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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

That Mailafia’s 2022 Civil War Prediction

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Last September, the country received, with shock, the news of the death of one  of the greatest intellectual minds of our time. He was amongst many precious souls who departed this sphere in an era when there is a famine of truth. Some suspected foul play, but according to the Chief Medical Director of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Prof. Bissallah Ekele, the death was due to COVID-19 complications. Mr Mailafia, was a financial expert, a former Central Bank of Nigeria’s Deputy Governor, and a former presidential candidate of the ADC. Most importantly, he was one of President Buhari’s fiercest critics. Beyond that, he was also a security analyst, and we can also call him a prophet in the light of the current security uncertainties in the past few months;  especially, given his revelations on August 10, 2020, during an interview on Nigeria Info, in which he raised alarm over the plans of Boko Haram to start a civil war in Nigeria by 2022.
During that interview, he made public the intel he had gathered through his security network, detailing how Boko Haram has planned a phase-by-phase attack that would culminate in urban invasion and the assassination of prominent Nigerians. His revelations came after he met with some repentant Boko Haram members. He said, “Let me make some revelations because some of us have our internal security networks, we have met with some of the bandits’ high commanders, who have repented and they told us that one of the Northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“Boko Haram and bandits are one and the same, they have a sophisticated network, during the lockdown, their planes were moving up and down with ammunition, logistics, money, and distributing them in different parts of the country.
“They are already in the rainforest of the South, they are everywhere. They told us that when they finish these rural killings, they would move to phase two.
“In phase two, they will go into the urban cities, moving from house to house killing prominent people. “I can tell you this is their game plan and by 2022, they want to start a civil war in Nigeria.”
The security events in and around Abuja, and other major cities have given credence to Mr Mailafia’s 2020 predictions. In fact, since June 5 -Kuje prison break, there has been an uptick in attacks in  and around Abuja metropolis. Cases of kidnapping in Abuja have become so frequent  that some who looted funds to build mansions in Abuja are beginning to contemplate relocation to their home state for safety.
Sadly, what is happening in Abuja and its environs is beyond kidnapping. It is clearly the acceleration of the second phase of Boko Haram’s civil war programme, and its purpose is to intimidate, dislocate and overwhelm whatever is left of our fragile security architecture.
Unfortunately, it is bearing fruit from every indication. Surprisingly, President Buhari’s ‘spin doctor’,  Lai  Muhammad,  has not said anything about the recent carnage and bloodletting in the country or reminded us how large swath of land was ceded to the Boko Haram during President Jonathan’s administration. Or, how the Nigerian army has technically won the war against Boko Haram; or, how members of the opposition party are the key sponsors of acts of violence in the country.
The growing audacity of terrorist groups and their associates has become so palpable that they can openly threaten to kidnap a sitting president and governor. Honestly, I hope President Buhari has come to terms with the meaning of “making the country ungovernable”; and Governor Nasir El Rufai, his comments on body bags. A few weeks ago, Boko Haram and their associates showed Nigerians and the whole world how impotent, and incapacitated we have become as a nation when they circulated a video depicting the worst humiliation of our lifetime. In the video, members of Boko Haram, including one escapee from the June 5, Kuje prison break was whipping victims of the March 7th ill-fated Abuja – Kaduna train attack.
The war has begun, to say otherwise, is to live in denial like President Buhari and his cabal. They have abdicated the primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians  of a better future. Incompetence and mortal inertia have led to the morphing and amalgamation of terrorists of varied interests making the country a killing field.
Aside from a few states, Nigeria is burning, Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers, and killer herdsmen in the North; while kidnappers and killer herdsmen are ravaging the South. Things have fallen so far apart, but the centre has taken sides. There are two wars going on concurrently in the country: the war of Fulanisation, and the war of Islamisation – both are the same. It is clearly a war for ethnic domination shrouded in the toga of religion.
At the centre, there are glaring signs of Islamisation; but in Zamfara State, and most states in the Middle-Belt and the South, Fulanisation is afoot. In a speech given after his recent vacation abroad, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State rolled back the covering of climate change which has been the major lie of expansionist Fulani herdsmen. According to him,  he decided to visit the United Kingdom and the United States of America to correct the wrong narratives that the crisis in Benue State was caused by climate change and there,   he was surprised to learn that the attacks were beyond what they had fed them with.
“Even during the rainy season, the Fulani herders come to our communities, killed, maimed, raped our women even our men. These Fulanis come from Niger, Senegal, Mauritania and other places.They only used that as shield,  their main reason for attacks was occupation of our lands”.
He further accused President  Buhari of dereliction, he said,  “Things are getting worse in Nigeria. You know I said this before I travelled out, that  very soon, with the manner bandits are operating without proactive steps from the federal government, they will soon enter the Aso Rock.
“You have seen happenings in the country; the Kuje prison break and the threat to kidnap the president, God forbid, but this is what I saw a long time ago.
“Those people in Afghanistan, who are bandits and Fulanish are the ones (wreaking havoc). They are being sponsored. I feel pain that this is happening in my generation. There is no government in Nigeria today. Those who are surrounding the president are criminals.
“You have left us digging our graves, we need a true change, not the change from top to bottom you promised us in 2015. We are at war, and if we are not allowed to bear arms to defend our families, then our governor must heed the call of human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), to apply for gun licences to arm their various security outfits. And if the Federal Government refuses, they should go to court; but in the meantime, they should judiciously use the humongous security votes they collect  every month to purchase drones and other security hardware to protect their people.”

