Leveraging power of communication to promote national integration
President/Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo, has said communication is an indispensable tool in the process of rebuilding and reigniting national reconciliation and integration.
Speaking at the South West Zone Citizens Summit for National Integration, Peace and National Security in Lagos, recently, he said the power of communication couldn’t be over-emphasised.
He said, “as communicators, we believe there is no problem communication cannot solve.” Sirajo said the tension across the country, caused by bandits, violence, terrorism, secessionists agenda, inter and elite conspiracy and other forms of criminality strengthen intra-ethnic conflicts.
He noted that this had widened the trust gap, weakened relationship and cordiality, deepened disaffection and fuelled misunderstanding, among the various component units of the nation.
To this end, he noted that there is need for a credible platform to engage and address critical issues. Hence the essence of the summit.
He said other objectives of the summit include rebuilding trust and re-opening conversation in the nation; creating new Nigeria, activating process for national reconciliation; promote a new communication thrust based on mutual respect, love and non-violence and relaying foundation for Nigeria’s rebirth.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said that in human interactions, conflicts are inevitable but there must be amicable solutions.
He noted: “Conflict must come, there must be disagreement, but what makes us human beings is that when we have conflicts, we have to resolve them through dialogue and not violence.”
In his keynote address, Chairman, Proshare Nigeria Limited, Olufemi Awoyemi, argued that the whole idea of national integration, peace and security is predicated on one single principle: “if there is no justice, you cannot build on anything. If we have to establish that, we have to start from the South West, where we have the advantage because the biggest economy is here in Lagos State.”
He said there is no elite consensus on how to move Nigeria forward, adding that there is no construct between the government and the governed, while saying the structure of governance in the country had been tilted to making things not work. He advised that people should stop blaming colonial leaders for the country’s misfortune.
He also said there is need to deal with structural and strategic issues. For instance, he said banditry and kidnapping are consequences of failure of governance, stressing, “where there is credibility and integrity deficit, you cannot establish peace.”
He asked, “anytime we hear any solution concerning banditry or kidnapping, what do you hear? You hear that we are rehabilitating terrorists. How do you rehabilitate people you never prosecuted? How do you place emphasis and focus on those who commit crime and not the victims?”
Conclusively, he said political leaders could define peace anyway they wanted it, but the citizens, “know what peace should be.”
Renowned professor of Biology, Anya O. Anya, harped on the need for citizens to have values that mean the same thing, irrespective of their residence.
He said: “It is out of shared values that you build relationships. The days of lamentation have gone. This is the time to build a nation where the black man can be proud of. Some cynics may say we have been hearing this for a long time but let me borrow from the Chinese. The Chinese say that the word for crisis is exactly the same word for opportunities. We have seen China rise to be the second largest economy in the world now. If China could do it, Nigeria can also do it. So, we need to know what our opportunities are in the midst of our challenges.”
The panel discussion, which was moderated by Professor of Strategy and Development and Director at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS), Anthony Kila, comprised, Professor of Mass Communication, Ralph Akinfeleye; former HOD, Mass Communication, UNILAG, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika; celebrated columnist, Dr. Reuben Abati; the Managing Director, The Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja; media entrepreneur, Adebola Williams; political activist and author, Dele Farotimi; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), Chizor Malize; Head of News at TVC, Babajide Kolade-Otitoju and Ambrose Okoh, who represented Channels TV CEO, John Momoh.
In his remark, Okoh said investing in young people is what the country should be looking at now. He disclosed that Boko Haram was taking advantage of the fact that a lot of people are not employed.
He observed: “We have massive unemployed youths. So, if we must address insecurity in the country, we must invest massively in the youths. The media should also be conscious of what they report and not sensationalise stories.”
Akinfeleye noted that there is need for sustainable peace if Nigeria wants to practice democracy, adding, “we have to practice real democracy and not adulterated democracy where the system is broken. We need to factor in the role of the judiciary and the Fourth Estate of the Realm. Those institutions should be jealously guided.”
He warned, “the military came in and destroyed the system. They are coming back in agbada to continue. So, we need to talk to them, we need to wake up.”
Abati raised the need for robust stakeholders’ representation in terms of diversity. He said he would have loved to see pastors and imams represented.
Oloja agreed with Abati that there should be more stakeholders’ representation. He advised that state actors from Ministry of Information and business elite should have been represented.
He said: “We should find a way of mobilising them. This is Lagos, which is not a metropolitan but a cosmopolitan city.”
Oloja advised security operatives to allow journalists to be part of actions, adding that this is the age of full disclosure because of the advent of citizen’s journalism.
He also advised youths not only to lament on social media but also should go and registe, if they want to change the system, insisting that political recruitment is critical to development.
Ogwezzy said there is need to rethink Nigeria and that access to social justice and accountability are important. She said the nation’s foundation is faulty, stressing that this is the yearning of the youths. According to her, “It is the issue of bad governance and police brutality that led to the #End SARS.”