Let me start by saying that I probably won’t have attended today’s event, but for the successful ambush organized during the Sallah holiday, by a team of the UNILORIN 89.3 FM. They came to my residence and made it impossible for me to decline their invitation. On second thought, there was also the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sulyman Age Kareem. I met Senior Age, for the first time, in 1971. I had gone to be interviewed to enter secondary school. I was eventually admitted into the Government Secondary School (GSS) Ilorin, in 1972. For most of the people here, you won’t have known this; but Professor Age’s generation was, arguably, the most intelligent in the entire history of GSS Ilorin, given the WASC results for members of their set in 1972. What they did, was to be a source of inspiration to my generation of students. And given the depth of crises in our educational system today, the generation that Professor Sulyman Kareem, Senior Age, belonged to, was an incredibly positive source of inspiration for me and so many young people of my generation.
There is a third reason why I am with you today. And that is related to my relationship with the University of Ilorin, especially during the 1980s and the 1990s. I was a young broadcaster at the Radio Kwara, Ilorin. So serious was the perspective we had, about the importance of campus life, that Radio Kwara even designed a special weekly features program, FROM THE CAMPUSES. Nurudeen Abdulrahim produced, and I presented. That kept us almost permanently at the University of Ilorin. It was the main institution in the city and state; but far more importantly, it was a place where we knew, that we could get the intellectual resources to ensure that our programs never failed. We were also actively involved in the progressive working class and youth movements in Nigeria.
We made several programs about, and with many generations of students and intellectuals here, and made very memorable friendships too. The Pan African and radical students movement was alive here just as there was a robust local branch of ASUU, that we actively engage with; and the AFRICA HALL of the University of Ilorin, staged many theatrical and other performances . The university’s Staff Club was not just a place of relaxation for staff and their friends, like me, it was also a place of unconventional, but unceasing intellectual ferment. When I look back over the past few decades, at this university, I can reel off a list of outstanding intellectuals and individuals: Zulu Sofola and the husband; Yulisa Amadu Mady; Bode Omojola, Tony Afokhai; Ayo Akinwale; Simon Agbe-Cakpo; Dr Tripathi; BS Chumbow; Tayo Olafioye; Olu Obafemi; Ade Obayemi; Oludare Olajubu; Albert Anjorin; BJ Olufeagba; Hakeem Danmole; Biodun Sofunke; Poju Akinyanju; Yetunde Laniran; Gloria Emeagwali; Yinka Ajayi-Dopemu; Noel Ihebuzor; Goodluck Iwierebor; Oyin Medubi; Ibrahim Abdullahi; Ropo Sekoni; Tunde Oyeleye; Remi Medupin; Musa Ajetunmobi; Baah Mensah; Is’haq Oloyede; George Anyantowu; Tunde Ajiboye; just to mention a few, not to forget the many, many students that we saw pass through this remarkable university. In the long run, when thoughts like these pass through ones mind, it became difficult to turn down your invitation.
Today’s event is to commemorate the tenth anniversary of UNILORIN 89.3FM. Time flies! And it’s quite incredible that you have come so far. When the niche of Campus Broadcasting opened up, there were understandable apprehensions about what use or misuse, they could be made of. And in the often difficult security setting of our country, it was a very important victory for all of us in broadcasting, that Nigeria opened up the aperture of campus broadcasting; first, from the University of Lagos, and subsequently, all over Nigeria. We receive so many applications now, as more and more universities open up Departments of Mass Communication or Media Studies. The examples of institutions such as yours, are becoming a standard for others, across Nigeria. As we envisaged from the beginning, the campus broadcaster is expected to give students the hands-on experience, that would assist to make the transition from the campus to the world of work, very smooth and easy. A couple of weeks ago, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), organized a National Forum on Community and Campus Broadcasting, in Kano. I am delighted that UNILORIN FM was properly represented at the forum. That helps you to sharpen your focus as a community broadcaster. And it is testimony to your seriousness, that you have always and regularly attended NBC events. Please keep that up.
