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The editors and nation building

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Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje PHOTO:Twitter

I feel greatly honoured to have the opportunity to interact in this convention with the great gatekeepers of the Nigerian media.

I understand that the 60-decade-old Nigerian Guild of Editors currently has more than 600 members cutting across print, broadcast and digital media. According to available record, the Guild was established with the aim to among other things, promote professionalism among its members, preserve the standards of journalism practice in Nigeria through strict adherence to the Code of Ethics of the profession.

I therefore feel honoured to have this cream of professionals here in Kano for this convention, the 40th in the series by the apex body of the Nigerian Editors. I believe your choice of Kano for this convention is not by accident.
As an emerging Mega City, Kano is enjoying the most peaceful atmosphere and a first-choice destination for conferences, seminars/workshops as well as tourism and investment. We thank God for this positive development.

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Let me also assure Nigerian editors attending this convention that they are in safe hands. Kano is home to a number of former and present heads of media related professional bodies in this country.

Our dear state has produced two presidents of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in the person of Malam Garba Shehu, the current Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Malam Halilu Dantiye, my former Director General, Media and Communications, whom I made a Permanent Secretary in the State Civil Service until recently when he retired.

We also have two-term President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) who was also the President, West African Association of Journalists, (WAAJ) President, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and member, Steering Committee of the International Federation of Journalists, (IFJ) Malam Muhammad Garba. Garba is currently my Commissioner for Information. You know him quite well.

Others are Alhaji Sabo Muhammad, first elected President of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NiPR) the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, (APCON) Malam Garba Bello Kan Karofi and most recently, chairperson, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), Hajiya Saa Ibrahim, the first female to head the organization since 1988.

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We cherished events like this, which mark a crowning point of months of campaigning by the various candidates who aspired for various positions of the Guild. I wish you all the best and hope for the emergence of a formidable leadership that will steer the ship of this umbrella organisation of Nigerian Editors.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, freedom of the press and observance of press professional conduct are measured as indices of development in any country. Based on my understanding, the Nigerian press is one of the freest, in global context but some obvious professional misconduct in the media has curiously become excessive, in this regard.

I believe that absence of influential Press Council that should regulate the print media, specifically has become an institutional weakness that should be tackled without delay. All controversies and litigations that have stalled the emergence of respectable Press Council should be handled with care. There is therefore a sense in which we can say that the world over, self-regulation is not enough for any professional bodies. The question is; who watches over the watchdog too? You can see clearly that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has made some difference in regulating broadcasting, no matter our criticisms of the regulatory body, which even major broadcasters apologized to the other day.

Our powerful editors, this is an opportunity to engage in some introspection about our great country, indeed the most populous black nation on earth. I mean you should lend me your ears for us to talk briefly about the expediency of journalism and nation building at this time. More than ever before, we need to understand these difficult times in our country.

It is very important at this time that we should use the media for the promotion of peace and stability and change the viewpoints that could alter public views and sentiment toward a more peaceful resolution of our multifaceted current crises. If and only if we as a nation are interested in peace and harmony, we must reject hate propaganda machinery. In the main, this is a time editors should be conflict-sensitive about our nation.

In other words, I have a feeling that the crossing of redlines by some media organisations in recent times has impacted on the nation’s unity, harmony and integration.

Our brave, collective pursuit in uniting this nation, underscores the fact that for as long as we have a common purpose, we will find no obstacle big enough to stop us from marching on. The media and particularly our gatekeepers have a role to play in this regard.

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Besides, this is a time the Editors should exercise the social responsibility you have to your country. Even if the governing authorities in Nigeria are encountering challenges in their strategy to develop the country, it is not enough to join in some fervent advocacy that seeks to beat drums of war to break up this country. I would like to appeal to you the Gatekeepers that there is already some groundswell of opinion, which seems to be building some consensus on the expediency of restructuring the nation. That advocacy should not be confused with rebellious acts of some elements that would like to destabilise our great country. The media has a great role to play here in setting agenda for nation building. So, some ignorant and reckless commentators in your midst should be very careful in exercising freedom of speech at this time. That freedom can’t be exercised without some (social) responsibility.

The theme of this convention: “The media in COVID-19 era: Challenges and opportunities”, is one of the most central concerns of the moment as the pandemic, despite frantic efforts by relevant stakeholders, continues to wreak havoc on global scale.

We realised the power of the media on influencing people’s decisions and choices, and therefore, we partner on the training of many working journalists on how to educate the public on prevention and safety measures. A lot is therefore expected from the media such as generating contents that would further educate the public.

During the peak period of the pandemic, we also have been engaging the media on the fortnightly press briefing where we give updates on successes and challenges.

Besides, as part of its risk communications activities, the State Task Force on COVID-19 in collaboration with other organisations, has produced and shared multimedia content, including videos, infographics and audio jingles targeting different demographics. The measure has helped increase awareness about the disease and enlightened many on how to protect themselves and stay safe. One of the major challenges we had to grapple with in dealing with the scourge is the handling of the situation by the media, both conventional and social, particularly the spread of unsubstantiated or outright fake news.

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Though they are not new, in this digital age, fake news spread like wildfire and create a breeding ground for uncertainty, which in turn fuels skepticism and distrust, while distrust is a perfect environment for fear, anxiety, finger-pointing, stigma, violent aggression and dismissal of proven public health measures that can lead to loss of life.

It is my pleasure, dear respected Editors and Gentlemen of the Press, to inform you that Kano was one of the first states to work out the threat even before it occurred and started planning ahead of the pandemic.

It was followed by momentous financial investments into preparedness and surveillance in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to coordinate and review the response strategies and implementation activities on a daily basis, which have effectively contained the spread of the deadly disease.

In appreciation of the response strategy by the State Government, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) commended our response to the fight against the deadly pandemic.

The theme of your convention is, therefore, relevant to the vision of this administration in this connection. It is reassuring that as Editors, you are willing to do your critical part in ensuring that fake news and particularly related to health of the people should not have a place in your newsrooms.

In the main, despite the daunting challenges and the successes being recorded in the response strategy and the unrelenting commitment and political will, Kano is winning the war against COVID-19. As evidenced by available statistics, which indicate almost daily 0 record of tests being conducted, the state is recording a major breakthrough in the curtailment of the pandemic.

Ladies and Gentlemen, even in the face of the pandemic that nearly pushed the economy to yet another recession, we kept faith with the people of the state with our clear vision and commitment to the policy of initiating and executing development programmes. We remain committed to a deliberate policy on the completion of all ongoing projects in both urban and rural areas of the state.

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These include hospitals, water supply, roads, flyovers, underpasses, bridges all as part of noble moves to decongest the roads to pave way for efficient traffic flow for enhanced business and economic activities, conducive atmosphere for local and foreign investment in the state and making the state a 24-hour economy like any Mega City in the world. I hope you will find time to go round and see for yourself some of the modest achievements we have recorded in the state.

The modest achievements include our capacity to keep Kano, the economic capital of the North relatively safe. Here in Kano, we have our strategy to keep the state safe to a large extent. And strategically, we don’t make so much noise about how we have been keeping Kano, Nigeria’s most populous state somewhat more secure than most of its neighbours.

In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful, I declare this convention open.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Speech by the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, at the 2021 biennial convention/election of the Nigerian Guild of Editors held in Kano.

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