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Fulani radio station, another gaffe

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[FILES]Former Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, it was who revealed that the Federal Government had acquired a broadcast licence for an amplitude modulation (A.M.) radio station that would broadcast in Fulfulde language ‘to reach the very hard to reach segment of our target population.’

By its strange decision to establish a radio station with nationwide-and possibly beyond-coverage for the relatively small Fulani population to which, it must be noted Nigeria’s leader belongs, this administration has again put itself squarely in the centre of a most avoidable controversy, besides providing another ammunition to its detractors.

This is one distraction and detraction that neither the government nor the nation needs in the face of relevant and urgent matters yearning for attention at the moment.

Former Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, it was who revealed that the Federal Government had acquired a broadcast licence for an amplitude modulation (A.M.) radio station that would broadcast in Fulfulde language ‘to reach the very hard to reach segment of our target population.’ He justified this rather weird – and many would say suspect – step that it ‘will serve as a vehicle for social mobilisation and education…enhance our capacity to address crises between herders and farmers… nomadic schools …and teaching and learning resources.’ This is rather curious at a time like this.

A pertinent question is: Was this project budgeted for, scrutinised by, and defended before the National Assembly? For, under the law, any government expenditure must have been appropriated through an Act of the National Assembly.

Adamu claimed, somewhat disingenuously, that plans were underway to secure funds for the station. But unless demonstrably proven otherwise, it can be argued that already the Federal Government might have broken the law to expend public fund to acquire the licence. This is the first point to make.

The second point: Why should the Federal Government take it upon itself to set up a radio station of an A.M. magnitude for a minority tribe?

Third, there already exists a slot for broadcast in Fulfulde by the federal Radio Nigeria, Kaduna and to which Fulani people have easy access, besides the Hausa language.  

Fourth, for a government that complains ad nauseam of paucity of funds to execute more pressing capital projects that can yield obvious multiplier socio-economic benefits, it boggles the mind that it distracts itself – and the nation – with far less weighty matters and finds the money to execute it. In this connection, therefore, the Buhari administration must disclose to the nation where the money is coming from?

Furthermore, the somewhat irregular manner that the information was made public (not through the minister of information under whose purview lie such matters) also taints the project with suspicion. What has the former education minister got to do with establishment of a radio station for the Fulani-speaking people?

Inevitably, the proposed project has, in a country that is in desperate want of inter-ethnic trust, the plan for a sectional amplitude modulation radio station has been perceived as sectional and antithetical to fairness and oneness. It has attracted antagonism- even condemnation by a wide range of stakeholders in what is popularly termed ‘the Nigerian Project.’

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBL) for instance, has said it ‘totally rejects this insensitive decision of government… that smacks of hypocrisy and deception…’ The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) wonders aloud: ‘why can’t they reach the herdsmen on the existing radio stations? Why can’t they set up a radio station for farmers too?’ 

Of course, in this pluralised – and in a sense, polarised polity, there are supporters of the project.

The Jamaatu Nasril Islam, (JNI), speaking through its secretary-general, supports the radio station as ‘a step in the right direction’ for the Fulani people ‘who suffer the problem of not being well informed.’ He further argued that ‘radio is part of the tools which can be used to enlighten the people …and bringing people together …’ On its part, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) favours the project ‘for the purpose of pubic enlightenment, particularly for herdsmen against violent attitude especially the killing of innocent people.’ 

Regardless of the arguments offered by its proponents, it is difficult to see a purpose that this radio will serve that is not being reasonably taken care of by existing media of information for the Fulani ethnic group.

Indeed, the idea has thrown up the suggestion that similar facilities should thus be established at public expense for the officially recognised languages provided for in the constitution. And this will be another political project that will do this poor country no good. 

Besides, the divisive implication of the proposed radio station may be construed to violate the intendment of the constitution.

Under the Constitution, it is a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy that the Government of the Federation and its agencies shall conduct their affairs ‘to reflect the federal character’, ‘to promote national unity’ with a view to ‘command national loyalty.’  

Section 15 (4) stipulates that ‘the State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.’  Section 22 enjoins ‘the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media…to uphold the fundamental objectives…’

We cannot see how an Amplitude Modulation type of radio station for a minority ethnic group conforms in any way with these noble provisions. Therefore, we would like to reiterate unequivocally to President Buhari who swore to an oath only a few weeks ago to faithfully preserve these and other directive principles of the Constitution, to order that the idea of a ‘Fulani radio station’ be dropped forthwith. It is most unnecessary. 

Let the authorities note that the people are aware that there are enough challenges of governance that confront this administration and so, it is wise to save itself from avoidable distractions and troubles.

The right step will be for any Fulani socio-cultural group or organisation to apply for a community Frequency Modulation (FM) Radio licence. Government should withdraw immediately from this prelude to another indiscretion that can cause disruption and distraction.


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