Reflecting on Flawed Nationhood (3)

With Femi Akintunde Johnson

We are back to where we digressed – just as the labour leaders and the drivers of governance are back to the drawing board on the intractable matter of what could Nigerians accept as realistic living wages. Unfortunately, the back and forth have been very time-consuming, dissipating and needlessly exhausting as all parties shift like snails from one extreme position or the other. This latest fiasco is unlike the speed and alacrity witnessed during the proposition, deliberation and resolution of the old-new National Anthem (ie “Nigeria We Hail Thee”).

  Today, we return to the series of corporate interdictions which sought to unearth our core missteps as a collection of nationalities, and which reversal – or at the very least, rehabilitation – could divert our certain calamitous trajectory towards something close to reasonable and sustainable paradise. This portion was titled: ‘Nigeria and Her People: Media Assassins’.

“We believe our public service, to some extent, is a big cog in our forward motion as a nation, and the seventh element is our scant regard for ethical conduct, and a dubious reliance on cronyism, cash-driven emotional attachment to oddity and roguery. This is how we introduced it: ‘The seventh element has a number of similarities to the one above. What do we hold as National Ethos? What Values do we deliberately infuse in our children? What informs our Succession dynamics? A nation that runs on auto-pilot, winging its ways through challenges and upheavals, makes an easy candidate for self-combustion.’

  As long as we continue to defend thieving politicians who ‘happen’ to come from our villages; as long as we embrace teenagers swanking nightclubs in gaudy expensive apparels and bling automobiles because they are generous and charming; as long as we support the land-grabbing thugs who maim and molest innocent land owners because we cannot afford lands in choice areas; as long as we trivialize the atrocious mishandling of governance and democratic tenets because, deep down in our hearts, we know we won’t do any better; as long as…so long a roll of irresponsible and depressive admission of corporate guilt and frailties. We are doomed to gyrate on the same spot, weighed down by the enormity of our backwardness and pitiable arrogance. Activities without purpose, persistence without vision, hard work without ambition or imagination. Nuts!

  Our penultimate element we believe is essential to building a great nation, and a greatly sensitized citizenry, is locked deep in the Communication matrix. Do we have a tradition of communicating to the people, with the people or at the people? Do our people believe anything coming out of the communication channels of the government and its numerous agencies? Do they still trust the traditional media? Do they, largely, indulge the perfidies of people’s media (the social mass media) as a vicarious rebellion against years of government propaganda and falsehood? Do the communication managers of government activities give a hoot about getting the right message across, at the right time, in the right frames?

 So many questions more, and the available indices show an abysmal lack of understanding, or acceptance, of the salient matter in communicating to all the people of Nigeria as citizens, not as party faithfuls, opposition figures, wailing wailers, buharists, or any other names we have supplanted the different blocs of contrary or supportive positions.

 The ascendancy of Fake News all over the world, but with particular severity in Nigeria, is perhaps ignited by sentiments which, rightly or wrongly, presuppose that government lies a lot, steals tons of money, wears itself out scheming how to punish the ordinary people, and scavenge whatever remains of their hard-earned resources; and thus a fight back, fair or foolish, is necessary and expedient. The psychosis that fuels the propagation of Fake News is probably beyond the scope of trained communicators or professional critics. We can only deduce illness of lunacy from observable symptoms; hardly will any psychiatrist want to become mad so as to better understand and therefore prognose possible treatment regimen.

Therefore, the government, and any organisation desirous of being taken seriously in the communication exchange process, should be transparently open and responsible; be brutally intolerant of vices amongst own officers that you want the people to desist from; and be willing to accept corrections, redirections and revisions in matters of public discourse and policies. After all, the goal is to make your government accessible and relatable to the people it governs.  The probable response is a people willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt, even when the signs don’t look good; a people with a growing sense of trust in an open, courteous and sensitive government which doesn’t seem peopled by egomaniacs, pedophiles, arrogant power-grabbers and gluttonous poli-tricians.

As we all know, you respond to stimuli opposite you: if government spokespersons give bullshit, of course, the vocal representatives will return in loads of unsavoury condiments verging on the treasonous and gas-lighting. Sadly, the so-called opposition appears overwhelmed with the demands of the requisite strategy for effective, focused and people-oriented communication that can moderate the truancy and tardiness of the incumbent talking heads; and mitigate the frustrations and disappointments of the people.

While the communication mix may be chaotic and free-for-all, as we (once) observed with the operators in the media offices of the (last) dispensation, the silence or mild grumbling of the Nigerian media in the multiple-whammy of reported allegations of high crimes and shocking corruption, is disgraceful, if not scandalous. We do not read follow-ups of published news on heists in government circles…news trails of high corruption trials vanish from our media at different stages of investigation or prosecution; parallel investigative reporting has wallowed in the pools of aristocratic picadillos and billionaires’ petty prattles.

 Observers of this current anomie watch in awe at the speed our media space is sliding, and must worry that some of the watchdogs appear to wear their new toga of lap dogs quite comfortably, and unguardedly. It is made more ridiculously irreverent by the upsurge in internet-enabled disruptions where every media outlet now has an online version not directly gated by same operators who handle the traditional lines. It is indeed worrisome that some of those so-called mainstream online appendages lead in promoting annoying errors and blatant misinformation, in the race to beat the marauding bloggers and career offloaders in their game.

When we look away in compromised indifference at the lechery that goes for many online publications; when we respond harshly to inveterate rabble rousers; when we chuckle at the idiocy of charlatans who masquerade as ethnic champions and agitators; and do nothing to warn and vilify irresponsible and unedited dissemination of hateful manifestos, wrongheaded ethnic profiling, visual rascality of sundry media merchants and intermediaries…we merely lounge in the shade of a mighty tree replete with nestling killer bees and venomous serpents. We saunter in our comfort zones as media assassins swagger across acres of the hearts and minds of our impressionable children.  Don’t be fooled: no one is safe in a nation where the media is free-for-all, where all readers are writers – and none a reporter of facts and truth. Frightening.”

Related Articles