As part of today’s ceremony, you have also requested that I make a presentation. The title you gave the theme of my presentation is: “BROADCASTING FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”. I went to work in broadcasting for the first time, on February 1st, 1977; that is 42 years ago! Never mind the colonial origins of Nigerian broadcasting, most of the tradition has nevertheless been cultured within a philosophy of a creative use of broadcasting, to assist the development process in our country. The post- colonial experience was one that emphasized the nurturing of modernity and a determined struggle against underdevelopment. Radio programs from the 1960s, assisted the drive for innovative agricultural policies; health care delivery or the nurturing of peaceful co-existence between the various communities, within provinces and regions in the immediate post-independence era; and in the local governments and states, in the period of military rule and beyond. It should be recalled, that when the Western Regional Government established the first Television Service in Africa, in 1959, the vision that Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his colleagues had, was to use it as an avenue of assisting the Free Education program of the Region.
Similar or related sentiments, were behind the establishment of the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service, as well as by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Northern Regional Government, with the establlishment of the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigerian, RTK, Kaduna. When I was recruited by Radio Nigeria, in 1977, the whole of Africa and the African Diaspora, was caught up in the euphoria of the World Festival of African and Black Culture, FESTAC 77. Again, that was a very significant affirmation of our African humanity, in the context of a world that had witnessed, just a decade earlier, the Decade of Independence, all over the African continent, in the 1960s. This trend of using broadcasting as an instrument of national unity and national development, was replicated all over Africa, as well as in the developing countries of Asia and Latin America. I did a term paper in my third year in University, for my Communication for Development class. And what I did, was to study how Radio was being used, to aid the development process, in the Latin American country of Peru. So the truth is that Broadcasting has always been seen as a very important platform of development. Even the BBC was started as a platform to uplift the human standards of the British people. The first Director General of the BBC, Lord Reith, had a perspective that saw the importance of the new Corporation in that development endeavour, from the 1920s.
In 1978, the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, re-organized Nigerian Broadcasting. The main outcome, was the emergence of state-owned broadcasting outfits in the Nigerian Federal States. One of the new outfits of that period, was the Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Kwara, where I was also a pioneer member of staff, having transferred my services from the defunct Radio Nigeria. Again, the focus was on the use of broadcasting as a handmaiden of the development agenda of the state. The philosophy of broadcasting of the new Radio Kara, was Grass Roots Broadcasting, GRB. The station set out to ensure that all the communities of the state had their languages broadcast, either for news, or in weekly programs. I remember that in the early years, there were news broadcasts in Batonu, Ebirra, Nupe, Yoruba. And weekly programs in Hausa, Ogori, Igala; just like the old Radio Nigeria, used to broadcast news in Edo, Efik, Fulfulde, Hausa, Igbo, Izon, Kanuri, Tiv and Yoruba. These we hooked up to, as part of a National Network from Lagos, every morning. And during the evening hours, we would join the Regional Services in Kaduna for other, Northern Nigerian languages and programs; mostly dedicated to development purposes. Similarly, there were dedicated programs in these languages, on health care, educational, and other social development processes. This background is very vital. Broadcasting was always important as a platform of national, state or community development. This has always been central to the philosophy of broadcasting in Nigeria.
The deregulation of broadcasting in 1992 by the Babangida military administration has changed the face of Nigerian Broadcasting forever. In my view, for the better. This is because we moved away from the monopoly held by the colonial and post-colonial state formations, including the long years of military dictatorship, to a more open and liberalized broadcasting architecture. Today, we still have the state-owned, Federal and State Government broadcasters; the commercial broadcasters that are multiplying by the day, as well as the campus and community broadcasters. The one area that has suffered in the years since the liberalization of broadcasting, is the transition and evolution, that was also expected, of the state-owned into public service broadcasting. That evolution is very important in the discourse for broadcasting and sustainable development. The question to ask is a simple one. Can the broadcasting sector dedicated to the profit motive, as the commercial broadcasting sector, play a meaningful role in sustainable development? I won’t like to pursue that controversy. But I think that in the context of a developing country, like Nigeria, the imperatives of sustainable development, fit like glove-to-hand, the philosophies of the public service broadcaster, the community broadcaster as well as the campus broadcaster, that is also actually located within the niche of community broadcasting.
In recent decades, especially after the crises associated with the implementation of the disastrous economic platform of the so-called Washington Consensus, IMF/World Bank/WTO, and their precursor, the Structural Adjustment Policies of the 1990s, the new buzz word in development circles, has been Sustainable Development. This has been defined in many ways, but since the Brundtland Report, sustainable development was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The United Nations system has now listed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), dedicated to the transformation of our world. these are:
> Goal 1: No Poverty
> Goal 2: Zero Hunger
> Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being
> Goal 4: Quality Education
> Goal 5: Gender Equality
> Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
> Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
> Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
> Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
> Goal 10: Reduced Inequality
> Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
> Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
> Goal 13: Climate Action
>Goal 14: Life Below Water
>Goal 15: Life on Land
>Goal 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
>Goal 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
As you might be aware, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that included the 17 Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs), that I earlier enumerated. It operated on a principle of “leaving no one behind”, and the Agenda laid emphasis on a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all of humanity. And crucially, the SDGs explicitly included disability and people with disability, in this new loop of international development. Nigeria joined the world in signing up to achieving these goals.
Oleribe, Taylor-Robinson (2016), in “BEFORE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDG): WHY NIGERIA FAILED TO ACHIEVE THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (Pan-African Medical Journal. 2016; 24:156), quote the UN as saying that “nearly 60% of the world’s 1 billion extremely poor people lived in just five countries in 2011: India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and Democratic Republic of Congo”. (And by 2018, it was being reported that Nigeria had outstripped India, as the country with the largest number of extremely poor people). They added further that “of the 2.1 million new HIV infections that occurred in 2013, 75% occurred in just 15 countries with Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda accounting for almost half”.
Of course in recent years, we have accumulated far more disturbing indices of underdevelopment: the ecological crises, with the rapid expansion of the Sahara into the Sahel Savanna and their effect on the livelihoods of pastoral peoples; the drying up of the waters of Lake Chad and the consequent driver that has become for insurgency and conflict in the North Eastern part of Nigeria; the migrations of nomadic herdsmen into the central belt of Nigeria; the conflicts engendered with sedentary farming communities, as a result of clashes over resources of water and land; the expansions in population and the youth bulge, and the manner that neoliberal capitalist policies, have led to de-industrialization; the absence of the capacity to create the jobs to absorb the millions of young people leaving schools or needing vocational training and equlivalent job opportunities. This is the reality in our own country. When I started writing this speech early this morning, at about 0120HRS, the UN World Population tracking system, WORLDOMETER NIGERIA, put Nigeria’s population at 201,665,823. We are 2.6% of the world’s population; we rank 7th in the list of countries by population; 51.9% of that population now lives in urban centers, while our median age is 17.9 years.
This is the context within which we stage broadcasting in our country. Clearly therefore, broadcasting has very vital roles to play in assisting the achievement of Sustainable Development, if we understand that concept in the context defined by the United Nations system, or as domesticated within our own realities. Our national struggle against underdevelopment, must be apprehended within the framework of the effort to attain sustainable development. The Nigerian broadcaster must be a conscious professional, able to deploy his professional tools, his patriotic fervor as well as a very rich, proactive intellect, to produce the kinds of programming that can elevate the platforms of understanding, to enhance the achievement of sustainable development, in our country.
Broadcasting that is dedicated to sustainable development cannot afford to be frivolous. It must be at the cutting edge of professional excellence, delivering the very best productions, that deepen knowledge as well as empowering people in communities, to help them be at the forefront of the various components of the sustainable development goals. In this regard, I will like to charge UNILORIN 89.3 FM to be at the vanguard of this process. As we made clear in our gathering in Kano, campus radio stations actually belong to the niche of community broadcasting. They assist to equip students with the practical, professional skills for the world of work. But you can do even better. Let this radio station become the leader in popularizing sustainable development and make your students the vanguard individuals and professionals to help our country achieve its commitment to the sustainable development goals, between now and 2030. Please endeavour to popularize the various goals; own them; make your students use them as the building blocks of their programming.
That way, they would be helping to make sustainable development goals as domesticated as possible. Another way you can use your broadcasting for sustainable development, especially in this neighborhood, is to design special training programs for community broadcasting outfits. I know that a ew of such stations are beginning to be licensed in the Kwara state area. They would need the professional training that you can offer, both as a radio station that has been sustained for ten years, and thus possess the practical experience of a decade, and as being embedded within the Mass Communications training program of the University of Ilorin. That way, you can design new modules of training, that would be relevant to the efforts of these new stations, to become platforms for entrenching the achievement of sustainable development. Offering practical training opportunities, even at basic Diploma levels or just certificate levels, would add a level of prestige on such a program, that could deepen its acceptability. The time to start is now. When we return to celebrate the 20TH anniversary of UNILORIN 89.3 FM, it would be most beautiful to find that you have kept faithfully to such a commitment.
I want to thank you very much for your attention!