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Questions For Sheikh Gumi

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A Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, was quoted as saying: “I Pity Nigeria’s Next President”, recently. He was also quoted as saying that the terrorists operating in Nigeria were being paid some enviable remunerations as daily allowances by their unnamed sponsors or financiers. So far there has been no official record that security agencies have had some interactions with the notable cleric as they did with late Dr Obediah Mailafia.
One of the rules of engagement in security affairs is that one should see and know more than what one gives away. Sheikh Gumi has given away much more in the recent past with regard to the activities of bandits and terrorists that an obvious conclusion would be that he sees and knows more. That he should express pity for next President of Nigeria means that he knows that the future is bleak. Those who have followed his body language and utterances would conclude that he has passion and sympathy for the cause which motivates the insurgents.
Patriotism demands that all hands must contribute their individual quotas towards an up-building of the nation. If truth must be said, when former President Goodluck Jonathan sought for a dialogue with Boko Haram insurgents, a key representative mentioned by the nebulous group, was the current President and one other person. Unfortunately such dialogue did not take place.
Now, the security situation in the country is getting worse, with more brazen exploits from ISWAP and other groups of unknown gun men. A report published by Nigeria Watch stated that “Violence Claims 13,537 Lives in Nigeria in one year” (2021, alone): ref. The Tide; Wednesday, August 3, 2022, front page. With such scary security situation, would a responsible government not explore every possible means to get to the root of the disturbing phenomenon? Surely, one of such measures would include extracting more information from the likes of Sheikh Gumi.
More interestingly, Sheikh Gumi had been known to interact regularly with the groups of insurgents, to the extent of saying that calling them terrorists is irritating to them. Perhaps the insurgents have a better road map of how to move the nation forward, which would not require acts of banditry to be able to state their case and ideas on a round table. Does it require violence, bloodshed and hostage-taking, to put forward better alternatives of building up Nigeria? Which way forward, Nigeria!
Therefore, a vital question for Sheikh Gumi is: What is the primary, legitimate demand of various insurgent groups linked with Islam? Can Gumi please take on the task of articulating the cause, mission and grouse of the insurgent groups and then bring them up for a healthy public debate? Is Sheikh Gumi comfortable that Islam of which he is a prominent figure is associated with acts of terrorism, violence and banditry?
It would not be enough for Sheikh Gumi to tell us that “Nigeria is suffering from diseases including leprosy, diabetes and HIV/AIDS”. Can that be the reason why he expresses pity for the next president of Nigeria? According to him, leprosy as a disease attacks the sensory nervous system, rendering the brain “unaware of the suffering of the extremities”. With the presidency representing the brain, inability to get the “true picture of the grassroots suffering and the excruciating poverty breaking the masses”, is the key problem of Nigeria, hunger and anger in the land!
The above scenario is quite a valid diagnosis of Nigeria’s ailment, coming from cleric Gumi; but there is more to the Nigerian situation than that. Long ago, a few discerning Nigerians saw a strategy of pursuing some hidden, sectional agenda in the Nigerian project. The pattern had been to let naïve ones work on, and some smart ones would throw spanners into the work, when their agenda are sidelined. A second question of a vital nature to Sheikh Gumi is: Is the speculation of “Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda” untenable or false?  Was Obasanjo wrong?
Shortly before the end of his tenure as President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime organised a national conference, involving huge sums of money, with the intention to reposition Nigeria for the better. Would Sheikh Gumi be kind enough to tell Nigerians, those who threw spanners into that endeavour? What were at the back of the minds of those who played the spoilers’ game? And why?
The common saying that a house divided against itself rarely stands stable, is quite valid, and applies aptly to Nigeria as a nation. A third vital question for Sheikh Gumi is: Is it true or false that a section of this country tends to use religion as a weapon or an instrument for political and economic hegemony? Why the hysteria about Sharia Law during Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency?
Sheikh Gumi’s analogy of Nigeria being diabetic whereby “abundant sugar produced in the body but does not get into the body tissues for metabolism”, hits the nail at the head, with reference to Nigeria’s political economy. Would Sheikh Gumi deny the fact that the parasitic nature of the Nigerian economy was not a deliberate social engineering work? Who were the masterminds or architects? Who are the groaning victims of such smart plans?
Oil and gas as mineral products comparable to the abundant sugar produced in the body, are under the “total control of the Fulanis”, according to one Uthman Umar Sokoto. Why is the suggestion of organising a referendum to decide on the way forward for Nigeria, such an abomination, causing some Nigerians to be glittery? Such agitators are terrorists.
Current situation does not call for fear to open the can of ugly worms, neither must we continue to pretend or divert attention away from the issues of vexation. For the people of the Niger Delta the vexation is the privatisation of their natural resources, despite the new Petroleum Industry Act.  The Shenanigans are over!

