I am very delighted to be back home to Kaduna, one of the three cities that I call home. And as we all know, this city is a place of great historical importance as the historic capital of Northern Nigeria, and a place with great traditions, as a center of learning and culture, including a vibrant media tradition. This is the home of Radio Television Kaduna (RTK), which would provide a platform to train some of the most outstanding broadcast professionals, for generations, from this part of Nigeria. This was also the city that gave birth to New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), which was described for decades, as perhaps the ‘most educated’ newspaper in Nigeria! So Kaduna has provided more than a fair share of its own contribution, to the creation of a vibrant media tradition in Northern Nigeria; as well as the consolidation of the Nigerian media landscape as arguably the most divers and vibrant in Africa. So my dear colleagues, the work we are doing today as broadcast operators, is a continuation in the context of today, the work which pioneers of our industry have laid up, with great commitment and exemplary professionalism. I believe that our duty is to continuously strive, to be worthy of the legacies we have inherited, and then endeavor to consolidate the best of these legacies as well as build upon them. I am sure, that our predecessors will look at the opportunities open to us with some amount of envy, and hope we can use these opportunities for the greater glory of our society, region and our country!
It is therefore very noteworthy, that we can all gather today, to be able to explore the salient issues, that condition the work that we do in broadcasting here in Kaduna. We are living in democratic times; or more appropriately, in a period of democracy consolidation in our country. By its nature, democracy presupposes the vigourous contestation of ideas, by political parties as well as by politicians. There cannot be democracy, if we do not often have the political system dealing with creative tensions and disputations. These ‘creative tensions and disputations’ are the oyster of political news and reportage. Where political gladiators learn to play by the rules and conduct themselves with a minimally acceptable level of decorum, then society also learns to discern the differences in the political platforms of the parties and individual politicians. The construction of a Social Contract between the people and the political elite, could then be on a firm foundation that works for the common good. However, there are no ‘Chine Walls’ dividing the ‘creative tensions and disputations’ of politics from and anarchic disorder, especially in the political processes in many post-colonial societies. Political parties have emerged after decades of military dictatorship and often have no organic links to more historical political currents and traditions; the parties are mere platforms of access to power not ideological organizations, and the members of the political elite fight literally to the death, because access to power always equals access to lucre. The outsider is almost a complete loser. So no one wants to be outside looking in, while their opponents corner all the accesses to the good life. This is the reason that politics is almost like permanent warfare. And in order to get advantageous positions in these battles for hegemonic control of society, the political elite deploys every available weapon of political warfare: but most especially the manipulation of the fault lines of society, such as ethno-religious contradictions; the manipulative use of money and the desperate desire to compromise the media to achieve advantages that might in the long run, work against the overall health of society. There is no rule that cannot be broken in these scenarios, and the most troubling is the manner that the media, and especially the broadcast media, is suborned, as platforms for the purveying of Hate and Dangerous Speech. In a society where people have always listened to, and believed what they hear from their radio, this is a veritable danger to society.
