Friday, 22nd September 2023

NAL, media and national integration

By Victor Ariole
31 May 2023   |   3:55 am
The Vice chancellor of Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, Prof. Umaru Pate, delivered the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) lecture of 2023 at the Bayero University Kano in a palatial complex donated and named Dangote Business School. The

The Vice chancellor of Federal University Kashere, Gombe State, Prof. Umaru Pate, delivered the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) lecture of 2023 at the Bayero University Kano in a palatial complex donated and named Dangote Business School. The lecture entitled: Media, Diversity and Nigeria’s National Integration in The Digital Age”, seemed to be anchored on what could be constant for the credibility of recognised media houses vis-à-vis current digital era that has allowed uncensored, unethical and informal plethora of information dissemination in line with diversity of opinions, though not well harnessed to promote National Integration.
National Integration, according to Prof. Pate is not inimical to freedom of expression as freedom of expression is mother of all freedom and it behoves the formal press, print and broadcast, to penetrate also the space informal and alternative media operate like facebook, twitter, instagram and spread the facts and news that make for national integration, so as to avoid the undermining of truthfulness by the alternative media. He, also, acknowledges the fact that media in Nigeria are associated with regions and ethnic groupings and expect their positions on what make for National Integration not to be compromised, as most of them hardly acknowledge that equal access to education by all in Nigeria and what concerns education, including even NYSC that is being desecrated now, ought to remain sacrosanct in their reporting and analysis of National Integration.

He finds it difficult to be seen as a stranger while in BUK, as he pursued educational objectives that elevated BUK to greater heights in media studies and earned BUK great grants; and BUK is a national heritage for the dissemination of educational issues that must encourage inclusiveness and best practice. Hence, like regional newspapers, like Nigeria’s educational system, and it does not augur well for the “main constant” that promotes National Integration in the midst of overreaching alternative media and “easy to use” media that attract the majority of Nigerian youths that must remain patriotic for the sake of National Integration.
According to him, another valuable integrative force, which the mainstream media should be less regional about, is the promotion of the presence of traders of a section of Nigeria in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. The local or alternative media could be averse to such presence or even instigate hatred of such presence, but it behoves the mainstream media to counter such instigations or remain dispassionate about such news if, indeed, National integration matters without which disintegration could loom greater than expected.
It goes with those recruited by institutions to learn to know what must not be compromised for National Integration to work and how the mainstream media report in a proactive stance, as against reactive reportage.
In furtherance to that, Prof. Pate disagrees with recruiters of high-level manpower that must lead or be in charge of institutions that required National Integration disposition, which the press must be present in sounding alarm when such recruitment is undertaken. He does not see how someone who had his/her kindergarten education, for example, in an imaginary BUK village, primary school in the same place ditto secondary school and university, with NYSC manipulated to be there also, being thrusted on Nigerians as capable of heading or even recruitable in an institution that must preach and command National  Integration. As far as he is concerned, such a person can never see beyond what is relevant to the supposed imaginary village. In effect, it will be clashes galore with those who see such BUK as just a parochial ground distinct from what the entire Nigeria stands for.
In effect, you do not live all your life in a village and suddenly someone decides to recruit you to rule over Nigeria in Abuja. It behoves also the mainstream press to counter, in all platforms, what could create disharmony among Nigerians when falsehood is projected. For example, as he observed, using a Nigerian languages in BBC, someone from Birmingham in UK coupled the incident of Rwandan genocide with a space in Nigeria and claimed that it was an event happening in Nigeria.
The dimensions of evil that dehumanise the Nigerian person are well known at any given time by the mainstream press and, though one of the ‘signature tune’ of journalism is “Bad news is good news”, it is also admitted that “Good mood in a sorrowful environment is unhuman”. Hence, the reportage of the mainstream media as against alternative media in the midst of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest, oil thievery in the South South, herdsmen and farmers killings in the North Central, IPOB killings in the South East and ritual killings in the South West must be reported as inhuman activities and counter those perpetrating it and being loud about it in the alternative media.

The digital age is the age of letters and liberal art as both letters, sound and pictures are propped up to convey messages, either for populism politics or communicating abundance of good or evil. It behoves the mainstream press to sieve what makes for National Integration and project it in abundance as well as present the unhuman occurrences projected by populism that lead to war like it is happening in Sudan against the populace, and as it is happening in Ukraine against a sovereign state as restrained mainstream press in Russia fail to see the human carnage in Ukraine.
France heralded the most vibrant “Academie de lettres” (French Academy of Letters) where people like President Senghor of Senegal reign supreme, and it postulated some of the Human rights “letters” that govern the laws of UNO. It is expected that open debates be allowed and people are allowed to express freely their feelings like French Academy of Letters was doing in 19th and 20th Centuries surreptitiously so as to create centripetal language that could make for eventful National Integration that sees strength in diversity as against regretting it the way the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) ought to have avoided it and is fighting back for forced reunification. Just like the Deputy Secretary General of UN, Amina, said, enough of trivialising diversity as if it is pigeonholing different parts of the society; it must be the observance of threads of human fabrics, each thread making the fabric stronger and seeing themselves in the fabric.

Ariole, is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos.