expected to organize their unemployed youth population to engage in lower grade labour and supplies peacefully.
The recent grandstanding by some members of these host communities in the State capital is therefore worrisome.
These restive youths were expected to reciprocate the gesture of State Government in hosting and protecting these infrastructures in their communities.
The government had appealed to them through their community leaders to observe the necessary restraint and allow the company to complete the projects to avoid the uncompleted project syndrome in the state.
The government/citizen reciprocity was expected to play out here in the positive sense. The positive gesture by the people should be by owning and protecting these projects from any form of sabotage.
Sabotage on public infrastructure has become serious threat in the state and some, as in the case of the Julius Berger Community boys brouhaha could be politically motivated. It will be unfair for any group of persons or community to instigate any form of crisis to abort the plans and programmes of Government to the people, for any negative reason. When the right hand washes the left hand, the left hand in return washes the right hand. Road infrastructure is a venture that adds social and economic values to the beneficiaries. It opens and expands the space of a given community, saving it from suffocating grid lock which affects social and economic activities of communities in close proximity.
According to Carrol Ouigley “The basis of social relationship is reciprocity: if you cooperate with others, other will cooperate with you”.
Government of Rivers State has shown good will to all the people of the state. Governor Nyesom Wike has demonstrated enough concern for the welfare and wellbeing of the state. He has brought development to every part of the State, irrespective of their political and ethnic inclinations.
The Trans Kalabari High way project conundrum had lingered too long. One would have thought that the rescue plan of Government in prosecuting it would bring Joy to the people of the area and elicit support of all segments of that society.
Unfortunately, those who do not want any good for themselves and government have begun criminal activities, aimed at crippling the project.
There was an era in this state when government projects were grounded because of criminal activities by few citizens.
The recent kidnapping of staff of the firm working on that project is a sad commentary which brings back sad memories of the past. Insecurity is anathema to development. The Trans Kalabari High way project is expected to open up the area which is in the heart of Creeks, and Rivers. Community leaders should rise up to the occasion and call their people to order. A difficult terrain such as this makes the penetration of development very difficult.
The one city status of Rivers State will continue to subsist if communities are not opened up for social infrastructure and economic investment.
The security operatives in Rivers State should protect development projects from the activities of men of the underworld. It is on record that Rivers State Government has been supporting and providing for all security Operatives in the State. It is therefore incumbent on the Police and the Armed Forces to reciprocate by showing capacity in protecting lives and property in the State. The Federal Government must reciprocate the gesture of Rivers State Government and motivate functional security architecture in the State.

By: Bon Woke

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the guest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power block boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphases on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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