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At NICO’s roundtable, experts canvass practitioners’ patriotism

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Participants at the roundtable. Seated third from the right is the ES, Ado Yahuza

If Nigerians focus on those things that unite them rather than things that divide, national cohesion would be easily achieved. This was the position of Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Ado Mohammed Yahuza, at the opening of the yearly Roundtable on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO), last week, in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.

The institute initiated the yearly programme in 2004 as a platform for scholars, researchers and relevant stakeholders to interrogate topical cultural issues.

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With the theme, ‘Culture, Media and National Cohesion in Nigeria, the ES expressed confidence that the prevailing socio-political and economic challenges confronting Nigeria could be surmounted through a cultural renaissance programme such as ARTCO with the help of the media.

He said: “The replacement of our cherished cultural values of honesty, hard work, good neighbourliness, respect for elders, respect for constituted authorities with negative tendencies such as ‘get-rich-quick syndrome’, ethnic and religious sentiments, have been the bane of our national cohesion and development efforts.

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“It is our belief that if the media emphasise and celebrate our cherished cultural values and the things that unite us rather than things that divide us, national unity and cohesion would be easily achieved.”

The two-day event featured several paper presentations that explored the nexus between the media and cultural orientation. Some of the papers dwelt on the constitutional and moral responsibilities of the media as well as how Nigerian media has fared in its duties, especially at this critical moment of socio-political and economic upheavals.

Resource persons were also drawn from both the academics and media, including Professor Jawondo Ibrahim of the department of History and International Studies, University of Ilorin, Associate Professor Saadat Bekki, Department of Mass Communication, Unilorin and Dr. Ebenezer Ejaloniba of the Department of Political Science, Federal University, Lokoja.

Others are Dr. Sunday J. Adedayo, Dr. Kabiru D. Lawanti and Professor Muhammed S. Umar of the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Also in attendance were traditional rulers, including Olusin of Isanju Isin, Oba Oloyede Solomon and the Otunba of Oraland, Dr. Ade Jacob Afolabi, who doubled as the chairman of the occasion. There were also representatives of the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Represented by the State Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Kwara State, Mr. Olusegun Adeyemi, Information and Culture Minister reiterated the role of culture as a driver and enabler of sustainable development and how its neglect over time and the attendant breakdown of cherished cultural values have contributed largely to the myriad of challenges confronting the nation.

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The Minister, therefore, admonished that urgent and concerted efforts be channeled towards cultural reawakening to achieve the much-desired socio-political and economic progress.

On the role of the media in fostering national cohesion, the Minister admitted that media is an indispensable institution in modern and democratic societies.

“As the fourth estate of the realm and watchdog of society with constitutional backing, the media has a pivotal role to play in the progress and well-being of society,” he said.

He expressed the present administration’s commitment to ensure that enabling environment for a robust media practice exists in Nigeria.

“Contrary to insinuations in some quarters, this government has no plan to muzzle the media.

It appreciates the media as a strategic partner in our determination to foster the socio-economic and political development of our nation”, he said.

Also speaking, chairman of the event and Otunba of Oraland, Kwara State, Dr. Ade Jacob Afolabi, accepted that culture remained the creation of man’s consensual idea for reasons of cohesion, unique identifications, behaviour, security and other ways of life identified with a people.

He added that because of the versatility in culture and its uniqueness to man, inter-relationship has become very imperative among the diverse ethnic groups in the country.

“Our schools, workplaces and places of significant gatherings increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnic groups, and they are places we can learn from one another, but then, we must have some level of understanding about one another.

“Learning about one another’s cultures helps us to understand different views within the world in which we live. It helps to dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases against different groups,” he said.

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The technical session was highly interactive, engaging media practitioners, members of the academia, individual groups as well as the management team of NICO, including Directors of NICO Training School, Mrs. Bridgette Yerima; Orientation and Cultural Affairs, Alex Omijie; Research and Documentation, Michael Ekoko as well as Zonal Director, South East, Chioma Duru.

In his presentation titled, ‘Multi-Culture and Diversity Management in Nigeria: The Roles of the Media’, the Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Federal University, Lokoja, Ebenezer E. Lawal, stated that the multicultural nature of the country has not been adequately utilized to bring about sustainable development.

To achieve that, he believed that the media as animportant social institution has a crucial role to play in disseminating factual information rather than reports that are socio-ethnic or religious bias.

Lawal listed some of the benefits of cultural diversity to include fairness and objectivity, peace and national security, improvement in global relevance as well as innovation.

He said: “By accepting, recognising and respecting every cultural group in a society, individuals are able to cohabit without chaos as tolerance will be present and tribal wars will be put at bay. Invariably, the absence of chaos creates room for a stable government and national resources will be directed towards profitable courses, as opposed to post-conflict recovery.

Dr. Saudat S. Abdulbaqi of the University of Ilorin spoke on media and security management in Nigeria. Noting that media are central to peaceful coexistence of all elements in a society, she listed their duties to include surveillance, correlation and transmission of culture.

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Consequently, she insisted that if the media sow the seed of peace, peace becomes the nucleus of the society. “Likewise, if they sow seed of discord, crisis permeate the entire nooks and crannies of the society,” she said.

Looking at the media and security management in the country, she expressed the view that the media seemed to have abandoned their core duty of truthfully reporting events, activities and personalities and joined those taking sides either in favour or against the government in power.

Speaking on ‘The Media and the Quest for Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria’, Dr. Adedayo Sunday stressed that the media has great roles to play in making Foreign Direct Investment favourable in Nigeria in spite of the socio-political and security challenges witnessed in the country.

He charged media practitioners to engage the instrumentality of surveillance and investigative journalism to expose fraudulent and corrupt leaders to serve as deterrent to others.

According to him, media practitioners should be impartial and fierce in the pursuit of the truth, and should not be bias in the discharge of the duties.

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