By:Bright Amirize

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

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Opinion

Breaking The Jinx 

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A jinx is a bringer of bad luck; an unlucky influence. Ancient Romans as well as ancient African communities had a brief system that a cleansing ritual becomes necessary when a community becomes overwhelmed by continued crises and evil influences. It was based on that belief system that Jonah in the Christian scriptures was thrown into the sea from a jinxed ship, with Jonah as a scapegoat, being swallowed by a big fish. Thus, human sacrifice became a means of communal cleansing; an animal would suffice for minor tragedies.
What we call tragedies in literature are associated with “tragus” or goat, as a symbol of the sacrificial ritual involved in a cleansing process, undertaken as an annual solemn festive occasion. It is usually a sad occasion, largely because those who bear the brunt and imprecations of the cleansing ritual, are meant to be penitent and turn a new leaf. The custom of fasting is also associated with the cleansing process. Comedy, on the other hand, is a light-hearted and merry annual festive occasion, to express gratitude.
Long ago, individuals, communities and nations learned of the principle of duality in human existence whereby there cannot be a continued state of comedy without some tragedy, or vice versa. Similarly, old order usually gives way to a new order, in the cycle of life; whereby the baby of yesteryears becomes a parent today. However, this relay or rotary movement in life’s cycles, also has some unique features, of which resistance is a common one. But old order must pass away, allowing the new to come up.
Passage of the old order rarely goes without some opposition or bloodshed, usually as a result of a peculiar human weakness. Those who recognise the purpose of the dual and alternating system in life’s cycles are meant to enrich life in a more comprehensive manner, through a process of complementarity. However, complementarity must go with compatibility, for harmony to reign.
The old idiom that you cannot eat your cake and have it, is a valid admonition which cannot be ignored. Humans create blockages and haemorrage in the scheme of arrangement in life through stubborn willfulness, thereby creating crises and instability. In return, humans are forced to make atonements or sacrifices for the tragedies created, including bloodshed via banditry, terrorism, criminality, etc. This scenario is brought about because of the dual and alternating system in life’s operations whereby you cannot eat your cake and have it.
Once this inescapable fact of life is recognised, then other huddles would be easier to cross as we get there. Unfortunately, among humans, this principle of dual and alternating current operates and manifests everywhere. While some people are striving towards what is good and noble, there are also ill-disposed persons striving in the opposite direction. Unfortunately there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. It is also sad that ill-disposed persons in society rarely know or admit that they are the jinx in human population. Thus the culture of sanctimony is another social jinx.
In The Merchant of Venice, we are told that “the world is still deceived with ornament”, which means that sanctimony is a deceptive ornament. Human institutions and agencies where such deceptive ornaments wear the face and mien of honour include politics, academia, ecclesia and leadership generally. Thus the possibility of detecting the jinxed position of any nation or organisation becomes quite difficult. Since it is difficult to differentiate between or separate the “tares” from the “wheat”, the world can always be deceived with ornament, where hypocrisy and sanctimony rule.
Like a wheat farm, human society also harbours various weeds including ones which look like wheat. Thus the principle of dual and alternating influences must also operate in every country, calling for the need for eternal vigilance which is the price we pay for freedom or liberty. It is certain that the section of humanity which strives for nobility must pay some price and also exert enough power to remain untainted by the virus of the jinxed group of humanity.
There are various ancient admonitions about a time when humans must experience some severe crises of confidence and integrity. Therefore, there should be no surprise about the existence of counterfeits, fakes and manipulators in every sphere of life and activity. They must always be there, for the purpose of quality control and as litmus test in a final process of assessment. Like a farmland or a school process, a time of harvest or cumulative assessment comes, with wheat and tares contending.
Breaking the jinx is therefore a reference to the enigma involved in understanding the current state of affairs on earth. This also entails calling attention to the operation of the principle of dual and alternating system in the affairs of life. Do we not say that what has a beginning must also have an end? Towards the end of any programme it is normal to have an acceleration of activities, whereby past negligences, stoppages and haemorrage would be brought forward for resolution. It is also common that there would be some stiff resistance to the exposures of past ugly and putrid agenda hitherto hidden away from the eyes of unsuspecting public.
We live in a world where the things we see visibly are the representations of another sphere of existence that is usually invisible. This is another form of the dual and alternating system in the cycles of life. While the majority of humans rarely see the unseen, it is possible to decode the unseen from what is visible. This situation of humanity currently is that we stand at a cross-road, whereby the old order must give way to a new order, inevitably. By compulsion!
This situation demands that drastic choices must be made: dump Jonah into the sea to save a ship in crisis, or, get on with business as usual. Sadly, the scapegoat ritual sacrifice will not be acceptable. Pilferers, sanctimonious pretenders to the throne, conjurers and confusionists have taken too much and done too much, for the owner to know. There comes a time when human shenanigans, antics and blusters suffer ignominous defeat. 2023 marks a cross-road for Nigeria! Locusts have done much harm. Enough is enough!

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

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