In recent times, the political atmosphere in Kaduna has become very much heated, as different political tendencies; groups and individuals, maneuver for hegemonic control, we have also seen a spike in the manner that broadcasting is being pressed into service by the different individuals and tendencies. Every week, the Zonal Director of the National Broadcasting Commission here in Kaduna, files a report about broadcasting activities. All our ten Zonal Directors from all over Nigeria do the same for their zones. But I want to point out that there is a consistent pattern of reportage of the POLITICAL nature of MOST of the breaches recorded from the Kaduna zone. The reports are full of: “Inciting Remarks”; “Inciting Statement and Ridicule of other religion and Shiite Sect”; “Unfair Statement”; “Unfair Remarks”; “Broadcast of Divisive Statement and Unbalanced Remarks”; “Unfair and Unsubstantiated Allegations”; “Unfair, Defamatory and Indecent Statement”; “Broadcast of Sweeping Indiscriminate attack against Hausa-Fulani”; “Broadcast of Threatening Remarks”; and there was even one “ Canvassing for the Disintegration of Nigeria”! The Action Column of the report for the week I have quoted from included the following: “Station Queried”; “Station Cautioned”; “HQ handling the Issue”; “Complaint …forwarded to HQ”; “Station advised to avoid provocation in programs”! These are some of the problems that officers of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), on ground deal with each passing day. It is as if some, if not all of the broadcast stations, have never heard of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and what it obliges all of you to do in respect of balance, fairness and objectivity in the coverage of politics, political parties and politicians. Broadcast stations have become veritable platforms for the political tensions that threaten the good order of our society, and especially in the purvey of dangerous speech that can lead to Hate. As a regulatory institution, the NBC cannot allow anarchy in Nigeria’s broadcast sector. The Nigeria Broadcasting Code in the GENERAL PRINCIPLES 0.2.1. stated emphatically that: “Broadcasting shall influence society positively, setting the agenda for the social, cultural, economic, political and technological development of (the) nation, for the public good”. And in 0.2.2.4 under POLITICAL OBJECTIVES, the CODE obliges the Broadcaster: “To contribute to the development of national unity and participatory democracy”, and that should be to “inculcate in the people the spirit of tolerance of all shades of opinion”, amongst other objectives. But what I have quoted of the various forms of breaches of the CODE, all show complete disregard for the letters and spirit of the document that guides our operations as broadcasters. The political situation is not likely to become any less volatile here in Kaduna, as the electioneering season come, with the political parties and politicians jostle for power in the lead to the next election in 2019. This is why we have deemed it necessary to call this gathering today.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very happy that we have all gathered here this morning. This will offer us the opportunity to look at all the issues that can compromise the good order of our country and endanger the political system, when broadcasting becomes compromised by the abuses associated with Dangerous and hate Speech.
We have invited Distinguished Academics and Seasoned Broadcasters to join us in this discourse, and I hope we will all freely contribute to the dialogue, in order to return to the path that the Nigeria Broadcast Code has laid out for our operations. That is the best course to assist the broadcast stations to withdraw from the route which leads to the consolidation of tendencies of Dangerous and Hate Speech, especially as it has manifested here in Kaduna in particular and in Nigeria in general.
As the body responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), will continue to assist the development of the capacities of all our licensees, to be able to recognize the danger that Hate Speech poses to our national well-being. The professional fidelity to the Nigeria Broadcasting Code is the route that must be completely travelled by all our licensees. Our officers in Kaduna have monitored and recorded several examples of unethical broadcast practices by various broadcast channels; we constantly receive complaints and voluntary observations from members of the public about the broadcast Content of some broadcast stations. Some of our programs are so mediocre they betray the lack of basic professional imput; we air musical materials that are clearly NTBB, while the Nigerian broadcast stations have become the sites of larger-than-life On-Air-Personalities (OAPs), who cross the boundaries of the professionally acceptable conduct in broadcasting. You might also want to examine these issues as well. We have also received reports about broadcast stations that extract materials in a very unprofessional manner from the social media; there are patterns of abuse of the phone-in programming format, whereby presenters are unable to or are unwilling to mediate these call-ins and even become emotionally sucked into the format; they thereby lose their vital roles as gatekeepers. In the process, subversive and hate speeches are allowed an unfettered access on air. These are not acceptable!
On a very positive note, I will like to inform you that the 6th Edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code is to be presented to the industry at our Annual Lecture on the 24th of August, 2017, in Abuja. You will recall that all of us in the industry worked together to midwife that document. Similarly, a few weeks ago, we were here in Kaduna to inspect the facilities for the Kaduna leg of the Digital Switch Over. Our signal distributor appointed for Kaduna, Pinnacle Communications Limited, have installed very excellent facilities for the switchover. And before long, the Nigerian government will appoint a date for the digitization of Kaduna, as well as other locations around Nigeria.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Broadcasting Commission will be celebrating its Silver Jubilee (25 years) on the 24th August, 2017; you are all hereby invited to the Annual Lecture for 2017.
Thank you very much for your attention!
IS’HAQ MODIBBO KAWU